How to Fail at Multi-Location Online Marketing

The Dilemma of Multi-Location Online MarketingI’ve worked for two large national brands to solve the dilemma of marketing multi-location, local businesses online in a cost-effective manner, Sylvan Learning Centers (1,100 locations) and Coast Dental (200 locations). And next week I start a new gig for a third, PowerChord Systems (thousands of client locations).

Those experiences have highlighted to me the biggest challenges facing multi-location businesses.

The Rub

Only when banded together, can local businesses get the economies of scale needed to implement the online marketing tactics and strategies that will crush their mom & pop competition.

But at the same time, they expect these tactics and strategies to be designed and customized for their and only their local customers.

But you can’t do that in a cost-effective manner if each local business were to hire a local agency. You need to design your multi-location online marketing in a way that solves the sometimes competing requirements of the corporate parent/franchisor AND the local dealer/franchisee/branch.

Corporate Requirements

  • Consistent Brand – protect the brand’s equity
  • Professional imagery – no stretched logos, clip art or incorrect use of colors
  • Approval and oversight – legal and business
  • Implement Best Practices – communication frequency, correct use of channels
  • Reporting – detailed breakdown of why some local businesses are seeing great results compared to others
  • Optimization – how can we better use our investments to get more leads per dollar?

Local Requirements

  • Hyper-local variations – keyword bidding, use of languages other than English
  • Customization – local name vs. corporate brand
  • Local Channels – local websites
  • On-Demand/Impulse Campaigns – weather-based, tragedy-based, event-based
  • Expense – want the Corporate rate but with local control
  • Reporting – how many customers did I get last month for my investment?

How to Fail

Considering these requirements you may think the solution is easy.  But here are three obvious solutions that will actually fail if implemented.

  1. Implement your corporate strategy as though it was developed for each local business.  The same banner ads, email newsletters and online offers are deployed in each location.  In doing this you just portray yourself to your prospects as a cold corporate machine.  Coca-Cola can get away with this.  You can’t.
  2. Hand over the keys to the local businesses.  Letting them solve the online marketing needs on their will guarantee you end up with 1,000 different strategies developed by 1,000 different local agencies. And your brand will slowly disappear as you know it.
  3. Develop your corporate strategy, tactics, campaigns and editorial calendars and then customize each of them for each location. You will quickly run out of money and time once the changes and demands from the local level overwhelm you and your budget. Your campaigns will never see the light of day due to a lack of funds.

How to Win

How to Win at Multi-Location Online MarketingI’ve found there is a solution that sits in between the requirements of the two parties. It’s a complex one, but when done right gets you closer to winning than any other method I’ve seen.

But I want to hear from you first.

  • How have you approached solving this dilemma?
  • How have you figured out how to solve the competing requirements of Corporate and the local businesses?

Let me know in the comments below.

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