‘Search Starts Here’: Panels Debates Automation for SMBs and National Brands

Our morning panel had a spirited discussion about the role of automation in local marketing campaigns.  Joining us for the talk were Pete Gombert from Ballihoo; Howard Lerman from Yext; Ben Gibson from AdMax Local, The Search Agency, Inc.; and Paul Wicker from Kenshoo Local.

The panel discussed the need for automation vs. the importance of human attention to ad programs.

Ben said, “To be able to effectively run and manage campaigns for these small businesses, there has to be that level of automation.”

Paul introduced the idea that automation actually enables the human element.  “You do automate to take the mundane out of the service, but you do need a human element.  One benefit of automating is to have the time to go back and do some manual review.”

Pete commented that setting the strategy is key.  “The premise if you look at any of the automation platforms is someone has to be doing something – you have to set the strategy.”

Howard agreed, “A brand is a brand.  You don’t want to throw it into a borg of automation … There’s a balance between the art and the science.”

Pete suggested a good place to step is in to identify strong vertical experience.  “We bring in someone that deeply knows the vertical.  They have deep understanding of that vertical space, and they know how to get customers in through the door.”

The panel also debated the differing needs of SMB advertisers and major national brands.

Pete argued that SMBs’ core needs are the same as big brands: “They’re both businesses.  Both are trying attract new customers and retain customers … The industry has an opportunity to raise the game for local advertisers.  I think the goal should be for the local marketer to be as good as the national advertiser.”

But not all panel members agreed.  Howard pointed out: “One of the things I see this industry get confused about is the goals for a small business than a big business.  A plumber has a completely different objective than a brand.”

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