Why 2021 Will Be the Year of Local Digital Marketing for Restaurants

    All brand locations need to embrace sophisticated local advertising to win and retain local customers.

    Unsplash/Campaign Creators

    Similar to a franchising model, local digital marketing success starts with building a solid foundation based on proven best practices, strategies, and results and then replicating the program across your locations with a hyperlocal twist.

    Running a local restaurant franchise isn’t easy. Most franchisees understand the importance of a local digital marketing, however, they’re busy running and operating a business. They often lack the time to educate themselves on the nuances of various marketing channels and tactics like paid search or cross-channel retargeting. Or they simply don’t have the expertise to research keywords, build retargeting lists, craft messaging and creative, implement tracking pixels, and execute campaigns across Google, Facebook, or YouTube. This unfamiliarity or previous failed attempts at local digital marketing, through their own efforts or that of a local agency, understandably leads to a poor ROI, skepticism and ultimately abandoning local digital marketing altogether. This opens the door for local competitors to steal their customers—neither the brand nor the franchisee should accept this.

    So how can franchisors, who are responsible for providing marketing infrastructure and guidance as part of their model, help their franchisees adopt digital marketing at the local level? After working with hundreds and thousands of franchise locations across dozens of brands, these are five key takeaways we’ve learned.

    Focus on Best Practices. Create Turnkey Programs and Campaigns While Leveraging Local Insights.

    Similar to a franchising model, local digital marketing success starts with building a solid foundation based on proven best practices, strategies, and results and then replicating the program across your locations with a hyperlocal twist. So, what’s the difference between a Program and a Campaign in local digital marketing? Using a sports analogy, think of basketball when creating your Program. Your chances of making a shot improve greatly when there’s a solid structure always in place in the form of the backboard. Building a multi-location digital marketing Program, with the correct structure and best practices in place, will set your locations up for success and help supercharge your seasonal or promotional Campaigns.

    Every location should spend their first few dollars on a Program—typically local search and local retargeting display. The goal is to continuously build and refine custom local data, lookalike audiences and retargeting capabilities for every location in order to reach their highest value customers. To execute this cost-effectively, without adding more headcount, and ensuring complete alignment with national search and display efforts—using a centralized multi-location marketing platform is the way to go. A solution that connects to the top ad platforms for search, display, video and social so you can manage national and local marketing campaigns holistically from one place.

    KISS: Support and Educate Your Franchisees, but Don’t Overwhelm Them

    This one may seem a bit counterintuitive, but in the case of increasing adoption of digital marketing by your franchisees, less is more. Don’t go overboard.

    You can drive long-term digital marketing success together with your franchisees without ongoing and rigorous training. When done right, with the proper software solution in place, the brand team and marketing experts will drive the strategy and decision-making, along with program and campaign optimizations at the individual location level. Keep it simple for franchisees. Provide communications and support on what they should expect, where ads will run and what they’ll look like, how they can contribute budget, options for selecting the best offer or message to reflect local preferences, and how to view their location level reports.

    Franchisees are entrepreneurs, not professional marketers. Too much red tape or rigorous training requirements will drive franchisees to pay (too much) for their own local agency. By removing complexity with turnkey local marketing programs for your franchisees, you’ll find that simple training via explainer videos and FAQs, along with field team support, will increase adoption and begin delivering local digital marketing results.

    Be Flexible. Empower Franchisees to Incorporate Their Local Expertise by Providing Customization Options.

    Having said the above, some locations want a say in their marketing and others rely on the brand to do it for them. As a modern brand marketer you need the tools to support all locations uniquely, in a unified way.

    While corporate should define overall program and campaign strategy, franchisees know their local community best. Within parameters set by the brand, franchisees can allocate their budgets between their locations, select offers or creative best suited for their business and community, and request creative alterations. Giving franchise owners the ability to “own” aspects of their local digital marketing and make decisions, will keep them heavily invested in their local store marketing success. Providing flexibility and options will increase the likelihood of adoption, especially once positive word of mouth spreads throughout a tight knit franchisee community as they see results.

    Keep Costs Low and Show Franchisees What They’re Paying For

    Digital marketing costs and ROI are often the biggest barrier to entry for franchisees. To cut costs and save time consider a martech solution that will automate the creation, execution and optimization of 100s or 1000s of unique location campaigns for all local areas your franchise serves.

    Even with lower costs franchisees won’t rush into spending money without knowing where it’s being spent and unless they see an ROI. Before you explain the benefits of lookalike audiences or retargeting, focus on the basics. Most of us are visual learners, so show franchisees which ads are being placed on which channels or websites. Preview how the ad will appear to customers on desktop or mobile devices.

    If you have an ad fund that franchisees contribute to, lift the curtain and communicate exactly what they’re getting. Provide transparency with reporting so they can view campaign results and ROI specific to their location and budgets. If franchisees are paying for their own local advertising, make sure they don’t get hurt by exorbitant local agency fees or media margins that are hidden and eat into results.

    Empower Your Field Marketing Teams to Drive Adoption and Results with Data at Their Fingertips.

    Field marketers are often flying blind when trying to guide their franchisees to local marketing success.  If they aren’t able to see information in one place, their jobs become infinitely more difficult. As local marketing becomes even more important headed into 2021, field marketers are going to be relied on more than ever. Look to provide them with a solution where they can access a dashboard with available information customized for them: active campaigns, overall results, results per location, local ad budgets, etc. This will give them the ability to surface actionable insights from one location and apply learnings and best practices to other similar locations in their regions or systemwide.

    As a brand it’s important for you to take care of the hard stuff, remove complexities, and limit the decisions franchisees need to make. Franchises can participate in brand-built advertising they can customize locally and feel confident in. By removing the guesswork, they can see results from the first dollar spent, gain new insights on their local customers, and most importantly drive customers and revenue to their business.

    In 2021, brands cannot afford to have gaps in local advertising or inauthentic community messaging. To win local consumers, all brand locations need to adopt sophisticated local advertising - and you need to make it easy for them.

    Michael Morris is co-founder and head of growth at Hyperlocology, a multi-location marketing platform that allows brands to centrally manage digital marketing tailored for each location, with transparency and collaboration required to drive results in every community.