Building an Audience in a Fragmented, Noisy Digital Landscape

Building an audience of prospective clients via digital channels has never been more challenging, and is only increasing in difficulty as more outlets are introduced. Consumers spend over 5 hours on digital media per day, increasingly via mobile devices, and everyone is competing for attention.

Specifically for local marketing providers trying to reach small and medium-sized businesses (SMB), the difficulty of reaching this particular consumer audience is being multiplied by the volume of competing companies doing the same thing. One study finds that SMBs get about 17 sales calls per month but they answer less than half of them.

So how are marketing providers attempting to reach and attract this distracted, fragmented audience? At LSA16 last week we heard a variety of strategies and tactics that companies like Yelp, Thumbtack, MapQuest, YP and others are utilizing, and some of these approaches were surprising.

Yelp is attracting businesses to the platform with resources comparable to customer relationship management tools (CRM) like “book now” functionality for food delivery and reservations, commerce tools, and most recently, a request a quote tool. While these tools are useful for local business, Yelp COO Geoff Donaker said the company’s focus is on the actual consumer.

Thumbtack shared one of the most interesting start-up stories from the event. In some ways, the company “reinvented the wheel” in building their prospect list through crawling the Internet and filtering through billions of pages. List buying wasn’t ideal for them because businesses on these lists were primarily brick and mortar where Thumbtack was looking for the dog walkers and yoga instructors of the world.

Once equipped with a list, Thumbtack Co-Founder Jonathan Swanson said that they then offered a free service which made it easy for SMBs to auto-post their services on craigslist. The idea was to offer a service that would tide them over until they could bring consumers directly to these SMBs on the site.

MapQuest is focusing on redefining its brand to attract users. The company is transitioning from a maps, information, directions and search tool, to a more human, discovery, exploration, suggestion and insight engine. The company now even has a customer service phone number directly on the maps, and wants the brand to inspire an emotional connection with the site.

Finally, a panel of experts from YP, Vendasta, G/O Digital and MapQuest talked about the power and importance of content marketing in capturing more qualified leads. Providers are focusing on educating the SMB audience because a well-informed SMB removes friction from the sales process. They added that there is a definite industry shift from outbound to inbound tactics, which is resulting in more qualified leads.

While the panel found content marketing to be critical, there was also a discussion around the importance of product and product design. YP’s Richard Maraschi argued that more important than marketing efforts was the product being sold. He suggested the starting point should be getting consumers engaged with the product (freemium model).

Local marketing providers and platforms are utilizing a variety of tactics to build audiences. The “big blue ocean” of the Internet and digital world has led to a variety of innovative and novel strategies for reaching, engaging and eventually selling consumers.

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