You’ve likely heard the saying, “every journey begins with a single step.” Well, that same concept can be applied to multi location-based marketing strategy. Your multi-location strategy should begin with a single location. That’s the best way to gain clarity around what you need to do at scale.
Here we take a look, at a high level, at what those steps are.
1 - Get inside the head of your local rep, franchisee, or business operator.
Pick a market and think about what, ideally, you would like to achieve if you were that business operator. What marketing needs do they have? What strategic and tactical efforts could make them most successful?
Right on the heels of these considerations is how you, the national brand, will provide or support those needs. Your marketing program has to work even if local operators do nothing because, the reality is, most of them won’t.
We call it the 95/5 rule (instead of the 80/20 rule—95% of your local operators will not do much of anything to support your local marketing efforts. Not because they’re lazy or uncaring, but because they simply don’t have the time, the energy, or in many cases the expertise. Anything you want them to do at the local level needs to be additive, not part of your foundational centralized strategy. Your system needs to do it for them.
Once you have clarity at a local level, you can begin to scale upward and outward to create a strategy that will work for most of your locations. There will be local variations. The key is to leverage your corporate content and other marketing assets, localize them to the market, and personalize them based on the needs of the local representative. The goal is to implement marketing best practices with as much local relevance as possible while maintaining brand and message consistency. What can we do to dominate this one local market? Then we gather local marketing intel and scale!
Shift your mindset from business operator to customer. If you’re in the local market and you have a need for what your business has to offer, where will you look to find options? When you look, which businesses do you find?
A Google, or internet, search is a likely place to start, but it’s not the only place to look. You’ll also want to consider the social media channels your target audience might use, and even traditional channels like outdoor, radio, direct mail, etc., as relevant to your market and your products and services.
This will give you a baseline of what you’re competing against and what’s being done in the local market.
2 - Define your core products and services.
What specific products and services will you be selling into this market? Break these out by target market and group them, as appropriate, to identify core areas of focus. Each of these focus areas, for instance, might become a page on your website with associated keywords (more about this later).
For each, consider what your core value proposition is relative to your customers. In doing this, you may also want to develop buyer personas, or detailed outlines of what a typical customer is like: demographics (e.g., gender, age, income, education, family size, etc.) as well as psychographics (What do they like to do? What’s important to them? What do they value?).
In some cases, the national brand may already have a good starting point here that can help local sites drill down more specifically to select the products and services likely to resonate most in their local market.
3 - Create your positioning to drive compelling messaging.
Depending on how your local competition is presenting itself and the benefits it has to offer, how will you position what you have to offer in more important and compelling ways to meet your audiences’ needs—and respond to the questions they might have.
When it comes to content, more is more. When consumers are on the search for something—whether it’s HVAC services, a pet groomer, a masseuse, or any number of other services—they want answers to the questions they have. Not just at a basic level, but in sufficient detail to help them make a buying decision.
While some of the general messaging around your products and services may be able to be scaled across multiple locations, you’ll also want to consider important local variations. For instance, you don’t want to have pictures of mountains on your website if you’re based in Miami – or pictures of palm trees if you’re based in Denver.
4 - Identify your top communication channels.
Your website is likely to embody what you do as a business and is always a good place to start. This is where a consumer engages with your brand, consumes your messaging, makes a decision on if you are a good fit for them, and decides whether or not to take the next step to make a purchase.
Like your corporate brand website, each local website becomes the embodiment of what you do as a business in the context of the local market. There are advantages to having a standalone website for each local market. The big advantage is the ability of your local website to make your location much more relevant to the local market which will be rewarded by Google with better ranking for more search terms.
What channels, in addition to your website, will you add into the mix? These considerations will be based in part on what you learned about your local target audience preferences and your competitors’ communication activities. What's important is that you have the ability to test different channels and messaging to find the most effective combinations over time.
5 - Evaluate existing visibility.
How are you ranking for keywords that are important to your business across all of your markets, for both your primary geography (e.g., Indianapolis) and relevant secondary geographies (e.g., suburbs, large neighborhoods or other search terms like “central Intiand,” or SW Indy,” etc.). When a consumer needs something and they go to search for it—online—if you don’t show up, you virtually don’t exist (pun intended).
In search, it's all about understanding how people are looking for the things we do, and what we have to offer, and making sure we are visible. There are basically three main ways to do that with search:
- Organic listings.
- Google local "map pack" listings.
- Paid digital ads.
We also recommend evaluating your social media presence in each market. What's your reach? What's your engagement? How much content are you posting? How good is it? What quantity and quality of reviews have you receive? What is the accuracy of business listings in each of your locations?
6 - Determine what to invest in.
Based on all of the research you’ve done about your competition, your customers and potential customers, the products and services you have to offer, and your current level of awareness, your next step is to determine the key areas you want to invest in. This will obviously depend on your business and your local market—each business and each location is different—but some of the most popular and most effective include:
- Organic visibility, or search engine optimization (SEO) – using search to connect with people actively looking for what you have to offer. Organic visibility is earned, so it takes an investment in strategy and effort to make it work. If you do a good job, organic will produce organic traffic and leads at 1/10 to 1/32 the cost of paid search ads. It's a great foundation for your marketing program because it connects you with customers actively looking for what you do, it's highly trusted by consumers, and it’s known to have the highest marketing ROI of any other channel by a wide margin. You don't pay for a click and your visibility doesn't go away when your ad budget runs out.
- Digital advertising – great because it can help you start driving traffic instantly. Unfortunately, most markets are saturated and the bids are so high that it has become difficult to make a good return on ad spend without having really good efficiency in ad management, solid strategy, and high conversion rates. Localization is a critical factor in all of these things.
- Direct mail – direct mail may seem like an outmoded channel, but it’s actually making a comeback and can be a very cost-effective way to reach specific market segments.
One of the big advantages that national brands have is bigger budgets and better access to specialized resources—like video production, good photography, graphic design, etc.—that you can provide to local sites. Localization and personalization are important to your local reps and drive local relevance and conversion. The key on the local level is to take the great brand assets you have access to and make them relevant to the local market--you get the great productive quality while still using local relevance to maximize visibility and conversion rates.
Remember, we’re still thinking about a single market here. Ultimately, though, you’ll want to consider how you will extend these strategies across all of your locations in ways that make sense from a budget as well as an impact standpoint. That’s what makes the final step so critical.
7 - Measuring results and making continuous improvements.
From a single local market, to a multi-location brand strategy that encompasses dozens—even hundreds—of locations, it’s important to put a process in place to continually monitor and measure results. That means establishing goals and objectives, up front, tracking the results of each initiative, making adjustments based on what you learn, and repeating the process continually.
Just a very seemingly minor change in leads generated, or landing page conversions can have a big impact on your bottom line. Multiply that impact across all of your locations and the results can be truly astounding. We’ve seen those kinds of results with our clients so we know it’s possible.
Yes, this may all seem intimidating But, in general, if you can focus on creating one strong localized market and then transfer what you learn across additional sites, you’ll soon see your results increasing exponentially.
Too much to take on? We understand. You have a lot on your plate and effectiveness from a localization standpoint can be time-consuming. We can help.