Maryland is rich with a diverse range of consumers. The proximity of Maryland to the nation’s capital and Northern Virginia’s high-tech corridor makes it an ideal place for people in all sectors of government, government contract work and private industry to live.
Although Maryland is a relatively small state, it is home to a surprising range of tourist attractions, from historic Gettysburg to Baltimore’s famed Inner Harbor, loads of government agencies including the NSA and US National Weather Service, cutting edge tech firms like advertising.com, world-renowned sports companies including Under Armor and Fila, and thousands of hotels, restaurants and shops. Maryland even has casino gambling adding fuel to the business economy, albeit in its infancy. Even in today’s economically challenged environment, finding a job at almost any level is not only possible, but probable – a statement that not every state in the country can boast.
For those working in Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia, MD offers a close and convenient, yet seemingly worlds-away locale for living, shopping and playing. Maryland’s unique combination of government, high-tech and rural areas not only attract consumers but new businesses alike. If you are a business owner wishing to attract Maryland consumers, listen up. The diversity of those living and spending in Maryland calls for diversity in marketing. Therefore, marketing your MD business should take a multi-pronged approach. If you wish to attract more people in Maryland to your business, here are some helpful tips.
Invest in a comprehensive website. As any business owner in any industry knows, a well-executed website is a must. When your focus is on attracting MD consumers, make sure that your website is not only attractive from a design standpoint, but that it contains everything that a Maryland consumer would want. If you own a restaurant, for example, your website should look and sound inviting and delicious. But don’t stop there. Be sure your website contains easy to find, understand and print (Google maps and Mapquest links are ideal). If you offer specials, coupons, themed parties or other items that help make your business stand apart from others, be sure those are included as well.
Invest in search engine marketing. A great website is nice but if nobody can find it, it’s a fruitless endeavor. When your website was built, hopefully your web designer had the knowledge and expertise to construct it in a way that is search engine friendly. (See our article on Website Analysis for more information on search engine friendly sites). If you don’t know if your site was constructed with search in mind, or if it’s not being found on searches, hire a professional to evaluate your site and make changes that will boost its rankings. Sometimes even small changes to a site can make a huge difference in rankings. Other search engine marketing to attract MD customers includes pay-per-click campaigns, article writing/posting, and a good linking strategy.
Make sure social media marketing is in the mix. Consumers in MD, just like those everywhere, are all over social media. And believe it or not, they are looking for the goods and services you provide there. Whether they are clicking on ads or asking their friends for recommendations, MD consumers should be able to find you in places like Facebook and LinkedIn. And, depending on the nature of your business, perhaps YouTube and Twitter as well. Restaurants, salons and spas, for example, are a must for social media marketing. (See our pages on restaurant marketing in MD and salon and spa marketing in MD for more information.)
Pepper the market with your brand. These days there is a diminishing direct return on investment when it comes to print advertising, direct mail, broadcast advertising and certainly phone book advertising. But before you toss them out of your marketing mix altogether, consider their branding impact vs. their direct return. Just because someone doesn’t pick up the phone and call you because you ran a radio ad, for example, doesn’t mean that the ad wasn’t effective. Every single impression that your business has on MD consumers – whether it was a radio ad, newspaper ad or mailer – is embedded in that consumers brain somewhere. With enough of those impressions, you can see how a business could become top-of-mind when that MD consumer does have a need for what you provide. And while doing a plethora of activities may sound unrealistic budget wise, doing MD marketing in this way doesn’t have to break the bank. If marketing your MD business comes with a tight budget, seek out less expensive options for branding. Well-place fliers, local papers, neighborhood mailers and local radio stations offer adequate brand impressions without the high price tag. Another option is rotating your budget. Instead of being on the air, sending mailers and placing print ads each month, rotate the ad spend around between mediums.
Conduct regular e-mail marketing. E-mail marketing is, by far, your lowest cost marketing effort. While it takes time to build your opt-in e-mail list, it costs you very little to send out an e-mail. Be sure that you are taking full advantage of this cost-effective marketing to Maryland consumers one or twice per month. More often if you have a business that will tolerate it. Daily specials e-mails may not be out of the question for a restaurant, for example, but for a home improvement company, that frequency won’t fly. While MD consumers like e-mail marketing, it must be well-balanced with your business.
Embrace Maryland’s cultural and ethnic diversity. While not all areas of MD are culturally diverse, many sectors of the state most certainly area. If your business attracts those in Maryland from all walks of life, consider those differences in marketing your MD business. If you’re not in tune with the cultural differences outside of your own, elicit the help of someone who is. Have them critique your business from their perspective. What are the first impressions? What does or does not attract them to your business? What changes could be made to better accommodate those customers? Changes need not be dramatic, but may well make a big difference in attracting more Maryland customers.
And finally, your MD marketing efforts need to be consistent. All too often, business owners allow their marketing efforts to happen in waves. When business is slow, their marketing efforts increase. It’s a both a knee-jerk reaction to the here and now, as well as an opportunity to keep those on staff busy when business isn’t. But wave marketing, as I have just decided to coin it, is not effective. Marketing efforts of all types need time to gel. If you wait until business is slow to begin marketing, you will still need to wait for the results. Your best bet is to maintain consistent efforts – both during busy and slow times – to ensure smaller waves and more consistent results.