Idea #1: Number Your Local Businesses
I think someone should number the local businesses for a given market area. Or perhaps, you focus on a thinner slice like Restaurants. The objective of this would be to provide a very easy to remember number to use to look up information about a local business. Find a decent short domain that has to do with local or location (haven’t really looked much at this yet, I just had the idea this morning while walking the dog). Something like goloc.al would be good, although I’m not Albanian. At the site, it’d be easy to peck in the number and get more info, kind of like those real state signs with a short code and a phone number.
Give each business a short number and offer them a simple way to print up laptop stickers, bumper stickers, small signs, etc., with their logo and their “golocal number” (for lack of a better term). Here in Austin, maybe BuildASign and Go Local Austin could deliver some parts of this. Although, Go Local Austin is focused on locally owned businesses only and this idea would be generally applicable to all businesses in the market.
You could limit it to 1000 businesses per market so that the numbers were always 3-digit (super easy to remember). Four digit numbers are easy to remember as well, but to create some exclusivity and a “rush to register”, you could limit the size of it. So, let’s say you’re a local business like Tacodeli and you decide to sign on to the program. goloc.al would print up some “I LOVE Tacodeli” stickers with their logo and a reference number and give these to Tacodeli. They would then hand them out to their repeat customers and biggest fans. Perhaps goloc.al could hold contests where users take pictures of their own stickers or signs they’ve spotted out in the wild.
(please forgive my lack of graphical prowess)
The web site would provide a basic page about the business and could provide all of the usual info: hours, location, map. A coupon should be made available from time to time for site users. Of course, the site could also offer search and roll up the businesses into markets. Here, it’s probably very similar to sites like Yelp or Citysearch. You may figure out a way to differentiate here, but I don’t know what it is right now.
You could also provide an SMS service to respond based on the number and market you’re in. Text to “12345″ –> “austin 372″ to look up business #372 in the city of Austin to get more info (such as hours & a map link, etc.)
The primary benefit of this numbering approach is the simplicity of just needing to remember one number. Not every local business is going to have a good web site/domain and some don’t even have one at all. This is one value which Citysearch and similar services offer is to give local business a “place on the web” when they may not have the wherewithal or inclination to create their own site. This could provide that feature, but with the added marketing benefit of an easy to remember number. This also means that the Citysearch’s of the world could use some variant of this idea to drive more traffic to their site.
Known Implementations: None.