Mini-Cities: Is It Already in Trouble?

The image “http://mini-cities.com/images/headlogo.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.The Kelsey Group’s Mike Boland writes about Mini-Cities, a franchise-based local Internet business that wants to build destination sites and let local entrepreneurs sell ads on them.

I’ll say two things: Mike is being very polite in his piece and I root for entrepreneurs. It’s very hard to start an online business, let alone one in the fragmented, crazy local space.

That said, and while this low-cost franchise model looks good “on paper,” the strategy is flawed and probably needs to be changed. First, building the channel itself is extremely hard (though not impossible). ReachLocal tried something vaguely similar at the outset in trying to build a feet-on-the street sales force and found it very hard. (After working with partners, the company has gone back to building one again.) The people you attract as salespeople are of very uneven quality.

Second, the two sites that Mini-Cities is showing have a perfunctory feel and are unlikely to rank in search results (SEO) or compete effectively against so many local destinations. The statement “no one’s really gotten local right yet” may be true as a practical matter but it doesn’t mean that all competitors stand an equal chance of success.

The suburban strategy is interesting but ultimately won’t really be meaningful if the destinations don’t have more meat on their bones.

I think the only real chance here is to turn this business into a local sales channel for existing distribution (packages of clicks/calls/leads). Mini-Cities can have its local sites as an additional source of traffic but if it doesn’t also aggregate traffic from established sites (a la simplified SEM) it’s going to fail.

The time is now to make those adjustments.

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2 Responses to “Mini-Cities: Is It Already in Trouble?”

  1. Frank MacCallister Says:

    I read the same article and found it helpful and enlightening. I wish we had more “hyper local community websites” to look at. I presume the ones mentioned are at the top of the heap.

    If your looking for local advertising salespeople you need to lure the best of them away with the “start your own publishing business model”.

  2. Caroline Hall Says:

    The sites are really nice. Your comment that they are perfunctory – like Google? I can hardly think of a more perfunctory site. Looks like it works for them!

    Also – Google is being very kind with their sites indexing them with organic rank. Either they have something worked out with Google or they really know what they are doing.

    There are alot of advertising sales people in every area that would make great franchisees for this company. I think they are really on to something! Looks like the best of both worlds – high tech meets franchising! Franchising works because quality people buy franchises! I wish them luck.

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