Survey: Multi-Location Brands’ Most Effective Local Marketing Tactics

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Brands surveyed by Street Fight rate email, direct mail, and their company page on social media as their most effective local marketing tactics. At the same time, a small group of early adopters is using location data to make their overall local digital marketing more effective.

In June, Street Fight surveyed 250 local marketing managers and decision-makers at big multi-location brands about their local marketing and advertising strategies, tactics, and spending. The figure below illustrates what they said were their top five most effective tactics. At the top, there’s a cluster of three types of marketing that made it onto their lists: two digital and one traditional. Then, there’s another group of three, including print, TV, and SEO. In contrast with small businesses that have really centered their efforts on social media and email, and call them most effective, the big brands live in a multichannel world that depends on reaching customers with multiple touch points delivered by a variety of media.

For many multi-location brands, the relative ineffectiveness of search, paid social media, and digital display advertising likely reflects the use of those tactics to promote the corporate brand and e-commerce site, rather than using them to drive traffic to their local branches and retailers.

In order to dig deeper into what’s working and identify best practices, Street Fight asked the survey respondents to rate the effectiveness of their local digital marketing at a variety of objectives, from awareness through conversion to lifetime customer value. We took the results of the ones that rated their efforts “very effective,” the top rating in our 5-point scale, and compared their behavior with those of the overall base of respondents. We looked for what they’re doing differently than the average. It turned out that the very effective local digital marketers have a pretty similar list of top 5 tactics. Across objectives, they rated email their most effective tactic, but far more of them listed TV and SEO in their list. And though neither made it to the top of the list, radio and geo-targeting outperformed relative to the average.

In fact, use of geo-targeting and location data showed very high correlations with effectiveness, as demonstrated in the figure below. The green bar represents what portion of the overall respondents rated their local digital marketing as very effective at the given objective. The orange bar shows the results for the companies that said they regularly collected and analyzed third-party location data (15% of respondents), and the blue bar shows the ones that said they regularly used geo-targeted online or mobile advertising (16%). Across all the objectives, the location data users were 44% more likely to be very effective, and the geo-targeters 53% more.

Using similar effectiveness correlation analysis, the following are some of the local marketing characteristics that seem to be paying off for multi-location brands: 

  • Tactics. As noted, the very effective brands had similar success with their top tactics. They were also more likely to use a broader variety of tactics and media. That said, though they rated TV, direct mail, and radio positively, they were one-fourth less likely to list print among their top tactics. Meanwhile, though relatively few brands are using geo-targeting or re-targeting regularly, those that are seem to be more effective.
  • Customer Data. In addition to location data, the very effective local marketers were more likely to collect and analyze online purchase behavior and corporate site behavior in addition to point-of-purchase data, local site behavior, and social media.
  • Management and evaluation tools and techniques. Brands that used listings management services, social media management tools, and reputation and review management services appear to outperform their peers. Use of these services seemed more effective than use of tools such as third-party digital dashboards, data management platforms, or lead-qualification/nurturing automation. Check out these posts for more details on Street Fight’s analysis of what’s working in reputation and listings management.
  • Spending. One of the biggest indicators of effectiveness is increasing the local share of digital marketing budgets. Most brands still spend 30% or less of their digital dollars locally, but the ones that said they were increasing the mix showed better effectiveness. This may be an effect rather than a cause. That is, the brands whose local digital marketing is working are doubling down on their spending.

Most of the very effective local marketers said they were increasing their spending across multiple digital tactics, with social media at the top of their list. Where they were notably more likely to increase spending than their peers was on paid search and display advertising. And their biggest difference was that they were 50% more likely to say they were increasing spending on customer sentiment analysis. 

Besides shifting the local mix, the areas where the very effective brands differed the most involved location data. And they’re likely to increase that focus. When asked about new local technologies their companies were exploring, real-time location data topped their list. They were one-third more likely to say that than the average brand.

David Card is Street Fight’s director of research.