As we roll into March with the craziness of the start of a new year well in our rearview mirror, the majority of us marketing professionals are busy working on how to meet our business objectives for 2014.
We always start out the year with high hopes and aspirations. But many times we end up falling into the same familiar strategies and tactics that may get us an incremental increase in our results, but not necessarily the game-changing improvements we would love to see.
In this post, I will explore some concepts that may challenge your thinking about local marketing. If you are part of an organization that markets locally across multiple geographic locations, these concepts can help you meet and exceed your 2014 objectives.
As you may be aware, ExactTarget (purchased last year by Salesforce) puts out an extensive marketing survey every year and gets more than 2,500 responses from a wide range of companies and industries regarding their plans, priorities, and objectives for the coming year. Based on this year’s survey, the top three objectives for marketers in 2014 were:
- Driving increased conversion rates
- Increasing and improving brand awareness
- Collecting, measuring, and using behavior-based data
What is not surprising is that all of these top priorities are really components of what it takes to drive new business opportunities. In our experience of working with multi-location businesses, this means doing a better job of improving visibility and conversion rates locally, where the business transaction actually takes place. Doing this effectively requires marketers to apply at the local level the same types of strategies and techniques they use when marketing their organization at the national level. One of the greatest opportunities to realize significant improvement in each of the three top priorities outlined above is through a more effective local web strategy. Let’s take a look at how one can be applied.
Driving Increased Conversion Rates
Most multi-location businesses who engage us focus strongly on their national website and marketing strategy. While such a strategy is necessary, so too is a well thought out local strategy, and many of those businesses don’t have one. That is unfortunate, because it is at the local level where people are researching, evaluating, and engaging to purchase those businesses’ products and services.
The foundation of any local marketing effort should be the website of your local representative in each geographic market. The reason for this is simple. When your target customers find outabout you through search, referrals, or any number of marketing outreach channels, the first place most of them will go to learn more about your offering is the website of the local entity with whom they will interact to make their purchase.
A surefire way to significantly increase the conversion rates of your local marketing efforts is to see that your local websites follow the same best practices you apply to managing your central corporate website. The opportunity to personalize web content so it speaks directly to people in a specific locale and offers locally relevant products or services is far greater with a local website than with a national one. At a minimum, local websites can increase conversion rates if they …
- offer a professional image that adheres to your brand standards and
- offer a well thought out sales path – one that provides all the information a prospect needs to take the next step in your sales process for each of your products or services.
It is also important to ensure that each local website presents …
- unique, accurate and timely information about your products and services,
- seasonal information, and
- promotional content that is coordinated with other marketing tactics.
When these elements are working together, they provide the perfect storm to maximize conversion rates at the local level.
Increasing and Improving Brand Awareness
There are many strategies and techniques for increasing and improving brand awareness at the national level. We have found two to be most effective for doing so at the local level:
- referrals and
- organic search visibility.
First of all, getting solid referrals from happy customers will always be one of the most effective ways to increase brand awareness and attract new customers. Referrals typically come through at the local level and often serve as a starting point for a new business relationship.
But what happens after an initial referral? Many prospects will visit a company’s local website to learn more about the company and get a comfort level before taking the next step. Most of the time they won’t know the company website, so they will perform a branded keyword search with the company or product name. For this reason, it is important to maximize the potential of that referral by connecting the prospect with a professional website that well represents the brand and has the information they need to take the next step in the sales process.
What about prospects that don’t have a referral or want to compare options? These consumers are typically using a search engine to find a local provider of the product or service they want. Search engines are the greatest tool we have ever had to connect us with the things we are looking for, so when people search for the products andservices you provide, it is critical that you be a highly visible option in every local market you serve. A recent national survey by ChamberofCommerce.com showed that the two most effective marketing channels for local businesses were word of mouth referrals and organic search engine optimization. And several studies have shown that about 85% to more than 90% of searches result in a click-thru on organic search results versus a 5% to 15% click-thru on paid ads.
A study, PPC accounts for just 6% of total search clicks [infographic], based on 1.4 billion search queries actually showed that 94% of clicks were on organic search results while only 6% of the searches resulted in a click on paid search listings.
What this means is that, while paid search ads can be effective, the lion’s share of the opportunity is still in effective organic visibility that cannot be purchased. It must be earned through the implementation of best practices that optimize online content for each location in which you want to be visible.
Inserting individual location pages on a national website – a common strategy –may have some impact on organic visibility. But that cannot do what placing locally focused, locally relevant content on a local site can do to make you highly visible across a large number of targeted keywords and in geographically specific searches for the primary and secondary markets served by each of your locations. The more visibility you have in each of the ways people search for what you offer, and the more the geographical areas in which you can be found, the greater your overall brand awareness will become.
In addition to referrals and search visibility, other marketing techniques can be effective in building awareness, including (to name just a few) direct mail, mass media, social media, and events. Multiple studies have shown that reaching prospective customers over multiple media has a cumulative impact that provides better results than the sum of any individual medium on its own. Effectively leveraging a number of media to coordinate your messaging and drive traffic back to your local websites will result in maximum exposure and conversion. At the same time, it will allow you to measure the results – which brings us to our next point.
Collecting, Measuring, and Using Behavior-based Data
The third most important thing on our marketing to-do lists in 2014 is to get better information on how our prospects and customers find and interact with our product/service offerings. Once again, there are many ways to approach this as your organization is (we hope!) engaging with customers and prospects across a wide range of channels and media.
Staying with our theme, the local website is an incredible place to get very useful data on the behavior of our target customers. First of all, because it’s localized, we get information on how people interact with us at that specific location. People in Southern California have different needs than people in Northern Minnesota. Using standard tools like Google Analytics on a local level can tell us what people are interested in and how they go about researching your company and its products at a local level. What’s important to them? When are they actively researching? What is the sales cycle? The local datayou get can be rolled up, too, so you can see trends and other information at both a regional and national level
In addition, there are more-advanced analytic tools that can be applied to each website to give you detailed information on …
- how users read the content of your websites,
- what messaging is resonating, and
- how to improve conversion.
One such advanced tool I recommend is called ClickTale. It lets you see how visitors are interacting with your website in real time, just as if you were looking over their shoulders. If you don’t want to invest a lot of time or money, a free version of this product is available, and it will give you some really good information.
Barriers to the Implementation of a Local Website Strategy
At this point, if you’re like many marketing executives I’ve worked with, you’re probably thinking, “That sounds great, but who’s going to do all the work to make this happen?”
That’s a great question!
To do an effective job at the local level through traditional means would require an army of people to create content, update websites, manage promotions, track results, and so forth. Some organizations have taken the “massive army” approach, relying on their local representatives to get the job done. You yourself may have hundreds or even thousands of dealers, agents, locations, or whatever that you could put to the task. But, while this approach can work, you typically get mixed results because of varying local skill sets and the unavailability of time and resources at some locations. Let’s face it, your local representatives are busy doing what they do best and rarely have the time or knowledge to do a great job of marketing.
As we see it, the most effective way to achieve the results multi-location local marketers want is to use a combination of local marketing automation tools that help you implement best-practice strategies at the local level with greater efficiency. Many great tools have been created for this purpose, including advanced CRM platforms for managing customer data, social media marketing, PPC, localized variable-print direct mail, and other key tasks.
That, in fact, is why we created MarketSnare. It helps boost your efficiency in handling many of the tasks associated with the development and management of a best-practice local strategy for businesses with a network of local websites. Most notably, you will find yourself much more efficient in handling the tasks associated with organic search-engine visibility programs.
The key is thinking about what the absolute ideal solution would be for a single location, then using the best tools to apply that solution effectively across all locations. Your efforts should be focused on establishing local websites that give you high local online visibility, let you personalize your message for each local market, and finally let you measure the results of all your marketing. Other tools should be applied to reach target prospects in each local market and drive them to the web for further research, lead capture, and results measurement.
I have seen this approach produce phenomenal results time and time again for dozens of organizations I have worked with, from the very small to the very large, across a wide range of industries. In a recent study entitled Integrate Corporate Marketing at the local Level to Go “Glocal”, Gartner forecasts that companies that invest in integrated local marketing will increase revenue 10 to 15% by year 2015. The opportunity in this area is truly astounding. To echo Gartner’s research, I can say with confidence that implementing an efficient, innovative, and highly integrated local marketing approach will help you meet – and exceed – your 2014 marketing objectives.