“Location-based” defeats the purpose of the internet

When the internet started to spread around the world in earnest, it was hailed as the Great Equalizer. It no longer mattered where you were physically located, you could reach the whole world from your computer.

In recent times, there’s been a clear—alarming, in my opinion—shift toward locality. Look at this:

  • Web searches give higher prominence to results that are geographically close to your location.
  • Websites attempt to figure out your location based on the language of your operating system and where your IP address is physically located and give you a translated version of themselves.
  • Online services tailor (read: limit) their offering based on your computer’s language and location.
  • People calling themselves internet marketing experts are busy extolling the benefits of high rankings in location-based searches for businesses.
  • Google ads seem to favor those businesses that are relatively close to you.

There’s a serious flip side to this trend.

First, local businesses might not benefit from location-based services (LBS) at all. As a Mashable article says, “most local businesses can’t consider access to a small, occasionally interested local audience via LBS to truly move the needle on revenue and profit”.

Second, the idea of promoting local over national or international will harm businesses that are far away from their markets. Take myself as an example: I have no serious prospects within a 150-mile radius—in fact, they’re all in other countries. The more local searches are getting, the more it will hurt companies and individual professionals who need to be found by clients located far away from them.

Third, if I’m looking for a solution to my problem, I will want to look further than my immediate vicinity. Even more so if I’m a B2B company. For example, a Brazilian forestry company might find a Finnish solution the best, but how will that solution ever come up in searches that don’t go beyond, say, the Americas?

Fourth, the move towards local disregards the needs of the internet user. It’s something that’s being done to attract more advertisers. Online search and service companies are making money out of selling advertising space (while we enlightened marketers are busy talking about inbound marketing…). Not that there’s anything wrong with targeted advertising, it’s just that when someone else is making my decisions for me, the decisions are usually wrong.

Of course, if you operate in a densely-populated environment where even within a fairly short distance you have a sufficient potential customer base, there’s no problem. On the other hand, if you reside in a sparsely-populated location, the more the local aspect is emphasized, the less useful web searches, advertisements and online services will be.

The big players in location-based services and online search are all US companies. Should the rest of the world then just succumb to their idea that they are providing their services only for US businesses—and for the benefit of US advertisers?

I’m fully aware those companies couldn’t care less because they are getting most of their revenue from their home market. I do think, however, that there should be a way for us in other parts of the world to switch off the “local” aspect. Both in looking for content and in publishing content.

But how? Any suggestions? Please tell me in the comments.

UPDATE:

Alastaire Allday, London, UK, based copywriter, has an excellent blog post about this very phenomenon. Nothing has changed in years.

Why the graphic industry owes the colour that doesn’t exist to 2,000 dead soldiers

Magenta

Sometimes even a copywriter’s mind wanders off into the realm of graphic design. Working on a corporate graphics guide right now, I became interested in what magenta actually is. Turns out it is perhaps the most fascinating of all colours.

First of all, although it is one of the basic components in the CMYK colour system used for four-colour printing, it isn’t a colour. It doesn’t exist in the light spectrum.

Second, it got its name 300 years after it was discovered. (This is where the German botanist and physician Leonhart Fuchs, 1501–1566, comes into the picture. If you know the fuchsia plant, you’ll have an idea of what I’m talking about.)

Third, its name is not the name of a colour. It is the name of a battleground that changed European history.

Fourth, it behaves in strange ways. Head over to Liz Elliott’s article Magenta Ain’t a Colour and see for yourself.

(Oh yes, and for the rest of the story, look up “magenta” on Wikipedia and follow the links from there.)

When you’re done, come back here and tell me if you didn’t find it at least mildly interesting!

Industrial advertising in 1986

In 1986, one year into my career as a B2B copywriter, I worked for Anderson & Lembke in Helsinki, Finland. A&L was in those days one of the foremost, if not the foremost, industrial advertising agencies in Finland, an offshoot of the original Stockholm, Sweden, based agency.

One of my clients was Safematic, a manufacturer of industrial sealing and lubrication equipment and condition monitoring systems for the pulp and paper industry. Continue Reading…

A simple message works best

Simple things just work. Like cars without too much electronics, bare-bones blog templates or pencils in sub-zero temperatures.

The same applies to a marketing message.

Define what you want to achieve. Focus on that key issue. Use simple language, simple terminology and a simple design. Some of the world’s best, most efficient advertising has been created by systematically paring down and condensing.

A sharp message will penetrate your audience’s wall of indifference.

There is still a difference between B2C and B2B

Many online marketers claim that “there’s no difference any more whether you’re talking to consumers or corporate buyers—you’re just talking to PEOPLE”. I’m claiming, though, that there is still a difference between B2C and B2B.

It is certainly true that all marketing should shift more toward a one-on-one style of talking to be efficient and engaging. Still, the differences between the B2C and B2B buying/selling processes have not disappeared. Some comparisons: Continue Reading…

Hide your price, lose customers

If you don’t make your price easily found on your website, you risk losing customers.

To narrow down a bit, I’m mainly talking about web-based services and other sales-oriented pages with products or services that have a clear pricing structure. I do understand that vendors of consulting and creative services, for example, often cannot give exact prices as these are largely dependent on the scope and content of a project, which might take a meeting or two to define.

In contrast, if you’re selling a product or service that has a fixed price, please do not make it difficult for your site visitor to find the price. As an example, it seems to have become a fashion among online service providers that you have to follow the actual order/purchase link to find out what the various plans will actually cost you.

Not good.

Price is ALWAYS a component of the buying decision. If your site attempts to get an interested visitor sold on your product or service, you naturally give all the arguments why your visitor should choose your particular type of solution and prefer your solution over all the other similar ones available. But if you fail to complete your potential buyer’s search by giving price information, you will most probably lose his or her business to your competitor who is more open about pricing.

Added January 1, 2011:

Just found I’m not alone in thinking this way. Take a look at Dale Underwood’s blog post Product Content Is #2 for B2B Buyers where he talks about the same thing.

I’d be interested to hear your experiences!

Is [insert any traditional marketing device] dead?

The demise of direct mail, e-mail marketing, print advertising, brochures, newsletters—I can’t even remember all of those doomed traditional marketing devices—has been announced for a long time. Even marketing itself has been declared dead.

A wake-up call, folks: none of these is dead, not even close. Continue Reading…

How to Save Advertising from Its Three Worst Faults

Guest post by Dan Hill
This material is drawn from Dan’s new book
About Face, the Secrets of Emotionally Effective Advertising, to be published in October 2010.

The joke that nobody much laughs at in marketing circles is the one liner ascribed to John Wannamaker. “Half my advertising dollars are wasted, but I don’t know which half.”

If only the reality of marketing was that good! Rigorous reviews of sales performance data by those willing to take an incisive look at the state of marketing leads to a less generous total—maybe 15% of advertising pays back its costs.

So what are the three most essential keys to doing better? Continue Reading…