Reaching Low-Income Audiences Using Hyper-Local Media

hyper-local targeting

From brands and products to messages and content, consumers are swamped with choices. And, they’re getting savvier about how to make those choices, thanks to a whole new world of tools and platforms—from social media and apps to online reviews by their peers. While their tastes, income levels, and attitudes might be different, one preference is shared: They crave local relevance.


Now you might think that these stats don’t necessarily reflect populations with a low income. Yet, nearly half of low-income mobile users go online, mostly on their cell phones. And, they do so to search, get news, and use social media.

How can you make a genuine, local connection that will engage people and earn their loyalty? Start by using a hyper-local approach to talk to people as if you’re right in their backyard.

What does “hyper-local” really mean?

Simply put, it means less waste.

Hyper-local media is the practice of taking the time to truly understand a precise market and the people who live there. And, then using that insight to develop messaging and delivery mechanisms that are most relevant to them.

Say you’re marketing an energy efficiency program in an underserved market. To make a real connection, you’d better get the vibe right. Local residents will immediately sense that you don’t know them authentically. What are their daily media habits? What’s their perception of the local utility? Do they even think about energy? What’s important to them? What’s the surrounding neighborhood like?

Answers to questions like these will show you that people classified as “low income” are, in many ways, different from one another. So are the neighborhoods they live in. In fact, differences will exist from zip code to zip code and street to street.

New technology can help you get to know your audience. Of course, databases and algorithms are part of the equation. We’re also seeing explosive growth in the capacity for localized marketing through platforms like Facebook local pages. Facebook Nearby, local business listings and review listings. Local marketing platforms like Vox, Yodle, and Yex are getting traction, too.

But while we have the technology now to help us develop hyper-local media strategies, data can only take us so far. It takes real human insight to understand a market, a geography, and a culture—right down to street-level variations within the local neighborhood.

National, state, or regional entities can be hyper-local, too.

Any size company or entity can start to think hyper-local. Even organizations with huge, diverse audiences spread out across the country can find truly engaging ways to reach unique, local audiences. But first, you do have to find the balance between local relevance and marketing efficiency.

Consider how this played out with one of our clients. When we took on a project to increase engagement in EmPower—New York’s no-cost energy efficiency solutions for income-eligible residents—we applied a hyper-local strategy to gain market traction. To zero in on an effective media plan, we got to know local consumers: How they use media, the languages they speak, who they trust for information, the local organizations they lean on for support, and what their daily routines are. We then combined this data, along with human insight, to form a portrait of our target audience in a highly localized way.

Using this insight, we were able to develop a multi-faceted approach to reaching and resonating with our target, including:

  • Localized direct mail to qualifying residents and their landlords to promote how many of their neighbors are taking advantage of EmPower
  • Facebook and online ads with messages and simple calls-to-action (proven to resonate) to encourage program sign up
  • Feet-on-the-street support through community agencies that were trained on how to identify prospects for EmPower and share information, such as easy-to-customize event posters, case study templates, and translated materials to spotlight local residents living on familiar street names

When we started the campaign, only eight percent knew of EmPower. In the first month of the online Facebook and ad campaign, we generated more than 30,000 page hits a day to the EmPower landing page, more than the state agency’s home page generated that entire month. This represented a 106,816 percent increase in visits prior to the campaign going live. And this was December—a time when it’s next to impossible to get people’s attention for anything more than holidays! Today, the EmPower program continues to be “at capacity” for service, showing the undeniable correlation between hyper-local and hyper results.

Tips for a successful hyper-local strategy.

1. Dig deep.

If you’re going local, start by deeply understanding the market to fully plan a thoughtful strategy. Brand Cool’s parent company, Butler/Till, spends time in every market where we buy media—online, on the phone, and in person when possible. If you can swing a road trip, cruise around to see what’s on billboards. Talk to local media vendors to find out the consumer media habits unique to the community. And ask your target audience what channels they turn to, what routes they travel, and how they search for businesses.

2. Find the right balance between local relevance and marketing efficiency.

It’s possible to take customization too far. Don’t go so granular that you overspend on creative customization. Consider our event outreach example from earlier. By providing a customizable section on the poster and case study collateral, we provided a way to localize the tactic. If we did the customization for every single market within New York, it would have been cost prohibitive. You can apply strategies you’ve learned to similar projects.

3. Implement “campaigns that learn.”

Setting key performance indicators at the beginning of the campaign and measuring progress will enable you to identify (early on) what is working and what isn’t in creating local connections. This will help you realign your focus and budget to those areas that are having the most success to eliminate waste. Don’t forget that this same tip can be applied to areas of discovery as well, such as: What research tools led you to answers the fastest? What were the most valuable questions you asked about the audience? What surprises did you encounter that you could anticipate next time?

4. Speak their language.

Almost 60% of consumers say getting information in their own language is more important than price when making a purchase decision (Source: CSA). Whenever possible, offer your information in the native language of your audience and their community, along with English.

5. When doing “local” on a mass scale, lean on technology.

It’s possible to develop programs for literally thousands of micro-markets by using dynamic rich media, social media, and search engine optimization platforms. There are planning tools available to generate local-market media plans based on predetermined criteria.

Is hyper-local media right for your business?

A hyper-local strategy can help your brand shine across many different markets, but it’s not the right strategy for every business. The key is to decide if it’s consistent with your brand. Can you live up to the claims you make with local messages? Can you truly be relevant to different audiences in the ways you’ve promised?

Sometimes the best way to see if it can work for your business is to test it. Start with a handful of markets and determine whether hyper-local media is worth the additional investment.