LSA 15: How Much Has the ‘Local Market’ Really Changed?

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Coming off LSA 15 last week I was struck by a paradox. The conversations we had at the conference about small businesses, digital marketing and related sales issues were similar if not essentially the same as have been taking place since 2001 in many respects.

(Most of the sessions were captured on the LSA blog.)

A cynic/skeptic might be lead to believe that most of these issues (e.g., churn, sales challenges, market fragmentation) are going to be around forever in some form. Certainly it feels like the data syndication issues will.

At the same time there are profound shifts happening in the market that are undeniable and are changing it forever. Mobile is the big one. However there’s also commerce (booking, payments), programmatic, indoor location and the increasingly sophisticated and varied uses of location data (i.e., audience segmentation, traditional media tracking, offline attribution). Machine learning, digital assistants and new UI/UX experiences are also happening.

The amount of data now being generated alone is changing the marketing conversation dramatically. Some of these things haven’t yet “trickled” down completely to the SMB market but they’re impacting the broader market and consumer behavior for sure.

Despite the complexity of digital marketing for SMBs and related sales channels I suspect that the issues and landscape will look very different in five years. We’re probably entering a period in which winners and losers will self select by their “proactivity” or passivity. Those that can and do adopt and adapt to these technologies will succeed and others will fail.

For example SMBs that can adopt online scheduling and payments (directly or through a partner/vendor) will be more likely to succeed than those that do not in the near future. This is not going to be true across the board but in competitive urban environments this is one of those things where “other things being equal,” the mobile commerce-enabled businesses will win.

On the publisher/platform side, during the programmatic panel, YP’s Luke Edson made the bold and ominous prediction that publishers and vendors that do not embrace programmatic will simply fail. YP has been very aggressive about investing in and adopting new technologies and it will likely pay off for the company.

Edson’s comment may not turn out to be 100% accurate but directionally he’s correct. I’m not talking about chasing the shiny new object but about embracing foundational technologies that now matter.

It has taken years to get to this point. And while the conversation may look or sound the same on the surface, underneath there’s a tectonic shift happening.

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6 Responses to “LSA 15: How Much Has the ‘Local Market’ Really Changed?”

  1. Bob Misita says at


    As usual – spot on assessment and reflection on past / future trends.  

    Very timely mention of activity based self-selection.  Earlier today, our team was brainstorming a new series of topics we’re going to write about and this is a core idea.  With the emergence of the LODE (local on demand economy) and further convergence of conversational marketing mechanisms — businesses need to be aware that their prospect pool is engaging with someone (them if they are smart) and its ever more important to build and protect a brand. 

    Thank you for posting as always,

  2. Marketing Day: Apple Earnings, Amazon Echo & Pinterest’s “Marketing Developer Partners” | says at

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  3. Greg Sterling says at

    I think most/many SMBs are unaware of the opportunity cost of not doing this stuff. They’re not seeing the business they’re losing. While it may be obvious now I spoke to lots of cab drivers who seemed oblivious about Uber not so long ago. The acronym LODE and the term “on demand services” are not particularly useful.

    There should be an alternative, more descriptive phrase such as “commerce-enabled.” The analogy to cable TV (where “on demand” comes from) is sort of appropriate but not exactly.

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  5. Erika Kerekes says at

    Maybe some SMBs have their heads in the sand when it comes to embracing new technologies, but I think a lot more wish they could figure out 1) how to change, 2) where to find the money to invest in change, and/or 3) whether investing in change offered a sure (or close to sure) financial advantage.

    Existing SMBs running on thin margins and sensitive to the fluctuations in the market and fickle customers may have the cash on hand today to invest in a new scheduling system, but when every decision directly affects how much money the owner takes home at the end of the year it’s sometimes hard to pull the trigger on big investments in technology, process, etc.

    I’m not saying you’re wrong that it’s change or die, Greg – clearly you are right in the long term, or even the short- or medium-term for some SMBs. But the investment decisions are so much more personal for SMB owners that it’s sometimes harder to pull the trigger without being sure there’s a payoff. I think that’s why existing SMBs often lag in adoption of new technologies: It’s much harder psychologically to dig into your own pocket to change things that may not actually be broken at this very moment. 

    Startups, of course, are a different matter entirely. When you’re starting from scratch there’s little disincentive to choose the leading edge – no existing paid-for infrastructure to dismantle.

  6. Greg Sterling says at

    Sensitive to the issues you’re raising. It’s hard to know where to invest and how to evaluate it. It’s also not good to chase the shiny object and be rational about where the most return will come. All this is very challenging and SMBs are often not well served by their vendors. Trust is a big issue so is “conflict of interest.”

  7. PS Web Design UK says at

    Hi Greg, I have to agree with you when you say “SMBs that can adopt online scheduling and payments (directly or through a partner/vendor) will be more likely to succeed than those that do not in the near future.” I think that as we depend on technology more and more it’s going to become imperative that businesses can adapt to the modern shifts in technology. 

  8. Greg Sterling says at

    I think it’s really going to be driven by consumers, who will prefer the convenience of being able to book and pay in an app or online for local services. For some transition period those that are losing business won’t necessarily recognize that however.

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