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Marketing and advertising were tough enough before the digital era. Now, small and midsize businesses must try to understand their customers better, evaluate important demographic clues and assess whether their own internet and social-media efforts are effective.
It’s a daunting task, but the USA TODAY NETWORK, part of Gannett Co., has launched a new service to help businesses cut through the clutter and hone in on effective strategies.
“Nobody in the industry is doing it this way,” said Anthony Bratti, regional president in Phoenix for the USA TODAY NETWORK. “They’re doing pieces of it.”
The new service, LOCALiQ, aims to help businesses with marketing partly based on customer demographics, across Web-search, social-media and mobile platforms. 
“Most of our (business) customers don’t really know their own key, core customers such as their demographic (groupings) or the life stages they’re in,” Bratti said.
Businesses often don’t realize who their potential customers are and what brands they prefer, Bratti said. They also might not know when customers are reading websites such as and which sections within those websites.
The LOCALiQ service is national in scope. Gannett owns USA TODAY and 109 local media properties. One of the largest is The Arizona Republic and website
A key component of the new service, LOCALiQ Grader, brings sophisticated data-intelligence analytics to help local businesses monitor and enhance their online presence across Facebook, Google and other sites — and compare it with competitors.
The technology then recommends advertising and marketing approaches for businesses, using data generated across a sizable client base, to show what succeeds. Real-time feedback allows clients to tweak their strategies and evaluate the success of their campaigns.
Local businesses often work with two or three outside partners or vendors when making marketing decisions, said Patrick Grogan, vice president of marketing for Gannett and the USA TODAY NETWORK.
In addition, businesses are approached by an average of six sales vendors each week, according to an industry survey.
“So local businesses need context on how it all works together,” Grogan said.
LOCALiQ Grader, he said, provides analysis on a range of aspects such as whether company ads show up in search engines, whether a firm’s website is mobile-friendly and fast, where companies advertise and what local competitors are doing.
It offers insights such as the best times of day to place online ads, how many potential customers a company can expect to reach and the average cost per contact. A smart-technology feature learns what drives leads on search engines, and another feature provides insight across all of a business’ marketing activity.
Gannett and the USA TODAY NETWORK offer in-depth analysis and guidance.
“We have gained a strong understanding of local marketing and, with LOCALiQ, we are bringing together all of our assets to make a real difference for local businesses,” said Sharon Rowlands, president of marketing solutions for the USA TODAY NETWORK.
These approaches combine enhanced online advertising and marketing with efforts to reach customers offline through newspaper advertising and mail promotions.
Over the past two years, the USA TODAY NETWORK has been developing and investing in digital to deliver a more simplified approach to marketing.
Local and regional businesses often must manage up to 10 marketing tactics at a time, then try to assess what’s working, Bratti said. 
“USA TODAY/Gannett knows local consumers better than anyone in the industry,” he added. “We are now able to give the same marketing capabilities (as) Fortune 50 companies … to our local business clients.”
Gannett’s digital advertising and marketing revenue increased 8.5 percent in the second quarter of 2018 to nearly $108 million, accounting for 32 percent of total advertising and marketing revenue. That’s up from a 26.7 percent share for digital one year earlier.
“LOCALiQ is the platform that effectively utilizes our scale, proprietary technology, data-driven solutions and informed best practices,” said Kevin Gentzel, chief revenue officer for Gannett and the USA TODAY NETWORK. “LOCALiQ, and the technology powering it, will give our clients a big advantage in reaching customers in consistent and innovative ways.”
Research firm BIA/Kelsey estimates that U.S. local advertising spending will reach $151.2 billion this year, up 5 percent over 2017.


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