Ranking well within the search engines can mean the difference of having a extremely fast growing business and one that is struggling to stay a float.
Take a look at this chart from Seosearcher.com,
The first two links of the page get about 70% of the clicks. What do you think having a first page listing at the top of page for your cities targeted keyword phrases mean to your business?
Take a look at this graph;
As you can see the first two listings capture over half of the searchers attention and the attention is shared equally. But, the first listing gets over 4 times as many clicks! After listing #3, the number of clicks and the attention spent on them is almost nonexistent.
What does that mean? You HAVE to be in the top 2 listings to receive any attention.
I hear all the time from business people about how useless their websites are. Of course they are useless. No one ever sees them!
Why local search, or Google Places as it is now called, important? Because you can get to the top of the search page and the search listings quickly. Visibility translates into clicks on your listing, which translates into customers and revenue.