While it appears clear that different business types require different marketing solutions, local marketers often lump all small- and medium-sized businesses together, along with their disparate marketing needs.

This topic was covered in depth at last week’s CoInvent panel discussion at WeWork Soho in Manhattan; the event was entitled “HyperLocal Marketing for NYC Businesses” and Street Fight co-founder David Hirschman moderated. The panel featured various industry experts who individually concentrated on a different element of small to medium-sized business (SMB) marketing solutions. Panel members included Joe Apfelbaum, co-founder and CEO of Ajax Union; Kevin Lee, founder of Didit Search Marketing; Claudio Schapsis, founder of Georillas; and Sean Barkulis, director of strategic partnerships at ShopKeep.

“The question we are trying to solve is how do you acquire and retain customers?” Barkulis said. “If you’re a brick-and-mortar, there are all sorts of ways to automate and get pushed out [online],” Barkulis noted. “For plumbers, Angie’s List is a place they go as well as to Google paid ads. There are a lot of different ways that you can target,” he added, according to StreetFight.

Schapsis discussed Google Maps, saying that the technology is significantly important for local businesses seeking easy discoverability, given that all users seem to go to Google Maps to look for a business location. “If a person is looking for your business, most likely they will open Google Maps,” said Schapsis. “Can a person find your business in the first results on a Google map? That is what we are trying to answer,” he added, according to StreetFight. StreetFight also noted that Lee talked about how location is no longer what it had been in “old school marketing” when the most crucial element of marketing involved a business’s physical location. Prior to the digital age, location was all about “being on Main street,” Lee said, pointing out that, “Location online is very different; there’s location on mobile, location on desktop, location in social media.”

Apfelbaum discussed the SMB trend of reaching out to social media to post so-called “free” content, pointing out that an effective social media campaign calls for significant time and marketing. SMBs are paying for what StreetFight described as “time spent and opportunity.” “Unless your strategy really resonates around social media, then it may not be a good idea for you,” advised Lee. “So people who go in thinking, ‘This is free and I can get organic reach’ may not have their expectations aligned with reality.” Schapsis talked about the significant wasted time and money spent on Facebook as a hyper-local marketing tool with SMB owners running their own marketing campaigns, but with no meaningful marketing strategy.

Apfelbaum also said that those small business owners who do not understand algorithms see search engine optimization (SEO) as “magic,” that finding and utilizing the perfect keywords ensures the business lands on Google’s homepage and is, thus, the key to business success. “A large percentage of small business that we serviced that [reached] number one still went out of business,” said Apfelbaum. “They were so worried about trying to win the SEO lotto ticket they lost focus on their business. Business is not magical. There’s a science and a process to it,” he added, according to StreetFight.

Think more deeply about what SEO really is, said Apfelbaum; “peel the onion back” and understand how much SEO campaigns will cost. “What is your cost per acquisition? How much are you willing to pay for every person to come into your bakery and buy something? Marketing is about testing. Why do SEOs become SEOs? Because those people are trying to find every angle, and to figure out why it works,” Apfelbaum said. However, the efficiency of hyper-local marketing is only as effective as your business, added Barkulis. To run a great business, SMBs must listen to what people are saying. Consider looking on Yelp and other online review sites.

Set up Google News alerts with your company name to resolve reviewer issues before they get out of hand, said Barkulis, wrote StreetFight. “Just showing that type of initiative will help,” Barkulis said. “You want to be in that conversation,” Schapsis added. “If you aren’t in it, then it has only one voice and that’s the voice of the people that complain. At the end of the day, people are complaining about specific things that you could improve. Learn from it.”


Spector, Nicold. StreetFightMag; Panel: Different Kinds of SMBs Require Different Kinds of Marketing; July 15, 2015.