Case Study: N.Y. Bookstore Finds Value in Hyperlocal Ads

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As the owner of Present Tense, an independent bookstore in Batavia, N.Y., Erica Caldwell maintains close ties to her local community. She uses online and offline advertising to strengthen these bonds, running advertisements concurrently on hyperlocal news websites like The Batavian as well as her community newspaper.

What types of advertising vehicles make sense in a small community like Batavia?
I think you have to try every available avenue. Some people comb through the Pennysaver every week and others are on Facebook all day long. If your potential customers fall into both categories, as ours do, then you have to be able to reach both of those customer types with your advertising. And hopefully, those customers will have a positive experience in your store and go tell their family and friends.

What are the main ways that you advertise at Present Tense?
We use traditional print ads in the local newspaper and the pennysavers, as well as outdoor signage, Facebook, our website, and The Batavian.

How did your ads in The Batavian come about? How effective have they been?
The Batavian contacted me about advertising on their site and I decided to give it a shot. It’s hard to gauge how effective advertising is in a lot of ways, but I have definitely had several new customers come in and tell me they saw our online ad.

We also participate in The Batavian’s Deal of the Day program, which offers discounted gift certificates to local businesses each day. We’ve had many new customers come in as a result of this program, as well.

Does the coverage you receive from hyperlocal news sites drive business?
It definitely helps. At the very least, it is a reminder that we are here and that we are an active member of the community every time someone sees coverage about our store.

What are your thoughts on daily deal sites? Do they make sense for independent bookstores?
I just attended a seminar on this topic yesterday. I had never been approached by a salesperson from a daily deal site – until I went to the seminar. The seminar was a NAIBA [New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association] event, hosted by the Monkey See, Monkey Do children’s bookstore in Clarence, N.Y. One of the topics at the meeting was marketing and promotion and the guest speaker was a marketing consultant for LivingSocial. She gave us an overview of the group buying sites, and Foursquare, Facebook Places, and Twitter.

We are looking into the possibility of participating in some sort of daily deal site in the future. I think it could have great potential for us, and most independent stores, but the key for us will be to find the right deal to offer.

What kind of deals are small businesses looking for?
Well, the deal has to benefit everyone. It doesn’t make sense for us to offer something that will hurt our business, so we have to work to find the right deal that is attractive to customers and yet helps our bottom line.

Also read: The Batavian’s Owens: Start Selling Ads the Day You Launch

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.