Think Global, Sell Local

My wife and I recently put our house on the market. We hope to take advantage of low interest rates as well as move a little closer to the city (many in Minneapolis consider me insane for enduring a 50 to 60 minute commute).

The process of selling a home and searching for a replacement has changed quite a bit since I last went through it in 1998. Back then, it was a great deal of word of mouth to find a real estate agent, lots of phone time to find a mortgage broker, a bunch of newspaper and mini-magazine work to find listings, and plenty of driving to see what “Private setting, super home with lots of detailing!” really meant. Some of this remains the same. Word of mouth clearly has not lost its importance in our decision-making process. The rest of this local game has been turned upside down by the Internet.

The phone work to find a mortgage broker is replaced with one-stop online comparison sites. Finding listings is reduced to a Web search at any local real estate broker’s site, using your specific price, location, and amenity criteria. Once you find a listing that piques your interest, you can usually take an online tour right then.

What does any of this have to do with agency media strategies? It’s illustrative of how the Internet is a powerful tool on a local level.

The Internet is not often thought of as a viable regional marketing tool. Yet, stop and think about all the times it’s used for local/regional reasons. Typically, it’s national marketers using the medium. How do you get localized clients to look more seriously at the Internet? I have a few ideas to help you start thinking about it for your clients.

Leverage Your Client’s Database

Most clients we work with have a Zip Code field in their data capture process. This helps provide information beyond location, such as socio-economic standing via Claritas PRIZM codes. It also helps in any append procedures they may undertake.

For a localized marketing effort, the Zip Code field can be the key descriptor to pull a list. Zip Code-targeted email to your customer base allows you to communicate offers at specific retailers, subsequently driving foot traffic to those locations. You end up with a melding of consumer communication and trade promotion. You can effectively address multiple objectives with one program and satisfy key constituents (retailers who move your client’s products) more efficiently than you can with traditional means, such as free-standing inserts (FSIs).

If sold to retailers and successfully executed, this approach could rein in the client’s trade budget, which I’m certain is spinning wildly out of control.

Use Ad-Serving Functionality

Most, if not all, agency-side ad servers are capable of drilling down to specific geographies and presenting unique creative based on identified location. This is akin to a copy split in a national print buy. Most are not, however, capable of screening out certain geographies to create a true regional buy. For that, we turn to publishers using ad-serving solutions capable of preempting ads to users in nonprioritized geographies.

An upcoming project in our shop has us working on that scenario. We have a client with thousands of retail offices across the country. Some are corporate owned, some franchised. Online marketing to support the local-level business was considered impossible. One individual office would claim its share of communication was not equal to others. Therefore, individual offices were left to plan and execute standalone marketing programs.

We’re building a massive matrix that aligns ads with specific, geobased copy for specific Zip Codes. That way, we’ll ensure each office receives its fair share of the buy, even when multiple offices are located within one Zip Code. Additionally, as referenced above, we’ll turn to publishers to help us tie into local market heavy-up media tests.

Search Evolution

The paid search market continues to fuel Internet growth. Recent expansion into the local game could have huge impact. According to the Small Business Administration, small businesses represent over 99 percent of employers. Many small businesses have not found it viable to leverage the Internet beyond a Web site or direct email. Given recent changes in the search market, that could change.

The growth potential for paid search providers is underestimated. Many pundits feel expansion to the local level will be a nice improvement, but nothing revolutionary. They view local business as driven by a national advertiser with local outlets, Best Buy for example. I believe more truly local small businesses will drive unprojected growth. If this does gain traction, the markets opened up to paid search providers will be significant. However it unfolds, search is another outlet your client can employ for local online marketing.

With all these barriers so easily navigated, why not discuss supporting regional efforts online with your clients? Technology enables it. Shifts in media consumption support it. In the mean time, if you want to know what “Private setting, super home with lots of detailing!” really means, drop me a line.

As always, the price is negotiable.

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