Marketing Local

I have been thinking a lot about the economy, my own business, and what works and doesn’t work in a recession.

As I try to find the answers, I’ve been pondering the ways the recession has changed the way people spend their money, and how marketers can incorporate those changes in their key messages and design.

One very big trend I have noticed is that people are increasingly choosing locally produced services and products (sometimes referred to localism), and are even starting to choose small businesses over large ones.

It’s ironic, in a way, because it seems to me that so many marketing messages, for years, have pushed how international, global, or large-scale companies are.  And guess what?  According to a survey early this summer, 83% of consumers prefer small, local, independent businesses to national chains.

According to survey results, people said they prefer local businesses because they want to support their community, the convenience of location, and because they feel the service is more personal.

It stands to reason that local and small wins out in a recession.  People become more insular (staying home and saving money) and quality-focused (more concerned with service) in a recession.  There is the trust issue I’ve been talking about — and in some cases, it’s the more affordable option.  But the survey seemed to suggest that saving money wasn’t the end all and be all.  It was more an attitude like, we’re all in this (economy) together, and let’s help each other out.  Which is really the essence of community.

Ways I send the local trend popping up

Community Banks

Although community banks have faced serious economic woes and a reduced ability to lend money (as do their larger competitors), community banks are becoming increasingly popular in the recession, particularly among small business owners who perceive them as more responsive than large, national chains.  Community banks make the majority of small business loans in the U.S.

MoveYourMoney.org, a nonprofit organization started by Arianna Huffington (The Huffington Post), encouraged consumers to switch to community banks and produced this video

Community Newspapers and Online News Sources

When American readers began going online for news, print circulation for daily newspapers dropped.  In 2009 and 2010, many major newspapers filed for bankruptcy, cut editorial staff, or  — like The Rocky Mountain News and The Albuquerque Tribune — went out of business altogether.

However, small community weekly newspapers have thrived.  In 2009, community newspaper advertising revenues fell, but only at half the rate as metropolitan dailies.  Working with a low-budget formula of small editorial staffs, local news coverage, and wire service stories, newspapers like The Falls Church News-Press attract businesses who are seeking affordable advertising options and who want to target local audiences.

Stepping into the are new “hyper-local” online news market are Examiner.com (“The insider source for everything local) and newcomers AOL’s Patch (“a new way to find out about, and participate in, what’s going on near you”) and the Washington, DC area’s TBD (a television station and online news site).  The three online news sources are focused on offering local content (news, photos, and video) and are produced by both professional editors and reporters, as well as bloggers.

Local Food Movement

We all have to eat, right? People are increasingly choosing locally raised food (“locavores”), whether they purchase it themselves at a farmers market or grocery store, or in a restaurant.  According to USDA, the number of farmers markets in the U.S. has tripled since 1994.  And area restaurants such as Clyde’s and Silver Diner are promoting seasonal, local produce on their menus.

“No one has a better view of restaurant menu trends than the chefs of the nation’s nearly one million restaurants, and that is why we survey these culinary professionals on what hot, new trends we’ll see in the coming year, stated Dawn Sweeney, National Restaurant Association Presdident. “The top trends this year — local sourcing, sustainability and nutrition — reflect wider societal trends and consumers’ growing awareness of and interest in these issues. Many restaurants are sourcing some of their ingredients locally, and you often see chefs shopping at farmer’s markets to create a host of better-for-you options that today’s diners want.”

American Culinary Federation National President Michael Ty states “This is retro — it’s what we did in the past when chefs relied on local markets because we did not have the luxury of today’s transportation system. We are going back to our roots and the foundation of our craft that made it more pleasurable.”

Marketing with a Local Message

How do you market to local customers (10 to 15 miles of your business address)?

  • Try using keywords (if they apply) like local, area, locally made, locally grown, locally produced, locavore, community, neighbor, neighborhood, personal, sustainable, independent, small business.
  • Obtain and showcase testimonials from local clients.
  • Take advantage of locally supportive online exposure opportunities, such as Facebook Pages, Yelp, and Google Places.
  • Take lots of photos and video and post them online.
  • Community newspapers are also often happy to get photos, and it can be a good way to get more press coverage.
  • Develop partnerships with other local businesses.  How can you cross-promote?  Having a contest?  Give away a gift card to a local business, instead of a chain.
  • Show you support the community with donations and volunteer efforts at public schools and festivals.
  • Mail postcards to a small and targeted list with time-sensitive, value offers.
  • Consider community newspaper advertising.
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About Mary Fletcher Jones

Mary Fletcher Jones is a public relations and marketing consultant, and owns Fletcher Prince (www.FletcherPrince.com). Follow Mary on Twitter @FletcherPrince.

Posted on August 24, 2010, in Consumer Trends, Marketing Tips, small business marketing tips and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Great post. And we may not forget that the whole local trend is supported by the growing local part of the internet. Especially mobile internet solutions using the geolocation info provided by smartphones are such an interesting field for creative marketing of local products, stores and services.

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