Forrester Study Reveals Gaps in Multi-Location Marketing

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We’ve had a philosophy for many years now at Location3 that reflects our general thinking when it comes to digital marketing for businesses: “Everything Is Local.” While it may be easy to think of “local businesses” as your average hometown diner or auto mechanic, there is also a good chance that one or more global brands has a business location in your hometown as well. From your local Ace Hardware in a nearby shopping plaza to the Honey Baked Ham store that catered your July 4th celebration, these businesses are very much “local” to your community despite being part of larger organizations.

Which is why we’re particularly intrigued by the new study on multi-location marketing developed by Forrester (and the excellent recap by SearchEngineLand’s Greg Sterling) that highlights just how far behind the curve many franchise and multi-unit brands are when it comes to successfully executing local marketing programs in 2020. Sterling’s original piece notes some of the key operational challenges faced by the multi-location brands included in the Forrester survey, and we thought it was worthwhile to provide our thoughts on how to overcome these challenges.

Lack of Internal Resources

As an agency that partners with franchise and multi-location businesses, we understand that not all brands have the ability to build robust internal teams that are specialized in search marketing, social media, programmatic, digital video, SEO, analytics, connected TV and the multitude of other tools, channels and tactics that are critical to marketing success in the digital age. When evaluating how to best allocate internal resources and where to look elsewhere for help, we recommend using the Build, Buy, Partner approach that is commonly implemented in the ad tech space. This system can provide increased clarity among your strengths (i.e. brand message and value proposition) and weaknesses (i.e. scalability) as an organization, and help you identify internal barriers to success more efficiently. When it comes to evaluating technology specifically, it’s also important to consider who will be required to manage any new tools and platforms you may be looking to acquire or license. Do those experts currently exist within your organization or will you need to hire and/or train them? Many Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platforms may seem enticing during sales demos, but the hidden costs associated with implementation and ongoing management can tally up quickly.

Strategic Gaps & Siloed Tactical Execution

The Forrester study resulted in 61% of multi-location marketers surveyed stating that “improving local marketing effectiveness is a high priority” but even more than that (77%) complained that executing scalable, localized digital programs is still a challenge. One common challenge we often see in our business is the lack of coordination between national and local efforts. In many cases, these programs are managed by entirely different teams who look at completely different data sets and who use different technology platforms to execute marketing tactics and advertising buys. This Church-and-State approach is rarely successful, and tends to create a lot of wasted resources, time and ad spend in the process. As you prepare your marketing roadmaps for 2021, it’s time reevaluate how you’re integrating national strategies with local tactics. Do you have the right people in place or is it worth partnering with strategic experts to bridge the gap? What tools and platforms are you using, and do they integrate with one another to help you achieve scale while also providing transparency into the data for everyone on your team (and your franchisees)? They exist, if you know where to look.

It’s also worth testing newer strategies and tactics that allow for national reach with local customization. For example, Connected TV advertising is a great way to leverage brand messaging and creative that is often used in national ad campaigns, while also incorporating hyper-local calls-to-action for prospective customers to easily connect them to a nearby business location. More commonly used channels like Paid Search and Paid Social should also get a second look with regard to how campaigns are built, targeted and optimized. There are countless vendors out there who can “execute” SEM and social advertising for you, but it’s worth reviewing their approach and attention to detail. Are they customizing ad copy for each location? Are they spending too much on broad keywords in search or geo-targeting incorrectly? How often do they refresh ad creative? You don’t have to sacrifice scalability in an effort to create ad campaigns that are localized for every franchise.

Centralization + Local Activation = Revenue Growth

Sterling’s original article also reveals the three most common approaches to local marketing identified in the Forrester survey: Centralized, Decentralized & Hybrid. We firmly believe in the Hybrid model approach, which we’ll refer to as “Centralization + Local Activation” for the purposes of this blog post. Generally speaking, there are some channels and tactics that should absolutely be centralized and managed at the brand/corporate level – either internally, or in conjunction with agency partners. Our recommended approach to centralization includes the following, at a minimum:

Management and oversight of the above from the top down provides greater consistency in your brand message, systemwide data management, distribution of local business information throughout the web, and holistic KPI tracking and performance measurement.

When it comes to Local Activation, start by prioritizing the goals and needs of your franchise owners first and evaluate whether your current tactics and technology platforms are actually contributing to a lift in local revenue. Here are a few ways we believe franchisees can reach and convert more customers in their local market under the Hybrid marketing model:

Franchisee-funded Ad Campaigns
Local advertising on Google, Facebook, Yelp and more can provide a direct stream of new customers for only a few hundred dollars in ad spend per month. If franchisees are contributing their own ad spend dollars, make sure they have a marketing dashboard that gives them complete transparency into their own campaign performance and ROI metrics.

Customer Reviews Management
Plenty of data already exists that reinforces the positive impact of monitoring and responding to reviews. Franchisees should be given the tools to do so with ease, while allowing for at least some level of corporate oversight and brand management.

Social Media Management
Much like customer reviews, channels like Facebook can be a great way for franchisees to engage customers and create loyal advocates. It’s important to separate posting (and “Boosting” posts) from ad campaigns, however. With all of the campaign levers and rich targeting available, it’s best to leave social ad management in the hands of proven experts in order to maximize ROI.

Keep in mind that many software platforms and technology may not give you the ability to execute all of the above, which is why it’s important to evaluate what’s worked well previously and where opportunities may exist for an expansion (or in other cases, consolidation) of tools and services on the local level going forward.

A Final Word on Local Marketing Growth & Support

Buying or licensing a new platform designed to help you scale local marketing or benefit your franchisees is often the easy part. Expecting your team at corporate or your franchisees to be experts in said new platform, or scaling local marketing in general, is a different story. If improving your local marketing is a high priority during the next 12 months and beyond, you ultimately need a blend of in-house experts and strategic partnerships that are supported by integrated data, while leveraging the right technology for efficiency. It’s also important to allow room for more creativity and the testing of new ideas, channels, tactics and solutions. (*Location3 promotional alert*) That’s where we come in, with more than 15 years’ experience in creating and executing scalable, localized marketing programs for some of the world’s most recognizable multi-location brands. Our People + Platform model creates a unique strategic partnership with your corporate marketing team, while our proprietary local marketing software, LOCALACT, gives franchisees and business owners the tools and dedicated marketing support they need to increase local revenue. We know what it takes to create the right balance between national strategies and local tactics to successfully achieve revenue growth, and we’re ready to help if you’re interested in learning more about how we can do the same for your business.

We appreciate the new data and insights produced by the recent Forrester survey, and we’re enthused by the fact that many multi-location brands are thinking seriously about how to make local marketing more scalable and efficient going forward.

 

Header Photo by Sammie Vasquez on Unsplash

 

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