Challenges and Opportunities in Rural Communities
The most successful rural marketing efforts reflect a deep understanding of your audience’s beliefs and attitudes. Effective marketing also considers what is preventing your rural buyers from specific actions, what motivates them, or what their benefits are.
While all rural communities are different, we many face common challenges, including:
- Lack of transportation and limited access to remote areas
- Limited financial resources
- Limited technology
- Scarcity of media outlets
- Acceptability challenges
- A wide range of cultures and beliefs across large geographic areas
- Historical skepticism
While there are many challenges to reaching rural audiences, unique characteristics also serve as opportunities for both traditional and digital marketing efforts.
- Audiences that may be more likely to engage with traditional media
- Traditional media coverage may be more accessible to small businesses because of lower competition
- Word-of-mouth communications
- Informal communications networks and existing collaborations
- The tight-knit community that understands the importance of helping neighbors (AKA the “Good Ole Boy Network)
- Natural community leaders such as school leadership, faith-based organizations, communities, agricultural organizations, coaches of youth sports teams, community champions/natural helpers, chamber of commerce, etc.
9 Marketing Tips For Rural Business Owners
1. Always Be Consistent
You must be consistent with your marketing efforts if you are a small business owner in a rural area. A great way to do that is to utilize content marketing. In other words, use your website, blogs, and social media to communicate who you are, what you do, who you serve, and how you do what you do.
2. Share Your Rural Areas Story
Every small town has a backstory. While some may be less than stellar, it’s still a backstory that might be worth sharing. In other words, what is your claim to fame?
3. Involve The Local Community
Involve others in your content creation strategy. For example, a blog or podcast series could feature non-competitive local businesses, individuals, or charitable organizations. Through cross-promotional efforts, this approach is a fantastic way to build relationships and your brand.
Harvard Business Review conducted a longitudinal study on emerging trends in rural marketing. One of their most important takeaways was:
“To a large degree, rural residents base their purchase decisions on personal bonds and mutual trust. In this respect, rural markets are different from more transactional urban ones, and they demand strategies that integrate companies and their offerings into the social fabric. Smart companies determine which stakeholders are likely to be the most influential and then find ways to earn their loyalty.”
4. Share Your Deeper ‘Why’
Patrick Moreau, the founder of Muse Storytelling, says, “Tell your own story in a way that adds value for your audience but also lets them get to know who you are and what you stand for.” In other words, you will want to communicate your small business’s story in a way that potential buyers will want to connect with you. The bottom line is that people buy from people, even more so from those we know, like, and trust. Telling your story will help you develop that trust.
5. Tap Into Real Events and Emotions
Make your marketing personal! Opportunities for digital marketing abound in rural areas; therefore, make an effort to tap into the area’s genuine emotions, events, and lifestyle. If you live in a rural area, chances are you know influential people in the community, so ask them to help promote your content or at least introduce you to other people.
6. Be ‘The’ Local Expert In Your Niche
Traditional connections are vital to rural communities, AKA the “Good Ole Boy Network. While we may be geographically separated, most of us are extremely close when it comes to sharing good and bad news. Employing these same types of techniques digitally through your content marketing strategy will not only help you to spread your message further but will help to position yourself as ‘The’ local expert in your industry.
7. Generate Local Landing Pages
When it comes to internet marketing in a rural area, Google and the other search engines often do not understand that distance isn’t as significant a factor as it is for more suburban and urban areas. To combat this, rural marketers need to develop local or geographical landing pages that hit on all the area’s small communities. The simple way is, if it has a Zip Code, then you should have a page talking about the area and how you serve that area.
8. Leverage Local Media
An excellent tip for rural marketers is to consider buying ads in traditional media, such as local newspapers, magazines, or radio and sharing your expertise with the community. Depending on your demographics and your target audience, it allows them to see your small business in a medium they already trust
9. Utilize Social Media
Whether you live in Hendersonville or Elkin, North Carolina, your Facebook profile gives you the same access to the world. As a great distance equalizer, social media is a great space to introduce your website, blog, and thought leadership to your rural community.
When it comes to marketing in a rural area, it can be quite different than what our urban counterparts deal with. In addition to our challenges, there are a wealth of opportunities for small rural businesses, given the resurgence in the small-town and rural lifestyle. Hopefully, the above list will help rural small businesses better understand the challenges you might not even realize you are facing.
If you are a rural small business and would like to talk to a fellow rural business who not only lives in a rural area but fully understands what it takes to make it in a rural area, reach out to me today! I am here to help your small business grow!