Do Locals Give a Click? Negotiating the Buys to Make Local Advertising Work


Successful local advertisers and business owners know that to close a deal, they must ask for the sale. It’s a bold question at times, designed to push a hesitant buyer toward action.

Now, take this same principle — one that you’ve no doubt mastered — and apply it in the other direction: to your advertising buy.

What am I talking about? Here’s the thing: local advertisers often find themselves stuck in between the new and the old. Online local search brings lots of clicks and pay-for-performance economics, but doesn’t offer an understanding of each local market. Traditional media — primarily newspapers and Yellow Pages — are well-entrenched in their communities, but have yet to truly embrace the performance-based model that merchants can get online.

It’s not a zero sum game — there’s value in both the new and the old. Consumers are online, we all know that. But they also haven’t abandoned the traditional. To make both online and traditional advertising work effectively, local merchants need to apply their negotiation skills to the buy as much as they would to the sell. When scouting advertising, both online and offline, don’t be afraid to ask each to bend a little to give you what you really need.

Online — Ask for Calls.

The merchants’ ambivalence about local online advertising is evident in the numbers: Borrell Associates reported in April that local online ad spending surged to $4.8 billion last year — a 78 percent increase over 2004. Sounds like a big jump. But another report, released June 28 by eMarketer, says that only 7.9 percent of the total advertising so far this year has been spent on online local ads. The eMarketer report goes further to assert that among local advertisers, online is almost an afterthought.

The fact is, local search still falls short when it comes to playing matchmaker between merchants and customers. The early promise of the Internet was the click. It’s immediate. It’s active. It takes a consumer from an ad to the company in mere seconds. Businesses that are strictly e-commerce could scarcely ask for a more direct response, and they eagerly gobble up the clicks — hence the dramatic increase in overall spending.

But local businesses are not strictly e-commerce. Plumbers, lawyers, movers, locksmiths and auto repair shops don’t care about clicks. For these businesses the challenge with online advertising becomes converting a click into further action — continuing deeper into the company website or picking up the phone and placing a call. That’s two actions required before the sales cycle can begin. What advertisers need are calls, and the pay-per-call industry is growing rapidly to meet this demand. Ask for calls. You’ll get them.


  1. We have found driving to calls to be an important part of getting success from local online advertising. In addition driving to have you target local customers sign up for online email deals has also been effective.


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