How the Internet Is Changing the Local Marketing Game

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How the Internet Is Changing the Local Marketing Game

Hours in front of the television has shifted to YouTube, Facebook and computer games. People still watch television; however technology such as the PVR ensures that most viewers only see commercials as they speed past them.

This change in consumer behavior has thrown an enormous monkey wrench into the fourth ‘P’ of the marketing mix (Product, Price, Place & Promotion). In the good old days, promotion was pretty easy. A nice ad in the telephone directory or a catchy radio spot at drive time meant that the phone continued to ring and customers found you. For some additional exposure try a direct mail campaign or a place a coupon in the local business directory. Who cares which message is the one that pushes your campaign to ‘critical-mass’ with your target group? Each media option was like a piece of an invisible puzzle that would activate purchasing behavior. This ‘marketing mix’ is the reason for the old adage “I know that I’m wasting half of my advertising budget, I just don’t know which half!” We understood that repetition is the key to earning that essential ‘share of mind’ with customers. Exposure equals business.

Clients of mine report that what used to work well simply doesn’t anymore. One recently shared with me that he tracks his advertising spending ‘like a man possessed’ and he has seen his ROI on telephone directories go from 7:1 to barely breaking even! If you’re a small business owner this probably sounds familiar.

Consumers simply aren’t using old media the way they used to. Recent statistics on Internet use supports this. According to Atlanta based Media Research Group, The Kelsey Group:

– 70% of North American households use the Internet as an information source when shopping locally for products and services.

– 31% of all business buyers turn to a Search Engine first when looking for a locally based product or service.

– 25% of all commercial Internet searches are conducted by users looking for local merchants.

– 43% of all searches on Google include a geographical identifier.

– 86% of those people follow up with a phone call.

– 61% of people who call make a purchase off line.

For marketers, relevance and relationships have replaced the ‘shotgun’ approach. Customers are turning to Google and Social Media. Google cares about relevance; Social Media is all about attention. To put it another way, clients find you with Google and then stay connected with you through Facebook. Relationships replace repetition.

Most business owners have heard that Social Media is essential. What does that mean? A customer may find you while researching a purchase, but isn’t yet ready to buy. Facebook keeps them connected if you give them a reason to ‘like’ you. National television spots are asking for Facebook ‘likes’ without giving customers any compelling reason to do so. This seems eerily familiar to the dot-com debacle of the late 1990’s when too many foolish decisions were made in haste and billions of dollars were wasted before it was properly understood. Many so called ‘experts’ surfaced and preyed upon the not yet Internet savvy, draining the resources of Fortune 500 firms and small businesses alike. History has a habit of repeating itself…

Businesses need to understand just how important it is to become relevant to Google. Page ranking isn’t for sale. There is a process to ranking well. Business needs to learn this. Just like in early days of the dot-com boom, some opportunists have surfaced. Many businesses receive multiple offers every week from SEO (search engine optimization) firms promising incredible results and charging outrages fees. SEO is definitely an important part of a successful web presence; yet it is only a piece of the ‘new’ puzzle. There are many other issues to consider such as back links, auto-responders, lead capture pages, mini-sites, and social media campaigns just for a start. It’s important to become educated to understand exactly what is being offered, how it works, in order to properly value these services.

The playing field has leveled and local businesses can compete like never before. Campaigns can be tried, tested and improved at very little cost. There are no magic bullets with Internet marketing. It is still all about finding the message that is the most effective and then getting that message to the right people.

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