It has been a turbulent few months for the public ‘dot com’ companies with miss-steps and significant losses hurting investor value on a grand scale. With all the drama surrounding the spectacular implosion of Facebook and Groupon you could be forgiven for thinking that this well is poisoned and move on in your search for investment opportunity. I’d argue that’s an understandable but mistaken assumption. The fireworks generated by the Facebook debacle shouldn’t distract us from the real revolution which is going on, it’s happening every day and its front line is in your pocket!
Roughly 65% of all Americans now have a smart phone. As contracts lapse and phones come up for renewal that rate will continue to climb. Whether it’s an iPhone (brought to you by the most valuable company on earth) or an Android phone powered by Google (the most valuable company online) the chances are good that you have one in your pocket and may even be reading this article on one right now. Add to the plethora of smart phone users the army of iPad users and it become clear that something dramatic is happening. The average American now spends about 10% of all the minutes looking at any media (including TV, magazines, etc.) staring at her smart phone. That’s a massive market which has emerged almost overnight. Some surveys claim that number is actually a low estimate and it should be closer to 20%. Either way it’s a huge number. What’s remarkable is that the advertising industry has been slow to respond so while traditional media have too many ad dollars spent on them, given the number of eyeballs they command, mobile devices only garner about 1% of overall ad dollar spend. That means there is an enormous amount of activity going under or un-monetized and it’s growing as the number of mobile users continues to climb. As we turn to our cell phones for more and more information the ability to precisely target mobile users has intersected with another dramatic change….the local revolution.
Even a casual observer of the media world cannot help notice the implosion of traditional print media. For example the Times Picayune, the daily paper of New Orleans, kept publishing through Katrina but has recently moved to a 3 days a week print product. The yellow pages have rapidly migrated from an essential local resource to door stop and Eco-villain. Readers have fled ‘dead tree’ media and with them the local advertisers have withdrawn their support. The problem is that although the eyeballs have left the media, the function served by that media, that of bringing potential shoppers to local businesses has remained. Any local business will typically garner roughly half of its annual revenue from new customers. To get new customers a local business has to be able to reach out to them cost effectively and easily. Most local business people are focused on the job at hand, the carpets which need cleaning, the roof that needs repair and the teeth that need filling. They aren’t media experts and they especially aren’t new media experts. As the media they used to be able to rely on for new business has rapidly evaporated before their eyes they are faced with mastering a whole new world of web pages, paid clicks, likes, banner ads and conversion statistics. Online media is hard to understand and extremely easy to get wrong and those mistakes can be very costly.
So while the social media melt down has got the most attention the real revolution and the enormous opportunity that it represents is only just getting underway. It’s the revolution which unites new media with the real world of everyday business. It’s not the fluffy logos or ‘hacker chic’ of social media, where value is counted in friends, it’s not the much hyped and heavily over done ‘deal of the day’ players; it’s the nuts and bolts business of uniting buyers with sellers. It’s an age old business and this revolution is just the latest wave of it, this time the revolution is going on in your pocket.
The first online media revolution started back in the early 2000′s and has been rolling ever since. It has grown from a few banner ads and blue text links in search pages to a 100 Billion dollar industry. Of that, roughly half of the value goes to search (with Google getting the lions share) and the rest going to all the ‘display’ ads which clutter up our favorite web destinations. Interestingly the vast majority of those ad dollars have come from traditional large advertisers. Local and smaller businesses haven’t contributed very many dollars; in part because there were other more familiar media choices to drive clients and in part because the media themselves weren’t a good fit. As the media landscape changed local businesses have come to realize that they have to get into the swim of new media, but it’s a huge challenge. New media has emerged around the ‘click’ as the way to recognize success. That’s a great model for the likes of Amazon and other online retailers but much harder to make work for local business which don’t typically sell online.
These ‘sea changes’ in the local landscape are driving vast opportunities and it’s these opportunities which Search Initiatives (“SI”) focuses on. Originally launched five years ago SI has been at the forefront to these changes working with local businesses on a huge scale to help them navigate these changes. Our clients are the millions of local business who want to drive useful recognizable value from online but don’t want to have to deal with the complexities of doing that for themselves. Local businesses have used the phone as a critical part of doing business for generations. Local businesses may not be able to respond to a “click” or a “like” but any local business person understands the value of a lead in the form of a call from a prospective customer. Not only do they understand it they are prepared to pay handsomely for it. Over the past year an enormous ‘pay per call’ market has emerged as the way in which local businesses will spend scarce marketing dollars…not on clicks or tweets or likes but on calls from real customers with real opportunity. This trend has been compounded by the recent recession. In a very tough business landscape just about the only thing which a local business will pay for is a qualified lead delivered ideally by phone.
Search Initiatives stands at the intersection of these enormous changes. It uses all aspects of new media; Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine marketing, mobile search, mobile display, social media, local display advertising even local TV and radio to drive qualified leads as paid calls to enormous numbers of local businesses. It does this through a combination of technology and process which turns the obscure and hard to navigate tools of new media into the easily comprehended phone call without the local business ever having to do more than answer the phone. Search Initiatives takes advantage of the rapid growth and proliferation of new media, especially mobile media to join businesses with customers through the phone. The mobile device, the revolution in your pocket, it’s the perfect catalyst. It inherently ‘knows’ where you are at all times which makes targeting local services to local people that much more simple and effective. This market is rapidly evolving and SI is ideally poised to take a leadership position. For more information please visit us at www.searchinitiatives.com or contact Stephanie Austin at email@example.com.