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:
- Investigate your offerings. If they are primarily web-based, explore how you can augment them for a local market.
- 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.
- Dust off your network of face-to-face contacts and start talking to them again. Take them out for coffee.
- Join a local networking group.
- Connect with local distributors to bring internet-like affiliate sales relationships to your local market.