Localist’s Blair Glubb on why the NZ Post-backed directory isn’t flogging a dead horse

In the last edition of NZ Marketing magazine, BCG2’s planning director Abe Dew wrote something of an open letter to Localist and Yellow Local and put forward his views on why the ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’ corporate start-ups looked likely to fall into the same category as Telecom’s Ferrit. Not surprisingly, Localist chief executive Blair Glubb disagreed. He responds to some of the claims and outlines its plans for acceleration after what he says is a strong performance in the six months since launch.

Localist’s mission is to be the place Aucklanders come to find out ‘what’s good around here’ and, despite launching only mid-year, has already cracked 250,000 user sessions a month. From a standing start, some 50,000 Auckland businesses are now listed in our local search engine. We’ve got double the traffic anticipated coming to the site, and some great examples of businesses who are getting strong return for their investment.

The first six months involved experimenting with the popularity of content types from local news and events to customer reviews and photos. In doing so, we have attracted tens of thousands of posts from Aucklanders including contributions of ratings and reviews, talk, events, news and photos.

The company’s rewards programme, called the100, has been a key factor in making the site an active living and breathing hub for loyal users. Each month we reward top contributors with prizes and access to special events.

Our iPhone and Android apps include the ability for people to check-in to locations to scout for local offers, along with customer ratings and reviews that point people to the best businesses nearby. Since June we have amassed some 6000 of these user reviews.

New homegrown applications such as AdMonkey®, Localist’s way of creating templated ads in a fully digital environment, have helped to cut layers of time and cost out of the typical print production process.

In September Localist signed an agreement with Google as a Premiere SME partner to sell Adwords packages to companies needing help with search engine marketing.

Our new technology approach and much sharper pricing than incumbents has been part of the attraction of Localist for customers. Small businesses have received a more effective means to connect with customers, and a less costly way to reach prospects.

Many companies tell us they know they need to be online, but don’t know how. Localist’s end-to-end offering will ultimately move from online reputation management, through web site management, to SEM and content builder solutions.

Our printing of a local product and services guides is part of a product strategy to ‘join the dots’ between online and offline worlds. For example, top-rated businesses from localist.co.nz are now being featured in the print books.

Despite inevitable commentator predictions of print media decline, Localist research this year shows that print is still widely used by certain customer groups. Market feedback shows that many advertisers are getting results.

Clearly having 800,000 books in homes helps to build the Localist brand. But it also creates an obligation to embed a sustainable approach into our business model. We’ve done this by adopting sustainable printing and delivery processes, and by printing on 100% carbon neutral paper. We were thrilled to be a People’s Choice finalist in the Sustainable Business Awards, and to also pick up the Emerging Large and Corporate Business Award at the Northern Sustainable Business Network Awards just last month.

Our print presence also creates ‘pull-through’ to the digital world where consumers can get more information about a particular business they want to research – like ratings, reviews, more detail on products and services, and offers.

We are aiming to take online marketing one step further into reputation management. This will allow small businesses to better establish a name for themselves as being trusted and recommended by customers, a way of spreading goodwill via digital word of mouth.

The inspiration for Localist’s development has mainly come from overseas companies such as Yelp and Foursquare. While global search engines continue to play a ‘wide-receiver’ role in the New Zealand market, Kiwis have been looking for deeper, richer local content for some time.

Localist has leveraged our owner New Zealand Post’s success with Kiwibank by building our revenue acquisition and content generation approach on the bank’s success in developing new products and acquiring scale at the expense of traditional incumbents.

Our strategy to avoid traditional ‘pay for priority’ models is working, and on our site businesses earn their place at the top of search. Search is based around a combination of relevancy, best reputation and best content.

Localist is now selling our seventh and eighth local guides and will fast-track the next stage of digital development. We have no plans to slow down and the company is now looking at national expansion.

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