Dave Sutton, President and CEO of TopRight LLC, is a leading authority today on Transformational Marketing - enabling businesses to reach, connect and engage with customers in a way that gives them a reason to care, a reason to buy, a reason to advocate and, most important of all, a reason to stay. We recently checked in with him to get his take on how franchises can take a more thoughtful approach to marketing. Here's what he had to say:
How have your skills as an engineer enabled you to become more effective as a marketer?
Like many engineers, I'm a problem-solver at heart. I like to dig through data, figure things out, address tough issues and come up with innovative solutions. Today, marketing is a complex puzzle with increasingly sophisticated customer behaviors; a proliferation of channels; a glut of content and plenty of "noise" in the marketplace. And marketers are managing risky bets on their brands every day in this challenging environment. In other words, it's the perfect playground for engineers and data scientists looking to make a difference and grow businesses.
What are the biggest challenges franchises face with their marketing efforts?
Many franchisees come from the operations or services side of the business. So their tendency is to focus on the business from an "inside-out" perspective. By that I mean they have a tendency to focus their energy inside the business: hiring good people, helping customers, improving operations, enhancing services and watching the bottom line. Going out into the field and promoting the business is not naturally within their comfort zone and many do not have the skills to succeed in what has become a highly complex and complicated function.
Franchise marketing is no longer just about getting your name out there and building awareness. Today's savvy customers demand that you give them a reason to care, a reason to buy, a reason to advocate, and most importantly a reason to keep coming back. Our research has shown that you only have about 6-seconds to tell your story, break through the clutter and reach a prospective customer. Technology has become a terrific enabler for marketing, but it does require specialized skills and ongoing training to keep pace with an ever-changing marketplace.
What technology is essential for franchises to support their marketing efforts?
There are five essential marketing tools that every franchise company needs:
- Spend Management - the capability to develop and manage your marketing plan and the corresponding marketing budget.
- Content and Asset Management - the capability to manage the production of content and marketing assets; maintain brand standards and store marketing assets in an easy-to-access repository.
- Multi-Channel Campaign Management - the capability to engage with your prospects and customers across multiple channels (broadcast, print, email, social media, mobile, in store, etc.) at every stage of the customer buying journey (i.e. awareness, consideration, decision, advocacy) - when, where and how they want to engage with your brand.
- Distributed Marketing - the capability to disseminate spend, content, assets, campaigns, etc. across the franchise organization. Giving every franchisee the marketing capabilities they can tailor for their needs, and at the scale they can afford.
- Performance Management - the capability to track and monitor marketing performance across all franchises to generate insights and analytics to understand the drivers of growth and performance improvement.
How can franchise marketing teams start using this technology most effectively?
To guide franchisees effectively, marketing teams need to include not only great creative thinkers and artists but also data scientists and marketing technology experts. It's very hard to find Renaissance men and women who can do it all, so it's important to have a blend of "left brain" and "right brain" capabilities on the team. Different skills will be required to master each of the five essentials that I outlined in the previous question, so a blended team with relevant skills in each area is a critical success factor.
How should franchises use integrated portals to improve marketing across the business?
Integrated marketing portals represent a great way to give each member of the central marketing team (and the marketers across the franchise network) access to the key capabilities that are relevant for their specific job. A user can be given access to just the module and data that are relevant for the activities and tasks associated with their role on the team. Likewise, marketing managers can roll up data and reports across multiple franchises to spot trends, insights and opportunities across markets.
What are the biggest mistakes or oversights you think franchises can make in using technology to help with their marketing?
The biggest oversights that I frequently see is the assumption that buying marketing technology, in and of itself, will transform marketing and drive organic growth.
One of the things I always tell my clients is that "your success with marketing technology is more about social science that computer science". If you don't put the conditions for success in place and maintain them over time, you will not achieve business results. One of the most common mistakes that I see is not providing enough ongoing training and re-certification opportunities for marketers. Given the complex and dynamic nature of marketing technologies today, it's very important that marketers are given the opportunity to refresh and expand their knowledge of different technologies.
What types of marketing technology or tools do not seem to be as effective for franchises?
Some franchise marketers often will select very specific tools that do not scale well for the business overall. The classic example is using Excel spreadsheets to keep track of campaign spending on a centralized basis, struggling with breaking out those spreadsheets for individual franchisees and then trying to roll all of the data back up again to spot trends, challenges or opportunities. The tool may work at a specific point in time to solve a specific problem, but generally the tool is just not up to the task. Overtime, this "point solution" approach can evolve into a marketing technology "hack stack" that is extremely cumbersome to use, very difficult to maintain and impossible to integrate with other organizational systems.
What are the most exciting or interesting marketing technology trends or innovations you're following right now?
Right now at TopRight we are focused on transforming marketing organizations to engage in ongoing, personalized conversations with their customers. With the rising tide of marketing automation and massive amounts of data that is being collected by companies about their customers, unprecedented "customer intimacy", which has been talked about for decades, is now truly possible.
We are working with a community of leading marketing executives drawn together to help each other learn and define global best practices for transforming marketing and leading innovation in customer engagement. Our goal is to run and share experiments in making practical, tangible changes to increase personalized and profitable conversations with customers and drive real growth.
Learn how Franchise Marketers can use Local Marketing Automation to solve marketing problems for franchisees.