Dick Larkin (aka The YP Commando) is kind of like the Paul Harvey of local search. I highly recommend subscribing to his newsletter which comes out sporadically, but is usually worth the wait.
In his latest installment entitled, “Hooters, My Daughter and Mayor Daley”, Dick spins a folksy tale about how Lee Lumber has managed to stay in business even with a Home Depot less than a mile away:
Every few weeks, they invite in local architects, engineers, builders, and interior designers for continuing education classes. Licensed professionals need a certain number of hours each year to keep their licenses current, and Lee Lumber gives them training for free, which saves them a couple of hundred bucks.
The Commando sees a lot of benefits to this style of educational marketing:
First, it forces Lee Lumber to identify their best customers (architects, builders, and designers).
Second, it gives them something of real value; continuing education credits and knowledge.
Third, it is an on going series of repeatable information that results in expanding everyone’s networks.
The Commando Marketing lesson is to strengthen networks through education.
Providing free education also works well for SEO. This is why the Q&A sites like Yahoo Answers & ChaCha have grown so rapidly. People often have a lot of questions that they need answered before they make a purchase decision and they often turn to search for the answers. Newsletters like SEO Notebook are great too.
Have you created pages on your site that educate your customers?