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Marketing to Rural Communities

Connecting with rural populations through marketing initiatives is just as important as other targeted audiences. Rural communities make up a substantial amount of the population of South Africa.

Rural community members purchasing needs and interests frequently align with consumers in other regions; however, the way rural community members research prospective providers and suppliers may differ and need to be addressed by rural-informed marketing strategies.

Much of traditional advertising work focuses on urban and suburban populations. Such focus is reflective in widely popularized consumer trends, marketing campaigns, and publicity strategies. While these populations make up the majority of the American population, it does not constitute the entirety of our nation’s widely diverse communities. Thus, urban and suburban marketing techniques may fail to capture the attention of audiences that include residents in rural communities.

Misconceptions About Marketing to Rural Populations

Unfortunately, many misconceptions exist around how organisations can connect with rural communities. Limited experience, inaccurate information may account for the popularising of these misconceptions. To effectively connect with rural populations, organisations must confront such misconceptions with accurate insights into how our wonderfully diverse rural communities contribute to our nation’s population.

Here are a few unfounded misconceptions about rural communities:

  • Rural populations are not online and will not be responsive to digital marketing strategies.
  • Rural communities are self-contained, and residents are not interested in outside offerings.
  • Rural populations only consume traditional media channels such as radio and newspapers.
  • Rural populations are poorer than urban populations and thus are not a viable market for organisations.

These misconceptions regarding our rural communities can greatly impair an organisation’s ability to connect with rural target audiences. In reality, the majority of residents in rural communities are active online, display a vibrant interest in outside perspectives, consume a variety of media channels, and are increasingly diverse in culture and beliefs.

When approached in a respectful and well-researched manner, rural communities can be a very receptive audience for organisations in a variety of sectors.

Effective Strategies for Marketing to Rural Communities

As with all marketing strategies, organisations should invest in market research specific to the communities they are interested in serving. While there are some observable similarities in rural community comparison, every community is unique in its culture, history, and population.

Understanding the target audience(s) on a community-based level is imperative for organisations interested in developing an effective marketing campaign. 

Here are a few tips for getting to know rural communities:

  • Recognise that every community is different and avoid making inaccurate assumptions about audiences.
  • Conducting market research through multiple channels, including community discussion, meeting with community leaders and influencers, and collecting relevant data from surveys, publications, etc.
  • Incorporate community listening strategies into your overall communications approach to stay apprised of current events and updated information regarding community member attitudes, priorities, and values.

Similar to urban and suburban populations, an integrated marketing approach works best in reaching rural populations.

An effective integrated marketing strategy will include traditional media tools (printed materials, radio, newspaper, billboards, etc.), digital marketing initiatives (landing pages, social media, internet-based advertisements, etc.), and publicity (media interviews, podcasts, etc.).

While digital-only marketing tends to dominate mainstream marketing discussion, integrated marketing approaches consistently yield better results while reaching a more diverse audience base.


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