As a media strategist, I am often in the position to research new geographic markets. All markets are not created equal. They each have distinct cultures, ways, sayings, food, traffic patterns, and of course – media. There are great quantitative research tools out there to help you determine effective reach and frequency for your target demographic, but a little qualitative digging also goes a long way. Here are three insights to successful market understanding.

Take a Drive
When it comes to getting a sense of place, take a drive… on Google Earth. Once you have some general guidance on where your target audience may reside or work, spend some time virtually driving the streets. It’s great for billboard shopping of course, but it helps in other ways too. You may discover opportunities that don’t reside in a media kit, such as a great place for a building banner or a street activation. It sparks the imagination and puts you into literal customer journeys.

Interview Sales Reps
No doubt you will have conversations with in-market sales reps about their various ad products, but what they are also useful for is getting local insider information. They are consumers too, and, when considering B2B tactics, they are likely similar to the professionals you are trying to reach. Another area where they are useful is gaining perspective on other media outlets. Sure, they are likely biased against direct competition, but I find that despite a natural competitive bias, sales reps try to be very fair and objective. Competitive or not, by conducting these interviews, you can often get a good understanding of how other media channels are perceived by consumers.

Watch, Listen and Read
Another great way to gain local market understanding is to be a media consumer yourself. Spend time watching news broadcasts online, stream some radio stations to hear local talent, and read some area publications. By immersing yourself in these channels, you pick up on personality, political and social subtleties that cannot be expressed in ratings or impressions. It will also help you vet opportunities for potential earned media follow up.
Nothing beats an actual market visit as a way to learn, but these virtual exercises are more cost effective for planning budgets and still yield terrific insights. And, all these tips are a great way to spark creative thinking and uncover non-traditional opportunities, which means innovation for the client.