Booth: Uncertainty Is Fertile Ground for Interactive Local Media

The Kelsey Group’s Matt Booth kicked off the Interactive Local Media 2008 conference here in Santa Clara, California, with a focus on SMBs’ perceptions and actions related to their media spend. To help frame the discussion, Booth used examples from psychology, in particular the “herding effect,” making the point that oftentimes SMBs base their advertising decisions on what others are doing, not necessarily on what appears to be a better or more obvious path.

Booth cited data from The Kelsey Group’s Local Commerce Monitor indicating that the top influencers for SMBs when making a media buying decision are the actions of their business partners or competitors, with media performance following as a close second.

Interestingly enough, however, the same SMBs that say media performance influences their media buying decisions generally don’t track how they received a lead and therefore don’t necessarily track their ROI. For instance, only 3 percent of SMB advertisers in the LCM study indicated that they used a special phone number to track the source from which a lead was generated.

So, with uncertain economic times, what does that mean for media, particularly interactive local media, and how will SMBs respond? Booth believes “this period of uncertainty is the fertile ground for the next set of winners” in the interactive local media industry. He reminded conference attendees that paid search began to emerge during the last economic downturn/dot-com bubble bust and began to flourish a few years after the fact. Based on past events and current conditions, Booth sees the following factors as the next important characteristics of what’s important for this industry:

  • Immediacy – no latency and full transparency (i.e., immediate access to performance metrics)
  • Lead Tracking - simple and easy to understand (i.e., deep, but straightforward lead generation reports)
  • Pulsed Advertising – on/off or by season (i.e., ability to manage and quickly upgrade or downgrade ad campaigns)
  • “Conversation & Reputation Management” – tools for dialogue between consumers and SMBs and among SMBs
  • A blend of content and advertising that work seamlessly together (i.e., platform to enable “advertorial” paid search)

So, just as SMBs need to figure out during these challenging economic times whether they’ll advertise more or less and where they’ll advertise, Booth essentially prodded the audience to think through how their solutions will encapsulate the above-noted characteristics and determine how their solutions will move the herd.

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