When it comes to advertising your rural business or promoting your products, the options in front of you can seem never-ending. At a glance, it’s like there’s a minefield of different marketing channels – both on and offline.
Do you just need a website? Should you be traditional and print out leaflets? What about advertising on Google? Or what if you need a TV advert?
There are lots of different marketing channels to try and sell on, and new ones cropping up all the time that you’ve probably never heard of (and that may not even last long) - like Snapchat, TikTok and WeChat.
So which are best for your business? Which will make you the most money?
See also: Marketing is an opportunity, not a cost
Think about your target audience
Firstly, you need to think about who your audience is. What kind of people traditionally buy your product and who’s more likely to be interested in what you’re offering.
Once you know that, you can find where they might spend their time and how to get in front of them.
For example, if you’re selling lawnmowers, it’s very unlikely young people under the age of 20 - who don’t own homes with gardens – will be your target audience. So advertising on youth-centric marketing channels like Snapchat is probably not going to serve you well.
See also: Identifying your target customer
But if you’re promoting a rural wedding venue, then advertising before TV programmes like Don’t Tell The Bride could be absolutely perfect.
Or maybe you could use the display advertising channel to promote your venue on a bridal gown website, because that would work, right?
Think about your own business
Not necessarily. Because you also need to think about your own business and your own products to help you find the right marketing channels.
A bridal gown website is a great place for many wedding related products – but not a venue. That’s because the vast majority of brides will choose a wedding venue before they look at dresses. So even the best advert in the world would be too late – money wasted.
It’s important to spend time thinking about your messaging, your offer, and the actual products you want to promote. Once you understand those inside out, you’ll know which channels might work, and which won’t.
If your product is software or technology that improves efficiencies on a farm, then email marketing could be a great channel for you, because your prospective customers are probably quite tech savvy already.
But if you’re selling a product that’s aimed at the retired or elderly, then currently email marketing will probably miss the mark.
Try different marketing channels and test them out
Even when you know your audience and your business inside out, there’s still no easy way to know for certain which marketing channels are best for your business. Unless you test them first.
Some are more likely to work than others, so focus your efforts on them first. But there might be one of two channels you weren’t sure about that turn out to bring a great return on your investment.
Here are some marketing channels to consider for your rural business:
- Your website
One of the most obvious areas to start is with your own website, a place which can incorporate several different marketing channels. It’s essential to have somewhere to send interested prospects from your other advertising efforts too, so that time and investment isn’t wasted.
You could focus on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and content marketing as your chosen channels, using keywords and web pages to help attract customers who are looking for information related to what you’re offering.
- Pay per click (paid) advertising
Paid advertising, like pay per click ads on search engines, shopping ads on Google, and banners or images on different websites (display advertising) is another marketing channel to consider that drives traffic straight to your website.
It costs very little to get clicks, and you reach out directly to interested customers using phrases they search for or other websites they visit.
- Social media marketing and paid social
For the majority of businesses, social media is a marketing channel of huge importance. It’s one that most people will say they need to focus on regardless of their business.
This could include Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, image-focused channels like Instagram, or video-focused channels like YouTube. It all depends on your products and what your customers want to see.
There are also two types of channels on social media: organic channels, driven by the content you create yourself, and paid channels, where you pay to place adverts (or promote content).
- Offline, with a physical presence
A lot of ‘modern’ marketing is focused on digital channels, but you shouldn’t neglect offline experiences. In the rural sector, they can work extremely well.
They can be especially useful in promoting your brand and your reputation, or if your customer base is local, very important in attracting prospective buyers to your physical shop or business.
You could think about signs and billboards. You might want to consider attending events and conferences to promote yourself in person. Or maybe you could just hold ‘open days’ and free sessions to generate a buzz about your offer?
- Email marketing
As mentioned above, email marketing can be a highly effective channel to advertise your rural business, and one that’s extremely cost-effective.
It’s a way to reach lots and lots of potential customers, and you can even set up automated sequences to regularly send emails and keep them interested.
- Direct mail
Email marketing can also be done offline of course, through good old-fashioned direct mail. Whilst it may seem like an old tactic, it can still be highly relevant today.
For many small rural businesses, especially those that operate in a local area, leaflets and pamphlets – if done correctly – can be very effective. They’re cheap to produce and tend to hang around for a while on people’s fridges, coffee tables and desks.
Even for larger businesses, direct mail can be used to gain access to decision makers. Who isn’t interested when an unexpected gift arrives addressed to you?
One of the ‘newer’ channels is influencer marketing, although it’s really just an evolution of long-established marketing principles – getting someone else to advertise for you.
If there are well-established names in your sector, celebrities who your product suits perfectly, or bloggers on social media who are passionate about your industry, getting them to talk about your business can be a hugely successful way of generating interest.
If you have a farm shop, maybe you could send samples to a famous food blogger on Instagram to talk about. Or if you’ve designed a new kind of boot, sending them to a famous gardener could get them to be your brand ambassador. You never know.
- Word of mouth
Finally, and often overlooked, never underestimate word of mouth as a powerful marketing channel for your rural business.
People buy from people, so if you can get your current customers talking about and promoting your business for you, you’ll be on to a winner. You can help facilitate this through some of the channels mentioned above: by suggesting it when they check out at your shop for example; by sending a thank you card and asking them to refer their family; or by sending a money off coupon via email for them to share with friends.
Measure and track, measure and track
Whichever marketing channels you decide to try for your rural business, the most important thing to remember is to measure and track. Whatever you do, you need to know if it worked.
There’s no use spending lots of money on a new radio advert, for example, if you don’t measure how much extra traffic you get from that advert.
How else will you know if it was a success?