Search keywords: Have a demographic and a smile

Does your Web site marketing speak to customers where they live? Can your customers or prospects connect with the content based on where they’re from–or is your content too generic and trying to talk to the whole nation at once (or too specific to your home office)? Most sites might vary content based on the visitor’s past transactions or clickstream. But if you don’t have that to work with, starting with geographically based targeting may provide an edge over the competition.

I grew up within a few miles of the Illinois-Wisconsin border, in a rural community where the highlight of a summer’s day for a kid could be a trip to the corner store for a soda. A few years later, I was at Cornell University and stopped in a store to get a soda. They said they had none when I asked, so I left, puzzled by the fact that they had a Coca-Cola sign but I couldn’t get a drink. I did figure out later that if I asked for a “soda” in Ithaca, folks thought I wanted an ice-cream float; to get a carbonated beverage, I had to ask for a “pop.” I doubt the bean counters in Atlanta ever noticed the hit to the general ledger, but I noticed how important dialect and context could be for business transactions.
Targeting geographically requires that you be able to tell from where your traffic originates. Geographic location can be derived from IP address via geo-targeting, with certain limitations. Sometimes the IP address location might not reflect the user’s actual physical presence, but instead shows the location of their ISP’s server. That might still be pretty darned close, or might reflect an affiliation that is still relevant for targeting. ISP geographic associations might be fairly broad and certain IP addresses might not have known geographic associations. Even with these limits though, the geographic targeting is useful, certainly enough so that you could serve dynamically variable content to your site visitors.
Tie that geographically-specific content to Google Adwords, which enables targeting on a variety of geo-specific criteria for even more lift to your conversions. That way, you can market your “soda” in one market and drive that to the soda-specific page and market the “pop” in another, driving to a pop-specific page. There are hundreds of examples of this–for example, baseball hats are called ball caps in Tennessee; and “ball caps” returns a pool of hits only 38% of the size of the “baseball caps” pool. That’s a much smaller segment in which your product or service can rise to the top.
Perhaps some more subtlety is called for in your product than would be needed for mere beverages or can happen just by using regional dialects; can your product or service be positioned differently based on personalities? In Richard Florida’s book, Who’s Your City?, he outlines in one chapter the results from The Place and Happiness Survey that show how personality types cluster in certain geographic areas, as shown in the following map. So one could market to the areas based on that personality profile. Note that these Big Five personality traits should be understood in the academic psychologist’s context from whence they came (again, you have to understand people based on their place).

The ethanol marketers seem to be starting along this path. In the speed-oriented town of Indianapolis, ethanol’s long association in racing is touted. Head out of town, though, and the midwestern heartlanders are appealed to based on the benefits of ethanol production to communities based on farming. Exit the midland flyover country, and the marketing skews towards the environmental protection benefits and energy independence anticipated from ethanol use.
So what does this mean for you? Let’s go back to beverage basics. I like the wacky flavors of Jones Soda and their unique, quirky marketing focused on beverage individualism. “Soda” is my term of choice for this, so I don’t have any mental incongruence searching for Jones soda. But what if I’m from upstate New York, trying to find out where I can get that funky Green Apple Pop that I had on a business trip out West. If I Google “Jones pop”, I see “Jones Soda” results. Am I looking for an ice-cream float? No, so I skip it, perhaps. (Now, in reality most Americans are much more aware of the soda/pop/coke synonym than was that soda-jerk I met years ago.)
But if your product or service goes by different names in different markets, check it out and see if you can customize some pages or ads towards that distinctively geographic name. Can you position your faucet as a spigot? Your gym shoe as a sneaker? How about selling your bag as a poke or sack? Try it, then measure the conversion rates and let the numbers tell the story – the tools are there with geolocation and local advertising to target the customer and lead them to a customized landing page.

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