Fine-Tuning Local Search

Small businesses may soon be able to target their online ads to prospective customers who are within a few blocks of their shops

Karl Murphy, president and co-owner of Carolina Auto Spa, a car wash and automotive detailer with two locations outside Raleigh, N.C., says his business depends on impulse decisions—no one makes an appointment to wash a car. So the company's entire $4,000 to $5,000 monthly advertising budget is devoted to inspiring high-income prospects in the immediate vicinity to pull in and drop some coin. "Car washes live or die within a five-mile radius. If you put a [compass] and draw around my site, that's where I advertise," says Murphy. "My best friends 24 miles away won't wash at my car wash—and I'd let them do it for free."

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