Founder’s Chronicle: Trevor Sumner of LocalVox

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Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC)
Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC)



local-voxWhat is LocalVox, and how did you get started in the field?

LocalVox is a local, social and mobile marketing platform that helps local businesses market themselves online, across a network of publishers, social media, search, mobile, email newsletters and even their own website – and it’s as simple to use as email.

Our customers include big brands like Whole Foods, Macy's and Pizza Hut, as well as thousands of single location businesses.

How can individuals in the marketing/advertising industry (i.e. agencies, CMOs) use LocalVox to create either more impactful end-results or enhance in-house performance?

Agencies serving local businesses should use LocalVox to save time and money and provide better marketing results for their clients. With a single button, they can publish events, announcements and deals to clients’ websites, email lists, social media accounts, 40 different directories, a network of local sites and even mobile devices as customers walk and drive by — all for a few hundred dollars a month. Agencies can package writing and optimization services on top, even though the platform is as easy to use as email.

Large brands in particular need local online marketing help. Most large retail brands focus marketing efforts on pay-per-click advertising to the core website or on brand awareness but spend very little resources on using the Internet to actually drive people to physical stores. 47 percent of national brands are increasing spend significantly on local online marketing to adapt to this need. It is extremely cost effective to dominate on Google+ Local, maps and mobile phones while promoting nationwide specials and increasing overall SEO. Geo-targeted mobile deals are another attractive reason to work with LocalVox.

What is your view of where LocalVox currently stands in the marketplace today? Where do you see it in three years? What problem are you solving?

I think there are a lot of point solutions in the market: local SEO guys, email marketing platforms, social reputation management platforms, website builders, mobile marketing services, etc.

There are very few who combine these all into a single, easy-to-use platform so that they all work together, and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts — a truly integrated marketing platform for local. Those who do offer multiple services typically charge thousands of dollars per location — not hundreds — and the tools are too complicated.

Our goal is to make local online marketing simple, effective and affordable.

As an entrepreneur, what impact has branding had on your venture’s success so far? How do you approach marketing? With whom do you collaborate to get your message out to your target audience?

Our brand is extremely important. There are so many different partial solutions to the problem. Establishing ourselves as an industry leader, an advocate for local business and a trusted advisor has been crucial. We have received a tremendous lift from our PR efforts with articles in Wired, Business Insider, TechCrunch, Forbes, Wall Street Journal, etc. That helps across the board with everything from sales to recruiting. Additionally, we rely heavily on content marketing and email marketing to get the word out.

What entrepreneurial ideas and startup lessons can advertising professionals apply to creating breakthrough work?

Entrepreneurship is about being scrappy with limited resources. It forces you to be ever more diligent on what is truly core, what is working and what is wasteful. That applies to whatever you do: branding, messaging, ad spend and resource allocation.

The next step is then thinking about scale and the sacrifices to that core efficiency that may be required. I think that the entrepreneurial spirit of putting things out there in an agile way, testing, keeping focus and scaling is a repeatable model for most things.

Many advertising professionals find themselves interested in entrepreneurship. What advice would you give to someone with marketing skills interested in starting a new venture?

I come from technology startups, so I think one key is finding a good tech co-founder. Without someone invested in the project, it quickly becomes too costly to iterate and adapt in the ways you need.

Another important aspect is to figure out what you need to test for your venture to be viable. It's rarely revenue. Most often it's user adoption. So give away your product for free and get lots of feedback. Give it to your core market segment and adjacent ones, too. You may be surprised what creative ways unanticipated audiences use your product. Just look at Fab, which was originally a gay social network, or Groupon, which was a social action site. 90 percent of successful startups have pivoted in a major way from the original idea. Find the new insight as fast as possible and embrace change.

Thought leaders in marketing regularly reinforce the idea that agencies (and other marketing-oriented organizations, too) should collaborate with startups. Do you agree? Why? How would you like agencies to collaborate with your organization?

I think it's a tough balance and dependent on your venture. On one hand, agencies bring a breadth of industry knowledge, relationships and best practices. On the other, they are expensive and aren't living and breathing your venture all day long. In a cash- and resource-constrained environment, it can be difficult to integrate agencies into your core. That said, they can be very helpful in product design, market strategy and execution. I wish more agencies would consider equity as payment.

trevor-headshotTrevor is the president and co-founder of LocalVox, a local social and mobile marketing platform for local businesses that was named one of the top startups in NYC by Business Insider. He has spent 15 years in startups as a product and marketing executive for cutting edge technologies and services from eCommerce and eBusiness in the late 90s to wireless Internet and messaging solutions in the early 2000s to most recently consumer platforms and local, social and mobile marketing platforms.

His core specialty is understanding technology, what it is now and what it could be, and then driving its evolution and market delivery to maximize corporate value.

Trevor is a born and raised New Yorker, an avid fisherman and has scuba dived in every continent including Antarctica.

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