Lean Marketing Tips: Hyperlocal Marketing Channels

We write often about marketing strategies and tactics for small business and startups. These companies typically have limited budgets, thin resources, and strained capacity which combine to create a challenge for managers and owners: how to develop an effective marketing campaign using tactics that will work for their business.

The Lean Startup movement provides a wonderful template, and Ross wrote a great post in which he discussed how managers can use these principles in their own  marketing campaigns. We have written about many tactics that have worked in our own marketing efforts, such as public relations, goal-setting, branding, etc.

Today I want to focus on tactics with a local flavor. A phrase we hear a great deal is “hyperlocal,” which Wikipedia defines as being “synonymous with the combined use of mobile applications and gps technology.” I would enlarge that scope beyond mobile applications and GPS, and explain hyperlocal marketing as a strategy for reaching a specific, targeted audience located in a very specific geographical location. In other words, hyperlocal is a way for marketers to deliver an effective marketing message to customers in a particular local community.

This is nothing new for marketers; a great example of hyperlocal marketing that has been with us for decades is the Yellow Pages. This still ubiquitous book of business listings, made of the cheapest paper stock available and found on shelves and in recycling bins everywhere, has historically been a great way for businesses to reach local customers – from “AAAA Auto Repair” all the way down to “ZZZZ Welding.” But the world of marketing has grown way more sophisticated, and in the age of local SEO, GPS and QR codes, small business can leverage some sophisticated tactics to reach local audiences, build awareness neighborhood by neighborhood, and make the most of a limited marketing budget. Here are 5 ideas for hyperlocal marketing that you can consider for your own business:

1. Yellow pages.
If it still works and still fits your budget, why not experiment with this chestnut? For very small sums a business can target a very specific local audience (in many cases right down to the zip-code). If nothing else, using Yellow Page advertising guarantees that your business name is right there along with your competition’s and that you have an equally good chance of capturing the customer who is looking for you. Most of the Yellow Page publishers now include online listings along with the print version, which can also serve to enhance a business’s web presence and SEO efforts.

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2. Daily deals.
Groupon, Living Social, Woot, and the like are available in virtually every city in the US and many more cities overseas. For lots of businesses, particularly brick and mortar, these services offer a way to reach a very large audience of potential customers and pay only for those that actually show up to buy. The downside is that many of the folks who actually buy these deals are fickle and may never return once they have used their coupon with you. The upside is that this tactic can be a great way to build your customer base and to get your brand in front of millions of potential customers at a relatively modest cost.

3. Mobile.
Alright, here’s where that mobile and GPS thing comes in. Applications such as Foursquare, Yelp, and Urbanspoon allow businesses to build awareness and reputation online. I don’t know abut you, but when I travel Yelp is a go-to app for me; I need a good place for breakfast near my hotel and I log in and do a quick search. Restaurants near my location pop up complete with photos and reviews and before I know it, there I am sipping coffee and eating eggs with bacon. Yum yum yum and huge value delivered to that restaurant and to me the customer. Foursquare does that but also allows businesses to offer their own coupons and discounts available to anyone who stops by and checks in. Bacon and eggs taste even better when they come with a nice discount, no? In addition, social media platforms such as Facebook and Google+ allow local targeting of online ads. For the marketer, the cost of these tactics is small and the ability to track ROMI in real-time is powerful.

4. Outdoor and print.
QR code marketing has brought outdoor advertising into the 21st century by tying together the ancient art of cave painting with the modern art of website metrics. Customers love having the ability to learn more about a company or a product or a house for sale simply by pointing their smart phone at a sign or a poster and learning more right there on the spot. Marketers get the reach they crave via outdoor advertising on billboards, bus kiosks, and telephone pole handbills and at the same time get the ability to track analyze real data and real sales. Print ads in magazines as well as door hangers and mail stuffers can also include dynamic QR codes and marketers add transparent value to these time-tested tactics.

5. Direct mail.
For 14.5¢ businesses can use the Every Door Direct Mail service to reach out directly to potential customers via the United States Post Office and target these customers right down to specific mailing routes. Marketers can search for zip codes in their city (or nationally) that match the demographics they are working to reach; and with targeted mailing routes you can send direct mailings in batches as small as a few dozen or as large as 5,000! The USPS has a great demo tool which allows you to play with targeting zip codes, routes and customer types and that gives you a real time cost and will estimator. Fun!

Photo: Howard Lake

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