How Dwyer Group connects the dots between its 13 different home-service franchise brands
A CMO's View with Lisa Zoellner, chief marketing officer for Dwyer Group.
Few people may know the Dwyer Group — but, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Molly Maid, The Glass Doctor or Mr. Appliance, all brands that belong to the company’s family of home-service franchise businesses.
Up until this year, the 13 different franchises had been managed separately on a brand level.
“Dwyer Group is not a consumer-facing brand,” says Lisa Zoellner, CMO for the company. “There’s never been any sort of link between these brands, no communication effort to help folks understand that all of these brands are from the same family of brands.”
Since joining Dwyer Group in January of last year, the CMO says she has been focused on building an “overarching” growth strategy that connects the company’s collection of well-known home-service businesses.
Recently, her team took a major step toward bringing together the company’s 13 franchise brands under one umbrella when it launched Neighborly, an online resource that houses all of the Dwyer Group’s home-service franchises, offering consumers a searchable platform to find local home service professionals.
“This idea of knitting all the brands together and creating a consumer proposition that is more all-encompassing of caring for your home — repairing, maintaining and enhancing your home — is a new strategy for us,” says Zoellner.
The CMO says the company’s new direction — bringing its 13 franchise brands together under one umbrella brand — has required different skill sets, different technologies and new resources. For today’s CMO’s View interview, Zoellner takes us through the process of adopting these new skills sets and shares the challenges involved with managing a wide selection of brands, as well as the opportunities that have come with connecting them.
1. Find or create common threads. All of our 13 brands share a common customer and live by our code of values. This creates efficiency in our marketing execution and consistency in terms of what customers can expect from our Neighborly brands.
2. Don’t force it — one size won’t fit all. It is important to recognize and value the differences between brands. This is critical to developing the full potential of each brand and in turn the success of the whole portfolio.
3. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Each brand has its own team, strategy and goals, but they do not operate in silos. We expect our brand leaders to collaborate, share ideas and learn from one another. We also encourage our franchisees to partner locally under the Neighborly umbrella.
Amy Gesenhues: To start, can you share the business objective behind launching GetNeighborly.com? What was the primary goal of bringing together Dwyer Group’s 13 different franchise brands?
Lisa Zoellner: The business opportunity is, across all of these brands, our customers are very similar. They’re all homeowners or business owners who want to have premium expert help in repairing, maintaining and enhancing their properties. That’s the one thing all of our customers have in common.
Molly Maid is a premium brand. Mr. Rooter’s a premium brand. They’re all premium brands. They share the same customer, but what we see in our analytics is that a very small percentage of our customers have ever used more than one of our brands. So it’s the same customer, they’re all willing to pay for premium services, yet most of them have only used one of our brands ever. And so getting that cross-utilization.
There has never been an overarching — we call it an umbrella — brand here, or a master brand is a term that would be more familiar to most marketers. That’s never existed before. Your average consumer has no idea that Molly Maid is owned by the same company, or has anything to do with, Mr. Electric or Mr. Handyman, or any of our other brands.
Part of what we’re doing with Neighborly is telling that story. That we have all of these premium brands where you can expect outstanding service and expertise, and they’re all part of the same family of Neighborly brands.
Neighborly enables us to tell that story. The [Neighborly] website enables the consumer to have one-stop shopping for most of their needs in their home by going to this one website, telling us what they need. And then, we serve up the appropriate brand for whatever service they need.
AG: You mentioned that the process of bringing these brands together necessitated a different skill set and new technologies. How so?
LZ: For most of the history of our company, the brands have been run very autonomously, each individual brand.
The databases, for example, were all separate databases, so one of the skill sets we needed was a CRM/database-marketing type of skill set that we did not have in the organization at the level needed for the complexity of pulling all this together across all of these brands, across seven point-of-sale systems, dealing with legacy IT systems.
We needed new talent around new technology as well. So with all those different point-of-sale systems and all those different brands, working very closely with our IT team to create a centralized customer database has been one of the pieces of infrastructure that needed to be put in place.
AG: Can you take me through the process of plugging all of the franchises into the Neighborly brand? What were some of the biggest challenges you faced?
LZ: The process was a process most marketers would be very familiar with — starting with what do we know about all of our brands?
Going back to the research we already had, doing additional research, looking for that common thread of what ties it all together — which makes it much more challenging than creating a brand from scratch that doesn’t have to work in the context of 13 other brands, right?
We worked very closely with each of the individual service brand teams to understand what their brand stood for. I’m fairly new in this role — I’ve been here for just over a year — so when we began this, it was important for me to understand each of the individual service brands as well [through] research, involvement and participation from each of the individual brands, [and] bringing in a top-notch agency resource.
We used Bullish, out of New York City, to help us with this. Once we understood and had done all of that digging around each of the individual brands — What do they have in common? What is the consumer experience? What ties it all together? — what was super-important to us is that we not start from scratch and create something that wasn’t the experience we were already delivering through our franchisees for each of our service brands. So that was the process we went through.
What we learned through that process is the service systems we have in place for each of our franchise brands, the values-driven way we do business across all of our brands, the outstanding service we provide, and the expertise — those were the common themes across all of the brands that led us to Neighborly.
One of the things that was great for me to see, coming in new to the organization, is that we really do deliver on the brand we’ve created. Our group and our brands have been surveying customers and monitoring the customer experience for many, many years. Our service scores are really off the charts, outstanding in terms of what our customers tells us in terms of the type of service we’re providing.
AG: Did you have any major surprises or “aha” moments about your audience once you started pulling together the data and consumer research from the individual brands?
LZ: I would say that the similarity in customer experience across such different categories of business was surprising to me.
While it was certainly a challenging undertaking, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that the experience of a customer with Mr. Rooter — which tends to be an emergency situation, a plumbing issue that needs to be addressed — that experience, and what customers have told us about that experience, was really not very different from the experience with Mr. Handyman, a very different use occasion, where you may be enhancing your home or doing a home improvement project.
The experience, and the mindset and the emotional journey our customers were going through — there was so much similarity, even though our businesses are so very different. It did make it easier for us to find that common thread.
AG: What about marketing insights? Were there any surprises when you pooled research from the separate brands?
LZ: First of all, we did not know what the cross-utilization was between our brands. We did not understand that less than 2 percent of our customers have ever used more than one of our brands. That was pretty surprising, to find out the number was that low. We certainly knew that it was an opportunity.
It wasn’t necessarily about the specific profile of a customer — the audience was so similar from one to the other. We believed and knew they were somewhat similar because we’d obviously done research for each individual brand in the past — but it hadn’t been looked [at] through the lens of bringing them all together under one brand before.
That was a pleasant confirmation, that there wasn’t any big variance in terms of who our audience or who our target was across the brands. The big surprise was just how little cross-utilization there had been over the years between the brands. We knew that it was going to be low, because as I said before, there had never been any effort to cross-brand and to expose customers of one brand to another.
But the fact that it was below 2 percent, and the huge opportunity even with small increases in that cross-utilization, was the biggest surprise, for me.
AG: As a franchise company, I assume your marketing team has two distinctly different audiences, the end consumer and the franchise owners. How has this new direction impacted your franchise owners?
LZ: We definitely see our franchise owners as our customers, and we also see the end consumer of the service as our customer. So yes, we do have a dual customer. We would not exist if not for our franchisees.
It’s very important that everything we do helps them grow their business — that’s what we do, we help franchisees grow their business. Whether it’s through the service brands and growing them, and now additionally through this umbrella brand, that will lower our marketing cost for our franchises.
If you think about it in an individual market, we have 10 different franchises, for 10 of the 13 brands — and they’re all working to acquire customers. Now through our CRM program — and our email marketing program — we’re able to expose the customers of one concept to another concept and lower the cost of marketing for our franchisees because we’re fishing from our existing pond of customers, so to speak. They’re very excited about it.
One franchisee in a market has 5,000 customers — but there are 50,000 customers when you take all the brands into account. That one franchise, knowing now there are 45,000 other customers that we’re going to market to on their behalf under the umbrella of Neighborly — that’s pretty exciting in terms of helping them grow their business.
AG: How has the launch of Neighborly helped with brand consistency between the different franchises?
LZ: Obviously, we want for consumers to think of Neighborly as a one-stop shop for all of their home repair maintenance and projects, for all of their needs. Connecting all of the brands that provide all of those services under the umbrella of Neighborly just makes sense.
It connects the dots for consumers. Otherwise, without any awareness that these brands are part of the same family of brands, it’s a disconnect from a consumer standpoint, right? Why are you talking to me about Mr. Electric when I am a Mr. Appliance Customer? They both start with “Mr.” But what do they have to do with each other, right? There’s never been any attempt to connect the brands in the mind of the consumer.
With Neighborly, and with our branding of each brand as a Neighborly company — Mr. Appliance as a Neighborly company, Mr. Electric as a Neighborly company — helps consumers know that we’re all part of the same family. And that we all have those standards, and the quality, and the service. That by going to Neighborly, you can access all of these different services in one place.
That’s why it’s important for us to drive that cross-utilization. Neighborly is the connective tissue between the brands that helps it make sense from a consumer standpoint.
AG: Now that you have implemented an overarching brand-management strategy, have marketing efforts changed on an individual brand level?
LZ: There’s a wide variation in the size of the budgets for each brand, which obviously drives a wide variation in the execution for each brand.
In the past, it would be probably right to think about Dwyer Group as a holding company that had all of these different companies within it, but without much cross-branding or much cross-collaboration across the brands. This is really a very brave new world for us in terms of coming together under the umbrella of Neighborly, connecting those dots for consumers, like I talked about before.
But the advent of Neighborly, and the creation of Neighborly, has not really changed anything we’re doing with the individual brands. They still have their customers — they still have their strategies and tactics they’re executing for each individual brand. We’re just bringing Neighborly over the top of those efforts.