For the average local business out there, be it a dentist or a restaurant, the Internet as we know it is mostly a black hole – and that’s bad. Real businesses with a physical presence have been there for ages, supporting local communities with groceries or getting glasses made. They are vital for any neighbourhood and cover most of the needs a human being in a civilized country has.
Since the arrival of the Internet, especially the second stage of the Web, which a lot of people refer to as “Web 2.0″ (whatever that is), lots of things have changed – both positively and negatively. People from all walks now tend to use the Internet more often for finding information with a local aspect. When people travel they use the Web for finding out about restaurants in the city they’re going to, and locals use the Web to look up doctors in the city they live in. Access to local businesses is easier than ever. Shops are not necessarly bound to customers from a surrounding area, but can now attract a multitude of customers via simple and cheap methods. Yet most of them are afraid of the Internet and some of them probably do not have time and money to invest in what Internet marketers like to call “Local Search Marketing”.
The travel industry, the Web’s biggest revenue-generating field of commerce, has definitely learned how to make use of the Web and not fight it. Portals such as tripadvisor are respected among both customers, and more importantly, hotel operators. They’ve embraced the fact that people check out information about their place on the web before booking a stay. Thus it’s crucial to have an authentic and good reputation on the web for this business.
Apart from the travel industry, hardly any other “old” industry has throughly grasped how to interact with customers and potential future customers. Tupalo is just one of many local review sites out there, yet by working together with Yellow Pages publishers, we highly focus on working together with SMEs (small- & medium-sized enterprises).
We believe that by reaching out to them, taking time and talking to them about how to make use of the Internet, they’ll learn, adapt and eventually profit from the Internet (and Tupalo.com).
One thing we’ve found as a compelling argument for shop operators is the following. Imagine how many plumbers are in a town and imagine how hard it is to find an appropriate plumber. So, how would you act when looking for a plumber? Most will give you answers like “I’d ask a friend” or “look on the web”. Precisely these two arguments are combined on Local Reviews Sites such as Tupalo. Imagine going to Tupalo.com and looking up plumbers in Vienna. You’ll find a majority of plumbers that probably don’t even know that they exist on Tupalo (Some of them will probably also want to have their listing removed). Most of them also will not take care of the reviews they have (or do not have). Now, what if you see this plumber list and there’s one with 5 reviews, coming from authentic and long-term Tupalo users. There’s a relatively higher chance of calling this plumber than the 99,9% others who do not have any reviews.
There’s still a long way to go until local businesses that are not travel-related understand the concept and power of “local” on the Web, but we are doing our best to support any local business that wants to get their before their competition.