My career in local marketing started in 1985. My first job was with an agency, Wahlstrom & Company, where we specialized in national brands that marketed their local outlets (e.g., branches, dealers, franchises, etc) in the printed Yellow Pages. Luckily, in 1994 I saw the promise of what online could offer local marketers. For the past 21 years I have helped major national brands leverage the change state for digital and mobile to their advantage to gain increased sales revenue. But you never forget your roots.
This month I began to look back to some of the techniques that were used by smart brands to gain advantage over their competition. I thought of one that that has direct parallels to today’s marketplace reality, taking advantage of market-specific hyper-local media properties.
Back in the day we called these “independents”, and they were often overlooked because they had strict rules on where their advertising could be placed for the dealers, agents, etc.; “One Book, One Market”. The analog of this decision was that many brands overlooked directories that had in fact gained significant user share in a given market in favor of the “utility” directory.
In today’s digital world it would be similar to taking a Google-only approach to marketing. In fact that strategy is widely employed by many national and local marketers. I find the parallel ironic and hear many of the same arguments for this approach: “I can’t afford the time to monitor and administer multiple web sites/networks” and “I tried other media properties before and they don’t work for my brand.”
As interesting as the excuses are, there are many complaints I hear from advertisers reliant on a Google-only strategy which include: “Why are my costs increasing but I am not seeing increasing sales?” and “What other sites or networks can I add that will give me the same ROI as Google.”
The simple answer is that more advertisers (competitors) are flocking to Google while the number of searches is not increasing as dramatically as it has in the past. Add to this the fact that mobile searches are increasing while desktop/laptop searches are in decline and we see the perfect storm for keyword cost inflation.
So the smart marketers are the ones that are continually exploring other pockets of opportunity. At a high level these are the folks that leverage re-targeting, performance based display and a host of other techniques. Yet, these makers have also become crowded and ROIs are beginning to level.
To set expectations straight, as I often must when counseling the major brands I work with: You will not get the same ROI and volume of return that you experience from the “Big 3” search engines when exploring for market specific media properties to increase lead flow. But what we do often find out is we can actually gain better campaign ROI building together multiple local market/territory media buys that are hyper-locally targeted and executed. However, the fact remains that to do this requires much more effort than simply buying “search” via automated buying platforms.
Where Do I Find the hyper-locals?
There are a number of ways to identify digital media opportunities. For big brands, you can leverage your media agency to review market-specific offerings. Many will come back with “geo-targeted” recommendations for large national sites, e.g., Facebook, Yelp, YP.com, etc. But to get hyper-local you have to dig down below the existing tool sets and manually identify sources that are often overlooked. A simple manner to uncover some local gems is to search on any search engine “town name news”.
For example the search “Conshohoken news” displays a link to a web site entitled “MoreThanTheCurve.com.”
This website is rich with local information and gets good usage within market. Because it is a single market-focused website, its usage would we overlooked by most planners and buying platforms. And local advertisers have flocked here, yet there are no national brands.
Similarly a search for “Redding ct news” displays a web site “HamletHub”. HamletHub is a network of local news sites in Connecticut and a small portion of New York that share local stories.
According to their founder and editor, HamletHub provides information on events, weather, breaking news, local politics and police activity for towns. Residents can not only read the news, but now they can help write it and discuss it. Again, after perusing the site, I see a ton of local content and local advertisers, yet no national brands.
Hyper-local planning and placement is hard work but, once researched and executed, it can provided beneficial lead flow and local market awareness. It truly is the second biggest missed opportunity in local marketing. The number one missed opportunity is failing to hire a local marketing expert to guide you cost effectively through the options that getting hyper-local can provide.
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