Let’s Get Hyper! Local.

By Hillary Kelbick

In an era when you have the technology to reach vast audiences more easily than ever, it may seem counterintuitive to think about narrowing your focus to hyperlocal markets, such as the areas immediately surrounding your branches. But if you want a loyal customer base, you need to build strong relationships, and they’re still created the old-fashioned way: person by person, branch by branch, community by community. To achieve this time-honored goal, try something new. Use the latest generation of hyperlocal marketing tactics to focus on forging stronger bonds with your customers and your best prospects. Here are some of our favorite strategies for going hyperlocal.

Geo-target your digital ad spend

It’s no surprise when customers choose their primary banking relationship based on convenience. People want a branch close to where they live and/or work. With the rise of hyperlocal marketing, you have a powerful new way to deliver your convenience message with pinpoint precision, using smartphone GPS data to geo-target your mobile ads to an audience that lives or works near your local branches.

How? These days, hundreds of smartphone apps ask for permission to access location data to do their job, whether for navigation, weather reporting, restaurant reviews and every purpose under the sun. When these apps are supported by ads, the GPS coordinates of users are passed along to the ad network that sells the ad space to advertisers.

Currently about half of all cellphones in the U.S. are location-aware. Companies like Google offer a number of ways to geo-target these smartphone users, including radius around a point, zip code, DMA (designated market area) and more. You can even do contextual targeting: for example, do you think Starbucks customers may be a good profile for your latest mobile banking innovation?  Target your ads to phones on the Starbucks wifi network in your area.  The possibilities are exciting

Make sure you’re findable

Hyperlocal marketing isn’t just about locating your best prospects – it’s also about helping your best prospects locate you.

Say a new resident picks up her cellphone, opens Google, and searches “best bank near my location.” Where do you think your institution would come out on the search results? The answer largely depends upon how well you’re managing your Google listing from a local, branch-centric point of view. Here’s what you need to do:

  • For starters, make certain that you have claimed each of your branch locations on Google and Yelp. By doing so, you give yourself the right to edit incorrect information about your branch, and to respond to adverse reviews. A claimed, managed location is likely to appear higher on the list of a Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
  • In addition, your bank website should be optimized for local search. Incorporate geographic terms when possible, and develop a strategy that encourages other local merchants and organizations to link to your site. By grounding each of your branches in the neighborhood, you increase the odds that Google will reward you with a higher position on SERPs sent to local smartphone users.

Don’t discount social

Nearly three-quarters of online adults use social media, so if it’s not a cornerstone of your hyperlocal marketing strategy, it should be. Social platforms offer strong geo-targeting capabilities for your ads, overlaid with demographic criteria if you prefer.  So you can stream powerful, community focused messaging into each of your branch micro-markets.

But just as important is your own corporate Facebook page: it’s the ideal place for you to focus on individual branches and their neighborhoods. This should be a bread-and-butter topic on the Facebook pages of smaller community banks. But surprisingly, it can be an even bigger win for larger banks, who can counter preconceptions of the “big, impersonal bank” with messaging that highlights events at specific branches and the communities those branches serve.

Support your online communities

Every day, new online publications and list-serves are springing up to cover local issues, promote upcoming events, and more. In addition, many regional newspapers are creating micro-sites that cover specific towns. To get an idea of what might be available in your markets, just type in “[your town name]news” in your search box, and you’re likely to find interesting websites that are worth your attention for potential ad buys. True, the viewership numbers are often small, but consider that you’re reaching people who tend to have a vested interest in the local community – including local businesses and residents involved in local politics. This is an audience you want to reach, and it’s worth the extra effort to find them.

Be a guerrilla

Not all hyperlocal marketing needs to be digital. These days you can create real impact at the street level with guerrilla marketing initiatives. Use them to promote one-off events like branch openings, or in support of bank-wide marketing efforts. Create contests, giveaways, prize drawings, entertainments, and more – you’re limited only by your imagination. And consider mobile billboards or van-based street teams that can move from branch to branch to expand your reach. You’ll make a real splash in the neighborhood, and you’ll energize your branch staff as well.

Be community-minded

Encourage your local branches to look for unconventional opportunities to work with local merchants.

  • Does your bank promise to go the extra mile for your business customers? Prove it by choosing a Business Customer of the Month and promoting it in each branch.
  • Does your local gym need new exercise mats? Offset the cost with new mats that have your bank logo on them.
  • Is a street fair planned for your neighborhood? Don’t just donate some money to the organizers, rent a booth. Have giveaways, collect business cards, rub elbows. Be part of the fun!

Remember, you don’t have to be a community bank to be a bank that’s involved in the community. Banks of any size can and should use hyperlocal marketing effectively. And building these grass-roots connections is a trait that customers value more than ever, across all age groups – not just the Boomers, but Millennials as well. Now that technology is making it easier than ever to go hyperlocal with your marketing, we think you need to get hyper too. It’s smart, effective marketing for the 21st century.

Hillary Kelbick is president of MKP communications inc., a New York based agency specializing in financial services marketing and merger communications. Email: [email protected].

Online training in digital, mobile and social media from ABA.