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Where to put your local ad dollars

Where to put your local ad dollars Stuart McKelvey

No more than 10 years ago consumers only had a few selections to choose from when looking for local business information (print yellow pages, directory assistance, et cetera.) Today, with the rapid growth of the internet and acceleration of technology, business purchasers have a myriad of sources to turn to, including the traditional offline sources as well as multiple online and mobile search options, such as online search via the search engines and local search sites, mobile local search through wireless phones and PDAs, as well as text-based or SMS search options.

In Q1 2007, TMP Directional Marketing commissioned a study with comScore Inc. to gain a better understanding of consumers' attitudes and behavior toward these offline and online local media sources when looking to make an upcoming purchasing decision. The study is based on results of 3,000 survey respondents selected at random from comScore's proprietary panel of 1 million online users in the United States.

According to the study, a surprising one out of three consumers still cites the printed yellow pages as their preferred source for local information (33 percent). Although the internet in general was the most prominent source referenced at 60 percent, this usage was fragmented over three different types of online sources: search engines (30 percent), local search sites (13 percent) and the internet yellow pages (17 percent). This fragmentation combined with the ongoing strength of such traditional media sources as the print yellow pages continues to challenge agencies and advertisers to question what the appropriate budget allocation and media mix should be.

Primary Source of Local Business Information

To most effectively answer this question, advertisers will need to move beyond usage rates and start evaluating each media based on its ability to convert consumers to a desired action, or what is better known in the industry as conversion rate. 

Measuring the value of local search advertising based on what happens once a consumer is exposed to that media sounds easy until you consider the fact that 82 percent of consumers contacted a business offline post an online local search. Even more compelling is the fact that of the six out of 10 consumers who then went on to make a purchase, 90 percent of these transactions were also completed offline.

As many marketers know, tracking offline activities such as in-store visits or purchases back to a single media source is not only hard but near impossible. In fact, based on results received from the comScore study, it was shown that some local online media sources will be harder to track than others.

For instance, far more post search activity occurs offline when referencing an internet yellow pages (IYP) or local search site vs. a general search engine site such as Yahoo! or Google. This usage behavior can be attributed to the fact that consumers who utilize specialized local search sites are closer to the buying decision. This is reflected in the fact that more consumers have a pre-determined business name in mind when referencing IYPs and other local search sites vs. general search engines.

Measuring any of these campaigns based solely on online activities alone will result in a highly under-valued media campaign and may ultimately lead to the misalignment of media mix and investment. Consider these facts:

General Search Engines (Google, Yahoo, et cetera)

  • 80 percent of contacts made after a local search were made offline

  • 87 percent of purchases completed after a search were made offline

Local Search Sites (Google Maps, Citysearch, et cetera)

  • 84 percent of contacts made after a local search were made offline

  • 94 percent of purchases completed after a search were made offline

Internet Yellow Pages (Superpages.com, Yellowpages.com, et cetera)

  • 89 percent of contacts after a local search were made offline

  • 95 percent of purchases completed after a search were made offline

Although the tracking of offline activities will pose some challenges, there are some tried and true tracking methods that can be implemented easily to help catch the bulk of this activity. One such method is the setup and use of phone tracking lines (more on phone tracking lines can be ) or remote call forwarding lines. According to the study, more than 40 percent of offline contact was as a result of a phone call.

By implementing both online and offline tracking, marketers will be able to obtain a more accurate value of each media, thus assisting in the proper alignment of media mix and investment.

Now more than ever it is important to understand the value each media brings to your campaigns. With the speed technology is moving today, new sites and devices will continue to be developed that enable consumers the ability to receive and access local business information, wherever and whenever they want. The growing implementation and acceptance of this media will continue to fragment the market and ultimately result in the continued division of the media audience, making advertising, media planning and buying an even more difficult process then it is today.

For more information about this study, please visit TMP Directional Marketing.

Stuart McKelvey is CEO, TMP Directional Marketing, the world’s largest local search/yellow pages agency. .

Stuart McKelvey has headed TMP Directional Marketing since 1998. Under his leadership, TMPDM expanded its core business of Yellow Pages advertising into today's realm of local search, and he made TMPDM both the world's largest directory advertising...

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