For national brands, marketing begins on Main Street

By Maria WoodAugust 13, 2014

There’s a time-honored adage that says all politics is local. In today’s super-connected digital world, national brands are realizing that all marketing is local. Although coast-to-coast advertising is a powerful tool for creating awareness of a brand’s goods and services, national brands still must reach the consumer at the local level—because, quite simply, that’s where the consumer shops.

“As consumers move further down the sales cycle, local marketing becomes critical,” says Susan Tormollen, vice president of marketing at Balihoo. “This is due to the fact that consumers are local—they search, shop and purchase locally, making it imperative for national brands to have a strong local presence online and communicate with their customers with local messages.”

Statistics scaffold her statement. Here are some numbers from a study commissioned by Google and carried out by Ipsos MediaCT and Purchased of consumers’ local search behavior:

  • On the street where I live: Four out of five consumers want ads customized to their city, zip code, or immediate surroundings.
  • The mobile explosion: 56 percent of searches are locally focused when conducted on a mobile device.
  • More sales: 18 percent of local smartphone searches led to a purchase within a day versus 7 percent of non-local searches.

Reaching the consumer locally

National brands are certainly cognizant of the importance of local marketing. BIA/Kelsey projects local marketing ad spending is on track to soar to nearly $150 billion in 2017. Balihoo’s own 2014 Digital Marketing Study found that 75 percent of brands invest in local marketing, yet only 8 percent are “completely satisfied” with those programs. The Boise, Idaho firm theorizes one reason for that dissatisfaction is “the disconnect between what these brands know they should be doing digitally and what they are actually doing.”

One way to bridge that gap is to make it easy for a consumer or prospect to ferret out a product or product category, thereby capturing strong leads for the brand, Tormollen says. To do that, she recommends specially optimized local websites.

“Local websites help brands show up in a local organic search, such as Google,” she says. “Search engines give preference to localized results so a brand with local websites will have far greater search results coverage than one with a standalone national site. Plus, local websites are the foundation for all other local marketing efforts. They are a ‘place’ to drive demand tactics, such as display, paid search and email.”

Customized for each brand

Since no two brands or strategies are alike, marketing efforts are customized to meet the needs of the particular brand. Balihoo’s marketing automation software platform offers different solution modules and permits customers to utilize data to scale marketing initiatives to all their local markets, Tormollen says.

Once a foundation is selected (typically a local website), a customer can cherry pick the module and media channels that best suit its brand and campaign objectives, Tormollen adds.

When constructing a local marketing campaign, three types of data are analyzed, according to Tormollen:

1. A brand’s channel specific data, such as the name, address, place, store hours and products carried for each of its local affiliates/locations.

2. A brand’s customer data, such as past purchases, customer preferences, customer birthdays, last appointment, etc.

3. Third-party data, such a census data, demographic data and weather data, which is incorporated based on the unique needs of a brand.

National brands take the lead

Tormollen has noticed a shift of late regarding how national brands approach local marketing. It used to be that the national brand provided franchisees with what it considered easy-to-use campaign blueprints and tool kits. It was then up to the franchisee to implement the local marketing initiatives. “I like to call this the build it and they will come approach,” Tormollen says.

But with the marketing landscape becoming increasingly complex and digitally focused, many small business and franchisees lack the sophisticated know-how to execute a successful local marketing plan, Tormollen finds. “In fact, the data we have from over 300,000 affiliates shows that when left to make their own choices about media and strategy, local affiliates and/or franchisees will stick with what they know best—traditional tactics like advertising, direct mail, or in-store collateral,” she says. “What brands need to be executing, however, are local digital tactics, perhaps combined with some local traditional tactics, when it makes sense.”

Therefore, for a local campaign to succeed, the national brand must pilot the game plan either in part or in its entirety. For instance, a national brand can spearhead a local website for all franchisees to utilize. In that case, a franchisee isn’t required to contribute, Tormollen notes.

Then there are other times when a national brand and the franchisee or local affiliate work together. In that arrangement, the national brand sponsors triggered email campaigns, and the local affiliate opts in, determines how much it wants to spend per month and what offers to highlight. “Basically, the franchisee makes a few decision points and it’s a ‘set it and forget it’-type program activated via automation and ultimately owned by the national brand,” Tormollen says.

Cooperation between national brand and local affiliate typically facilitates better results, she adds.

“When the national brand leads-out on local marketing, allowing the local affiliate/franchisee to contribute where they offer the most value, such as local events, this is when brands are most successful,” Tormollen says. “And most franchisees are happy when they see leads and increased sales, regardless of who ‘owned’ the local marketing effort.”

How national brands can beef up their local marketing efforts is the topic of a LeadsCon 2014 panel: “National Brand, Local Demand: Building Reach that Scales.” Tormollen will be a panelist, along with David Hirschman, Street Fight; Mike Boland, BIA/Kelsey; and Rick Milenthal, The Shipyard.

The event will take place at the Marriott Marquis in New York City Aug. 14-15.

This article is brought to you by LeadsCon New York.

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