No One Gets Fired For Choosing IBM
I recently met with a PR person who was in charge of Internet marketing for 12 restaurants. As I see many times, they weren’t very fluent with which services did what, how to measure success and what was important. As a result, like many local businesses, they were confused by the range of options. In times where the landscape is confusing and you know you need to do something, you typically go for the “safe” choice. “No one gets fired for choosing IBM,” they say. So with a $1,200 per month budget per location they distribute evenly to Yelp and Adwords, which you might argue could be a good strategy for some clients.

Blind Leading the Blindness
So I asked whether it was working and it became clear that they were spending the money wantonly. They weren’t tracking results at all. They weren’t looking at how many people came in off an Adwords promotion, or looking at reservations generated on OpenTable or looking how their Yelp reviews changed up or down. In short, they were throwing $14,000 per year at the “Internet” and crossing their fingers. And it isn’t working.   It was relatively empty.

Meanwhile, The House Is Crumbling
In the meantime, their websites are in Flash and not Google crawlable, their listings were wrong on half of the 9 directories we looked at (including wrong phone numbers), and they weren’t generating any content (news, PR, blogger outreach, etc.). If they spent just $500 per month generating a loyal following of a couple hundred customers on Facebook and Twitter, they would be packed continuously.

Which Services Are Right For You?
Take a look at one local presence using Facebook extremely well – Ayza Wine and Chocolate Bar. They collect emails on their Facebook page to drive newsletters, use viral offers to promote their spread on the social graph and have 14,000+ followers because of it. And as a result, it’s packed … on a Monday.  If you are a restaurant, you probably should have a strong social media strategy because nurturing 300 loyal relationships with local consumers can completely change your business.

One Size Does Not Fit All

On the other hand, if you are a locksmith, I wouldn’t expect much of a following on Facebook or Twitter.   But you better be the first result when I Google “locksmith TriBeCa” or look it up on my iPhone.    Google Places optimization and directory management should be top of mind.
Life Moves Pretty Fast …
Local business marketing is one of the more confusing areas of Internet marketing.  There are 20 different services that are worth looking at and the space is constantly changing.   Last year you were supposed to be on Google Buzz.  This year Google Buzz has been shut down and if you’re not spending time now investing in Google Places you are behind the ball.
Find a Trusted Partner
We can’t expect local businesses and PR professionals to be in depth Internet experts.   I suggest finding a trusted partner who can help you navigate the wilderness of local online marketing and one that has the exposure of a breadth of services.  If you ask Yelp or a Yelp consultant what matters, they will tell you Yelp.   Make sure you partner has a holistic view.
Otherwise you might find yourself throwing away $14,000 per year and your place is empty on Mondays.