Are you addressing the burgeoning local business phenomenon?

In today’s news, local news aggregator EveryBlock was acquired byMSNBC (as reported on EveryBlock’s blog). Only months ago, we saw AOL acquire Patch, and AOL indicated that “local” was a huge whitespace opportunity for them.

This has been an interesting shift to observe. The web made a global market available to us, but now, like some kind of prodigal business, we’re returning to our roots — the local market.

It seems to me like there are a few reasons for this change:

  • While global markets create opportunities for new clients and vendors, local markets allow more hands-on customer service and just-in-time delivery.
  • More importantly (at least from where I’m sitting) consumers may buy billions of dollars worth of goods over the web but they are still people who like to drive to a nearby restaurant or “kick the tires” of certain products before they buy.
  • Broader (and cheaper) cellphone coverage.
  • GPS (and smartphone apps that tie in to GPS).
  • The “right here, right now” feeling that Twitter addresses, especially illustrated in local hashtag use like #NYC or #LA.
  • The prominence of local-sorted social media (i.e., “Networks” in Facebook).
  • The proven “staying power” — and continued success — of Craigslist or Kijiji.
  • The movement away from display (or “disruption”) marketing in the local market. (I think this was a factor in why many businesses went global in the first place — it was cheaper to market over the web to a global audience than to market via billboards to a local audience)
  • An increased awareness of the value of networking. (Clarification: We’ve always known that networking was good; we were just reminded of it when we were online and trying to network with others around the world).

How businesses can reach this “new” local market:

  1. Investigate your offerings. If they are primarily web-based, explore how you can augment them for a local market.
  2. Develop a plan to begin marketing to the local market using a combination of online and offline channels. Specifically, explore how you can use Google Maps or one of Apple’s iPhone apps to integrate your business into a local search.
  3. Dust off your network of face-to-face contacts and start talking to them again.  Take them out for coffee.
  4. Join a local networking group.
  5. Connect with local distributors to bring internet-like affiliate sales relationships to your local market.

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