Learning from the Little Guy: Local Search Marketing for Big Brands

From Chipotle to Starbucks to Whole Foods, there are several national (even world wide) businesses that have managed to become the popular neighborhood go-to. They feel like your hometown coffee shop or grocery store, whether you’re shopping down the block from your front stoop or across the country in New Jersey on a work trip. How do these mega companies achieve consistent service and product delivery across countless locations? And, how do they maintain their brand identity well, through-and-through each individual door? Each smaller umbrella of an overarching franchise needs to mimic the same strategies. Also, every location has to be easily searchable—so when the vagabond or CEO needs her cappuccino fix, she can locate the cup from L.A. to Orlando. To improve local search marketing for big brands, they need to first establish a list of guidelines for each location to follow. When scripting out the rules, here’s a list of what to consider:

1) Which social media platforms do you want each business to use?

Define those channels and communicate those—albeit fun!—requirements. Make sure it’s understood that the social media engagement is not optional. Integrate that social media responsibility into the job requirements for the appropriate employee. Of course, include the proper compensation to reflect those efforts. (Perhaps there’s even a social media/marketing representative at each location.) In the social media guidelines, include the frequency of engagement (for example, once daily vs. once weekly), the agenda of the posts (i.e. can the social media guru post about any topic that’s relevant, or only about events with a social cause?) and the appropriate images.

2) Define the social media language.

Should the hashtags be universal regardless of location (#hamburgerjoe), exclusive to location (#hamburgerjoeseattle) or both? Are there any words that should be avoided in general to maintain your business ethics or political correctness? For example, phrases such as “at risk youth,” versus “under privileged youth” or “woman” versus “girl” could be offensive if used inappropriately.

3) Again, looking at social media accounts: What should the account name be?

For example, Thump Coffee is a coffee house in multiple national locations including Bend and Denver. The Denver storefront has a Facebook page that’s labeled, “Thump Coffee Capitol Hill Roastery.” The location in Bend is the original name, because that was the original location. As your national brand expands, it may be helpful for local search marketing to sandwich the specific location with the name, such as “Mary’s Cupcakes Phoenix,” and “Mary’s Cupcakes Austin,”—to help consumers avoid any confusion when they are searching for your business.

4) Each local business can be included in as many local directories as possible.

From directories to media outlets, here are 16 places your business needs to be listed online.

5) Make sure analytics tracking is set up to log that local activity

So, are people actually responding to those directory listings? This could differ depending on the demographic, geography and population that each business location serves. Make sure you are tracking this activity! 

Once you establish the company guidelines for local search marketing, make sure each local business is also queued up for success. Provide the proper education: Perhaps, an hour-long information session for everyone in the company, for each location. Then, check back. Follow up monthly or quarterly and give positive feedback as well as methods of improvement.

Morgan Tilton is a contributor to the Connectivity blog. 


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