I spent part of my afternoon listening to a panel of experts from the local internet business. Three things really came out of this for us that I want to share with the industry and most importantly our merchants:
- The Yellow Pages industry sales force thinks the answer to getting merchants is to leverage the transparency, value, and flexibility of the Local Internet -- forcing you to buy it with their expensive, onerous, opaque offline product. I don't get how a "massive feet on the street" sales force is the right way to deliver a solution to real small merchants -- especially a sales force known for selling based on the fear of you losing business. The Internet is about the hope you have in growing business.
- A key to success of local merchants online is drawing the local customer in. The key is for the small merchant to bring more of their unique local content onto the web. We have found blogs, newsletters, consumer pictures, etc., all critical to driving actual customers to our local merchants. Small businesses invest in relationships with their customers, and communication is a critical part of that relationship.
User generated content is driving new local information onto the web. This is the information people used to get at the local coffee-shop bulletin board, the local newspaper, or even the Local Little league game. Today, more consumers look to the web for local content. We are providing a platform for small merchants to generate and leverage local content. If you look at our merchants who have used our platform to create content they are seeing orders of magnitude more consumers, who are in turn now seeing more of their local ads.
- Small merchants pay $6000 a year for advertising today. Our solution that will include everything from Google to Yahoo, the local newspapers, broadcast media websites, 411 and even TV ads will deliver significantly more value than the Yellow Pages "tax" merchants are currently paying.
- $55 billion will be spent on local internet search by 2010. 55% of search ads will be locally driven.
- None of these traditional advertising businesses believe small merchants are smart enough to actually buy online advertising. They believe it has to be SOLD to them and forced on them. We know they're wrong.
- In local online advertising, CPC is too complex, and small merchants don't need that complexity.
- To get past the 300,000 small merchants who are advertising online today, self service has to work but most of these guys just don't believe the SME is smart enough to do it.
- The people who have the majority of today's small businesses online ad dollars have expensive sales forces. Growing this base of advertisers will require something special and innovative -- beyond a traditional sales force.
Thanks for tuning in.