7 Hyperlocal Marketing Tools and Tactics for 2013

Image Credit: MarketingTango

1.  Use Google Zeitgeist to do trendspotting.

Start by downloading the complete list for the US and focus the top relevant searches on your geography using Google Trends. Top searches using Google Map include Target, Walmart and Starbucks. Find unique ways to incorporate these top search destinations near you into your marketing plans.

2.  Reference Yelp Top Searches to explore what local consumers are trying to discover in your area.

Plug in your geography and find out what businesses are garnering top rankings. This is particularly interesting for non-restaurant queries (e.g. cleaners, hair salons, coffee, yoga, sewing classes, Redbox locations)

3.  Regularly update your blog and website with relevant local content.

Determine what content is relevant to your local areas using insights from the tools above. Social media should be used to amplify the content that you are already producing. Remember that presence in Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google + is not a substitute for a website and/or blog that you control.

4.  Create a consortium of local businesses that is the equivalent of your own chamber of commerce.

Meetup and Twitter are good platforms to do recruitment of potential members. Use your website or blog to feature local businesses and customers so that you become a hub for local activity. Nellie Akalp of Corp has a good post on Mashable that goes into more detail regarding local business partnership strategies.

5.  Leverage co-op marketing programs if you source products from national brands looking for local presence.

The Local Search Association (LSA) and the Interactive Advertising Bureau suggest that co-op budgets were being under-spent by $450 million dollars due to lack of participation. The LSA lists manufacturers/vendors that have funds set aside for co-op marketing. Subscription access to this database ranges from $189 to $245 per year.

6.  Do a free local event each quarter.

Offering services pro bono will raise your visibility and enable local news outlets to list your event without charging you for advertising.  Career counseling and fitness demonstrations are great things to offer during Q1 given the increase in motivation to start new businesses or new fitness programs.

7.  Start a loyalty program and listen to your customers

One of the big advantages that big box stores and national retailers have is access to customer analytics.  This has created a new wave of loyalty programs powered by “big data.”  To outflank your larger, well-financed competitors, you can pair discount programs with local knowledge.  Motor Works, my independent car repair shop, does a great job of this.  In addition to the “Gregbucks” program to drive referrals and repeat customer visits through discounts, they executed a brilliant promotion offering free grocery bags to existing clients.  Montgomery County, MD recently began charging a plastic bag tax for grocery purchases.  To help its customers manage the change, Motor Works offered a free grocery bag with its logo emblazoned on the bag.  This was truly a win-win proposition.  Motor Works clients didn’t need to purchase reusable grocery bags and Motor Works was able to drive additional marketing opportunities as clients took collateral (grocery bag) to the grocery store to drive word of mouth.

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Creating A Picture of Your Marketplace – Target Behavior

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Image Credit:  Black Friday at Target

A couple of weeks ago, I made a last minute Thanksgiving run to pick up a few things at our local Target.  After I picked up some forks and other odds and ends, I noticed something odd – the Seventh Generation toilet paper was out of stock.  It was not a sale item and it was not terribly cheap.   I went to an adjacent aisle and noticed that containers for taking lunch to school or work were also out of stock.  Then, the lightbulb went on with this epiphany:

You can learn more about local retail consumers by observing what’s out of stock rather than what’s in stock

This of course assumes good inventory management and this Target happens to be well run as evidenced by personal experience and good Yelp ratings.  I started to feel like an anthropologist (or more precisely an ethnographer) studying the habits of the “Target consumer” and wondered if the Target consumer was the target audience for the health and fitness business that I’m assisting.  I also wondered if people who were watching me go through the aisles thought I was nuts when I looked at empty shelves with delight.

In the previous post on demographic research, I laid out a few key stats for 20904 zipcode residents .  Below are more additional pieces of information that I’ve uncovered to fill out a more complete 20904 demographic profile.

Silver Spring, MD 20904 Travel Time to Work Graph

This chart tell us that residents in 20904 spend more time commuting to work than most other people in MD and across the country.  Data from other sources like city-data.com indicates that 70% of commuters drive in the car alone and most do not live where they work.  We also know that there are few retail shopping locations in this zipcode compared to other suburbs like Bethesda or Rockville.  This suggests that this Target is the store of choice for many shoppers in the 20904 zipcode.  To summarize,  here is what we know about 20904 residents so far:

  • More affluent on average that most Marylanders
  • More likely to be women 25-44
  • Have longer work commute times than most Marylanders
  • Shop outside of the zipcode given limited retail presence

Another important signal to the target consumer in this area is that Starbucks placed 2 locations in the same shopping center (one co-located in Target and one company-owned store) to serve the entire zipcode.  Coincidental — I think not!

Alright, back to my Target ethnography project.  Here is the list I compiled of out-of-stock (or nearly out of stock) food and household items.  Note:  The majority of these items were not on sale or commonly used for Thanksgiving Day preparation.

  • Plastic Entree Containers (small sandwich sizes, small leftovers)
  • Sandwich Bags
  • Seventh Generation Toilet Paper
  • Natures Own’s Bread
  • Kashi Go Lean Honey Almond Crunch
  • Gallon Containers of Organic Milk
  • 1/2 Gallons of Organic Chocolate Milk
  • Kids Cuisine Frozen Dinners
  • Healthy Frozen Dinners (Kashi, Smart Ones, Lean Cuising, Healthy Choice)
  • Organic Tazo Tea (green, peach)- 4 Pack
  • Motts for Tots Apple Juice
  • Pretzel Chips
  • Kettle Chips
  • Smart Water
  • Annie’s Pnutty Granola Bars
  • Skittles Blenders
  • Tootsie Roll Midgees
  • Perrier

Based on the above list and the demographic profile, here is how I would describe the 20904 Target Dept Store shopper:

1) Moms who are time-crunched and are concerned about making healthy, quick meals for their families.  

2) They spend lots of time in the car driving to work and driving their kids from point A to point B so snacks are essential

3) 20904 moms likely have the disposable income to make good food choices yet are budget-conscious and concerned about value.  

The next step in the process of understanding our marketplace is to translate our demographic profile into a persona so that we can more effectively market products and services to the 20904 marketplace.

Creating A Picture of Your Local Marketplace – Demographics

Image Credit:  Briggs Chaney-Greencastle Farmers and Artisans’ Market

To effectively grow your business footprint, you have to understand the context of the market in which you operate.  One of the small businesses that I am working with is looking to expand its presence in the Colesville, Maryland area.   In order to be most effective in its outreach methods, I suggested doing an assessment of the local area demographics and trends in zipcode 20904.  Several tools are available to find basic demographic data such as average income, race, gender.etc.  I would recommend using sites like city-data.com and neighborhoodlink.com to compile basic stats.   Here is what we found:

Age and Sex of Residents in zip code 20904               Zip code 20904 races chart

Source: City-Data.com

The small business we are working with is a fitness business targeting women 18-49.  The Colesville population fits the target quite well

  • Median age (Women):  36
  • Median HH income:  $90k per household ($20k more than the statewide Maryland average)
  • Ethnic Makeup:  Highly diverse (majority non-white)

Demographics are good starting point to creating a picture of your market but this is only the beginning.  To create a more complete picture of your marketplace, you need to understand the behavior and activities of your customer.  We will take a look at this in the next post.

The Return of Hyperlocal

How do you reach a 1 mile radius of customers?  Nothing has bedeviled marketers and small business owners more than this.   You could plaster flyers on telephone poles, put up real estate style signs on the corner or accost the public with handbills.  I’m here to tell you that these strategies are time consuming, require a lot of energy and rarely work.  It’s sort of like screaming out of car windows in traffic to find your soulmate.

In a piece from Businessweek, pundits savaged the business prospects of AOL’s Patch – a potential source of customer aggregation for small business marketers. I tend to agree that the strategy is wrong – you can’t templatize local news and community creation.  Having said that, I believe the ideal models combine technology and offline methods to supercharge word of mouth creation.  You need the impact of a street team combined with the scale of mobile platforms.

Over the coming months, we are going to delve into case studies, theories and experiments around what works and what doesn’t.  Given that I work with small businesses including my own, Fitwell Training Solutions, I’ll share real-life cases to add practicum to the theory.  I hope you’re looking forward to diving into the future of our country – the businesses that surround you within a 1 mile radius.

2010 FIFA World Cup, ESPN XP and Nielsen – Following Soccer Matches Across Platforms

In Nielsen’s latest three screen report, we find that more and more Americans are using TV and the internet at the same time.  Multitasking has not cannibalized TV viewing.  In fact, TV viewing increased by over 1 hour when comparing Q4 ’09 to Q4 ‘o8.  Those in the Media and Entertainment C-Suite are resting much easier now that concerns about cannibalizing TV have been mitigated – so much so that cross-platform efforts are being accelerated.

ESPN has launched XP to track the 2010 FIFA World Cup.  (Sounds a lot like an operating system we all love to hate but stands for cross-platform in this context.)  ESPN XP seeks to examine consumer behavior across all media – TV, Internet, radio and print.

Nielsen is one of ESPN’s key partners for XP and will provide several measurement and research services to power ESPN XP insights.  Nielsen Life360, a service that provides a “day in the life” snapshot of consumer habits and attitudes via electronic journals, will follow what consumers are doing as they watch the 2010 World Cup.  Nielsen will provide linear TV ratings as expected and the Nielsen Online unit will provide TV/Internet multitasking usage insights via a panel of more than 10,000 consumers.

ESPN realizes that over 50% of users are using TV and some other media platform.  That is more than double the rate from 5 years ago and ESPN’s cross-platform users make up nearly 75% of all time spent with ESPN.  ESPN plans to refine XP to become a standard metric they will share with advertisers so that it can be considered cross-platform currency.  Many media companies will watch with great interest as ESPN tries to define a cross-media metric that extends across multiple franchises like College Football and Monday Night Football.  Nielsen will have a key seat at ESPN’s table to extend their TV currency into a new medium.

Does comScore Measure Up?

comScore has been making moves to expand their portfolio beyond web audience measurement.  They purchased M:Metrics in 2008 to enter mobile measurement and most recently acquired ARS in February 2010 to expand into measuring advertising effectiveness .  In addition, comScore deepened their bench strength by hiring Joan FitzGerald to head up cross-platform measurement.  The charter of the group is to track consumer interaction across the “three screens” – computers, mobile phones and TVs.  comScore certainly has been assembling the pieces to execute a cross-platform measurement portfolio.

In order to be considered media currency, I contend that the source needs to be the primary source (or one of a very small handful) used to determine audience and/or firm value (See Arbitron in the radio market and Nielsen in the TV market).  I’ve taken a look at comScore mentions in online news publications over the past few days to indicate what the market says about comScore as a source of media measurement across platforms. We will focus on 5 key areas – Web Audience Measurement, Search, Mobile, Social Media and TV/Video to assess comScore’s status as media currency.

Web Audience Measurement – A Techcrunch article suggested that Facebook has eclipsed Google as the most visited property on the web but Hitwise was credited as the source.  comScore data was then used to refute the claim since comScore uses reach to measure audience share rather than share of visits.  comScore is one of the key sources media buyers and planners use to assess reach.   Therefore, comScore is one of the key players in audience measurement.

Web Audience Measurement Currency: Yes

Search – comScore recently released reports showing 46% growth in the 2009 global search market as well as February 2010 Search Engine Rankings.  comScore’s search engine market share reports are widely used and generally accepted by Wall Street.  While there are other sources of search engine market share data, Wall Street’s reliance on comScore’s qSearch and comScore’s  effect on stock price of search engines meets the currency criteria.

Search Currency: Yes

Mobile – Reports on handset market share use data from many different providers including comScore.  comScore’s methodology is slightly different that Strategy Analytics for example and leads to different conclusions. comScore measures ownership whereas Strategy Analytics measures shipments.  Shipment data is also forecasted by IDC and iSuppli as well.  We won’t go in to the specific of the reports here but there is some confusion about the appropriate way to measure mobile market share.  Given the numerous sources for data that are used to determine firm value for key players in the ecosystem I wouldn’t consider comScore a primary source here

Mobile Currency: Not Yet

Social Media – comScore measures the audience size of social networking sites but does not measure campaign effectiveness of the channel directly.

Social Media Currency: Not Yet

TV/Video – comScore is widely quoted as a source for online video rankings data.  As TV becomes more tightly integrated with online video, there is an opportunity for comScore to challenge Nielsen for TV measurement dominance.  However, that seems to be a long way off and Nielsen is not going to cede that territory without a fight.

TV/Video Currency:  Not Yet

Hybrid Measurement Controversy:   comScore recently released a hybrid measurement product to combine web publisher internal web analytics data with audience measurement panel data.  The goal here is to bridge the nearly threefold difference in unique visitor counts when comparing internal numbers from Omniture or Google Analytics to panel numbers from comScore.  In order to use the comScore solution to close the traffic gap, publishers have to pay $5-10K to have their traffic “hybridized.”  Jason Calcanis compared comScore’s approach to hybrid-measurement to Payola.  Others consider it to be found traffic since internal numbers combined with internal panel numbers generally produce higher overall web audience numbers. This Wall Street Journal article on counting web traffic is great background for understanding the key elements of the issue.

Summary: Key Player in Web Audience Measurement and Search.  Up and Coming in Mobile, Social Media and TV


Data Is the Currency of The Internet – Tools to Transform Data Into Insights

Data Is Currency Of The Internet

Web publishers are competing  for advertising  dollars based on audience scale and the ability to articulate audience insights.  Achieving audience scale by itself is no longer enough.  Advertisers are beginning to move dollars from traditional media into interactive media because of the promise of measurability.  This promise hinges on collecting, analyzing and synthesizing data about consumers.  The more web publishers can tell advertisers about how their audience consumes content including their purchase intent, the more dollars will flow into the web.

The race to control collection of audience data is on.  Facebook has changed its privacy policy to begin mining personal interests to unlock insights from a massive behavioral database.  Apple and Google have taken the gloves off in the war to track user behavior gleaned from mobile phone usage.  Media and Entertainment companies have to ensure that they are not caught flat footed in this battle to present audience insights to advertisers, ceding control to portals and social media communities.  Data analysis and analytics is at the heart of this war.

In order to demonstrate value to advertisers, web publishers must be able to translate internal and external data into currency.   Currency is the medium of exchange that connotes value and is generally accepted as a measure of that value.  This is where the problem begins in the world of data – there really is no single metric (currency) that is generally accepted or suggests  value.    To further complicate matters, there are multiple vendors who are vying to provide the currency of data.   To provide a thumbnail sketch of the myriad of options available,  I’ve listed a few in each of the key categories below:

Reach:  3rd Party Verification of Web Publisher Audience Size  (Audience Measurement)

Internal Metrics: Traditional Web Analytics or KPI Providers (Engagement/Reach)

Offsite Engagement:  Social Media Engagement

Site Tools

  • Facebook Insights
  • Youtube Insights

3rd Party Tools

I will take a look at each of the aforementioned areas for measurement – Reach, Internal Metrics/Web Analytics and Social Media Measurement – over the next several posts.  My goal with this series is to help web publishers, especially Media and Entertainment companies, leverage the best tools in each category to transform data into insights and ultimately into currency.

Is The Cheesecake Factory The Worst Trend of the Decade? – Not According to Customers, Stock Price

I recently read a piece on the 10 worst dining trends of the last decade where David Chang, famed chef of the Momofuku Noodle Bar in NYC, declared The Cheesecake Factory the worst.  Well David, this graph of the CAKE ticker symbol performance over the past year begs to differ (nearly 3x increase over last 12 months)

I’ve gushed about my love of The Cheesecake Factory before (Sorry Chef Chang) and I have a new found appreciation for how they operate.  In spite of the terrible economic environment for casual dining restaurants, The Cheesecake Factory continues to outperform the likes of Applebee’s and Chili’s yet The Cheesecake Factory is in the higher end of the casual dining spectrum.  The average menu price is also more than Applebee’s or Chili’s.  How does the team at Cheesecake Factory do it?  Here are the three methods they use to deliver value and drive business results at the same time.  They will work for your business too:

1. Pay attention to competitors and out innovate them.  In March, several restaurants offered cheap eats to increase foot traffic and sales.  The Cheesecake Factory was one of the few that succeeded in driving sales.  Instead of discounting existing entrees with a 2 for $20 style promotion, they launched a new menu called “snacks and small plates” that was designed to be combined to create an entire meal.  This tapas-like menu had been in the works for prior to the economic downturn according to company CMO Mark Mears.

2.  Offer customer choice without damaging the brand.  The Cheesecake Factory approach to providing consumer value enhanced the existing brand.  They created a new set of items that appealed to budget conscious consumers without cannibalizing sales from existing entrees.  The Cheesecake Factory experienced an increase in the average check size after introducing snacks and small plates as consumers spent more on drinks and of course cheesecake to accompany their “value meals.”  This is one of the reasons that Cheesecake Factory enjoys an impressive $10 million in revenue per location.

3.  Leverage social media to offer value while building loyalty.  The Cheesecake Factory is promoting Twitter and Facebook to build connections with its fans.  This helps to reduce customer acquisition costs by using loyal Cheesecake Factory fans to promote Cheesecake Factory messages.  During Cheesecake Factory’s “12 Days of Cheesecake”, they were able to increase the follower base from 2500 to 5000 in the space of a few weeks through a retweet contest.   While Cheesecake Factory’s Twitter efforts are just beginning, they have invested in Facebook over 250K Facebook fans.

To get 2010 off to a great start, take a page out of The Cheesecake Factory recipe book for success.

  • See what what your competitors are doing and do it better
  • Make sure what you do to match your competitors efforts to meet customer demand fits your brand and delivers bottom-line results
  • Experiment with social media to lower your customer acquisition costs and build customer loyalty by giving your customers something in return for delivering your message

Happy New Year.  Have a piece of cheesecake!!!

Is Content on the Web Missing A Soul? – 5 Ways to Get It Back

Are Content Factories Taking The Soul Out of Content?The rise of content factories like Associated Content and now AOL are scaring the crap out of those trying to eke out a living through the written word.  Having been born in 20 BG (Before Google) ,  I sympathize with the angst of journalists forced to write against a paint-by-the-numbers set of keywords to drive SEO.  This feels a bit like selling out to get distribution but really is the equivalent of covering car chases, fires and infidelity to sell papers and drive ratings.  Google has given us a new window into what sells based on keyword popularity so let’s use it.  Rather than thumb our noses at outfits that leverage Google insight to create content, content creators should one up content factories with engaging content directed at a target audience.  Here are five ways  for you to participate in the quest to reclaim content soul on the web.

1.  Write about what you love – Content drones and robots cannot write engaging content.  If you write dry as toast content, no one will want to read it no matter how many great keywords and tags you use to get people there.  This is critical for small business owners.  Your differentiation is you and the more “you” that comes across the better unless of course you’re a jerk.

2. Write often – Kurt no you didn’t just say that with months between blog entries.  Ok so this a bit of a case of do what I say not what I do but it’s true.  The more you write , the more you will emerge in your writings and guess what?  Google likes content depth so you will have an opportunity to develop a content library that will have value to you, your readers and Google.

3.  Make your content multimedia rich – Get a still camera, get a Flip HD video camera and an iPhone.  Visit Flickr for some new images.  Do something new and innovative.  The same text-heavy dead sea scroll length content won’t get it done.  Make your prose come alive.

4.  Study the marketplace and uncover emerging trends before anyone else – Stay ahead of the pack by anticipating what is going to be hot before the embers catch fire.  This will enable you to create authority and expertise in the marketplace through first mover advantage.   When I research trends, I use as many sources as possible.  There is an exhaustive list of tools to use on trendwatching.com that I won’t reproduce in full so here are the top  sources I think are the most valuable:

  • Papers, websites, mags, blogs, books, news, newsletters
  • Alerts, Search Query Volume (Google)
  • Seminars, fairs, trade shows
  • Customers, clients, colleagues, friends, family
  • Competitors, Start ups

If you spot new trends reliably, you will become indispensable to your audience and Google will reward you as well through improved ranking as influential sites begin to link to you.

5.  Study sites and blogs with content soul – My favorite web personality/blogger/content creator example to point to is Gary Vaynerchuk.  He is sometimes a bit over the top but his content has soul and exudes passion.  Take a lesson from Gary – pick you niche and blow it out.  Gary provides great content and is a master of promoting content using social media.  Study his sites winelibrary.tv and garyvaynerchuk.com and apply them to your business.

Control Your Content – Lesson From the Music Industry

music-value-destruction

Source:  Magna Insights

A couple of weekends ago, I had the pleasure of speaking on a panel that explored the future of the music business with some great company:

We discussed the dizzying changes in the music landscape over the past 10 years, illustrated by the chart above.  Napster paved the way for the Apple iPod/iTunes ecosystem which forever changed the retail music landscape.  Much of the damage was created because artists and music companies did not react swiftly enough to advances in distribution technologies, platform and evolution in consumer behavior.

So how does an artist or any music business adapt to this new ecosystem with new retailers (Apple, Amazon, etc), new venues (Pandora, Last.fm) and social network evolution (MySpace, iMeem, Facebook?

Fred Cannon said it best at our panel – 1) Add value for your audience 2) Control your content

Many artists are satisfied with leaving distribution up to someone else while working on his or her craft.  This could include signing with a label, working with marketing and promotions firm to create virtual street teams on the web in MySpace or Facebook.  These are great things to do but it must all start with the artist’s brand.

Rohit Bhargava has a great post on the importance of personal branding that summarizes this quite well that works in this context as well since an artist’s music and the personhood of the artist are inextricably linked.  An artist’s brand exists outside of albums, CDs and mp3s.   Successful music businesses (great music is no longer sufficient to have a great career) must be about a relationship with fans independent of social networking sites, retailers and physical venues.

A digital hub/website that is an extension of the artist and brand that is under the control of the artist is essential to surviving the changes in the music landscape.  This website should have the ability to delight fans through delivery of content, first-look at exclusive merchandise and anything that extends the relationship between fan and artist for mutual benefit.