Marketing in a Small Town… Like Walla Walla

  • By JC Biagi
  • 6 Jan 2020
Digital Marketing Articles, Marketing

Small-Town Marketing

Marketing in a small town presents challenges.

Marketing in general has shifted dramatically over the past two decades from one of valuing things like “impressions” and “visits” to zeroing in on more tangible and scrutinizing metrics like “conversions.”

Antiquated media like banner signage, newspaper, magazine and radio ads seem to have a stronger staying power in smaller communities, but they all rely on the former.

Marketing in a small town is thought to lag behind large metropolitan areas because of demand and competition.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying this is bad (in fact, we produce a lot of these) – I am saying that its efficacy is difficult to measure; you don’t always know how well it works.

It’s difficult because your clerk, front office attendant, or secretary has more important things on their mind than the radio ad you ran this week.

And the only way for them to figure out where the customer came from is to ask.

There are certainly ways to gather some data (like call analytics) through these advertising channels, but it’ll never be complete.

This is because we can’t review the activity and behavior of people who almost purchased, called or brought in the coupon.

All of these things are measurable if you advertise through digital channels.

I would guess that a lot of local advertisers participate in “old-school” advertising for a few reasons.

Tradition: We’ve always advertised this way – think of the local ads you hear on the radio… do you even listen to the radio??

Competition: Our competitors’ ads are present on these channels/mediums – this is actually super common in the wine industry. Just look at the sheer number of wineries advertising in the latest local wine publication.

Effectiveness: While it’s difficult to call “empirical,” being able to say “our sales increase when we run print ads” is a wonderful thing.

Can you think of more?? Drop us a line at [email protected]

With the continuation of traditional advertising, the utilization of digital marketing efforts naturally takes longer to materialize in small communities.

Obviously, local businesses in places like Walla Walla have limited marketing resources.

So What’s the Big Deal?

Larger corporations understand this conundrum for small businesses, and they exploit it.

They deploy marketing in a small town the same way they do so in a big city; Targeted, conversion-oriented and efficient.

In industries that don’t require specific locality, they’re able to poach prospects, leads and ultimately customers who are looking online for things you sell.

Small-town customers are simply part of a larger cohort that they use to analyze and entice.

Take for example a very specific and common online Google search for ‘tires walla walla.’ The above-the-fold results display ads from massive national companies but none of the local guys.

Walla Walla digital advertising on google ppc

The ads above those are big companies too.

Why is this important?

Because somewhere between 50-90{b497a24d07ddde503a8e20c28adddb355e76b486645aa7e354353fdb0a2d3437} of clicks on search engine result pages happen in the top three positions.

Some of the local tire shops even sell one of the brands listed here. Instead of supporting their Walla Walla wholesale account, they’re trying to sell over local companies.

But hey, if the local companies fail to advertise where the national chains do not, it’s fair game, right?

We could go on-and-on, finding examples in a lot of different industries.

Google search your industry and see what the results look like.

There was a somewhat recent study that Inc magazine published demonstrating trends of today’s consumer shopping behavior.

The focus was mostly consumer packaged goods (CPGs) where the US is one of the final frontiers where most people prefer shopping offline (though that was only 52{b497a24d07ddde503a8e20c28adddb355e76b486645aa7e354353fdb0a2d3437}).

I’d love to say this is alarming, but it seems right in line with what we’ve witnessed over the years in many industries.

People, especially our younger generation of consumers, are finding the convenience of shopping online appealing.

Advertising online to millennials is increasingly important

You already know this.

What is alarming, is when we begin to look at the depth of research that a consumer engages in prior to a purchase.

According to iResearch, about 80{b497a24d07ddde503a8e20c28adddb355e76b486645aa7e354353fdb0a2d3437} of consumers are likely to visit a local store that is selling something that they find online.

This, rather than just purchase the same item online.

According to, about 88{b497a24d07ddde503a8e20c28adddb355e76b486645aa7e354353fdb0a2d3437} of consumers research products prior to buying them, either on or offline.

So… what can we gather from all of this?

1. Being available online, as a company, is important

Walla Walla Website
Having a website that functions is a good first step. Also, your Facebook page does not count as your “website.”

2. Your website should be visible to search engines

SEO Walla Walla
(SEO) is NOT dead despite what your friends think.

I would go as far to say, unless Google can figure out a way to objectively rank the zillion pages online by hand, it will always exist.

Methods for improving rankings has certainly changed over the past twenty years, but opportunities await – ESPECIALLY in small communities. Your customers should be able to find your website using common search terms – not just your company name.

If they already know your company, theres a good chance you’re advertising to an existing customer.

3. Allocating some ad dollars to digital marketing is increasingly important

It doesn’t mean that you should dump all your advertising dollars in Google PPC, but certainly figure out the most effective way to attract customers to your business online.

This could be Facebook, Google Display Network, Instagram or any other.

4. Figure out your content marketing strategy

Like we just mentioned, people research and need reliable information to read.

If you just list your services or miss opportunities to show off products you will find difficulty finding consumer trust. Make it informational; something people would find interesting and would want to share.

5. Continue investing in what works

But be objective… There are lots of tools that could offer insights into your business, your customer demographics, and industry.

Keep a close watch on this stuff and see if there are things you can do to put your great products, rather than your name or brand in front of customers.

6. Invest in Analytics

Walla Walla analytics company
If you haven’t installed analytics or don’t utilize call analytics software, find something. The important thing is knowing where your customers come from so you can do more of it.

Rather than looking at the sheer cost of something, maybe evaluate how cost effective it is.

Maybe something costs you more in the short-term, but has a high upside and opens you up to sales in places like Tri-Cities, where billboards and radio ads could put you out of business.

If you have a small town business with some level of scalability, or if you don’t feel you’ve reached your customer threshold, so to speak, the future is in digital marketing.

J.C. Biagi is a partner with Wonderboy Creative and has a passion for family, faith, the Outdoors and SEO. Drop him a line at: [email protected]