How To Add Real Value To Local Advertising

o2o-what we-do_miniThere is a big disconnect in local advertising right now. Ad dollars for local are still largely driven by national firms and agencies who don’t really understand local and not from the SMB’s in the local space.

Part of the problem is that SMB’s don’t have capacity to generate and manage local ad campaigns and the services provided to them have proven difficult to use, or in many cases, have failed to help SMB’s grow their business.

Services like Groupon have not proven to add value for retailers because their services don’t facilitate loyalty and often just cater to people looking for a deal.

There is also a disconnect with consumers who have a real-time need. And context, including immediacy, is growing in importance.

Yellowpages and online directories are more likely to help a customer with an immediate need, but do little to help SMB’s differentiate themselves. And given the decline in the YP business, SMB’s that are still dependent on them will eventually be forced to find an alternative or face extinction. (Sidebar: YP’s can innovate and save themselves but not without disrupting themselves which most will fail to do).

So the challenge is for publishers and media companies to provide local advertising services which actually help SMB’s drive revenue without expecting SMB owners to become experts or keep up with the ever-changing landscape that is SEM and website & mobile optimization.

Strategically, local ad channel providers must focus on reducing friction between the various stages of the purchasing journey by making it easier for consumers transact with SMB’s as well as become loyal customers of them.

While the local ad landscape is always evolving, there are several tactical steps which help.

1. Incorporate Transaction Capabilities Into The Advertisement

By moving a customer from awareness (e.g. just saw an ad) through transaction, the SMB is able to capture the sale at the moment the customer thinks “I want, ” reducing friction across the first three stages of the purchase funnel.

One example include technologies such as those developed by Soldsie which allow consumers to transact with business on Facebook by simply commenting “sold.”

Friction is further reduced because those capabilities are reaching consumers where they already are (Facebook in this case) thereby creating an opportunity for brand advocacy as well if the consumer choose to “Like” the page and share comments on their timeline.

2. Match A Businesses Capabilities, Products, and Services With The Consumers Search Terms And Context

When it comes to context, with particular respect to time sensitivity, search capabilities need to improve their precision for matching the business listings that appear.  A consumers choice of keywords, time, and location should match the capabilities of the businesses which appear in their search results.

For example, when searching for someone to come repair the leak under my sink on a Saturday, it does me no good to see search results for businesses which aren’t open on Saturdays which don’t serve my area. All of this serves to underscore the importance of accuracy and completeness of business data, which is quite capable of being given consideration in a search.

3. Get Better At Helping Businesses Self-serve

When it comes to local advertising, the self-serve model has yet to realize it’s potential. Part of the problem lies in educating SMB owners as to what is possible. But the largest issues are fragmentation and the relative difficulty of using current service offerings for business owners with a million other things to do.

As software providers and platform builders, it is incumbent on us to make things as easy as possible for the SMB owners to do what they need by visiting as few places as possible.

Local online advertising is viewed with skepticism by many SMB’s. And until the process becomes more efficient, self-manageable, and delivers measurable ROI,  that isn’t going to change. Ad dollars will also continue to flow to the national agencies and away from the local players.

The good news is that there remains a credible and well identified opportunity for platform providers, media companies, and publishers to take control and while serving the SMB’s that need their services.

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