The Web, aside from its ability to shrink the world, can also transform a small business into a global entity.
This is especially true when the company offers online services. Think about it: To get your offering, your target client need only access the Internet via a desktop computer or mobile device.
Geographical proximity, or lack thereof, simply isn’t a factor.
However, while the Web certainly provides massive potential to reach a mega audience, sometimes a local approach is called for. The trick is to know when.
The solution depends largely on who your target client is and where they are located.
Gerard Durling, founder of Coal Creative, an online marketing consultancy that positions itself expressly as “Northeastern Pennsylvania’s creative marketing consultant,” is an example of a company that believes in promoting local businesses as part of its mission.
Durling, from the beginning, has worked to cultivate clients in his region of Pennsylvania, roughly a two-hour drive from Manhattan and Philadelphia.
A key benefit he brings his clients is his ability to find inspiration in those cities. Local businesses, Durling says, generally are less savvy about the latest and greatest in online marketing efforts and cutting-edge related technology.
Coal Creative offers marketing support in various formats: traditional, online and “guerilla-style,” which Durling defines as the ability to throw local events that are slightly edgier, which helps fuel engagement with the target audience.
He will utilize all three marketing formats if necessary. He pulled this off in a widely touted promotional campaign to kick off the grand opening of a local nightclub client.
Where ZU (pronounced “zoo”) is based in Northeast Pennsylvania, nightclubs tend to focus their promotional muscle on publicizing “aggressive drink specials,” Durling said.
So for ZU’s grand opening, he took a page from the big city nightclub’s playbook.
In keeping with the ZU’s name and theme, makeup artists painted various animal patterns on women who then danced inside cages on opening night.
But to build buzz, Coal first created a time-lapse video showing a bikini-clad model being painted to resemble a leopard by two makeup artists. He posted the video on a Facebook page called ZU. The only content accompanying the video was a line that referenced “the most interactive nightlife experience in NEPA [Northeastern Pennsylvania].”
One local report wrote of the effort:
“An intriguing time-lapse video was uploaded to Facebook last night of a woman being transformed by makeup artists into a leopard, and while what exactly it’s promoting is not yet clear, a few hints have been dropped so far.”
The event was a hit, garnering lots of media attention and wide coverage on social media, including on SnapChat, Instagram and Facebook.
Discussing specifics of the company’s business model with Small Business Trends, Durling said: “We act as a marketing consultant for local companies. They might not be ready to hire somebody full time. We have people in-house to work with us and we also freelance some of the work out.”
Coal Creative also works with local schools to take in interns to educate about opportunities in locally based businesses.
Durling started the company about five years ago, when he recognized local businesses generally were a “little behind in the times in some areas.”
“My focus is on trying to get our community in tune with the times. It’s not just looking at them as clients — it’s about community growth,” Durling said.
Coal Creative is currently working on a video project to help build awareness of all the fun activities available in Northeast Pennsylvania.
“We have a lot of things around here, including a water park and a casino, yet there is a very negative mindset among some people who think there’s nothing to do.”
The company is using the support of local businesses to assist in this effort.
Also fueling his passion to work with local businesses is Durling’s great appreciation of direct communication—meaning face-to-face chats versus sending them texts or email. “Being able to work with someone and feel their enthusiasm is something relatable to people.”
As online marketing guru Ivana Taylor, who runs DIYMarketers.com, puts it: “Marketing online services locally makes a great strategy if the service can be used locally.”
Medina, Ohio-based DIYMarketers.com’s client mix is half local and half global.
As with any marketing effort — online or off, global or local — the emphasis needs to be on the client, she added. “The target customer is the focus of everything. When you’re marketing online services, you’re truly covering a solution to a specific customers’ specific problem. The customers understand that location is an element but it’s not the central element.”
A global focus offers immense benefits. “I love the online service model precisely because it makes pricey marketing services available to a broader range of clients,” Taylor said.
In Taylor’s case, “there isn’t much difference in how my services are delivered locally or online virtually. I often have phone or Skype meetings with my clients whether they are two miles away or thousands of miles away.”
What ultimately determines whether your marketing efforts are focused locally or globally is the “customer with a specific problem” on who you focus, she added.
DIYMarketers, Taylor added, is a virtual marketing department that specifically assists business owners by executing the marketing efforts they dream up.
“We are just the hands that make it happen.”
Image: CoalCreative.com, Pictured from L to R: Interns Amanda Montigney, Luzerne County Community College; Karisa Calvitti, Lycoming College; Michelle Chavez, Cedar Crest College; Therese Roughsedge, Kings College; Josh Alberola, Graphic Designer/Marketing Consultant; and Gerard Durling, FounderMore in: Content Marketing