Why it’s time for a ‘local first’ approach

Why it’s time for a ‘local first’ approach

From local press to social media to good old-fashioned direct mail, here’s how key market leaders connect with the communities on their doorsteps.

In a world gone global, there’s something very refreshing about the resurgence of our love for all things local. Indeed, marketing your business or services to a local audience provides a back-to-basics refresher course in the over-arching principles of the discipline, as observed by Greig Holbrook, founder of localised digital campaign specialists Oban International. “Rare is the company that goes global without first building a good local – and then domestic – market,” he says.

“Put time and effort into understanding the local culture and how your brand or business proposition fits into it, in terms of both product and attitude,” he continues. “And never assume. Always do the legwork, which then allows you to plan your marketing activity based on how your research tells you your audience best reacts to it.”

Scott Gill, MD of regional advertising network 1XL, agrees on this ‘local first’ approach. “The future of local advertising is incredibly promising, particularly on mobile, as consumers are almost always connected,” he says. “Brand spend in this category will accelerate in the months ahead as marketers look to achieve new levels of personalisation, accuracy and relevance.”

Five ways to go local

1. Mix up your media

“In terms of localised marketing, I’ve found that a combination of local press and targeted social marketing on Facebook has driven the best results,” says marketing manager Jennifer Macdonald-Nethercott of The Meatsnacks Group. “It also helps if you can have a local person feature in your marketing, as they will have the best story to tell and local people tend to relate to that.”

A good example of this is Johnnie Walker’s ‘Keep walking’ campaign, which has lasted nearly two decades at this point. The general message of ‘people striving to make their way in the world’ is realised in each markets by using quotes from local people – from Lao Tzu in Asia to Bernard Khoury in Lebanon

2. Make sure people can find you

It sounds obvious, but it’s essential that your business details are visible (and correct) in the space where most people will be searching for it – online. “According to Google, ‘near me’ searches have increased 146% year-on-year, and 76% of people who use location search will visit the business they’re searching for within one day,” says Jon Buss, UK managing director of Yext, a technology company that enables businesses to update all their location-related information across all their online platforms. “These customers are the highest value customers, with 28% of location searches resulting in a purchase. Location services on smartphones influence buying behaviour. Businesses need to be mindful of and responsive to that.”

3. Use influencer marketing

This is a tool that’s surprisingly useful in a local capacity, given that influencers tend to trade on their national or even global audience numbers. “When an influencer skews their content towards local places, news and events, their audience will become more local too,” says Estelle Pulestone, of influencer marketing agency Collective Edge. “Whether it’s a parenting blogger writing about family-friendly activities in their city, or a foodie Instagrammer eating and photographing their way around nearby restaurants, their followers look to them for inspiration. It’s authentic-feeling content based on first-hand experiences, which really resonates with a highly-targeted audience.”

4. Make it (look) personal

Inkpact, a hub of marketers and writers that create handwritten marketing communications, goes back to old-fashioned values that stand out in a digital world. “A hand-written envelope is far more likely to be opened,” says Samantha Jones, Inkpact’s head of marketing. “We've found that many companies, especially corporates and charities, like this more personal approach, and are using our service to connect with local customers and supporters.”

5. Use your heritage

“I worked for a company that had been around for more than 130 years in the local area, and sharing old adverts and old photographs of the business drove a huge amount of engagement,” says Jennifer Macdonald-Nethercott. “It’s what I call ‘remember when’ marketing, and it did really well through local social media groups.”

Claire Lavelle Journalist and Content Creator
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