By Kevin Chu, Analyst, Marchex Institute
Last month, I had the opportunity to attend BIA/Kelsey’s Leading in Local conference in Austin, Texas. While I really enjoyed the BBQ (the most succulent brisket EVER at La Barbecue), live music and moonshine on 6th street, I also gained a lot from the opportunity to network and hear the thoughts of some of the most influential leaders in the local arena.
While the conference resonated with excitement for all things local, one undercurrent that I picked up on is the need for simplicity in any marketing service for local SMBs. SMBs, generally strapped for time, need to focus on their own products, services, and ultimately their customers; they do not always have the bandwidth or the expertise to tackle marketing challenges in the increasingly multi-channel and mobile world. While this concept is by no means a ground breaking insight, and can be applied liberally beyond local marketing, the pain of complexity is particularly acute for SMBs.
There are players in the space that have done a great job providing simple, valuable services to SMB advertisers. Some great examples highlighted in the conference included how Yelp’s advertising program has helped entrepreneurs start new small businesses and how mobile tools can really enable home services providers constantly on the go to keep up with marketing activities for their customers. Nonetheless, it is frustrating and confusing for a small business owner that are stretched thin for time to get 20+ sales calls every week from different vendors each championing new and better technologies that will solve all of the SMBs’ nebulous marketing problems.
I have highlighted the problem below:
1. Products and services offered can require SMBs to learn a new system and change the way they have traditionally conducted business.
2. It can be difficult and time consuming for business owners to understand the impact of the service they signed up for.
3. Too many discrete systems for SMBs detracts from the benefits of the individual components
Let’s face it, the local space is huge ($133 bn in 2013 according to BIA/Kelsey) and is only projected to grow ($150 bn by 2015). We all want to be well positioned to capture a portion of the market. Here is what we can do to fix the problem:
1. Be tuned into how SMBs conduct business in various verticals, and design marketing solutions to fit with their normal course of operation, or better yet, make it easier than before. Focus on the solution, not the technology behind it.
2. Make it dead simple for SMBs to understand exactly what they are paying for and what the expected benefit is for them. Prove it by giving them performance updates in simple messages.
3. Create integrated systems or packaged solutions to maximize the benefit for the SMBs.
Ultimately, it behooves us as marketers to make things easy for the SMB advertisers. This is the way to free up the SMBs’ time and provide a value adding service.