Local merchants are funneling an increasingly large share of their ad budgets toward online promotions, and hyperlocal publishers are well positioned to take advantage of this trend. In just the past six years, small businesses have gone from spending 10% more on traditional advertising than promotions, to 81% more on promotions than advertising, according to Borrell Associates. Digital promotions are expected to be an $83 billion industry by 2017, presenting a huge opportunity for growth within the hyperlocal community.
To capitalize on this shift in online advertising economics, local media companies have begun offering add-on services to their local business clients. Vendors with white-label promotional products have pushed this trend even further, providing publishers with the tools necessary to become 360-degree marketing services. Here are seven tips for how hyperlocal publishers and local media groups can best take advantage of the shift toward online promotions.
1. Leverage local brand strength. “Publishers have great local brand strength, which can help distinguish advertisers from their competitors. Rather than avoiding any association with advertisers beyond ad placement, embrace the association and create opportunities to promote advertisers more comprehensively, while still maintaining the appropriate independence for actual news reporting. An example might be to create a gallery of featured local businesses, populated with a profile, write up, and photos created by the publisher.” (Gary Cowan, DataSphere)
2. Build a promotions team. “Put together a small planning committee comprised of representatives from the digital sales team, promotions/marketing department, and the web team. Meetings among this group should be approached from a strategic standpoint and should include building an integrated promotions calendar that incorporates contests, deals, ballots, discussion of possible promotions themes, which advertisers to target, and when the initiatives should be executed for maximum impact.” (Matt Coen, Second Street)
3. Partner with innovators. “One mistake publishers make is trying to become technology companies themselves. I’ve seen publishers try and build new couponing software, both apps and web-based, and it rarely works. Building software is hard enough when it’s your full-time job. Publishers should continue to do what they do best, which is produce good content. When it comes to technology, they should be partnering with startups that are innovating in the online gift card and couponing space.” (Nate Schmidt, InstaGift)
4. Focus on mobile. “Publishers should realize that the future of local online ads is promotions and mobile. Publishers should leverage valuable content by publishing it on their sites and mobile, leveraging these promotions to build email marketing lists — for both the client and the publisher — and wrapping it as part of an overall online marketing strategy. In terms of tools, I like Pontiflex and xAd as mobile coupon delivery partners on point solutions.” (Trevor Sumner, LocalVox)
5. Expand the audience. “Business owners have limited resources in terms of time and money, so they want to address multiple needs with one marketing partner. Local publications are in a great position as they have the local consumer’s trust and attention, but to service SMBs they need to think beyond their own website and audience. Working with partners publications can help SMBs create smart online promotions that reach the right people across the web and mobile, not just their own audience.” (Stuart Wall, Signpost)
6. Educate advertisers. “Publishers should educate advertisers as to the complexity of consumer decision-making and the importance of having representation across different locations on the web. Association with a known brand can help distinguish a business from its rivals. Consumers are influenced by over 10 sources when making purchase decisions. Having this type of information available in a media kit when presenting to potential clients can help position the publisher’s offering in the most appropriate context.” (Gary Cowan, Datasphere)
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight.