With $7.4 million recently deposited in the bank and a newly acquired product in tow, New York-based LocalVox is expanding from New York and Boston to Washington D.C. The move is a small-but-significant step in the company’s grand plan to replace legacy players like ReachLocal as the marketing platform of choice for local businesses.
LocalVox’s product allows small business to publish content across their own email, social, and web properties, as well as to a host of listing sites and other media properties from a single touchpoint. It’s a holistic approach that looks to drive engagement on the edge — say, a user claiming a geo-targeted coupon on Pandora — toward an “owned” channel like email or Twitter.
However, given the noise in the local marketing space, a good product often is not enough. Driving growth means developing an innovative go-to-market strategy to build traction in new markets. For LocalVox, that has meant turning away from traditional lead generation tactics like “claimed listings” toward developing new approaches focused on driving brand recognition and thought leadership.
“We tried putting out general listings and having people claim them, and that’s been a very successful tactic over the past decade, but it didn’t work for use,” Trevor Sumner, the company’s president, told Street Fight in a recent interview. “I don’t think people want another thing to do, in general.”
So what’s worked? Local marketing seminars, says Sumner. The company hosts local marketing events across its markets to educate small businesses about best practices in basic platforms like social, email and SEO.
“There’s this intense need for local businesses to find someone they can trust about this stuff,” said Sumner. “Trying to become a trusted source of information for local business is absolutely crucial for us — and it’s driven a ton of leads, both directly and indirectly.”
It’s a tactic that the company is using to spearhead its expansion in Washington D.C. Sumner says the company will eventually open an office and build a direct sales force, but will spend the first few months hosting events and driving conversion remotely through its New York-based telesales operation.
According to Sumner, the company chose Washington D.C. — the home market to LivingSocial — after scoring the top 40 markets in the U.S. by demographic indicators like business density and online connectivity. “Business density, for example, drives the need to make a decision, and if there’s a lot of noise in the market than local businesses are trying to cut through that noise with marketing,” said Sumner.
As for D.C., it turns out that the district scores the highest for consumers who use the internet to find local businesses — a key attribute for a firm looking to do just that.
Steven Jacobs is Street Fight’s deputy editor.