Marketers, especially those digitally inclined, have tended to view the local small-business person as a bit of a caricature -- that is, someone with presumably limited resources and planning
savvy, trying his or her damnedist to get up to speed on how to peddle wares and services in today's marketplace. But those of you paying attention noticed that these folks -- at least those committed
to taking hold of their destiny -- were some of the earliest adopters of perhaps our most effective direct-response digital media: search. All you had to do, even five years ago, was attend search
conferences and listen to the room to realize how savvy this businessperson was becoming. It turns out that was just the beginning.
Flash-forward to the landscape of today. Not only has the small-business marketer embraced localized marketing, above and beyond search --but so have national brands, all seeking local penetration, using the platforms and tools available. And the industry has responded. Savvy local marketing at one point may have included: geo-limiting a national display buy; IP or DMA targeting within a search plan; geo-modifying search terms to funnel demand; or simply buying local media from any number of publishers. That's what was available to leverage.
A few simultaneous areas of tremendous advance have become evident to marketers and are cause for our excitement today:
- The major providers of search functionality -- Google, but also Yahoo, Bing, Facebook, Twitter -- have truly enhanced their search features for localization. They of course are capitalizing on a greater understanding of consumer behavior and usage. And I suspect we have only just scratched the surface on progress. You may have seen the announcement last week that Google's vice president of search products, respected engineer Marissa Mayer, is taking location and local services under her wing. Google is putting a lot of stock in these products. So, interesting indicator, this announcement.
- Consumer behavior has changed and become more clear and actionable. Apparently, armed with our mobile devices and fully embroiled in our social graph, we increasingly use these tools to conduct local search. And, when using these tools, outside with our feet to the street, we are even more inclined to search with specific businesses in mind, versus the more generalized way we used to search online at our desks or kitchen tables.
- Accepting those behavior trends, mobile and social platforms have become practically indispensable to localized consumer marketing today. In fact some would say that with mobile and social somewhat dominating search today, the savvy marketer with localization aspirations must learn his or her way around these platforms.
- The good news on that learning curve is that there is really exciting work being done by companies on all aspects of location based marketing: targeting technology, serving and optimization infrastructure, data management, creative standards and execution. Some companies immediately come to mind. We see killer offerings like ShopAlerts, a location-based mobile marketing solution by Placecast that is pegged on the concept of geo-fencing, along with advancements in what the market is calling mapvertising being pioneered by Lat49. Plus, in the background, the major mobile providers are playing into the consumer responsiveness to local marketing, tuning their service offerings accordingly.
Even with all these points of progress, some of the most important steps forward may be driven by companies we haven't even heard of yet. A whole new boom within a boom, to spur us onward. That's exciting.
As I think about the local guy and how, as recently as five years ago, he seemed a bit stumped, I realize just what has taken hold in the meantime. This area of the market is now further along than most of us -- even as we, round-the-clock media consumers, ceaselessly clutch and work our mobile devices to search, connect and deliver on our immediate needs. It happened at our fingertips, while we were out walking around the block looking for a better slice.