The recent INMA World Congress was unique in the number of new ideas and opportunities that were presented. All of us who attended walked away with new programmes to consider or promotions to test.

This is why I enjoy going every year and the reason I recommend it to clients.

I was reflecting on the sessions and hallway discussion as I began drafting this blog in the Innovative Advertising Solutions series, and want to build on that enthusiasm to test new ideas with business-to-business orientation.

Let’s look for advertising opportunities in business segments where there is change occurring and the need for marketing is significant. The industry historically has focused on retail business as the core advertising source. More recently, the shift to recognising local service providers as customers has grown.

Let’s take a closer look at one segment to illustrate the broader point, because local news media companies should identify business segments undergoing changes in their own environment as targets for marketing and advertising services.

In much of North America, the last several years have brought growth in the fitness and wellness businesses. These services are fundamentally delivered locally; you cannot go to to run a 5K or get a massage.

Gyms proliferated with the early growth in big-box, full-service facilities. These include 24 Hour Fitness and YMCAs as examples of players who dominated the gym landscape.

The business then segmented with some moving upscale like the East Bank Club in Chicago, the Equinox in New York City, and the Yorkville Club in Toronto. The marketing battle of the big gyms was fought through price promotions, signage, local radio, Web, and direct mail.

As the market matured, the fitness business unbundled to narrow specialty providers: smaller retail locations dedicated to just yoga, just spin, just Pilates, only for women, or only for children.

These narrow but premium local options were joined by very low-priced strip center locations with equipment and virtually no amenities, such as showers.

Some of the full-service providers and early players could no longer compete. Ballys merged with LA Fitness in the United States, and Gold’s Gyms sold locations to GoodLife in Canada.

Where were local news-media providers while this marketing war in fitness was taking place? Largely absent … often not even on the radar screen.

Some reasons are good ones: The cost of sale to smaller players can be high; their needs are not traditional and often more in targeting; some are franchises that have special selling considerations.

However, I believe there were and still are opportunities in fitness and other non-traditional segments undergoing changes.

These are the customers looking for those innovative ideas we hear about at the INMA conferences, customers who need help in integrated marketing plans that include a mix of local media and digital services, such as search engine optimisation.

I believe the path to growth is more than just cool or neat new media products for consumers, but also in identifying the business segments in need of fresh thinking around advertising and business services.

These services do not need to just deliver “our” eyeballs, but can be somewhat independent of or an extension of that model — new reach through partner sites and agency level services.

How do you identify these segments?

Telltale signs include real estate reports on which businesses are expanding or where new players are entering markets; changes in consumer spending habits; regulatory changes or deregulation.

Do not depend on traditional forecasts of media spending, because these opportunities typically do not make their lists. Their initial spend is in non-measured media and are often below the radar screen of these formulaic projections.

Of course, the local news-media company will need the right model to reach and sell these types of advertisers, which is different from the traditional, higher-cost approach. Pricing schemas and service offerings might be more tailored than available today.

But success in the future is in serving businesses like these — because serving only the historical advertising customer is not sustainable.

Have a growth category you want to share? Let us know!