Determining the right local marketing mix for a national brand

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Shane Vaughan is CMO of Balihoo
Shane Vaughan is CMO of Balihoo

As a marketer, the pressure to more effectively attract customers in a challenging economy while communication channels are exploding makes for a daunting challenge. Many national brands are successfully building awareness, consideration, and interest with their target audience at the national level. But taking these efforts to the final stage of driving sales at the local point of purchase remains a challenge. What works for your brand nationally doesn't always work in the local marketplace. So how does a national brand determine what the right mix of local marketing tactics is?

First, take a step back to consider who your target customer is, where they consume content, and what their buying habits are. This is especially important for national brands that sell their products and services through distributed networks such as agents, brokers, and dealers, since they play a critical role in the customer purchase path. Your optimal local marketing mix may rely on their skills, participation, and engagement.

For example, a national retail chain may target teens who have their cell phones tethered to their hands and are on the lookout for special offers. The retailer's budget would be well spent by using a social-local-mobile strategy to draw the teens and their parents into their neighborhood stores for unique events or sales. Alternatively, a national lighting product manufacturer may target electricians and homeowners who spend time reading newspapers and email. The right mix of channels to reach this audience may be a combination of geographically targeted websites, media buys, and email campaigns that represent the national brand, yet put the reseller's contact information with a consistent call-to-action in front of the consumer.

Next, take a close look at all of the local marketing opportunities and channels available today, including websites, email, direct mail, search, print and online advertising, location-based services, social media, text messaging, TV, and radio. Although many of these are familiar to any brand already conducting multichannel campaigns, the challenge is to integrate the tactics in a way that is measurable and drives your audience through the funnel to the purchase. For example, if your customers generally call in orders to your local representatives, make sure that your PPC ads provide a consistent, trackable local phone number. Or, if your call-to-action is to provide an online coupon for in-store redemption, your clerks need to be able to track the coupon code in their POS systems. 

Lastly, determine up front how you will measure performance on a local level, as well as establish a system for aggregating results up to the regional and national levels. This type of tracking allows a brand to test strategies and tactics and gain visibility into performance that can be shared with other regions so they can adjust their own local marketing mix based on that insight. Metrics to consider include local website visits, duration on site, clicks on personalized URLs, duration and quality of phone calls, number of new leads, conversions, and return on investment. These metrics enable brands to identify which programs and tactics perform best and which ones need to be modified or eliminated to improve results.

A tale of two brands

A national healthcare organization needed to drive patients into its practices in certain large markets across the country. And while word-of-mouth has long been a principal way for people to find doctors, this organization recognized the need for a targeted local marketing strategy to promote its capabilities to referring physicians and get patients in the doors.

To cut through the noise from all the email, faxes, and mail pieces from pharmaceutical or office supply companies that doctors receive every day, the main channel the healthcare provider selected was physician-to-physician direct mail. Because the pieces were precisely tailored for doctors from doctors within the same region, the healthcare provider secured almost 200 new referring physicians in just one year. In this case, the physician audience responded very well to this form of direct, highly personalized media and the return on investment was spectacular.

On the other hand, a major insurance carrier that sells through local agents has strong national awareness, but its customers need to buy through local agents and typically do so after investigating offerings online. The company launched thousands of geographically targeted city and agent websites that serve as the marketing hub for local online listings, SEO, PPC and display advertising, email, and direct mail campaigns. Through the use of unique call tracking numbers and lead forms, all leads are automatically pushed to agents and tracked.

While traditional media worked very well for one brand and online tactics worked well for the other, the similarity between the two programs is tracking and measurement. This allows the brands to manage program success, and over time, to identify which channels and tactics perform best and which ones need to be modified or eliminated, particularly as consumers start to embrace new channels.

Shane Vaughan is CMO of Balihoo



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