Doing and Thinking about Local Business: My Four-Axis Approach

I have been preparing for the Google Think Local conference on the 4th October where I am hosting a panel of three who each have a specific and highly relevant experience of thinking about local business or leveraging online opportunities to make business possible local. Joining me are Brad Liebmann (founder of – local mobile advertising network), Peter Gandy (CCO of Rockpool Digital – a digital agency that build fully integrated mobile web and corp services with a local/mobile capability) and Hugh Chappell (former board NXD of Time Out, serial entrepreneur and a few locally oriented business investments currently). We will be discussing the 4 axes of local and how they help and hinder business in benefiting from being ‘digitally local’

Having advised some companies in the past which have been heavily focused on providing highly relevant localised information, services, advertising etc. it is an area I am rather fascinated about. I think that it is when one breaks the concept of local down into these axes one is able to make some decisions about how you want your business to be local. Too often I see ‘sexy’ location based applications that seem to fall short of the promise and usually it is because they lack the focus and rationale for my using them. I think this is really because the technologists making them get excited by the capabilities rather than the need and solving that need.

So the way I think, and advise my clients to think about local, it is on these four axes. How do they interact for your business? Which is the primary and which is the secondary? If your focus is on all of them, are you sure you can be relevant to your core user?

The four axes of Local:

1. Proximity

  • Here
  • There
  • Somewhere

2. Time

  • Past
  • Present
  • Future

3. Intention

  • Information
  • Commerce
  • Share / Social

4. On & Off-line

  • Online
  • Offline
  • Cross-over / hybrid / both

So what?

So what is interesting about the axes? Why are they interesting and important to consider?
Local bridges and combines these all in varied ways, bi-directionally. Local is a pure ecosystem play but it is a dynamic ecosystem, how does yours ebb and flow with location?

I think the convergence of two or more axes enables tighter targeting, greater detail information and stronger engagement – all key to ROI advertising and high value interactions. The real world is local, it is not only online or only offline, time and mind-set usually separate the two temporarily – local is a mindset that can enable businesses (big and small) to bridge these.

When looking at local I ask businesses:

  • What does hyper-local mean to you in a commercial sense?
  • Is local more a channel or a service for us?
  • What are the challenges to big businesses in thinking / being / doing local?
  • What services do you want to unlock with local that you cannot do generically?
  • What is the single most important development in technology or online that enables local to become effective?
  • What is the role of data and insight in hyper-local?
  • Who is already doing what I want to do and what can I learn from them?
  • What technology is available that I don’t have to build from scratch?

There is still a mentality about local being a potential cannibal to existing business models, I disagree, it is a channel not a threat. Local can be embraced, iterated and used very effectively. The great thing too is that it is young and undefined in that there are few people using it to its potential and big wins can be had with small step changes.

Are you thinking or doing Local? What is your view on the do’s and don’ts? I am always looking to know more about businesses that have embraced local or people who have a view. What is your take in the 4 axes of local and the questions to consider when going local?