How can brands and retailers work with local franchisees most effectively to drive in-store sales using online marketing, particularly with seasonality in mind? Hallmark and Rio SEO recently participated in a webinar discussing just that, in which we shared best practices and multi-channel strategy for national-local campaigns.

Carlos E. Corredor, marketing manager for Hallmark Gold Crown – Local, offered valuable real-world lessons for participants, based on his company’s extensive national brand experience and perspective. With over 2,000 retail outlets in the U.S. alone (both Corporate and individually owned stores), Hallmark understands better than most of the intricacies of effective national-local strategy.

Corredor was joined in the webinar by Tyler Ludwig, our director of product and strategy here at Rio SEO who spoke about best practices in local search. Local Search Association’s VP of Strategy & Insights Greg Sterling hosted the webinar and provided an overview of the current laEdscape of search as it relates to local.

From Search to Sale: Digitally Influenced Offline Spending

The big story in internet marketing today isn’t e-commerce, but how online influences offline spending. An estimated $10 trillion in offline product and service sales are influenced by online exposure, Sterling said. Mobile is an increasingly influential part of the mix, as customers bounce from channel to channel and device to device as they research their purchases.

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Consumers use a lot of different channels to make local purchasing decisions; search engines, company websites, friends and family input, circulars or emails, and social networks are used most often. In fact, 85% of people polled in a 2015 tracking study told the Local Search Association they had used a search engine to learn about products or services in their local area.

This presents a huge challenge for marketers. How can you use digital media to drive foot traffic to local stores? How can you manage smart local marketing campaigns across hundreds or thousands of national locations and importantly, how can you extend marketing budget to reach beyond your known audience?

Setting Local Retailers Up for Success: Hallmark’s Strategy

Corredor’s team at Hallmark is responsible for the delivery of capabilities, programs and expertise in support of their Gold Crown retailers. It’s a challenging network, he noted, which 2,000 stores, 650 owners responsible for their own stores (some of whom may own 1 or 2 stores and others who may own 50 or 75), and a great degree of market variability.

Those larger store networks might have a marketing manager with an excellent grasp on the needs of its locations, but franchisees with a handful or 1 stores are far less likely to have a comprehensive local strategy. It’s a challenge Hallmark has worked hard to overcome.

One of the very first things Hallmark had to do as a national brand was understanding the difference between how they manage their message nationally and what they wanted to enable retailers to do at the local level. They began by defining roles for both national and local, making clear the role to be played by each, their responsibilities, and the desired outcome.

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Local is really about creating relationships and increasing loyalty, Corredor said. Whether that relationship is created through search, email, or engagement through acquisition or retention, it’s nurtured at the local level.

Hallmark branded their own approach called Retailer Customized Marketing (RCM), a proprietary online, web-based content creation platform integrated with CRM, billing, execution and deployment tools. Retailers can select from templates, for example, to deploy loyalty messages to their customers based on buying patterns or their large loyalty database. It removes many of the technological and creative barriers preventing local retailers from participating in marketing, while keeping messaging and creative on point with the national brand.

Retailers aren’t required to use Hallmark’s CRM, Corredor noted. Many use their own solutions, as well.

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RCM isn’t mandatory, but does give local retailers a way to plan, deploy and track campaigns across email, social, search, in-store, on landing pages, and via direct mail.

Hallmark also had to decide which local marketing assets to own, and which to entrust to retailers. Local listings, for example, are managed at the national level. In Google, on Yelp, and across IYPs, Hallmark claims local listings because they want to ensure location data, hours, and NAP info is accurate across the vast ecosystem. However, they give retailers free rein over their social presence to build local relationships on Facebook where their customers may be engaging.

Across prospecting, acquisition and retention, retailers need the ability to deliver their own messages but with national brand support. Allow a retailer to leverage their messaging within a branded framework, Corredor stressed.

 Deploying a Successful National-Local Campaign

You’re ready to launch, but where should you focus on pushing your information?

Tyler Ludwig recommended that marketers ensure they provide information like special holiday hours, photos, and additional elements to Google listings to drive personalization when consumers are looking for your brand in their moment of need. Updating your local business information on owned media like your local landing pages to mirror your holiday hours and making sure all listing information is correct, up to date and optimized is critical for connecting with mobile consumers as they look to solve local needs. Tip: Don’t present one piece of content one place and another somewhere else, especially your website.

You can then further personalize the online brand experience with rich content and media on local landing pages to include event calendars and special coupons related to the event. This is a tactic Hallmark uses on occasions like Mother’s Day, with great success. The key though is in pushing it as far and wide as possible, across social, email, blogs or wherever they may live online (i.e. your Yelp page, Foursquare, Bing, and more!). Consumers look to a myriad of places to find your information so make sure it is consistent for the best impact.

Seasonal Marketing Tips for Success

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As seasons change, so too do the needs of local consumers. There’s no silver bullet in local; no one-size-fits-all solution. When kicking off a campaign, Ludwig advises that marketers first identify their overall strategy at the national local and how that translates to (or differs from) local. The personalization required for an effective campaign must take into account not only different demographics, but how those consumers’ needs change across regions and seasons.

Build a solid foundation on which to build an effective seasonal national-local strategy:

  • Make sure your marketing tools are in place and built for scale.
  • Work with stakeholders and partners who understand your vision.
  • Ensure that core business information is correct and up to date across the entire local search ecosystem.
  • Take control of your brand messaging across desktop, mobile, search engines and valued directories like Yelp and Foursquare.
  • Let your data determine where your audience engages most and where you need to be.

Starting your prep work early is key, Ludwig stressed. You cannot react to trends and expect to be in front of consumers in the moments of need. Ideally, you’ll begin preparing for campaigns 30 to 60 days in advance giving you time to prepare for any hurdles as they spring up in your path. This lead time gives you the opportunity to coordinate your assets and local messaging, as well as to develop and deploy a launch schedule for all stakeholders.

As you plan, remember to determine how you’ll track the effectiveness of each facet of your campaign.

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Tips for Ongoing Success Driving Local Sales with Online

It’s one thing to take all of these prescribed steps, but how do you know if they’re working?

Ludwig emphasized that it’s critical to track, analyze and learn from your campaigns on an ongoing basis. Make sure you have reporting tools in place to ensure the information you’re pushing out is correct, live and effective.

Measure each aspect of the campaign — what source did they come from? How did they engage? Did the interaction result in a sale? Coupon codes are a great way to track how people arrived on a specific landing page, and you can tie it directly to a sale, Ludwig said. It can be as simple as creating a unique coupon just for the local space.

Two to four weeks before the event you’re marketing, track it throughout the process.  Check out your bounce rates from emails and engagement so you can optimize your content for conversions as the campaign runs; don’t wait until the end to analyze and adjust.

Watch the Full Webinar

Watch Sterling, Corredor and Ludwig’s full webinar below for more great insight and actionable tips to help you improve your national-local seasonal campaigns:

See full slideshow on Slideshare.

Originally posted at LSA[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]