Case Study: Using Hyperlocal to Get Around Franchise Marketing Restrictions

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a1Merchant: A-1 Wireless
Size: 4 Locations
Location: South Carolina
Platforms: LoyalBlocks
Bottom Line: Hyperlocal vendors are providing marketing tools that franchisees can use to drive customer retention without overstepping the limitations set by their corporate bosses.

Like many franchise businesses, A-1 Wireless faces tight restrictions on the types of local marketing promotions it’s able to run.

“We’re a franchise for T-Mobile, similar to McDonald’s or Burger King, [so] everything pretty much has to be approved through their corporation,” explains Robert Keyser, A-1 Wireless’ director of sales and operations.

Rather than feeling stifled by T-Mobile’s restrictions, Keyser says he felt challenged to find a local marketing solution that would fit within the company’s notoriously tight guidelines. He ended up researching digital loyalty programs online, and found LoyalBlocks while searching for solutions on Google.

“I was looking for something to do differently than other cell phone stores. It seems like every store you go into is trying to get you to join a loyalty program and put a thing on your key ring. I like the idea of loyalty programs, but I hate the key rings. So, I just figured there had to be somebody out there that made an app for a phone that did the same thing,” Keyser said.

T-Mobile was willing to approve Keyser’s use of LoyalBlocks at A-1 Wireless because the company didn’t feel that the platform could hurt their brand. However, they did place restrictions on how Keyser could promote the app in his stores.

“The only hindrance is, in our location, we can’t actually put up any signage letting people know that we offer the program. It all has to be told to the customers verbally because the posters are not approved by T-Mobile’s marketing team,” Keyser said.

In addition to verbally telling customers about the store’s loyalty program, Keyser said his salespeople are taught to install the app whenever customers sign up for new service. Salespeople will also offer to install the app for customers when they come into the store to pay their bills or purchase new accessories.

“We see a ton of bill payments every single day. Probably 50% of the people who walk through the front door are in to pay their bills, so we reward people for paying their bills … and we reward people for upgrading their devices,” Keyser says.

A-1 Wireless also runs a “happy hour” most days, offering 50%-off accessories to customers who purchase their phones between 10 am and noon — a traditionally slow period for A-1 Wireless.

“I’ve tried to figure out areas or niches that would help drive additional business off of things that we typically wouldn’t get business off of,” Keyser said.

Keyser frequently sends in-app messaging to his customers, letting them know when there’s been a rate plan change or when new phones are launching. He also offers $75 cash rewards for every 10 “punches,” which customers earn by coming into the store to pay their bills or purchase new accessories.

“In our industry, it’s really powerful to be able to send a message to people who have our service and let them know when something new comes out, and then to offer a limited-time sale because they’re a member of that program,” Keyser said. “It pops right up on their phones, and it’s not a test message. It’s an alert, so it actually pops up on their screens and there’s no way to not see that unless they uninstall the app.”

Although Keyser estimates that he was spending four to five hours a week managing his local marketing campaigns at one point, he says he’s gotten faster over the six months that he’s used LoyalBlocks, and now spends just 30 to 45 minutes sending out one or two messages each week.

“Once you get an idea of what works under each category that they let you offer the customer, as far as rewards, it kind of does its own thing,” he said.

The Takeaway
It’s not uncommon for franchise owners to feel restricted in the types of local marketing campaigns they’re able to run. However, Keyser has found a way around those limitations by launching a hyperlocal loyalty program that’s run almost entirely on word-of-mouth. By encouraging his salespeople to promote the program verbally to customers at the point-of-sale, Keyser is able to onboard customers without relying on the types of in-store signage that are usually restricted in corporate environments.

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

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Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.