Local marketing presents many obstacles, including ones of reach, relevancy and scalability:
- How can you reach your target audience in such a narrow area?
- How can you ensure that your messaging is meaningful to each local audience?
- How can you reach 100 or more local communities across the country easily, efficiently and cost-effectively?
One strategy that consistently wins in the local marketing arena is the “Local Marketing Triangulation Strategy,” as described below. It combines the traditional with the new, the localized with the scalable, and the online with the offline. And it works.
Advertising is the most efficient way to reach as many local audiences around the country as possible. For a franchise or chain, advertising is absolutely critical to achieve reach efficiently.
Even for a single restaurant, bank or yoga studio, though, advertising is efficient in reaching audiences. It’s the fastest way to reach the maximum number of prospects with your compelling message or offer.
There are various vehicles for local advertising. Paid search is a highly effective way to target the local market through geo-targeting. In addition, direct placements on relevant websites get you in front of qualified prospects. Retargeting can be effective, assuming your website has sufficient traffic. Mobile advertising works well for local businesses with foot traffic. Advertising in directories that perform well in the search engines is worth testing. And hyper local sites, such as the Patch network of sites, are one more option.
The key to making local advertising work and to averting wasted advertising spend, though, is to advertise for both 1) context and 2) proximity. If you spend all of your advertising on one and not the other, it’s difficult to maximize marketing results.
What national franchises and chains prefer not to hear is that localized content outperforms generic content. Various national outfits attempt to get over the localization hurdle through concatenation (e.g., “financial advisor in Boston,” “financial advisor in Chicago,” “financial advisor in Denver,” etc.). However, this type of generic messaging will lose every time to truly localized content that resonates with the local audience.
What’s more effective is localized content that ties into local news, weather, events, sports teams, economy, sentiment, etc. For example, a restaurant offering a 2-for-1 hot soup deal on a cold, rainy day. The restaurant chain Houlihan's has achieved success through this type of localized content, empowering each of its restaurants to leverage its homegrown "Foody Call" mobile club that alerts local diners to immediate offers, specials and promotions. A local furniture store could similarly offer discounts based on a sports team’s performance, as Warren Buffett-owned Jordan’s Furniture has done repeatedly and with great success in the Boston market.
For certain industries, proving expertise can be critical to closing more sales. For example, a property management company can leverage hyper local blogging in demonstrating its experience, knowledge and expertise in a certain area to claim geographic differentiation.
It’s wishful thinking on the part of digital marketers to believe that you can maximize your local revenue through only digital channels. For most businesses targeting local audiences, revenue will increase with the integration of online and offline marketing efforts.
Offline marketing can start with the ways you’ll help the local community get stronger. For example, a restaurant may help feed the hungry. A realtor may help the homeless. Identify the cause that fuels your emotions, and make it part of the DNA of your business. And then get involved in a big way. Partner with local groups, be vocal in the local media, and conduct local campaigns to make a real difference to those in the neighborhood. Your community WILL notice, and it will endear you to your neighbors like no advertising could.
Complementary to your cause marketing, integrate your message into the daily fabric of your towns. For example, a home remodeling business is going to get greater results by using yard signs, town-specific direct mail, and partnerships with real estate agencies than by relying exclusively on digital marketing vehicles. An ice-cream shop is going to attract more buzz by holding local ice-cream eating contests, offering samples of unique flavors on the sidewalk, and forging a partnership with the local movie theater.
With local, offline matters. A lot.