When driving around our beautiful state, we see rivers, lakes, trees, domestic and wild animals, and the occasional town. As you travel north, the towns are further apart and farms dot the landscape. This is rural Michigan, with an estimated population of 2,519,000 living in the northern half of the state, the thumb, and the upper peninsula (2017 U.S. Census).
How to Reach the Rural Consumer
The first hurdle to reaching these consumers is the digital gap between rural and non-rural consumers. While nearly 2/3 of rural Americans say they have a broadband internet connection at home, only 58% report using the internet daily and 19% never go online. The fact that substantial segments of rural Michigan lack the infrastructure for high-speed internet undoubtedly contribute to this low use (Pew Research).
However, they are more likely to use smartphones and tablets—67% have smartphones and 43% have tablets. Pew Research reports that the number of rural Americans using the internet is increasing and that they connect with social media.
- 59% use at least one social media outlet
- 58% visit Facebook, 13% visit LinkedIn, and 17% visit Twitter
- 74% visit Facebook daily
What these facts tell us is that well over a million rural Michiganders use their smartphones or tablets to go on the internet daily and they most likely visit Facebook. You can reach these users in a mobile-friendly way.
- Facebook: If you want to separate your personal Facebook presence from your business, create a Facebook page which is a public profile specifically created for businesses, brands, celebrities, causes, and other organizations.
- Your Website: A website builds trust and credibility, creates a good first impression, and helps consumers take the step of contacting you. Consumers are often anxious when calling a lawyer. However, those who visit a website, see your picture, read your profile, and get to know you a little are more likely to call. You can also announce the publication of new material to your website through Facebook.
Connecting With the Other 41%
Other marketing techniques must be included to reach rural consumers who aren’t internet users. Use face-to-face networking to ensure that everyone you know or meet knows that you’re a lawyer and the type of law you practice. A quarterly newsletter sent electronically and in a paper format helps keep your name at the top of their minds. Other techniques include running ads in the local paper, high school football program, and weekly church bulletins. Join local community service organizations that interest you.
Include a picture of yourself in your SBM Member Profile, on your website, blog, billboards, and ads in the local paper. Don’t be surprised if you’re recognized as you move around town. Be ready to talk about your practice and the services you offer. Finally, work with local bar association and your fellow lawyers to encourage mutual referrals. With the proper time and effort, your practice will grow.
After years practicing law, Roberta Gubbins served as editor of the Ingham County Legal News. Since leaving the paper, she provides writing services to lawyers ghostwriting content for websites, blogs, and articles. She is editor of The Mentor, the SBM Master Lawyers Section newsletter.
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