Whether a regional hospital, farm supply store or any other B2C company looking to market their goods and services, reaching the rural communities of America can bring up a lot of questions. Do they still read periodicals? Do they frequently use the internet? Do they own smart phones, and if so, do they have reliable service in their rural communities?
To answer these questions, we first need to understand who we’re talking to in rural communities, as well as how they consume their media. From there you can decide which marketing vehicles will give you the biggest bang for your buck.
Who makes up rural communities?
According to the United States Census Bureau as of 2016, rural communities have hardly grown in population size – it’s hovered right around 60 million people for the past 100 years. Currently, that accounts for less than 20% of the US population. The median age for those people is 51 years old, and on average almost a quarter do not have access to the internet. They are more likely to own their own homes, live in the same state in which they were born. This means they’ve likely been born and raised, then raised their own children all in the same or similar communities.
There’s a hometown pride that can be found in rural communities that we might not find in more urban areas, which can mean they value companies and brands that invest in and respect their community as much as they do.
How do rural customers consume information?
Contrary to what may be popular belief, rural communities are not THAT far behind rural communities. Pew research reports in 2016, 63 percent of rural Americans have broadband internet in their homes (up from 35 percent in 2007), and 67 percent own smartphones (up from 21 percent in 2011), only 10 percentage points behind urban users. We can only expect these numbers to grow.
All of this is just to say that it’s not just direct mail, radio and weekly newspapers that can reach these consumers in rural communities. While we cannot forget our traditional marketing tactics, there should definitely be room in the media mix for digital efforts.
Pew also reports people in rural communities keep up with local news more than they keep up with national or international news, and small town and rural residents are more likely to get information from traditional media, meaning local newspapers, TV and radio stations are much more utilized in rural communities.
Resources to reach those consumers
To effectively reach rural consumers, having a healthy media mix is important. Much of the nation is thinking digital-digital-digital, as we saw above, rural communities value their local traditional media, but also have access to the internet in their home and on their mobile phone.
As previously mentioned, rural consumers value brands and companies that will invest in their communities. This means advertising in local papers, school and sports team sponsorships, radio stations, community event sponsorships, and beyond. Understanding how the specific community comes together and becoming part of that relationship builds brand awareness and loyalty in rural communities.
The simple answer is that rural audiences don’t seem to be too much different from urban ones as far as needing a diverse media mix to tell your brand story. Digital, especially Facebook, still applies as a good venue to reach consumers, but you may need to work a little harder to understand each community and what events, papers, TV/radio stations you should invest in to make sure you’re in front of the consumers you want to reach.