Despite the popular opinion that customers absolutely hate all things marketing related (and they really, really do), they actually respond well to messages that hit close to home. In fact, studies show that most customers actually want brands to connect with them, they just don't want obnoxious ads flying at their faces constantly.
So how do you get personal without being invasive and downright irritating? By reaching customers where they live and play, and seamlessly integrating with their communities.
Community and local marketing — as personal as it gets
The name says it all: marketing targeted to a specific community. And before you say "that's just geo-targeting", think again. You'll have to get out from behind your desk for this strategy to work, and meet customers face-to-face. If you want customers to really identify with you as a brand, it's not enough to be a sponsor — you need to be there, boots on the ground.
When customers see your brand living up to its own high ideals, they'll want to step up and be part of it. Giving them the opportunity to not only have that brand experience, but be a positive force in their own community is one of the best things you can do to cement loyalty and brand identification, all while giving back to local communities and just generally doing the right thing.
Companies Kicking-ass at Creating Experiences Within Communities
One great example is Home Depot, which despite being a nationwide brand, frequently runs local events that encourage customers to visit their nearest store. They offer a wide range of DIY craft workshops, from quick holiday crafts to refurbishing countertops, and even offer free craft workshops for kids on weekends. It's an educational and creative experience for the whole family, and people love that.
REI, the outdoor apparel and gear supplier, holds events to build and maintain trails and national parks with the volunteer help of its patrons, the very people who love the outdoors the most.
Ritz-Carlton employees work to teach low-income and at-risk students valuable life skills through their Succeed through Service program, which has reached over 15,000 students. They teach everything from social skills and job preparation to healthy eating and environmenal responsibility.
Nike builds communities through sports, getting kids off couches and running around. Sometimes they take it literally, building out sports stadiums for communities in need by renovating and converting old buildings. They even turned a Chicago church into a basketball court.
Pet Smart has National Adoption Weekend to help pets find homes, and they're a huge success. Over 25,000 pets are adopted every event, and the partner organizations get their people involved to help local families of all backgrounds adopt.
How to go local, the right way
Marketers need to adjust their mindset and strategies when it comes to reaching out to local communities. While digital, wide-spread marketing is still crucial, brands need to understand the value of offline human networks. This is especially true in an age where more and more people are beginning to resent feeling constantly hyper-connected.
You'll never really reach your customers' hearts with experiences that are limited to digital interactions. When the experience economy is so vitally important to your company's survival, getting those human touchpoints in place is a necessity, and something people are afraid of losing altogether.
If you want to get started on making your brand local and genuine, we know a few key places to start:
Know your target market. Demographic research is crucial to understanding local culture, but even more important is the context of your message.
Listen to local feedback and apply it. For a long time, customers have assumed that their feedback won't matter at the end of the day. Prove them wrong in the best possible way by not only hearing their feedback, but acting on it. Plus, there's far less data to go through in local campaigns than global.
Participate in local events, whether it's a music festival, charity drive, or your own independent event. Being there physically, not just as a sponsor, will put a face to your name. Even better if the CEO makes an appearance instead of sending the interns to "get it over with".
As a company, it's your responsibility not just to give value to customers, but to add value to their communities by being part of them. Don't just make customers brand advocates. When you attract the right customers, your mission is their mission, so giving them the chance to be part of it will make them feel like they belong in your community as much as you belong in theirs.