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If you're a franchisee, you're probably already doing some local marketing -- even if it's just listing your business in the local Yellow Pages. Think additional advertising will cost too much? Think you don't need an online presence? Or does "online presence" seem to be the opposite of "local media"?
In fact, every company, no matter how large or small, can benefit from using local media effectively. And it doesn't have to break your budget! Here's a list of the Top Ten things you need to know to make Local Marketing work for you.
1. Know Your Target Audience.
First, last, and always: Pay attention to your target market! If you're not focused on your customers, you cannot hope to win their attention -- or their business.
Be specific about who you're trying to reach. Men? Women? Retirees? Mothers? Sports Fans? Chinchilla owners? People with other particular interests? Other small businesses, such as real-estate firms? Dental offices?
Now that you've clearly defined your target audience, consider what marketing messages will resonate with them. What problem does your product or service solve for them? Think carefully about where you should position your communications so your target audience will see, read -- and act on them.
If possible, develop a “profile” of your target customer. Give them a name to easily refer to them, let’s use “Katie” for an example. Where does Katie work? Is she married? Kids? What does she do in her free time? What is Katie’s household income? The more specific, the better.
2. Measure, Measure, Measure.
There’s an old saying, "Half the money you spend on advertising is wasted, and you don't know which half." Unfortunately, this is true in many cases, but it doesn’t have to be. Careful planning and – most importantly, measurement, ensures your advertising is working hard for your business.
It's all about ROI -- Return On Investment. This may sound complicated, but it's actually pretty easy to calculate. Simply take the benefit you receive from an investment, and subtract the cost of that investment. Divide the result by the cost of that investment. (Benefit - Cost)/Cost.
You can apply this to any business investment, including marketing campaigns. And you should. ROI tells you if a given effort is providing a net benefit to your bottom line, and if so, the size of the gain. You'll want to get the highest ROI possible from your marketing dollars, and you can't improve what you don't measure.
3. Buy Media; Don’t Be Sold
Strategically buy your media, don't allow yourself to be "sold." Make sure you evaluate all options, across all communications channels, not just whoever happens to knock on your door. And evaluate them in terms of their effectiveness for your target market, not necessarily in terms of your personal interests!
Also, make sure that any reps who call on you know you're considering other placement; they will probably sweeten their rates.
4. Integrate Your Marketing Messages.
Don't spend all of your marketing dollars on a single medium. Why not? Because multi-channel marketing efforts perform better. In one study, over a few years multi-channel customers spent at least several hundred dollars more in comparison with single-channel customers. Multiply that difference by your total number of customers, and you can see there's real value to be had.
As you venture into multi-channel marketing, be sure to integrate your marketing. You'll need to convey the same message across all channels.
And don't forget some powerful experiential channels that many small franchises overlook. Your storefront or office, your signage, your employees, and your product are all sending messages of their own. Are those experiential messages consistent with your advertising messages? Are they consistent with the message you want to send?
5. Relations With Local Media.
The thing to remember about local media is that when your business is down, so is theirs. Just like you, your local media want long-term repeatable revenue in a down economy. They want to keep your business! This means now is the time to renegotiate your contracts.
This is especially true of local print media. Understand the downward pricing pressure exerted on these media by the power of the internet: In 2008, print classified ad spend was down to about half what it was in 2000! Blame Craigslist, Google, and Yahoo -- then put this knowledge to work for you.
6. Newspapers Are Still a Valid Option.
Although readership is shrinking, newspapers are still a valid local advertising option.
Particularly in smaller markets, newspapers carry more weight with the local audience.
Older readers in particular continue to rely on newspapers, especially for local info.
But make sure you supplement ad placement in the print version with placement on the newspaper's own on-line presence. In 2008, newspapers actually accounted for over one-quarter of all local online advertising!
And consider writing up a press release announcing your company's opening, refurbishment, website, sale, or upcoming special event -- anything that could be seen as "news." Get it out to your local papers. They may not take it, but they might if they need to fill a spot in a hurry.
7. Digital Works Locally.
You say you don't think of interactive or online media as being "local"?
In fact, local online advertising is expected to grow 6% in 2009, to a total spend of $13.3 Billion. In a broader sense, local digital media includes things like Google Maps, Yahoo Local, and online yellow pages. These are growing too.
Local search is also a powerful tool, increasingly replacing printed Yellow Pages. People used to "let their fingers do the walking;" now it's the mouse! Local search is when a potential customer uses a search engine to find your kind of business, adding the name of your city or town. When that happens, you want that customer to see your company's link -- front and center!
8. Build Your Online Presence -- Beyond Your Own Website.
Local search will work more effectively for you if you have your own website -- and get it on the first page of search results.
To rise in the search rankings, your site needs to have relevant keywords but not appear "keyword-stuffed" -- containing nothing but keywords and no useful knowledge.
A single website is not enough; keywords are not enough. Search engines also take into account how many websites have links to yours. This is an indication of how useful and relevant your content is.
You can build links to your website from your own Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter pages. This will help you rise in the search rankings. But it means you need to have a strategic plan for your online presence, and commit resources to implementing it.
9. Build a Relationship.
Attracting a new customer costs about 5 times as much as keeping an existing one. To control your customer acquisition costs, therefore, you need to build an emotional connection between your customers and your brand. (And yes, all companies have a brand, even if they don't realize it!)
To do this, foster a relationship with your customers outside of the buying interaction.
Direct mail, email, social media, blogs, and Twitter can all contribute.
10. Email Marketing Is Your Friend.
Once you build up a solid email list, email marketing is relatively inexpensive and highly targeted. If done right, you know you are communicating a relevant message to motivated customers who want a relationship with you. That's a marketer's dream!
How do you build your own email list? Offer a "membership" campaign on your website. Give something of value exclusively to members (i.e., discount coupon, etc.) in return for their email addresses. Make sure you respect their privacy and take care in how you use customer contact info -- and tell them about your privacy commitment.
Then, respect that preference! Nothing is more annoying to a customer (and therefore destructive of the relationship you're trying to build) than when they've told a company their preferences -- and then that company ignores them.
There you have it: The Top 10 Things You Need To Know About Local Franchise Marketing. It isn't just the Yellow Pages any more!