I just returned from BIA/Kelsey’s Directional Media Strategies 2010 Conference in Dallas, where for three days top players in the local search community discussed the future of generating leads for small and medium-sized businesses.
While we all recognize that the emergence of digital and mobile opportunities is changing the fundamentals of how we market locally, I was nonetheless intrigued from the offset by BIA/Kelsey research which showed that local businesses are now spending more advertising dollars on digital/online media than traditional media—and that the trend is expected to grow.
Steve Marshall, BIA/Kelsey’s research director, shared results of his group’s annual Local Commerce Monitor survey of local businesses which indicated that advertisers are also increasingly restless as they try to adapt to a world where consumers use a growing number of media sources to search for local products and services. In Q1 2010, consumers used 7.9 media sources when shopping locally, up from 5.6 media sources in Q1 2007—an unprecedented leap.
Adding to that, BIA/Kelsey’s Charles Laughlin showed an interesting diagram which illustrated how the original yellow pages model is quickly shifting from focusing on the listings foundation, where the business listing is cornerstone of the relationship with the small business customer, to the company website as the central component. Moving forward, he said, the role of local search providers will evolve into helping local businesses maximize their online presence through a growing array of offerings, everything from print directories and direct mail to internet yellow pages, mobile, SEM/SEO, video, reputation management and more.
More digital spend, more media platforms and a changing service model—three major trends redefining the way our industry brings local businesses and consumers together to make transactions. With such changes, it’s natural to question whether we’re up to the challenge to deliver the next generation of leads.
But from what I saw as DMS ’10 progressed, there are clear indications that the local search community is embracing the obstacles it faces head-on. For example, here are three of the new offerings designed to leverage the latest trends in the space.
Mike Wilson, GM and VP, Digital Media for Yellowbook, knows that the iPad and other tablets featuring Google Android software will create significant local advertising opportunities over the next few years as consumers increasingly adopt the technology. Already, his group has designed iPad and tablet apps which are the #10 most popular in the iPad lifestyle category and #5 overall free app for the Android. Yellowbook’s app features basic business information (address, phone number, map), social media integration (Facebook and Twitter), and reviews. It also includes embedded video, links to local business websites, and the ability to contact a local business via Skype. Moving forward, Wilson is looking at ways to leverage group buying opportunities on the app through its new Weforia.com website. He also noted that Yellowbook will soon roll out a barcode scanning tool that will allow users to find local real-time inventory of desired products
Tim O’Shaughnessy, CEO and Cofounder of Living Social, knows that the group buying space is exploding in popularity. His company is providing targeted “daily deal” e-mails for a variety of products and services in markets across the country. While Living Social began with specials as simple as free drinks at local bars in New York, the company has quickly innovated to also introduce larger scale offerings that go beyond simple discounts. This space is dominated by young, college-educated women looking for a deal and leading the way in using the new service. Recently, Living Social rented out National Stadium in Washington, DC and created a ticketed family-focused event in which kids could run the bases and participate in batting practice, while their parents hung out at a bar at the dugout. The company employs a large editorial staff and local sales force team dedicated to enhancing both the consumer and local business experience.
Paul Dawalibi, President and CEO of Praized Media, understands that social media is creating new opportunities to participate in the online conversation and generate leads (finding ways to leverage Facebook was a hot topic throughout the entire DMS ’10 conference). His company is focused on listening and responding to conversations taking place in social media and advertising products and services to people who want them in real-time. Praized automatically monitors online conversations and finds points of entry for its staff to contact users with local business information that is relevant to them. The result, according to Dawalibi, is generating “hundreds of new customers out of thin air” without the need for local businesses to spend time or dedicate resources to generate new leads.
In addition to new offerings, I was impressed by the value that major search players including Google, Microsoft and Yahoo expressed for our industry, which they said served as an important bridge between small and medium-sized retailers and their online offerings.
In today’s changing media environment, local businesses require a new approach to their advertising that targets consumers across a growing array of digital platforms. While there’s still more work to be done, I can say with confidence that the key participants in local search are building a solid plan to help.
Want more insights from the BIA/Kelsey’s Directional Media Strategies 2010 conference? Search Engine Land Locals Only columnist Chris Silver Smith live-blogged all of the sessions at the conference—his coverage is here:
- Live Blogging BIA/Kelsey’s DMS ’10 Conference – Day 1
- Live Blogging BIA/Kelsey’s DMS ’10 Conference – Day 2
- Live Blogging BIA/Kelsey’s DMS ’10 Conference – Day 3
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.