The typical online strategy for small business is to set up a website, a Facebook page and maybe a Twitter account to broadcast the day’s deal or menu item. The marketing method is essentially passive like traditional advertising; it requires that customers find the sites, usually via search engines, offline knowledge or a referring link. In today’s social marketing, once the customer finds the business’ social marketing channels, online conversations can take place as if they were physically behind the counter. The diagram below demonstrates how local marketing has evolved from advertising to social marketing, where the instigator of the transaction is the vendor and the recipient the consumer. With the growth of social media, the power to initiate transactions can start shifting to the consumer.
In my previous Local Network article “Hyperlocal Media and Collaborative Consumption Services”, I described how the “shared economy” trend has empowered the consumer to share their belongings and services via new online and mobile marketplaces. The flip side of consumer supply is consumer demand. It’s intuitive that instant gratification in the form of the instant answer will be a powerful new way consumers will use these marketplace applications.
New startups like LocalMind and Zaarly are set up for locals to ask questions about the neighborhood or request items they need. Larger networks like Twitter and Foursquare are also peppered with these kinds of inquiries. The hope, for both consumer and the startups, is a relevant answer is returned quickly to validate application usefulness.
When consumers are asking to buy something, or for a recommendation for lunch, there is a lead generation opportunity. In the Zaarly example above, a local photographer can manually set up lead notifications for any local inquiries for photographers. As consumer demand apps proliferate (and here’s a big list, find examples under the Neighbor Support and Errand & Task Networks categories), leads will get generated across a vast network of independent, siloed services.
It’s plain to see that it’s beyond the scope of most small businesses to sign up for notifications for the slew (hundreds?) of new consumer demand services coming online, in fact they don’t even know they exist! There’s a huge opportunity to aggregate potential leads across these siloed services in real time, and notify or proxy respond on behalf of local businesses so they can service leads immediately. In this online new paradigm, small business no longer needs to wait for their customers, they cherry pick on demand.