Local Targeting Via Service Providers

How much do you pay attention to your service provider?

If you're like me, you tend to sign up for broadband, set up the wireless network, and leave it be. I take it for granted that the connection is always on and always working (well, almost always) but this is obviously not the case for the majority of Americans.

As we all know by now, 50 percent of the online population has a broadband connection at home. This amounts to about 35 percent of the United States being online via broadband at home at any given time. Of course, these numbers do not take into account the percentage of Americans who use any of the optimized dial-up services, so the percentage of U.S.-based Internet users who are surfing on a faster connection is possibly much larger.

This means that the percentage of U.S.-based surfers who have access to, and can properly utilize broadband content, is much higher than we are estimating. With all of these people using more sophisticated means of Internet access, it's a wonder that we don't hear more about problems accessing the Web anymore.



Gone are the days of large-scale complaints against AOL or any other provider for reliable access. But there are still problems lying below the surface that have enabled a number of smaller service providers to pop up in local markets. There is a burgeoning business in local providers and local maintenance for wireless networks as they pop up all over the country.

I just spent a week in upstate New York and saw a number of ads for local service providers and I was amazed at the proliferation of these local-oriented providers and how they advertise themselves to the general populace. They advertise for strong customer service and faster connections than their competitors (which is no different than any of the large providers), but they have a softer touch.

They target the local consumer and go so far as to leverage the opportunity to support a local company rather than support the "big guys." They must have a strong enough following to maintain an ongoing business because they are spending enough money to break the clutter and speak to me, which makes me wonder how I can utilize these types of providers to speak to a consumer. Are they a more trusted source of information since they offer a local vantage point to the consumer?

From a marketers perspective, we tend to focus on the 'Big 3' (AOL, MSN, Earthlink) and the local relationships that have popped up from Yahoo! and SBC, but we overlook the local providers such as RoadRunner, BestWeb, and others that may provide reliable connections but possess a focus on local content. These smaller providers may not aggregate nearly as many subscribers as the larger competition, but I think there must be some value to marketers in working with these local companies.

Beyond the pure service providers, there is a burgeoning business in setting up local Wi-Fi networks for businesses (such as coffee shops and motels or hotels) and these local Wi-Fi networks also offer the opportunity to speak to a targeted consumer in a regional environment.

These services offer setup and maintenance for a small fee, and can certainly work with the local establishments to provide detailed demographic and psychographic information that helps an advertiser understand the mindset of a local user. Is it worth the time to target these types of companies or does the cost outweigh the response?

Of course the question is not answered on a broad basis. These are answers that only you can provide for your clients, but there are a number of unique ways to leverage the information at hand and target your audience in a very detailed and regional fashion.

The typical affiliate program and the typical ad network may provide a means of getting into these local markets, but it is obvious from the buzz generated by local search and local content, that these are the types of opportunities interesting to marketers as we move forward into 2005.

Are you venturing into these types of regional ad efforts online and if so, what do you see is working well for you?

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