A brand just isn’t what it used to be. A star rating and a solid review may do more to bring a customer in the door than a recognizable name on the door. In the age of information, loyalty has largely flown out the window.
That’s a wake-up call for the national-local crowd. The McDonald’s, State Farms and Marvin Windows of the world, which sell locally, can no longer rely purely on their strong brands to generate new customers and stave off competition. Now, they need to compete directly with all potential competitors in each market — from competing national brands and chains to individual businesses with trust and authority in their local market — selling a product or service that connects with the local, rather than the national, consumer.
A key challenge is compliance at the local level. Brands must invest in individuals to advocate internally to carry out customer relationships in new, digitally-driven ways.
Going local does not mean shunning scale, it’s about leveraging it better in a digitally-driven marketing landscape. Brands control vast networks of local affiliates who interact with consumers every day, shaping brand perception in an intensely personal and meaningful way. And digital channels, from national and local websites to Yelp and scheduling software, provide points of contact that are gathering massive amounts of data every day. A bevy of new technologies now offer marketers software that provides the business rules, analytics, and automation necessary to create a controlled, flexible and scalable national-to-local strategy that leverage these assets on the ground.
We have already discussed the need for a national-to-local strategy as well as the ins and outs of the software that makes it tick (and the pros and cons of building or licensing that software). But the success of a local service layer ultimately relies on the participation and enthusiasm of the local marketing representatives who will put the strategy into action. Software makes sense of data, and people make sense of software.
The key challenge of implementing marketing technology from the corporate office to the local branches and representatives is compliance at the local level. If the network does not adopt and use it, the investment is not leveraged. Worse, competitors will become more visible. In many ways, convincing an organization to use software is not too different from marketing a product. National teams need to build awareness of the program through education, set expectations around engagement, and then closely monitor activity to drive adoption.
Software can only go so far. A national brand should invest in a team that can work with local reps to learn the ins and outs of the software as well as best practices in using it to represent the brand. It may seem like an unnecessary addition, but the investment pales in comparison to the opportunity cost of a failed initiative.
Once an affiliate is up to date on the basics, brands face the even more daunting challenge of changing the habits of these busy professionals. Without an engagement strategy, a brand team will likely spend its time fighting a difficult battle against attrition as local affiliates lose interest in the efforts.
Often, the difference between engagement and apathy comes down to a single individual within an organization. Marketing teams should focus on identifying an advocate within the business who can assume some of the early marketing responsibilities: entering emails into a database, adding copy or media — whatever the necessary tasks may be to build the basis of their work carrying out national messages. It’s the job of the national team to stay on top of the advocate, and a single platform using cloud-based apps offer that visibility into the activity at the local level.
An advocate within an business can quickly turn into an evangelist across a franchise. Once they see the value in these marketing initiatives, these advocates quickly spread the word to other individuals in the organization and help drive adoption of these tools. National teams need to make sure these advocates have the ability to share their experience with others.
The right software can help streamline operations, but without the necessary people in place to coach local reps through the process, more often than not, an initiative will wither and brands will find themselves writing off the investment.
The Local Service Layer
For a national brand, an effective local service layer should sit at the intersection of people and technology. Technology can help reduce risk, increase efficiencies, and allow marketers to shape the way a network of local businesses interact with their customers. But the value of a local strategy is in bringing the relationships between those on the front lines and customers to a digital environment where its impact can reach well beyond the confines of the counter.
Today, a brand emerges from the bottom up. It’s formed from the collective experiences of consumers who share and evangelize a product or service on behalf of a business. The local service layer aims to create a thriving community around a brand by fostering meaningful relationships between a consumer and the local business with whom they interact every day.
This series explores aspects of national-to-local through a Local Service Layer, helping marketers and solution providers understand how it works and how to put it into action.
This series is sponsored by Surefire Social, a hyperlocal lead generation marketing technology and services company with powerful, personalized and comprehensive enterprise and SMB (small and medium business) solutions.