Can local advertising for small businesses be easier?

There’s no question that local advertising on the web should work. After all, the digital space is where audience is growing. Also, it’s much, much easier to target potential customers, geographically, demographically and psychographically.

And, yet, outside of Google’s products, there haven’t been a lot of easy, simple digital solutions to help a small business to promote itself. Banners may or may not help with branding, but small business — even in service industries — is a retail business. Branding’s nice, but if the phone doesn’t ring or the leads don’t appear in the inbox, the prototypical Mom or Pop is probably not going to re-up that campaign next month.

That’s why I can’t stop thinking about a new approach just announced from Publish2 called BreakingPromos. It falls into that “I wish I’d thought of this” category.

The idea behind BreakingPromos is simple and inspired. It starts with the premise that many savvy local businesses already know how to promote themselves through Twitter and Facebook  – sharing news of a Happy Hour deal or the new swimwear collection, for instance — but that such promotions work almost exclusively for the existing customer base only. It’s smart to market to your fans, true, but it’s not enough.

Advertising needs to attract and create new customers. How to do that, using the spirit and methods of Twitter and Facebook? Enter Breaking Promos.

  • It’s a platform for local advertisers to create tweet-like ads, which are then aggregated on a local news site. These are also then sent on to the advertiser’s own Twitter feed, Facebook page and beyond. But they start on the local news site, where an interested local audience is concentrated.
  • These promos are categorized and promoted to the site’s users, becoming themselves valuable content about the commercial/retail/entertainment life of the community.
  • The price point is extremely low — a buck or less — and sold in bundles of single-use credits. Because this is a reverse-chron feed and, assuming there is decent adoption of the platform by competitors, the system is set up to motivate frequent use of credits and to reward that use through immediate retail traffic or lead generation. If you’re thinking this sounds like gamification of the ad sales process, you’re right.
  • It’s self-managed on the back-end by the advertiser him- or herself. Once a relationship is established, whether through traditional sales channels or word-of-mouth, there is no further need of administrative or sales support by the local news site.
  • It’s promoted on the local site through a ticker of current deals, a landing page for all promos and, if the site is being creative, through integration with other utility/service content for users.

This is how they’ve mocked it up on the Publish2 site:

Price of entry for the local advertiser is as little as $10 to start (with each placement costing a dollar). The cost to the local publisher is as much as half of that dollar to be split with Publish2. In John Paton’s parlance, five stacked dimes per ad will flow to the publisher. Not a lot to be sure, until and unless there’s scale.

So there are a lot of if-then statements in the Breaking Promos promise, but on the face of it, it starts to feel like at least one piece of the local puzzle — the one where advertisers in the community get instant gratification for their ad spend — is being solved. There will still be the need for branding campaigns, long-form videos, events, etc., but this simple approach to scratching that primary itch may free up sales and production resources to actually start to deliver those more ambitious programs for local and regional advertisers.

What do you think? Is this a step in the right direction for local publishers who want to help businesses in their community to succeed? Will this kind of direct-response advertising have the kind of ROI for local businesses that the want and need?

Pie photo by Joselito Tagarao, Creative Commons license.