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Local Business Marketing Dollars and Conflicting Local Data


We talk about the importance of local Internet marketing here at Marketing Pilgrim pretty regularly. What is interesting is that only 25% of our readers that responded to our recent survey were looking for local Internet marketing information (you can still complete the quick survey here and we would appreciate it :-) ) .

I find that fascinating because the reality of the market place is that no matter how big or small your business is, purchasing decisions have a decidedly local bend to them. In other words, everyone should be concentrating on local as it applies to their business whether you are big or small.

Recently, BIA/Kelsey reported on how local marketing dollars are shifting from traditional to online channels. This chart provided by eMarketer shows this slow change.

By 2015 almost 25% of local marketing spend will be in the online space. That is certainly impressive but there still seems to be confusion as to just where this local money will be spent or where the other soft resources (people, time etc) will be concentrated.

As with any research it depends on who does it and what they are trying to say. For instance, I find any data regarding the acceptance and full optimization / utilization of Google Place Pages as important. Google has placed such an emphasis on these entities but depending on who you are getting your information from you can get conflicting reports about has done work with this online marketing tool or who even plans to. Look at this data from MerchantCircle, which we have talked about in a past post.

The claim here is that 51% of the businesses surveyed are using Google Place Pages.

Now look at data that we also examined in another post from American Express’ OPEN Forum. The number of small businesses using the very same Google Place pages is significantly smaller at only 10%.

So which is right? 51% vs. 10% is a pretty big gap. Do you split the difference and just say about 25% of businesses are using Google Places? That’s not a very smart way to determine this but it would be nice to know a real number.

So why is this even important? It’s important because we all have to realize that this talk of local Internet marketing, the potential market it represents and the use of the techniques available may just be another case of the Internet industry talking out of various parts of its anatomy and not really having a clue of how many are using what technique. More importantly, the industry has done such a pathetic job of educating SMB’s about their options that it can be almost impossible to predict anything about how far the local market will go.

So how does this change? It changes from the top with search engines like Google and Bing getting down from their ivory engineering towers and actually mingling with the commoners. Now, since that is about as likely to happen as lightning striking me twice in the same day in two different places how will this effort grow?

It’s going to take an Internet marketing village to raise the SMB into real understanding of what is available to them online. Consultants and industry evangelists who actually talk to real business people will need to work beyond the research and the data to help local businesses truly see the opportunity.

Imagine if those in power in this space (Google, Facebook, Twitter, Bing etc) actually stopped the train for long enough to educate the masses rather than steamroll them with ‘innovation’? There’s no telling where this could all go but until then we’ll just have to wonder how many people really get the whole local online marketing space.

What would you propose as a way to educate the larger audience about the opportunity that exists in the online space? Do we just ‘let them eat cake’ and see if they figure something out on their own?

  • http://www.easywk.com Angie Wheeler

    About 35% of the people contacting me for my services are coming from local search and that is with me only giving a weak effort in local search optimization. Local search is my main focus for April with my own marketing. Even virtual services need to get in on this game – it is not just for storefronts.

    • http://www.localbasix.com Frank Reed

      @Angie – Couldn’t agree more. There are so many facets to the local search game (and just within the framework of Google Places) that I don’t think many are thinking big enough. The biggest thing to consider is what will people see when they do a direct search for your business (regardless of type of business like you are talking about). Many direct searches show a one box result for a business and if it is not optimized it is a strike against rather than a win.

  • Cynthia Boris

    I haven’t seen the survey results, but I imagine that a large portion of our readers are online marketers who see themselves as non-location specific, thus don’t feel the need to advertise locally.

    • http://www.frankthinking.com Frank Reed

      @Cynthia – One thing I am being careful is defining location specific especially in the B to B space. Large companies with regional offices should be thinking about marketing and promoting local and regional presence more so they become less of a corporate behemoth and more of a local provider. Even the definition of local is changing.

      • Cynthia Boris

        This is very true, and I also believe that local should be explored even if you’re a web biz because people like local. For example, I was offered a book to review that I would have turned down but when I found out the woman lived in my town, I said yes. I figured that gave me a second angle to explore, plus I felt like a kindred spirit.

  • http://www.marketrumba.com Dianna Helm

    Thanks for writing this post. It’s information that is really needed out in the local marketplace. I am always trying to find ways to educate local businesses regarding essential internet marketing practices for 2011 and beyond. More education needs to be done for these local businesses to get more traction.

  • http://www.edgenet.com Phillip Bushman

    Some really good statistical analysis. My company is directly partnered with Google and Bing and I speak with manufacturers and merchants every day and its hard to raise awareness to people of how much local is changing the way products go to market. In today’s world, optimized content and online presence is key.