At ILM West: Citygrid’s Finger: Local is All About Verticals

To kick off Day 2 of our ILM West Conference, CityGrid’s Jason Finger espoused the need to verticalize in local.

This comes down to the fact that local is not only such a large and fragmented market that begs for segmentation; but that the ‘idiosyncrasies’ of different verticals beg for varied advertising strategies and best practices.

This strategy can be seen in some of Citygrid’s recent moves and acquisitions. The company has longstanding assets in Citysearch and Urbanspoon, which reach into different levels of popular local business categories like restaurants and bars.

But the recent acquisition of call tracking firm Felix (from Yelp) layers on the ability to do pay per call advertising. That’s important because it broadens the ability to deliver the types of customer leads (calls) that are valued by additional local business categories and verticals.

This is particularly true for professional services, home services, or appointment based businesses that book reservations over the phone, says Finger.

“Transactions still happen over the phone for lots of service categories,” he said. “The internet is going to continue to grow, but phone calls aren’t going anywhere for a long time.”

In addition to broadening to different categories, this brings Citygrid deeper into closing the attribution loop for advertising in existing categories. This results from Felix’s ability to algoritmically monitor recorded calls for certain keywords in categories like auto repair.

“We can figure out what was said on that call and if it resulted in a transmission change, or an oil change,” said Finger. “We’re trying to get more granular and not say ‘we’re in local,’ we want to categorize further and be in transactions. Phone calls is one form of that.”

Other forms of conversions include map views, which is valued in categories like retail and restaurants that want to drive (literally) foot traffic rather than clicks and calls. For all of this, Finger admits that partners will be required to bring together the vision.

“We can’t be the best in each category on our own,” he said. “We’ll need sales channels for distribution, or to be embedded in practice management software. We can then bring our consumer focus and knowledge to the table.”

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