Local Marketing that Matters

Posted on by Amish Tolia

All brands share the same goal—to reach shoppers in a way that motivates them to purchase. However, within today’s growing pool of consumers, many businesses are trying to catch minnows in the shallows. Their hands are too big, their campaigns are too generic and the fish—or consumers—slip right through their fingers. In the end, marketers just end up with wet feet.

local marketingDue to the overcrowded and increasingly complex nature of commerce, brands are fishing in murky waters. The relationship between companies and consumers should be direct, but the evolution of sales channels and the growth of businesses themselves make it difficult to manage thousands of customer relationships at once. Even efforts to improve these interactions with unique campaigns miss the mark. In trying to be different, all brands end up acting the same.

In order to engage and convert shoppers, brands need a new approach to marketing. To start, businesses should begin using community-centric local marketing efforts—or marketing that matters—to reach consumers at the right place and time.

Grassroots marketing strategies enable brands to reach target shoppers and drive authentic engagement. While consumers are often inclined to ignore or even resent the companies reaching out to them, brands can use innovative marketing techniques to make connections at an individual level and promote messages that are both authentic and non-interruptive. Rather than forcing their oversized hands into the pond, a local marketing approach lets fish nibble at brands’ fingertips.

Determine What Matters Locally

Consumers are the center of their own worlds, and marketers—from big businesses to small—must determine what shoppers care about at a local level. From little league sports teams to community events, brands can link with a wide variety of organizations across many geographies.

For example, this year, Visa and Dell partnered with the Girl Scouts of the USA. In 2015, the Girl Scouts took their cookies sales online, and—in 2016—Visa and Dell have invested an estimated $3 million in the organization to improve the digital cookie platform. Although Girl Scouts is a national group, it’s also strongly rooted locally with their door-to-door cookie sales. In teaming up, these big brands are adding value to individual communities by helping troop members raise more money through increased online sales.

Not only is the investment financial, but as Ellen Richey, Visa’s vice chairwoman of risk and public policy, notes, it’s also educational. These brands offer added value by volunteering employee hours to teach troops how to use the online platform and to host larger workshops about technology and math. This is helping girls across the country improve their digital and entrepreneurial skills.

Brands like Visa and Dell may find it difficult to make personal connections with individual consumers. However, through the identification of, and partnership with, a local organization like Girl Scouts, the companies are forging lasting relationships with shoppers by simply doing good. As Visa and Dell demonstrate care for areas that matter most to consumers, their brand affinities increase and their local marketing efforts become less generic.

Expand Reach via Social

In addition to identifying points of local interests, brands looking to make better use of their marketing budgets need to figure out where consumers will pay attention. Even with the right campaign, branded emails are too generic and do not resonate with shoppers. Instead, companies need to leverage inbound marketing channels like social media.

When brands invest in causes that consumers care about, they can use social interactions to drive reciprocity from their efforts. Beyond making a positive impact on the Girl Scouts, Visa and Dell are driving publicity from the partnership. Their names are featured on the mobile app and desktop sites, and they can facilitate positive social shares. For instance, if a troop increases their annual sales and can go on an additional camping trip, Visa and Dell can encourage participants to share branded social content that acknowledges the companies for their investments.

Across popular social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, these word-of-mouth shares are invaluable for brands. Not only does a tweet or post connect brands with consumers on an individual level, but the peer nature of these content platforms is a marketing strategy with the ability to dramatically improve ROI. In general, shoppers are more likely to trust recommendations from their friends and family. In the social and digital world, every share is exposure that can be amplified at a massive scale to new and old customers alike.

Every day, brands like Visa and Dell are making a concerted effort to do good. Those that do are positioning themselves to make lasting, profitable relationships with shoppers. By focusing on local marketing that matters, big brands in particular can begin to reach and engage local communities that would otherwise be inaccessible. While traditional marketing campaigns would likely miss these consumers, this kind of targeted, grassroots outreach creates powerful relationships with them. The water clears, and the minnows get a bit easier to catch.

Amish Tolia is chief of strategy at Pear. He can be reached at amish@pearup.com.

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