Five New Online Tools for Finding Local Customers

It's one of the big challenges of the wide-open, global Internet: How to use it to help customers in your town find you. At a recent two-day "hackathon" event hosted by the New York business incubator General Assembly and American Express OPEN, more than 100 developers met to work on this problem.

They came up with more than 25 different software "hacks," or applications, that help consumers shop local. The apps do everything from helping you find a good local meeting venue to turning up local properties for sale.

Here are a few highlights:

  1. Building.ly -- Want to send a special offer or incentive deal only to workers in a few nearby office towers or condo buildings? This is the micro-targeting app for that. 
     
  2. Eatpager -- Eatpager helps diners explore which restaurants are near their current locale, using foursquare and data from your local municipality. So far, it has New York City data on board.
     
  3. Poorsquare -- Want to do a local giveaway? This app lets users search foursquare, cutting the data there to show only free deals. This one's also just in New York City so far, but what a great idea. Watch this one spread.
     
  4. Fresh Tomatoes -- Wonder what customers are saying about your joint on restaurant-review sites? This hack aggregates reviews from Zagat, Yelp, CitySearch, MenuPages and many others into one convenient spot. It even boils down all the reviews for an eatery and gives you one average rating.
     
  5. FarmerFare -- If you sell at farmer's markets, this tool allows consumers to connect with you even when you're not at your stand. Consumers create a grocery list, enter their zip code, and are shown results with local farmers who could provide the goods they seek. This allows customers to quickly see what's available and in-season, and then order ahead either for delivery, or for pickup at a nearby farmers market.  

How do you find local customers online? Leave a comment and let us know.