“Every problem has a solution. You just have to be creative enough to find it” ~Travis Kalanick
Months ago I uncovered a problem many multi-location brands and businesses are struggling with and thought to myself… “ouch… that’s costing them dearly.”
The online brand many of these companies have worked extremely hard to establish in fact only represents 50% of the total brand and is reaching no more than 10% of their total market.
Stick with me through this and I’ll explain why I believe this to be true.
I did wonder though…
Did these businesses know the problem existed? If they did, why haven’t they solved the problem of optimizing their business so that they could amplify their brand reach and engagement, increase sales and ultimately gain more market share?
Even though I wasn’t sure they want the problem solved or if they even see this as a problem or an opportunity, I became curious as to whether or not it could be solved and so I set out in search of a solution.
When we think of a company or a brand we often think of them as a whole rather than in different parts or categories. Consumers think of brands in the same capacity and since all of us are consumers it’s only natural that we do the same. But therein lies the problem. Companies are not consumers and multiple departments are often treated as different aspects of the business. There’s a marketing department, a sales department, a communications department, each playing a different role in a big well-oiled machine that is targeted towards macro marketing and sales strategies. With that said, many companies do try to have a holistic view of their overall organization in which they are continuously assessing and improving how one part of the business integrates and compliments the other.
The question becomes…
Is there an additional layer within their current marketing and sales strategies that could be brought to the forefront and integrated even further? What would happen if companies made the shift towards a more targeted micro marketing strategy that would be working in tandem with the macro marketing activities and goals?
Consider This Example: Car Brands and Franchise Dealerships
Automakers have put tremendous amounts of money into their brand and operations. As have other multi-location businesses in various industries, whether that be food chains, hotels or retirement residences.
Sticking to our Car brands example, automakers have established a well-known name, as well as products people can rely on and are proud to own. They have established dealerships in cities to reach and sell to more customers and a variety of tools and services to ensure customers remain satisfied. That’s just the consumer side.
The maintenance behind keeping their businesses at the forefront of the industry, as well as hiring, training and managing a talented workforce to not only keep the gears turning but to also remain on track in reaching their goals, is a mission in and of itself.
I agree. It is by no means an easy feat, especially in the ever-changing world we live in.
BUT the ever-changing world is what lead me to make the connection that I am about to explain.
Reason #1: Brand Presence
Multi-location businesses have taken to the internet with the goal of establishing a digital presence and an online customer journey that aligns with their overall organizations’ brand and objectives. Over the last decade or so Corporate brands have updated their websites, created social media profiles, created content, established audiences, began heavily investing in online ads, started sending out email campaigns and the list goes on.
Everything these businesses are doing is spot on up until this very point. They have put a large number of resources into macro marketing strategies that have allowed them to cast a large net and reach as many customers as possible.
But this fact is also where I believe many opportunities to engage customers and increase sales are being lost.
They are multi-location businesses that are being represented by a single online brand.
Car Company X Global has established Corporate head offices in various countries. Head Offices in each country have gone ahead and created a digital presence for the part of the world they operate in (ie. Car Company X Canada). Their websites and social media profiles are tailored to audiences within their region of operations, and that is where it ends.
Although Corporate is creating and sharing high-quality graphics and has amassed large audiences, they are using their websites and social media platforms as digital billboards (showcasing products & services) and are missing out on personalized value-first content designed to engage with customers (which is where the brand building, authority setting and sales are).
Over the last 10 years, macro marketing strategies are what have allowed organizations to thrive both online and offline. During this time, the focus has been on establishing a strong brand presence to provide “general information” that reflects the entire organization and its values. But once a brand attracts a massive audience, personalization and catering to that audience can become increasingly difficult and in many instances impossible.
Unfortunately, having a singular brand presence to serve a bazillion and one locations isn’t ideal, nor is it doing the overall company or their vast network of locations any favours other than keeping up brand appearances.
This is because the online Corporate brand alone cannot engage customers within communities, resolve every customer problem, answer every customer question or create and release personalized content that encourages consumers to engage, support or buy from their local retailers. I bring attention to this because consumers want to engage with those who engage back. They want to be part of something bigger and support those they feel a connection or a sense of community with. I believe multi-location businesses can truly create an online experience that makes customers feel that kind of emotion.
“So what then?”
Well, this leads us back to the whole bit about having updated websites, social media profiles, creating content and so forth usually only seen with the Corporate side of the brand.
The other 50% of the brand and the other 90% of the game-changing reach (in my opinion), can be unlocked with the Service side of the brand.
How and why is this true?
My Answer: Online, the Service side of the brand is often expected to do the same if not more than the Corporate side, specifically when it comes to marketing and sales. The Corporate side handles the overall online brand appearance and is amazing to keep customers informed and up to date with new product launches or initiatives. The online Service side, if done correctly, is meant to interact with consumers and foster B2C relationships which will dramatically increase loyalty and sales within the regions that an organization is operating within.
By focusing on the micro side of the business instead of the macro, Brands would have the ability to get granular with customer interactions and engagement, so much so, that as an entire brand, they could literally become part of interested consumers’ daily lives both online and offline. Needless to say, this would have a tremendously positive effect on the overall brand and the organizations’ ability to earn more market share.
(The column to the left highlights the marketing activities used by Corporate. The column to the right highlights marketing activities used by Service.)
You see, the Corporate online brand and the Service online brand are utilizing the same marketing methods but for two different reasons. Corporate for brand awareness (Macro) and Service to engage customers and drive sales (Micro). Yet resources are heavily diverted towards the Corporate online brand presence (Macro).
This could be because Corporate may believe each of their locations generates enough profit that they should be responsible for the micro-level brand building and sales activities on their own. Considering that the Corporate marketing team equates to a substantial investment in salaries each year and that the marketing campaigns they run also come at a cost, I’m not entirely convinced individual locations can facilitate a well-executed and effective micromarketing strategy and strong online presence without having a similar team in place.
ENTER SUB PROBLEM #1:
To grow an online presence in every realm of marketing (SEO, PPC, Social media, Email, Content etc) each location would require a team of professionals that understands the online space and the best methods to cultivate interested audiences. Teams like that, even if the work was done over a longer period of time, would still equate to a substantial investment…
The reality is, many locations can only afford an additional part-time or full-time employee on their payroll and by hiring a mix and match team of companies to facilitate the work they need to have accomplished, the quality and the results will vary on a per case basis.
How can multi-location businesses provide full-stack marketing teams with similar levels of quality and experience to such a wide network of locations for dramatically less cost than what Corporate is currently spending on their internal marketing team, WHILE still driving results?
(Drop your thoughts in the comments, I’d love to hear how you would go about getting setting this up!)
This question then leads us into reason number 2.
Reason #2: Brand Alignment
Unlike the Corporate online brand which has a highly experienced and fully-dedicated team overseeing every aspect of it, the online brand presence created for each individual location does not. Their team is often a mix and match of different corporate subcontractors, local service providers, or in many instances a singular person who knows a bit of everything pertaining to sales and marketing.
This leads to the overall brand needing to set an appointment with the digital chiropractor every once in a while to get themselves realigned with the Corporate brand.
What happens is, Corporate has an amazing website, all the latest content and a full team of marketers working around the world to make sure the brand looks immaculate everywhere. But then on the Service side, you have a Frankenstein team from all over the place, with various skill sets and qualifications, with some producing some great results and others, well not so great results.
(Let’s review a business’ social media since the information is readily available for all to see. The idea behind this example can be seen across multiple marketing activities such as Website speed and performance, Google Rankings, Directory listings, Facebook and Google Ads etc.)
Pick any brand you want that is a multi-location business and then look them up on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or anywhere really.
The Corporate brand, which usually has a big blue checkmark beside it, has either been established as a single company or on a per-country basis representing each country’s Corporate Head Office and is casting that large net I referenced earlier.
Now, look up the brand by typing in the brand name and a city you know they have a location in. You’ll find that the individual locations either don’t have social media or have a profile on social media but the content is minimal, of poor quality and similar in nature to the corporate brand in that they are showcasing products. None of which encourages consumers to interact with the organizations’ physical locations.
In short, there is a disconnect between the approach, the messaging, and the consumers.
(Quick note: Revenue generating activities could be found on both sides of the aisle, however, one particular column has plenty of opportunity for growth and discovery.)
ENTER SUB PROBLEM #2: In order to achieve brand alignment between Macro and Micro marketing initiatives an organization would need to consider two things.
The first is how to align the brand messaging.
To do this I believe an integrated macro and a micro marketing strategy would need to be developed so that together they not only continue to play their roles but echo and amplify complementary on-brand messages.
Example: The Corporate online brand would continue to do the same thing as it’s doing today which is providing customers and audiences with general information, product releases, and regional initiatives.
Then the micro marketing strategy would be executed by the Service online brand, the messaging would be geared more so towards the customers they serve. This could include having staff make camera appearances and why they believe in specific products and services. Storytelling and drawing similarities between staff and customers would make for an added layer of personalization and facilitate a connection being formed between audiences and an organization.
The second is the way a business chooses to set itself up for success.
You would need to put a team together that would be solely dedicated to your micro-marketing activities for quality assurance and continuous brand alignment purposes.
That means finding a dedicated scalable marketing company or team that would be capable of coordinating with Corporates marketing teams and initiatives while also handling the volume of marketing needs and initiatives for every location.
Alternatively, an organization could create another department internally with the same abilities as the aforementioned external team.
In the last 10 years throughout the world’s digital evolution, businesses have had to adapt in order to better connect and engage their customers and audiences. I believe that over the course of the last decade the emphasis has been placed quite heavily on macro marketing strategies and initiatives and now that those have been maximized to their fullest potential, it may be time to consider shifting the focus to micro-marketing strategies.
Customers have become more conscious of the brands they purchase from and have a deep desire to feel as though they matter, that they can connect and that the information they are after is readily available to them. Micro-marketing strategies such as this one, coupled with the already optimized macro marketing campaigns, would usher in a new era of how brands connect and engage customers.
Lastly, the data revolving around what customers desire from physical locations, as well as what their experiences were like at said locations would be more in-depth and readily available to Corporate. This sort of information would prove to be an invaluable asset in furthering customer experiences and revenue-driving activities both online and offline.
Thanks for reading!
Ps. Be sure to give me a follow at Kevin EB.
In my next article, I’ll be sharing exactly how my team and I are providing multi-location businesses with full-stack marketing teams to every location regardless of how many locations there are. I’ll also be sharing our process to making sure multi-location businesses can achieve complete synchronization and alignment between the Corporate and Service brands.
I hope you enjoyed it. I would love to hear your thoughts about this piece in the comments.
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