Innovation is a “side-show” when it comes to Local Search. After all, Local Search is a “pitched battle”, where success will be determined primarily by focusing on channel development and simplifying the offering to merchants.
So says Justin Sanger in his piece entitled, The Local Search Mardi Gras.
Justin is, of course, completely right. And, completely wrong.
He’s right in understanding the current mindset of SME’s. As he correctly points out, most of these folks don’t advertise, and those that do spend the bulk of their advertising dollars on print YP offerings. Print YP is a fairly straightforward buy; that is, its ~120 year existence means that everyone knows what it is, how it’s used, and (likely) how it’s priced. From the perspective of pushing an advertising offering at SME’s, the YP model is a no-brainer.
But there is a pull aspect to advertising marketplaces as well; said another way, advertisers (eventually) follow their customers. Product and service innovation is key to this. Whether it’s something as ‘crazy’ as 3D Mapping, as ‘modest’ as local reviews and referrals, or as ‘disruptive’ as making it all available while mobile, innovation is happening in Local offerings, which is both supporting and encouraging changing consumer needs/behaviors. This notion of innovation applies to advertising packaging and partnership formation too.
In the end, it’s hard (and probably pointless) to argue against ‘easy’ or ‘simple’, especially when it comes to time-starved SMEs. But to completely divorce adoption from innovation ignores (and insults) the well understood past (when “no one” bought radio, TV, cable, YP or Internet advertising), the current (where lots of people are buying SEM ads that no one was buying 10 years ago, and newspapers are giving away classified listings that they were making a bundle from only too recently), and the future (where product, partnership, pricing and packaging innovation will create a value proposition whose push and pull will disrupt current assumptions and drive user and advertiser adoption). There’s more than one way to get from here to there, and not all of it involves forcing a model that doesn’t work; transitions are possible provided that value can be quantified and (easily) expressed.