One of the key takeaways from the Street Fight Summit in New York was that the future of local lies in partnerships. Forging relationships with local businesses is absolutely necessary for any hyperlocal publisher hoping for long-term success. The question that remains is how, exactly, publishers should go about strengthening the relationships they’ve built with small business advertisers and other organizations in their communities.
To find out the answer to this question, we went to the source. Here are six strategies for forging deeper relationships with SMB advertisers, from hyperlocal editors and publishers who’ve managed to crack the code.
1. Co-sponsor promotions with advertisers. “One simple area where I have found success is in the contests and promotions we co-sponsor along with advertisers. Local advertisers love sponsoring photo contests and galleries, but don’t have the time, technical expertise or platform to do that. Partnering with a hyperlocal site like Yellowstone Gate is a great option for both of us. They get to attach their brands to some beautiful photos, which I get to share with readers. There are few things as virally shared among readers as great wildlife photos, so it drives traffic and secondary engagement. (Ruffin Prevost, Yellowstone Gate)
2. Allow advertisers to post editorial content. “Advertising is content, and content is advertising. Many smart ‘advertisers’ don’t buy any ads at all — they write useful stories about interesting things and publish them on the site. This is different than writing a story with ad copy. We had a painter write about finding the right white wash for a client, and he got more work. The smartest advertisers do both — they contribute news on subjects they are experts in and they buy ads. We have an e-book to help people get the most from the site, with tips for advertisers.” (Christopher Grotke, iBrattleboro)
3. Provide ad design services. “We have always done a nice job graphically for our clients. Our traditional newspaper production department always goes the extra mile to make our ads look nice and stand out. Clients appreciate it, and have understood that we care about their advertising. Our approach is on relationships, rather than ‘what else can we do for you?’” (Reade Brower, Village Soup)
4. Prioritize relationship development. “Our sales reps, like our journalists, have neighborhood beats. DNAinfo reporters and reps have relationships with the chambers of commerce in each borough they cover, as well as their neighborhoods’ Business Improvement Districts, which helps us stay abreast of what’s going on with local merchants. A significant amount of the work done by our sales reps involves educating advertisers and potential advertisers about digital marketing options, and that process really deepens the business relationships.” (Heather Grossmann, DNAinfo)
5. Emphasize your niche. “By remaining fiercely local, we provide advertisers with a very refined niche to reach people. Our role is to help keep things focused on Brattleboro. We can show surveys, stats, and polls to help [advertisers] see who the audience is. The easiest sell is ‘if you want to reach Brattleboro, use the site.’ We know that the people who are interested in what’s going on in town pay attention to the site.” (Christopher Grotke, iBrattleboro)
6. Demonstrate flexibility. “If clients want to use [the ad we’ve designed] in another newspaper, we are happy to make it available. Other papers have charged them or called it proprietary, but we believe that they are paying us, so we are happy to allow them to use [the ads they’ve purchased] in other places. This creates a bond, trust, and partnership between us and our clients.” (Reade Brower, Village Soup)
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight.