Short on time? Here’s the Bottom Line!
This article covers the major motivations and reasons that led to our re-launch as a resource for local marketers that want to learn about free and low-cost methods of online marketing and publishing. Read this article if you’re sick of the status quo from local media publishers and service providers.
Why I started LOCAL Na8ion™
by Julian E. Gude
Editor of LOCAL Na8ion and President of exceler8 Corporation
The old ways of marketing never worked that well and they’re getting worse all the time
I have a lifetime of experience in exploring the leading-edge of technology and after 20+ years working in the local publishing and advertising industry I’ve learned a lot of what there is to know about how companies large and small can connect with buyers using both traditional and state-of-the-art tools and methods. I’ve learned a lot about the local buyer that wants to buy products and services in their city or town. The Internet and social changes in how we interact through the web have fundamentally changed the landscape in every facet of life; and yet there remains a visceral physical connection that we seek out in everything from our personal relationships to the people we associate with and the stuff we buy. Along my life journey I’ve found myself acting in personal and professional capacities where, regardless of my title, I’ve sought out the best in people and the best in technology. That passion has led me to form a belief that maximum human performance and business results can best be achieved using tools and technology the right way where human factors are front-and-center and our focus remains on the results we want to achieve, rather than the sexiness of the gadget or tool being employed.
In the advertising business I’ve worked to help both local and national marketers but I’ve seen far too many dashed dreams and wasted money spent on ineffective ads that did nothing more than drain my client’s bank accounts and leave them searching for the truth of what truly works in marketing their business.
Traditional forms or print, broadcast, and even online media (like banner ads) are becoming increasingly irrelevant with consumers who we’ve made wholly skeptical by our outrageous marketing claims. People are now more time and attention starved than at any time in history which makes us increasingly reliant on good products and services that solve our problems but ever more guarded about marketing and sales pitches. While this is happening there are new, less expensive, more trustworthy, and more human ways to connect with customers directly (without the middle man). You might think that as a marketer I’d be shaking in my boots but nothing could be further from the truth. We’re finally starting to realize an ideal that we’ve always yearned for, that truth take center stage in the best marketing campaigns and practices.
Independent, beholden to none, and dangerous
A little over two years ago I struck out on my own, leaving behind Corporate America and the security of a fat paycheck and rich health benefits. For my leap of faith I won some freedom, but most importantly, I got rid of the company line, the one I’d been carrying around like a ball and chain for 20 years. I’ve worked for many of America’s largest local publishing and advertising companies, including GTE and Pacific Bell Yellow Pages, and SBC (now AT&T) along with Knight Ridder, formerly the second largest U.S. Publisher of print and online newspapers, publishing 32 daily newspapers across the U.S. including prominent newspaper and online publications like The San Jose Mercury News, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Miami Herald.
Like many other entrepreneurs I’ve been doing my best to attract clients, build sales, and handle my business operations (oh yeah and take care of two little kids). Like you I have to find new customers (or else) balance a meager “bootstrapped” budget and make sure I use the best free or inexpensive tools I can get my hands on. My background and hands-on experience in marketing, technology, the Internet, and the wave of web 2.0 tools, services, and publishing methods have given me a real competitive advantage.
Not long ago, after learning the hard way from making my own mistakes (in areas where I’m not nearly so expert) I realized how I could best help people while still feeding myself and my family. I realized that I had the expertise and desire to help entrepreneurs like me make a better life for themselves by combining my love for the application of technology with my traditional and new media background. We all have unique talents and I am among those that believe that it’s our place to use these qualities to better our lives, that of our family and friends, and for the greater good.
My best work has always come in bringing together people and technology (using technology in smart ways) and I’ve tried to combine this talent with marketing in new and inventive combinations. Up until the mid 90’s my passion for computers and technology and my career in advertising were largely separate. Then the Internet happened and I was working right at the epicenter of the Internet revolution that started in Silicon Valley. Finally, the dream that led me to pack all my belongings in my car a decade earlier and drive across the country to live and work in technology in Silicon Valley came to pass. But it was my practical experience from my ‘diversion’ in local advertising that connected my two worlds of technology and marketing and soon I was busy transforming the largest print Yellow Pages and Print Newspaper companies into their new online equivalents.
Web 2.0 and Social Media
Then came the second wave of the Internet – the much-heralded Web 2.0. With Web 2.0 we ushered in revolutionary interactive online tools that have transformed online publishing and brought people together. This is the revolution in personal publishing you’ve heard so much about that is largely driven by tools like blogs, trusted social networks like MySpace, Facebook, Linked-in, and Second Life, user generated content on sites like YouTube, and everywhere communities of like-minded people, informing each other and organizing themselves around like-interests and passions.
These new tools that enable interaction, collaboration, and connection between people, are called Social Media. Most of them are free to participate in but they’re not meant as vehicles for your ads. They’re highly participative and interactive in nature. You don’t just throw your fishing line or business card in to the waters of social media with the expectation that fish will clamor to jump on your hook! You build your reputation and your brand with these tools and establish your credibility and this positions you to win new business. These tools and communities represent an opportunity for connecting:
people with needs and people with solutions,
people in search of answers with people who hold them,
people who are experts with people who are novices,
people who are buyers with people who are sellers.
If done the right way, openly and honestly, and relevantly, you can use these tools, social networks, and communities to help make new connections and strengthen existing ones.
Like many new tools, early uses of social media for marketing backfired because companies and marketers tried to use the new medium in an old way. That didn’t work out so well for the companies who used traditional marketing tactics like subterfuge and manipulation to win over consumers. But as things are maturing these practices are being used less and less and more people are realizing that something new and positive is afoot.
Perhaps the most exciting news to local advertisers who don’t have large ad budgets to support ‘branding’ campaigns like Coca-Cola, is that social media are now driving significant traffic to web sites in the form of improved search engine rankings. Today, it has become realistic to use social media and search engines to build a thriving local business without buying paid ads.
The role of search engines – local buyers looking for local sellers online
There is another aspect of the web that is separate but interrelated to social media and it speaks more to the direct sales or fishing line analogy I used previously. This is the place where you put your fishing line in the water and if you’ve done your job with your product and your web site, your brand, and your social media, you can expect to land some big fish. They come to you. Search engines like Google, Yahoo! and MSN Live and their local versions are intended to connect people, including local buyers and sellers. These tools represent an opportunity to connect with your customers very efficiently. You can do this at no cost by tapping into organic search engine traffic, or at a very low cost (compared to traditional media) with paid local search engine traffic. You can’t order a mechanic up from India to work on your Ford in Des Moine. And Zappos.com and Amazon.com can ship you an order for shoes or books but they can’t get them to you today, before you hop your plane on a business trip.
The problem with you – the local marketer
Online methods of publishing a business web site and marketing your company online to local customers haven’t kept pace with gains seen in big business. There’s a simple reason, you’re not worth all the time and effort. Old and new media companies alike spend all their time going after the big national advertisers that have local locations (think Best Buy) or super regional businesses like Car dealers, appliance stores, and mega real estate developers. Frankly, you’ve been left out in the cold and subjected to lame service and cookie-cutter product offerings.
Meanwhile for big business, the Internet revolution has ushered in previously unheard of profits, along with major increases in capability, quality, and service. The problem with the old publishing and marketing powerhouses, be they Yellow Pages publishers, Newspaper companies or TV and Radio networks, and the ad agencies or service businesses built around them, is that their offerings and services are based on outmoded models, cost structures, and tools that don’t pass on the advantages and savings of the latest Internet technology. That and it would seem outright greed. It’s like working on making a better horse carriage when the rest of the world is already moving on from the combustion engine to alternative powered vehicles.
Old media companies and newspaper publishers can’t get out of their own way fast enough and as a small business owner or entrepreneur you’re the one who is paying for it. In most cases these content and media companies have simply re-purposed print or old broadcast methods online – including the crappy ads that don’t work anymore. This isn’t innovation and it doesn’t represent what your business needs today.
The truth is that these new tools and methods are accessible to anyone; you just need someone with a vision of how to put them together to tell you the truth about how to do that. Why hasn’t that happened? Mostly because people are too busy trying to fatten their own profits at the expense of yours. For the entrenched companies their stockholders or profit models are built on things being the old way and their only option is to hold on to what they’ve got for as long as we’ll let them (Moooo – that’s the cash cow calling). They’re counting on you remaining in the dark.
What are we to do about it? Plenty.
We’re not going to let that happen. What’s true today is that individuals with these new powerful self-publishing tools have already proven that we can’t be kept in the dark and fed who know’s what. We don’t accept this any more today than we will blindly accept a politician’s campaign-trail-rhetoric or a television network’s sensationalized version of ‘news reporting.’
There’s another smaller but troubling problem in the local web site publishing and marketing world. Companies and service providers like my former employers and big Internet players spend a huge amount of time and money dummying-down their products and services to small business based on an incorrect assumption: that small business people aren’t smart enough or capable enough to do it themselves. If they only knew. Even if this is well intended, it often has the effect of excluding you from the cutting edge technology and advertising solutions that represent your biggest opportunity. They also put a big fat tax on their services that you end up paying for. Not only do you pay for them governing your capability with dummied down tools (think AOL) it also introduces unnecessary layers of costs, bureaucracy and technology that you don’t want or need. What’s even sadder is that these “simplified” products are often just as complicated as their “professional” counterparts.
So basically they’re all evil, does that cover it?
After talking about all these negatives it may sound like we don’t see any value in paid local marketing methods or media. That’s not true and we’ll be writing about local media and services that we know DO work. When we do write about local marketing and media services you can rest assured that we’re telling the truth because we don’t take advertising from these companies and we don’t get paid if we recommend their services. Although we perform ad agency functions we won’t take a typical agency commission if we end up placing ads on your behalf either – instead we’ll just pass along those savings to you.
Unbiased and Free to speak our minds
Local Na8ion is unbiased in our recommendations about the tools we recommend because we’re not beholden to anyone, any company, or an old business model that we have to protect. We won’t accept ads from service providers or media companies that we review. And we also know what the big guys know because we worked for them.
We will give you useful free content that we believe will be very valuable to you. That’s good because we want to establish trust and our credibility with you. In fact we depend on it since we’re upfront about how we make money. Speaking of us making money that’s simple enough. We’ll sell some ads to companies that have no conflict of interest with our offering, we’ll offer you our consulting and contract services if you want them and in 2008 we’ll offer low priced online video tutorials and e-books to streamline and jump-start your efforts.
Where are we going
It’s my goal to establish Local Na8ion as the #1 online community to turn to when you want to know what really works in local online publishing and marketing. If it’s about using free state-of-the-art publishing tools to relaunch your company web site or blog then I’d like you to think about LOCAL Na8ion. If it’s about real experience and knowhow in employing the most efficient and inexpensive online marketing methods to drive new sales, come here, learn here and contribute. We’re working out on the edge and we know we don’t have all the answers all the time but we know that figuring them out for ourselves is a hell of a lot better than being fed the B.S. on the regular menu.
Getting involved, come read and come contribute
If you like the sound of what we’ve got to say than I say Local Na8ion is a community for you. Come ask your questions, tell us what you’re doing that’s worked, and what’s bombed. One of the best parts about local advertising is that the ideas that work in one town for one type of business can work elsewhere – and sharing your knowledge is unlikely to hurt you. You do more good in learning from your contribution than hording your knowledge as if no one will ever figure it out.
Not the do-it-yourself type? Hire us.
We understand. While we fundamentally believe anyone can use the information and tools we champion to empower their business we also know that it doesn’t always make the most business sense to do so. Let’s put it this way, I’m not real big on accounting and I’m happy there are professionals who can take care of my books and Uncle Sam so I can focus on doing what I do best.
Local Na8ion’s experts can employ our three-phase marketing and publishing method for you for much less than you might think. We don’t have any high costs to pass on to you because our business is powered by the many free or low cost tools we herald. We wield these tools and employ our methods with the same kind of expert touch that a master craftsman would in building your home. Our prices go to paying for the best craftsman, doing their best work – nothing more. In the future we also plan to offer our community low priced online video tutorials and e-books to streamline and jump-start your efforts.
All the best!