Where Will SMB Marketing Be in Five Years?

I had the pleasure of attending BIA/Kelsey‘s 2014 Leading in Local SMB Digital Marketing Conference in New Orleans a few weeks ago. This was my first SMB related BIA/Kelsey conference in five years, after going for several years. I also had the pleasure of sitting on the Thought Leaders & Decision Makers panel. My co-panelists were Annette Tonti, SVP at The Search Agency and Eric Owen, CEO at Mono Solutions. The panel was co-moderated by Michael Boland, Chief Analyst and VP Content at BIA/Kelsey, and Charles Laughlin, SVP and Managing Director at BIA/Kelsey. The panel was free-form, vibrant and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

There were a few questions posed, all positioned in a “looking five years ahead” context. What struck me most was how aligned the panelists were on our forecasts and no doubt it’ll be interesting to look back at our answers five years from now – especially about the affiliate programmes getting so popular in every niche, from food to insurance (visit their website to see the conditions).

The video (30 min) from the panel is below and here’s Mike Boland’s blog post on the panel on the BIA/Kelsey blog. I’d love to get your thoughts, especially if you feel differently about these topics or our perspectives.

Adios 2010

Adios 2010, sayonara, salaam, lehit, au revoir, ciao. There aren’t enough ways to say goodbye to 2010. It was a tough year for America, and for much of the world. Speaking for myself, professionally, 2010 was a year I’ll never forget. Truth be told, I’ve been thinking about this blog post for some time now. I’ve fantasized about addressing the entrepreneurial challenges I faced in 2010, facing of a severely depressed economy, an increasingly crowded local search segment, a handful of souring investor relationships, among other disappointments. But I’ve changed my mind. I’m going to spare you, my reader, from my bitching and from some opportunistic ‘lessons learned’ and drop my weapon so as to not injure anyone. Instead, I’ll end this year’s blogging, this decade’s blogging, by closing the chapter on a decade and an era I’m most grateful for.

As some of you likely know, it was announced in early December that CitySquares was sold to Backyard, a west coast based startup with funding from Google CEO Eric Schmidt, celebrity entrepreneur and investor Jason Calacanis, and self described greedy, blood-sucking venture capitalist Dave McClure. It’s not the investors that make Backyard exciting, to me anyway (although it certainly has a nice ring to it), it’s the founder and CEO Steve Espinosa. I’ve known Steve for a few years now, and at 22 he’s already a very well admired veteran of the Local space and I’d bet on him any day of the week. So it’s an honor to have sold CitySquares to such a great guy with an equally great vision.

Now that CitySquares is largely behind me (I will still be involved as an advisor), I’m moving on from Local. Plainly put, 2010 kicked my ass, and CitySquares’ prospects for regaining its edge wasn’t getting any brighter as this year passed for reasons I won’t get into right now (but I will once the dust settles). As Greg Sterling penned on his site announcing the acquisition of CitySquares,

Given the noise and competition now in local Saren is not unahppy about exiting the segment for now…When CitySquares launched, for example, there was no Google Places, no Facebook Deals, no Groupon and no Foursquare (et al).

There’s a whole lot of truth in those two sentences. More truth than you know. I can proudly say that CitySquares pioneered hyper-local search. No one was doing local search at the neighborhood level until CitySquares came along – and I mean really doing it at the neighborhood level. And to this day, I will boldly state that still, no one has the mashup of hyper-local geospatial data and local business listings that CitySquares.com has. Alas, the mobile platform is the future of local search, of hyper-local search. OK, it’s not the future, it’s the now! So of the many things I can hang my hat on as I close the door on my CitySquares.com chapter, this is one of them.

Another thing I can hang my hat on are my relationships with countless people, of so many background, cultures, and talents. I’m proud to call many entrepreneurs, investors, employees, associates, vendors, partners, across the country and in many corners of the globe colleagues, acquaintances, even friends. CitySquares took me places I never imagined going, both literally and figuratively. I’m most proud of this.

So it’s with both excitement and with sadness that I say goodbye to 2010, and with open arms that I welcome 2011. I will be making an announcement about my next step within the next week or two. In short, it’s a big change for me, and a change I’m thrilled about.

Before I sign off for the year, I’d like to wish you a very healthy, happy, prosperous 2011. See you on the other side!

Au revoir

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Speaking at Marketplaces 2010

The Kelsey Group is like the ESPN of the local search and advertising world. They’re the authority. They host about four major conferences every year, attracting industry insiders from around the globe. Their next one is next week in San Diego, called MARKETPLACES 2010: THE LOCAL VERTICAL OPPORTUNITY. It’s the who’s-who and that what’s-what of local and vertical solutions and advertising. I’ve attended numerous Kelsey shows and have come to know the Kelsey staff as warm and generous professionals, and many of the conference regulars. The Kelsey Group and their conferences have been absolutely critical for CitySquares. If it wasn’t for them and their shows, I don’t think we’d be a player on this big and competitive field.

I was asked to speak at the Marketplaces show alongside Colin Pape with ShopCity and David Vazdauskas of Local Thunder. The panel will be moderated by Steve Marshall, who I always enjoy. He doesnt pull punches and he adds a certain kind of intensity to the panels. I’m looking forward to it.

I’ll be at the show from Sunday through Wednesday with my colleague and VP National Sales Todd Salerno. We have a few meetings teed up but if you’d like to catch up with one of us just email me, tweet me or send smoke signals, whatever works for ya!

If anyone wants to go, but does not yet have tickets, please get in touch with me, I have a discount code for you to save a little.

Looking forward to seeing a whole lotta people! See you there!

“You stay classy San Diego” – Ron Burgundy

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Local 1.0

I believe that this local search thing is quite early, and to keep up with the Jones’ I’ve started to refer to it as Local 1.0. Hear me out here, because I’m diving deep.

Web 1.0 was a passive web, about adoption and about moving to an interconnected digital medium, and Web 2.0 is very much about participation, creation, and transforming that interconnected digital medium into a platform. Just as Web 1.0 was static, passive, and largely about adoption, so is local, today, and as we’ve come to know it.

Resourceful Idiot does a pretty decent job of explaining the iterations of the Internet. He starts by saying:

“You can group each of the ‘Web x.x’ as a different movement when it comes to internet usage. Web 1.0 is the movement that took place during the beginning of the internet.”

Web 1.0 was about adoption, and about the movement of media, business, and commerce, to the digital medium that is the World Wide Web. Everyone was moving online to reach a larger audience and achieve better efficiencies. The first to move was big media like newspapers, news stations, music, magazines, etc. Everyday services and resources went online, like the post office, libraries, phone books, the dictionary, the encyclopedia, public transportation services, travel agencies, shipping services, mortgage companies, banks, day trading. Consumer services, business services, B2C, B2B, all of them were moving their data and content to the web. All of this content was mostly static, and that was fine. Continue reading Local 1.0

Webcast: Localized Search

I am a guest speaker in an Editor & Publisher webcast on May 22. If you can make the time, please join in. Details are as follows…

Stop the Presses! Localized Search is Changing the Newspaper Business


Discover How Your Company Can Take Advantage of This Evolving Model

for this FREE live Web broadcast.

Date: Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Time: 2:00 PM EST / 11:00 AM PST

Join Editor & Publisher for this FAST-sponsored Web Seminar and hear from industry experts how your newspaper operation can break into the localized search market. Attend this online-only event and learn how to overcome the obstacles and how progressive newspapers have already integrated localized search into their business models and have grown their audience and advertising base and how you can do the same.

Whatever the formula for local search inclusion may be, the newspaper industry and news industry in general are looking to get their piece of the pie. But how do newspaper companies tap into the growing local search market? What technology is needed? Is there a chance of cannibalizing the existing print base?

In this session, the following issues will be explored:

Market Size

Trends and Technology

Geotargeted Display Ads

E-mail Campaigns

Classifieds

Local Paid Search

Local Video