Yearly Archives: 2013

ILM 2013: The New World of Local Leads


Local businesses are finding customers in lots of new ways with the expanding reach of social media and transaction capabilities. Today at Leading in Local: Interactive Local Media in San Francisco, a panel on “the new world of leads” with executives from Airbnb, Thumbtack and Lucky Oyster explored some of the opportunities.

Airbnb, of course, is one of the real breakouts in the space with ten million “guests” in 192 countries now participating in its apartment –as- hotel rental services. The company’s Joe Zadeh said the key to its “shared economy” service was understanding its clients. “People want to have more experiences, and they want to step away from having so many things,” he said. People don’t necessarily want to be an Uber driver after getting a ride, but they do want to become Airbnb hosts.

The company has been building its solutions based on need. For instance, it has developed a freelance photographer program because hosts need good pictures of their apartments. It is also working on providing “speed matches.” Guests “don’t want to wait six hours to get a response,” he said.

Lucky Oyster’s Matthew Berk, a longtime local industry executive and analyst, said that a key part of the new leads order is to provide a “structured” word of mouth platform about actual experience. It has been a ten year journey to provide digital word of mouth. For a local business, it will never be based on a tremendous volume of leads or reviews, he said. But you want to track it, promote it and bump it. The opportunity for innovation is in the form of discovering the right lead, he said.

Thumbtack’s Marco Zappacosta said leads for services have their own special criteria. The long term goal is to become a transactional marketplace, and the most convenient way for a seller to conduct his or her business. But “a lot of price discovery happens after the point of introduction,” he said, noting that Thumbtack now has a list of 30,000 contractors, and sends $200 million of business their way. His challenge: get more contractors. There is plenty of business but a supply constraint.

LIL ILM: eBay’s Jody Ford on ‘The New Commerce Battlefield’

Local is front and center in the next phase of ecommerce opening up, said eBAY VP of Marketplaces Jody Ford during a keynote address Dec. 110 at Leading in Local: Interactive Local Media in San Francisco. Ford said the past several years have been about online service, inventory and convenience and have necessarily favored online sites such as Amazon. But a new era of commerce that is consumer driven and technology enabled will blur the lines between online and offline.

“That is local,” said Ford. “There will be more retail change in the next three years than in the past twenty years.” And it will necessarily favor “platform” companies such as eBay, which Ford boasts has “the largest group of closed loop transactions in the world served by eBay, eBay Enterprises and PayPal.

“My job is to remove friction from connecting buyers and sellers,” he said. In fact, eBay “sits in the middle between utility sites such as Amazon and Walmart, and social shopping sites such as Etsy, Pinterest and Fab, he said.

The company’s next steps include such efforts as same day, scheduled delivery via eBay Now, which is supported by eBay’s recent acquisition of the Shutl courier service. eBay Now has been rolled out in the Bay Area. Chicago and parts of New York City. Dallas and London are next.

LIL ILM: Go Daddy CEO Blake Irving Focuses on ‘Discoverability’


GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving said during his opening keynote at Leading in Local: Interactive Local Media in San Francisco that the world’s leading domain registrar with 12 million, mostly SMB customers is moving beyond the “polarizing tactics” it has used to get attention in its early days, and changing its brand image and marketing approach.

We’re about a lot more as a company,and Go Daddy is really about helping people to easily start, confidently grow and successfully run their own ventures,” he said. A lot of the company’s attention is about discoverablity, he added. “Discoverability is key to customer acquisition.”

Discovery marketing moves people from selection to intent to purchase to loyalty. The goal is to make it actionable, said Irving. Omnichannel Web and mobile services are a major part of this.

While the company is adding new services such as Locu, it is also adding to its traditional registration businesses. GTLDS domains enable micro targeting, with such entries as “.Luxury” and “.Camera,” he noted. Such efforts are likely to boost the company’s average customer value, which is $123 a year. Acquisition costs are running the comapny around $45. Figures are consistent around the world, he said.

Closely Launches Perch 2.0: New Focus is on SMB Solutions, Rep Management


What we hear from everyone is that SMBs can’t figure out what marketing solutions they should employ, how to go mobile, or measure how well they’re doing on the Web.

That realization is driving the direction of a number of new services, including an upgrade this week of Closely’s Perch product. Denver-based Perch, a 10 person startup lead by industry vet Perry Evans, continues to evaluate real time streams coming from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Yelp, FourSquare and Google+ as well as various promotions aggregated by the Yipit deals network.

But the new version extends the product focus, measuring and comparing SMB marketing and social activity via social, mobile, promotions and reviews. SMBs are also able to compare themselves to select competitors, while providing referrals to solution providers based on shortcomings seen in the SMB traffic (i.e. lack of Facebook traffic, reviews, coupons etc.). The referrals seem to represent a new revenue stream for the company.

CEO Perry Evans, in a discussion with BIA/Kelsey, says his team has positioned Closely to “provide value to businesses. We are not there to sell them things. We are just showing them areas they should pay attention to.” He also notes that the referral network is based on actual needs and goes way beyond standard affiliate models. “It is a deeper level of integration,” he says.
One thing that has been deleted from the new version is a “near me” features. Consumers don’t search for businesses base on immediate proximity, says Evans.

Evans also notes that Closely has added YellowBook founder Joe Walsh to its advisory board.

Merchant Circle ‘Relaunches’ as Directory-Centric Site

A few years ago, Merchant Circle pushed the boundaries of SMB marketing,– getting claimed profiles from over one million SMBs with just minimal staff but the latest in social marketing (and telemarketing) techniques. The site has continued to develop after it was acquired by Reply!, Inc. in 2011 – it continues to gain new profiles — but it may have the perception of fading as a top local play.

Reply! is now relaunching Merchant Circle with an eye towards making it “the best directory site on the Web.” The relaunch focuses on leveraging the 1.6 million member merchants with speedy searches, and more of an emphasis on user experience – especially, Reviews and Expert Answers, and the mobile experience. In general, merchant profiles will become more of a “showcase” rather than a flat listing experience.

The site is a major improvement, with a slick, updated design. We especially like the globe-like local maps highlighting reviewed businesses.

The consumer-facing design launches this week. An updated dashboard with self-managed Merchant Circle profiles including blogs, images and Q&A –will be launched at the end of January. A dedicated mobile app will come later in 2014.

With the relaunch, “the merchant’s persona is front and center,” CMO Chris Mancini told BIA/Kelsey. “This relaunch will continue pushing that mission forward. Our research shows that SMB’s need simple solutions for their online marketing and we are dedicated to providing that without breaking their bank account or their timeclock.”

ReachLocal Moves Away From Consumer-Facing ‘ClubLocal’

ReachLocal announced today that it is moving away from its new ClubLocal business, which connects consumers with service providers. The publicly-owned company said that it is now considering a deal that would allow ClubLocal to be taken over by a “major” local entity along with a group that includes ex CEO Zorik Gordon and CSO Michael Kline. At the same time, ReachLocal would maintain a large investment in the business.

It is not a done deal. The company said it will “go shop,” or look at all options for the ClubLocal business until December 24.

ReachLocal’s move last Spring to develop “ClubLocal,” a consumer facing business to assign home repair jobs to vetted local services, met with some head-shaking within the industry. Reach has been seen primarily as a B2B service that did not appear to have the core competency or brand to work with consumers.

The service, however, went ahead and launched in Dallas and San Francisco, perhaps spending between $12 million and $15 million on the initial development and rollout. The main idea was that if Reach could provide SMBs with leads and actually process transactions for them, it would make for a much longer lasting relationship than simply relying on advertising solutions.

One of our BIA/Kelsey users of ClubLocal in Dallas reports that it provides excellent service. But there haven’t been extensive reports on its early business results. Soon after the launch, however, there may have been internal dissension about the company’s strategic direction.

CEO Zorik Gordon left the company, along with President Nathan Hanks. CSO Michel Kline had also announced plans to leave, although at the end of 2013. No explanations have been provided for any of the departures. Hanks is not part of the new group that will run ClubLocal if the proposed deal goes through.

In a discussion with BIA/Kelsey today, interim CEO David Carlick and CFO Ross Lansbaum wouldn’t comment on the executive departures, but noted that there is a search going on for a fulltime CEO; that Reach has become more of an enterprise business; and that B2C services such as ClubLocal are “not really our sweetspot.”

Carlick also noted that ReachLocal is going full speed ahead with its new ReachEdge product, a marketing automation and website project for SMBs. In fact, the company is accelerating deployment in Canada.

“Edge is the back part of ReachLocal – getting people to look at the local merchant Website and other offerings, and converting those visits into customer engagments,” said Carlick. “We have found the things that our clients tend to be worst at – like turning merchants into customers. We achieve results that are 200-300 percent better than what most merchants do now.”

Winners Announced for ILM’s Yelp Headquarters Tour

We have taken a drawing of the many entrants for our Yelp headquarters “PreCon” tour at Leading in Local: Interactive Local Media on Dec. 10, and we have a lucky group of winners. The new Yelp building is the renovation of the old PacBell building. It is really beautiful. Thanks for all the entrants.

More conference-related stuff: On Monday night, our friends at Local Market Launch have a fabulous wine tasting featuring vintages from their home base in Santa Barbara (think of the movie, “Sideways”). It is an elegant way to network with your industry colleagues. Please email to request your invitation.

See you in San Francisco?