Editor’s Notes: ‘Locals’ Bite Back
Last year the concept of local marketing entered my radar screen via consultant Don Libey. He spoke at a Direct Marketing Idea Exchange luncheon about the opportunity for direct marketers to reach out to companies and consumers on a local level to promote the benefits of buying remotely. For example, companies could target purchasing department heads with offers that are directly competitive to those used by nearby big box retailers.
Overall, it doesn’t appear that this concept has taken root in the direct marketing world, unless you consider the expansion of catalog companies into the retail sector. But, as Libey’s latest report notes, at least one local market isn’t waiting for direct marketers to make inroads. According to the March 2004 Libey-Concordia Economic Outlook, business leaders in Des Moines, Iowa, have started a “Buy Into the Circle” campaign—an effort to spur local businesses to devote at least 5 percent of their spending to other local businesses. In Des Moines, a 5 percent shift away from direct marketing channels represents $360 million dollars annually, Libey estimates.
Obviously, this competition is aimed at B-to-B marketers. But the “buy local” rally cry could seep into the public consciousness … as consumers are increasingly forced to weigh the benefits of direct marketing—such as convenience and access to hard-to-find merchandise—against the downsides—such as shipping and handling costs and the potential for privacy invasion. You can be sure that “buy local” initiatives will lean heavily on hometown interests, reminding citizens that dollars spent elsewhere means job erosion in their own backyards.
Libey points out that B-to-B direct marketers have not invested enough in local public relations efforts. And this statement might be true of the consumer sector, too. It’s up to you to communicate your value proposition to customers, as well as give back to the customers and communities that support your success. A press release here or there won’t cut it.
But be careful in loudly tooting your own horn. Connie LaMotta, public relations expert, has this advice for direct marketers who want to boost their public image: “Let great service, products with high cost/value ratio, compassionate customer relationships, fair and happy employee relations, integrity with vendors and honesty in promotions set the groundwork for your company image. And with that as the background, there may be a newspaper or magazine that will ‘catch’ your organization at doing good.”