According to the 2017 Distributed Marketing Benchmark Report, CMOs view customer experience as the number one priority for 2018. How do the world's top multi-location brands deliver exceptional customer experiences day after day? Many leverage the power of Local Marketing Automation (LMA) to help their local marketing affiliates follow the brand's established standards, guidelines and overall marketing strategy.
However, local affiliates don't exactly make this as easy as it seems. They end up making tons of requests for one-off marketing pieces and sometimes even creating their own marketing material that goes off-brand. That's part of why it's so important for CMOs and brand managers to nurture a positive relationship with their local partners - so they can head off those trouble signs before they happen and make sure things run smoothly. But everyone knows that CMOs don't have time to figure out what works or doesn't work in a given local market, and it's that knowledge and insight that local marketers need the most.
Not only does this strain the relationship between corporate and local, the knowledge gap also means marketing executives don't really have the on-the-ground intel that could help them make better strategic decisions for their brands. If CMOs don't know the challenges that are actually being faced in the field, how can they advise their teams on which direction the brand needs to go? In this article, we'll explain exactly how you can overcome this problem and share the best questions to ask your own local affiliates to find out what you really need to know.
Why CMOs Have to Listen to Their Local Marketers
Gartner reports that by the end of this year, at least 50% of companies will be investing in customer experience strategies. If you want customers to keep buying from your brand's franchisees, dealers or agents it's crucial to get as much information as you can about what's happening at that local level. That's why the most successful distributed brands routinely collect information from their partners at the store level.
With this information in hand, great brand managers look for ways to tailor the campaigns and brand assets so they'll meet the unique demands of local marketing teams. Ideally, CMOs could actually get on the phone and talk with some of their dealers or franchisees directly. Realistically, we all know that marketers are often way too busy, so this information can be gathered in a number of different ways. You could create a survey that is sent out periodically, or equip your regional marketing team with a questionnaire they can use after they meet with local affiliates. It could also be an internal exercise that you run as a marketing team, where you approach it hypothetically. It could be just a cheat sheet for CMOs to keep in mind for the next time they think about their local marketing strategy.
However you do it, the information you gather from your local marketing teams will help your brand managers determine what's actually working, what local marketers like about your brand, and more importantly, what consumers are most likely to respond to. You can use this information to improve campaigns while helping local affiliates feel that their voices have been heard. If you work at a franchise brand, providing the opportunity for your franchisees to give feedback will help foster a supportive franchise system. And if you work with a different indirect sales model, it will help you to stay top of mind with those agents or dealers.
So what questions can your local affiliates answer that you absolutely need to ask? There are five simple ones that will get you started on the right foot.
Question #1: What's working?
The first question that CMOs should dive into is whether their brand's marketing campaigns are making an impact for the local businesses they sell with. Your brand marketing team may be high-fiving about that new Instagram campaign, but how do the franchisees feel? It could be that they weren't even aware of the campaign at all, or maybe they feel like it didn't leave room for their store to be promoted. Taking the pulse of your location network is an important part of understanding why some things work and others flop. All your local affiliates work with your brand because they think you can make them more money than they'd be able to otherwise. So this means if a campaign didn't help to increase their sales, they probably have some feedback about why that didn't work for them.
To really make actionable improvements, brands should adopt reliable sources of performance data. By creating a reporting process supported by an LMA tool with reporting capabilities, corporate teams can extract key information about which marketing assets franchisees or dealers are favoring. Then you can use that data to guide questions to your field about why certain things worked or didn't. The benefit of working with local teams on explaining this data is gaining better, richer data about consumers. These insights will help bolster CMOs' understanding of the performance and inform the brand’s decisions on future programs. If this information isn't available yet, ask your affiliates which marketing strategies, channels and tools seem to be performing well for them, and why they think that's the case.
Question #2: What are the top three ways customers buy from us?
This question may be difficult for local affiliates to answer precisely, but it can provide invaluable context. Discuss why customers like to buy from the local stores, and how the brand helps. Then use the responses to inform the campaigns that the team works on. With this feedback, you can look for opportunities to change what the brand is doing. It's possible that the responses will help develop a better campaign that's more reflective of how consumers are actually buying.
At the corporate level, use the feedback from the field to educate your brand marketing team. Often times, customer behavior that local affiliates have noticed can help expose inconsistencies in the buying process. Evaluating the awareness and accessibility of your product can also inspire ideas for your campaigns. With this kind of information, you can reinforce the messages you’ve been sending to the affiliates all along, while giving real-world credibility to those ideas.
Of course, you might find that local affiliates don't have any good answer to this question at all. That type of response alone is revealing. If they don't have a clear understanding of how customers are buying from and engaging with the brand, they may need additional resources and tools.
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Question #3: What is the biggest obstacle to retaining customers?
At the local level, it's important to identify why customers are being lost. Talking to local affiliates about their particular frustrations with retaining customers can help uncover where these obstacles really lie. To obtain the best answers, try to listen more than you talk. Use the information they share and conduct a mini-audit of which local campaigns are helping to keep customers around, and which ones are not.
There's one reliable way to create the kind of trustworthy experiences that result in bringing customers back time after time. The secret is maintaining brand consistency. Local affiliates can struggle to stay on-brand if they haven't got a Local Marketing Automation tool or marketing collateral repository to use for campaign creative. Without these kinds of resources, all of the best customer service in the world can't make up for unclear or confusing promotions, discounts or lackluster marketing creative. Finding tools to improve this process is one easy way to start improving customer retention. By establishing the same positive customer experience across all of your locations, customers always know what to expect. As long as they keep getting what they want from your brand at those local stores, they'll keep coming back.
Question #4: How can we make it easier for you to do marketing?
This may be a challenging question for CMOs to ask their local affiliates. In all likelihood, you'll hear some things that are troubling, and you'll probably get an earful about how the brand doesn't get its local affiliates. Be receptive to all this kind of criticism and feedback from the affiliates, both positive and negative. After hearing feedback about the processes and tools that are currently in place, discuss if there are any features or strategies they think could improve their local marketing. Take their ideas about tools and resources they've heard about, including any LMA tools that other brands are using successfully, and share them with the rest of the team.
The goal is to take an accurate temperature of your affiliate network. It's important for your affiliates to be happy working with your brand. Otherwise, you risk them jumping ship. If local marketing teams find day-to-day marketing responsibilities too difficult to shoulder, or just plain ineffective, they'll start to feel frustrated or dissatisfied. CMOs need to get out in front of these issues and help them work more efficiently so they can get to the results they want.
Question #5: How do you know your marketing is working?
At the local level, CMOs should evaluate how local marketers are evaluating campaign effectiveness. The answers you get back aren't going to follow the same standard process the brand team uses to measure their campaigns, but how the local affiliate is actually judging what is working or not working. In no way is that going to be an exact science. Many times, this question will generate responses such as "our cashiers were really busy" or "we completely sold out of all our on-sale items."
It's important to remember that local affiliates are NOT marketing professionals. This is why these kinds of questions, along with open, honest dialogue, is so important. Without utilizing an LMA tool that offers reporting, they typically won't have hard data to support any of their performance claims. Although CMOs have to be more data-driven than ever before, you shouldn't shun this new "data" just because it can't be measured in Excel. It can be extremely valuable to shape the way you approach your regional marketing support in the future.
The Answer to Most Local Marketing Questions
In order to drive local marketing success, increased collaboration between corporate teams and local affiliates is absolutely necessary. Start by asking these key questions of your partners and use their insights to craft a local marketing approach that actually works. If you find any misalignment between your corporate team and the field, use it as an unvarnished perspective into how local affiliates perceive the brand's local marketing strategy and adjust your approach to maximize local buy-in and improve results.
With Local Marketing Automation software, brands can get ahead of these questions and others! Empower your local affiliates to create their own branded marketing materials. With ready-access to print and digital templates in LMA, local marketing will never have been easier.
To help improve relationships with local marketers while improving affiliate performance, give them the tools they need to be successful. Check out The Local Marketing Playbook for more insight.