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.

Props to Mashable Connect

Note: This video was shot using a Flip video MinoHD 8GB camcorder (Amazon affiliate link) and a Fat Gecko Double Knuckle Camera Mount (Amazon affiliate link). Boo-Yah!

My Flip is awesome! Though I wish I had the 3rd generation version which includes image stabilization. The Fat Gecko is wicked. Use it in or out of your car, snowboards, mountain bikes, bike helmets. I love it!


Transcript

I’ve had this video transcribed below for those who prefer to read rather than listen or watch. The transcription provided by me.

Hey everyone, Mark Regan here.

I just got back from Orlando over the weekend where I spent some time with the folks from Mashable at their Mashable Connect event 2011.
Mashable Connect

A pretty amazing event over there, they kept it to invite-only which kept a lot of the vendors out and they were actually able to make sure a lot of the folks that were there were the practitioners, the people that do it every day.

From digital directors to VPs to brand managers, what have you across a whole bunch of big name international brands. And I was fortunate enough to be in the crowd.

They put on a really fun event. Props out to Mashable for a fun event even at 18 hour long each of the days were amazing, really impactful. A lot of deep stuff and pretty damn fun!

If any of you guys know of anything similar out there, conferences that really rock, let me know in the comments below or reach out to me somehow.

Until then take care.

Tim Moore Interview

Tim Moore from Maximum joined me for an interview.


Your Background

Tim Moore

Mark Regan: Tell me a little about your background and how you came into your current role as Social Media Director at Maximum Design.

Tim Moore: Digital Biography: http://TimMoore.tumblr.com/about and Digital Business Architect at Maximum (http://maximumrocks.com) Erupts 4.22.11

Mark Regan: With the constant arrival of emerging techniques, products and companies, how do you decide which ones are worth testing out for your clients?
Tim Moore: Easy, for production advertising, established channels with large demographic base that meets client needs and has an ad platform that is trackable.  For emerging platforms, most need maturing before you would use client ad spend on them. We have to report monthly ROI, so efficient and strategic A/B testing is critical, before a recommendation is proposed.  We are not in the hype business, we are in the conversion business.

Mark Regan: Do you approach developing a personal brand differently than you do a corporate brand?
Tim Moore: Yes, completely. Also, each brand will have different goals, expectations and definitions of ‘success’, so listen, listen, listen, before talking.

Mark Regan: How has your experience in the business world helped you master your own personal brand marketing?
Tim Moore: I haven’t mastered it, I am learning everyday. The more I listen, the more I learn. I don’t see that changing.

Mark Regan: Bonus: What is your favorite online marketing/social media toy of the day?
Tim Moore: Hitpad (new release – http://hitpad.com) and Poweri (new startup – dropping 5.1.11)

Mark Regan: Thanks Tim! How can people find out more about you and connect with you?
Tim Moore: Twitter: @TimMoore; Facebook: /TimMoore; Email: TimMoore (at) Facebook (dot) com; Tumblr: http://TimMoore.tumblr.com

Why I Wasn’t Invited to Speak at TEDx Tampa Bay

I’m Not

I’m not a player.  I’m not a sought-after speaker.  My blog doesn’t draw thousands of visitors each day (maybe in a month it does).

TEDx

So why wasn’t I invited to share my wisdom at the 2011 TEDx Tampa Bay?

The A-Crowd

In high school I wasn’t in the A-Crowd.  Heck when I got there I wasn’t even in the C-Crowd.  But I wanted more.  More friends like any teenager. I wanted people to want to be with me.

That hasn’t changed has it?  I want to be popular.  Have people listen to me speak.  Pay me money to speak.  I want TEDx to want me.

I wanted the invite.

Yearbook Photographer

In high school I wasn’t a jock.  So I took my photography skill and became the yearbook and newspaper photographer.  Bingo.  It was admission to the A-Crowd.  It was an identity.  People knew my name.
High School Photographer

At the 10 and 20 year reunions, they knew my name.

I have something to say.  But I haven’t found an audience.  That’s OK, I’ll keep talking.  Everyone says I need to speak to my audience about them and not be about me.  But that’s all I know.  Me.  Not them.  I can only tell my story and hope that it will connect with someone.

Backstage Pass

Today I still want to be in that A-Crowd even if it means I have to work my way in.  I’m headed to the invite-only Mashable Connect in May.  Not as Mark Regan, but as Mark Regan an the Internet Marketing guy at Coast Dental.  My application as Mark Regan was denied.  So I reapplied as Coast Dental and BAM, I’m in.

Mashable Connect

Did they want titles?  Did they want to make sure there were no salesmen, scammers or affiliate kings? I don’t know, but I’m in.  Again everyone will know my name.

Maybe I can back-door TEDx the same way.  Do you guys want me to speak as Coast Dental?  Maybe as a great husband or Gator fan?  Maybe I can connect you with someone important or in some way make you important.

Kingmaker

That’s what I did in high school without knowing it.  I was a kingmaker in my own right.  I held the keys to yearbook immortality.  Do I need to find a 2011 equivalent before I can be invited to speak at TEDx?

Maybe I’ll try to find it.

Maybe I’ll just continue to be me and one day a TEDx by a different name will recognize me, care what I have say and invite me to speak at their event.

I Invited Me

I’m not waiting for them.  I’m not waiting to be picked.  I’ve picked myself and moved on to my next great masterpiece.

It’s me.  Want to know more?

MLB, Publix and Buffalo Wild Wings

Note: This video was shot using a Flip video MinoHD 8GB camcorder (Amazon affiliate link) and a Fat Gecko Double Knuckle Camera Mount (Amazon affiliate link). Boo-Yah!

My Flip is awesome! Though I wish I had the 3rd generation version which includes image stabilization. The Fat Gecko is wicked. Use it in or out of your car, snowboards, mountain bikes, bike helmets. I love it!


Transcript

I’ve had this video transcribed below for those who prefer to read rather than listen or watch. The transcription provided by me.

Hi everybody! Mark Regan here.

MLB Fan CaveLast week Major Baseball league kicked off its 2011 season. And one of their initiatives that they put up together was this Fancave — at www.MLBFanCave.com where they put a guy up inside a loft in Manhattan.

And for the entire season, he’s going to watch every baseball game on a bank of TVs and really kind of grow that concept to bring in fans, big stars to do interviews and they had a big contest to choose who this person was.  As the executive from Major League Baseball termed it, it’s real great opportunity to take that major league baseball brand and humanize it and bring it to the fans that are already out there talking about their baseball teams on social media and bring this whole concept and connect with it to the “electronic water cooler” to quote him.

And it made me begin to think about a couple of brands that might be able to make that same concept and really capitalize on it here in the Bay Area that I frequent.

PublixOne of them is Publix, a grocery store chain here in the Southeast and very popular that can take its Aprons brand which is a all-in-one package that allows you to cook an entire meal right there from one counter to pick all your products out.

But take that same concept and tie into the holiday season, from November, December. Where you open up a kitchen throughout the month, 2 months, and for 24 hours a day you run chefs through it, you run Ordinary Joes, allow them to come in and do some stuff and you actually get to see the creation of these foods in live and real-time without any edited Hollywood style, 30-minute snippets that you see on the Food Network and then also build up this great library of content that allows people to see in a time-shifted manner.

It is a great opportunity to really connect that Publix brand which is really great in helping you serve great food to your family and bringing it and making it much more approachable.

Buffalo Wild WingsLikewise, Buffalo Wild Wings, a sports bar which I have gone to before here in Tampa could take that same concept, but instead of using a central location for their initiative, like Major League Baseball or Publix, they can actually put together tour bus that ran through all of their franchises.

And during the restaurant hours run a live camera setup through the internet to this social media connection that they had to really talk to their fans and build that relationship that can only be had in social media and really humanizing it and that’s what I really like about what major baseball league is doing, as well as what these other brands are doing or any other brand could do, but allowing the ordinary Joe to connect with the brand.

And so let me know if you’re from Buffalo Wild Wings or Publix. Please put some comments below. Or if you have any thoughts on the concept of what Major League Baseball is doing or some other brands can do.  Leave me something below.

Thanks a lot! Take care!

Mashable Connect 2011 – The Interviews

Mashable Connect

In preparing to attend Mashable Connect 2011 in May I am again extended my interview series by inviting the lineup of speakers for an interview before we all converge on Orlando.

Much like I did prior to Social Fresh coming into town this past February, I’m expanding this interview series by bringing in video, audio and possibly even a Twitter-view or two.

Stop back by and join in the conversation with some of the very influential people on tap for this year’s event.

Foursquare 3.0

Foursquare Campaign WizardJust in time for SXSW, Foursquare has rolled out a new release of features and their focus on multi-location businesses sings to me.

For those of you managing multiple venues in your Foursquare account know well how hard it is to kick off a campaign, deploy specials and aggregate your venue’s check-ins.

Foursquare 3.0 addresses each of those needs and then some.

Benefits to Enterprises

Greg Sterling does a great job of analyzing the release, here are some of his highlights:

  • You can now initiate a campaign once and apply to any or all of your claimed venues.
  • You’ll be able to aggregate your stats across venues to see track demographics as well as campaigns analytics.
  • While not new, it’s key to note that all of this data is real-time.  So you can quickly react, deploy, correct and reward based on what you’re seeing happen.

Imagine deploying a Flash, Swarm or Friends Special across all of your sports bars during the heat of the March Madness.  Are you listening Beef ‘O’ Brady’s?

To me this brings Foursquare to the big kids table by courting the enterprise users.  A single point for management and analysis is key if you’re going to think about having large companies and their extensive reach and deep pockets.

Foursquare Analytics

Deaf Ears

Now if only Facebook and Twitter would take notice and provide an enterprise portal so I can manage over 100 online presence through a single tool.

Next Up

Is you’re listening Foursquare I’d like for your analytics and tracking to better integrate with my web analytics packages.  You don’t have to do this directly for each vendor, but at least allow me to better tag my venues with their website sibling.

This will allow me to roll up Foursquare’s role in my customer relationship and compare it to my other initiatives.

Vendors in the Multi-Location Space

When I look around at vendors targeting the space of multi-location online marketing, they are few are far between.

Searching for the organically you find a lot vendors for telecommunications products or restaurant back office software for chains.  But what I consider online marketing for multi-location businesses really focuses on the management of a business or brand that has many brick and mortar locations.

While that seems to be dominated by B2C, there are also many B2B companies out there with this same need.

So I’ve down research lately to identify those vendors who might be able to help those of us managing this unique challenge.


Expion.com

Expionhttp://expion.com/

Expion is a SAAS that allows you to “dashboard” your individual location’s online presences.  From one console you can manage multiple Facebook Pages, Twitter accounts etc. This saves you from having to copy your updates to each portal as well consolidating the monitoring of them.

FishBowl

Fishbowlhttp://www.fishbowl.com/

Fishbowl is really a turnkey solution specifically for the restaurant space.  Not only do they cover the trendy social media aspects of a multi-location business, they also incorporate email guest management with analytics thrown in as well.  Depending on your restaurants’ other operational tools and how Fishbowl integrates with them (and therefore simplifies it for your frontline people), this could be a real silver bullet for you.

Awareness Inc.

Awarenesshttp://awarenessnetworks.com/

Similar to Expion, but really getting into the corporate workflow of auditing, approvals and multi-user involvement in the day-to-day management of a business’ online properties.

Valuevine

Valuevinehttp://valuevine.com/

Valuevine really focuses in on the brand management of a business.  Bringing in sentiment measurement and location-based aspects of monitoring their offering looks great for those who want to look at each location’s reputation and compare against each other.

GramercyOne

GramercyOnehttp://www.gramercyone.com

I included this one here to help contrast one  a different type of approach.  With GramercyOne and its tools you can focus on integrating everything in one place: appointment book, membership & loyalty, point of sale, gift certificates and, oh yes, marketing.  Facebook and Twitter are really a bolt-on to their turnkey solution.  Rather than build around the relationship, monitoring and participation of social media, it approaches them merely as another marketing channel.  Another outlet for your advertising campaign.  Not the way I would approach it.


I’m sure there are more out there that compete with these vendors, but they haven’t hit my radar.

Disclaimer

I am in no way associated with these vendors.  I also have not used any of their products or services (yet!) myself.  So I could be way off in my claims.  If so, let me know and I’ll be glad to update it.

Do You Have This Problem?

I would love to know what the many franchisor/franchisees use to solve these problems.  Likewise there are plenty of corporate-managed retail businesses that have either solved this problem in-house or use a similar product.

If that’s you, I’d love the hear from you.  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Paula Berg Interview

Paula Berg of Linhart PR is going to take the stage at Social Fresh Tampa as the keynote speaker.  Her background at Southwest Airlines and now with Linhart is going to provide a great personal experience into the role of social media in the corporate world.

I caught up with Paula a few days ago and she was gracious enough to share the following interview with me.


Your Background

Paula Berg

Mark Regan: Tell me a little about your background and how you came into your current role as Digital Media Leader at Linhart PR.

Paula Berg: In the late 90’s, while living in Austin, TX, I was dating someone who lived in another state, and we were spending so much money on airline tickets that we used to joke that one of us needed to go work for an airline. So I did. The boyfriend only lasted another year or so, but I spent nearly 10 years with Southwest Airlines in a variety of communication roles.

Then, in 2006, the responsibility of Southwest Airlines‘ social media efforts fell into my lap. I knew nothing about social media at the time – I didn’t read blogs, Twitter didn’t even exist, and I playfully mocked that same ex-boyfriend who was then on MySpace. But, with my new assignment, I had no choice but to make it part of my life. So I did the only reasonable thing. I locked myself in my office every night with a bottle of wine and tried to figure it out, and I was immediately hooked. Everyday provided a new lesson and a new challenge. And, my experiences forced me to completely rethink everything I thought I knew about corporate communications. More than blogging, Tweeting, or Facebooking, my role, as I saw it, was to slash through red tape and revolutionize the business of communication; to tear down outdated infrastructure to meet the needs of the changing environment.

When I began, it was just me and my buddy Brian Lusk managing on a blog in addition to our full time jobs. Over the course of four years, we built a seven person emerging media team with a simply but lofty mission: Complete integration of social media into every internal and external communication effort in a way that made sense for our Company and met Customer expectations. Social media became an integral part of everything from customer relations and employee communication to crisis management and revenue generation.

Then, in 2010, I made the very difficult decision to leave my favorite airline to return to Colorado, the state that I always knew I wanted to call home. Today, I am the Digital Media Leader at Linhart PR, and national PR firm based in Denver, where I focus on social media strategy, infrastructure, integration and crisis management.

Breaking Away Social

Mark Regan: With a background in media relations how do you approach the social web differently than marketing or technology types?

Paula Berg: I think it was my time in the Southwest Airlines Customer Relations Department a decade ago that shaped my approach to social media. The experience armed me with the knowledge, language and tools to communicate directly with customers on a personal level and truly address their concerns. While our social media efforts at Southwest Airlines were grown out of the PR department, I think we did our best work once we were able to break out on our own and think about social media without the filter of traditional PR and Marketing. Of course, PR and Marketing were still essential components of our efforts, but our autonomy allowed us to get in the trenches with our Customers and focus on what they wanted; to operate on our own schedule; and to move with the speed and agility required for social media success.

Shiny Objects

Mark Regan: With the constant arrival of emerging techniques, products and companies, how do you decide which ones are worth testing out for your clients?

Paula Berg: It’s easy to feel pressured to keep up with every new tool and gizmo that becomes available, but with the emergence of a few dominant players, it seems a bit easier to focus these days. When new tools emerge, I play around with them myself, see how they are useful to me, how my friends and early adopters are using them, and what potential they might have for my clients.

Details

Mark Regan: I’m guessing you predominantly work with large clients, but what nuggets would you give to smaller businesses on their use of social media and how to apply their limited dollars to online marketing?

Paula Berg: I encourage people not to focus solely on the numbers. Collecting friends and followers is fine, but it’s important to understand the art and science of being found and realize that even small interactions can yield big results.

Location-Based

Mark Regan: What are your thoughts on location-based social networks like Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places? How do you see them helping businesses?

Paula Berg: Um…I love them. As a single gal in a new town this past year, you have no idea how much they helped my social life – both the ability to find people and be found as well as learning about places that my friends and neighbors frequent. For businesses, the best thing to do is use the tools, see how customers are using them, and find creative ways to deliver mutual benefit.

Bonus Questions

Mark Regan: What is your favorite online marketing/social media toy of the day?

Paula Berg: I’m enjoying my iPad, I’m still a big four-square user, and I love a good app. But my favorite thing about social media is still the ability to access information, connect with people, and discover new things.

Mark Regan: Any fun plans while you’re here in Tampa?

Paula Berg: I don’t have much time. I’d love to have a few drinks with all of the Social Fresh peeps and maybe a nice meal if there’s time.

Contact

Mark Regan: Thanks Paula! I’m excited to welcome you to Tampa on February 22nd as part of Social Fresh Tampa. How can people find out more about you and connect with you?

Paula Berg: Thanks so much, Mark. Folks can find me on Twitter at @paulaberg, Facebook, or via email at pberg at linhartpr dot com. And, I write about social media for the Linhart PR Blog as well as the Huffington Post.

5 Nuggets Social Fresh 2010

Social Fresh Tampa - 5 Nuggets I Still UseLast February I attended Social Fresh Tampa at the last minute because it was local, inexpensive and didn’t appear to be a MLM event.  Thank God!

As I prepare for the 2011 tour to pass through Tampa tomorrow (though some training started today), I thought I’d share 5 nuggets I took from last year’s event and have used in the past 12 months.

1. Twitter and Facebook Panel

Nugget: How do you handle 24 hours of the day?  Are you there when they talk about you?

Over the past year I have had so many instances managing a large social presence where activities happen from 5pm-9am, when no one is in the office.  Planning and building these responses by more than one person are the only way you can sustain a 24/7 presence on the web for your brand.

2. Maggie Fox – Social Media Group – runs Ford’s social media

Nugget: Earned media is amplified by paid media which is syndicated through owned media

I’ve “borrowed” Maggie’s nugget in presentations, designing marketing plans even over beers with my neighbors in the driveway.  When you approach your presence on the web respecting what you own and don’t own, you give more credence to those who want to talk about you.   You’re playing on their turf after all.

3. Branding within Social Media Panel – Tampa Bay Rays

Nugget: Managing your reputation when you don’t control it

Much like Maggie’s approach to what you own and don’t own, this panel shed light on how to manage your brand when you own, but don’t have control.  There are many franchise or multi-location online marketing scenarios where there are multiple owners.  In these situations, knowing how to achieve your goals with modified rules is critical.

4. The Social Web, Crisis Response and Reputation Rejuvenation – presented by General Motor’s Director of Social Media

Nugget: You need to be engaged prior to a crisis

I have actively taken his advice and worked hard to engage and build up my company’s reputation not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because when we do maker a misstep I hope we’ll be afforded some leniency to correct and recover with a fatality.

5. Corporate Blogging Panel

Nugget: Removal criteria: Vulgar, Personal, Not germane

I know it seems rather basic but these 3 simple criteria truly sum up how to approach the haters, trolls and general angry people in this world online.  We have a very high bar for removal, but if you take a business issue and make it into a personal attack, you’re not playing fair.

What Did You Learn?

What about you?

Did you learn anything last year that you can say you used in the past 12 months?

Let me know if so.