Selling to Multi-Location Brands: Who Makes the Decisions

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Selling to national brands that market locally is one of the toughest challenges facing suppliers of local marketing tech and services, particularly for smaller or specialized players. Though a roughly similar number of multi-location brands make local marketing decisions at headquarters versus in local or regional offices, many take input from both locations. Departmental stratification and a lack of common management tools may be limiting their local marketing effectiveness.

Street Fight surveyed decision-makers at big brands to better understand their local tactics, pain points, and most effective strategies. The report Enterprise Local Marketers 2017: Benchmarking and Best Practices examines those, and by analyzing the survey data and correlating digital marketing effectiveness with spending, tactics, and management, Street Fight identified key enterprise local marketing best practice. Suppliers should try to align their products and sales pitches with those in mind.

As shown below, across tactics, over a third of those big companies we surveyed manage local digital marketing in a centralized fashion, but a similar number do so locally or regionally. Local sites and email are the tactics most often de-centralized; mobile and paid search the most often centralized. The biggest companies tend to be more centralized. These tendencies remain consistent with our 2016 survey.

That doesn’t mean that it will be a simple matter of identifying where local decisions are made, and concentrating resources there. For example, of the respondents that made search decisions in a centralized fashion, a third made local site decisions locally, and one-fifth did email that way. In many cases, suppliers will need buy-in from multiple locations. On that point, our best practice analysis showed some correlation between marketing effectiveness and managing digital marketing with equal input from local offices and headquarters. Those companies had better-than-average success at conversion, upselling, and customer loyalty across tactics. And those that managed paid search in a joint fashion showed more effectiveness at the top of the marketing funnel, too.

We also asked the enterprise local marketers about how they managed data and customer information. To evaluate marketing effectiveness, most (56%) used website analytics, while over one-third used point-of-sale data and/or promotional codes and coupons. Relatively few use advanced techniques like multi-touch attribution on local marketing yet. The top three types of local customer information they collected regularly were social media, search behavior, and behavior on their corporate sites. The top data types they said they deployed across the most campaigns and marketing programs were point-of-sale purchase data, social media, and search. And those that applied online purchase behavior across campaigns reported above average effectiveness.

According to the survey, multiple departments have input into local customer data, but marketing and, perhaps surprisingly, customer service most often had the most authority, as shown above. IT or advertising was rarely the owner of customer data, but advertising was ranked second in many cases. At the billion-dollar enterprises, marketing most often ruled, but sales played a slightly more important role than customer service. Predictably, companies where customer service ruled tended to be good bottom of the funnel objectives like loyalty and support. A strong role by sales produced good results at multiple marketing objectives, from awareness and new customer acquisition through conversion and upselling.

The survey also revealed a frustrating lack of tools for use in evaluating and managing local digital marketing. Over half (57%) said they used social media management tools, reflecting its increasing prominence and effectiveness in local marketing. But third-party dashboard were no more widely deployed than spreadsheets, and only a quarter of respondents said they used a data management platform.

The relative lack of common tools likely reflects siloed responsibilities and less-than-optimal campaign coordination. Often, different departments and locations take leadership of branding versus sales objectives. Local media planning and buying appear to remain focused on efficient reach. So, while sales attribution and lifetime customer value will be the ultimate objectives, even the biggest multi-location brands need help there. Proving ROI and attribution was ranked as the number one or two most difficult digital marketing challenge by 40% of our survey respondents.

David Card is Street Fight’s director of research.

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