MarTech Landscape: What Is Local Marketing Automation Software?
Marketing at the local level can be enhanced -- and more efficient -- when tasks are automated.
Marketing to consumers at the local level has always been challenging for large national brands — or for any organization — with multiple locations. Corporate managers want centralized control while combining brand consistency with geo-specific local messaging. Imagine being the brand manager, checking addresses and phone numbers for hundreds of retail stores or monitoring social media comments at the local level. Each location is its own business, but it’s not.
Note: This is part of our Martech Landscape series, which will look at various marketing technology platforms over the coming months.
Thankfully, there is software that can automate many of the tasks involved in marketing at the local level.
What Goes Into A Local Marketing Campaign?
Before identifying what steps to automate, let’s first look at the five basic elements of a local marketing campaign:
1. Listing management. The foundation of successful local marketing is clean data and accurate listings — including name, address, phone number (“NAP”), maps, photos and business hours. Making sure data are consistent is crucial to being found locally; even minor discrepancies in a company name (“ABC Corp.” vs. “ABC Inc.”) can negatively impact your results.
2. Local SEO. Local SEO and listing management are closely linked: accurate, complete and consistent listings improve search engine rankings. Location data needs to be optimized for maximum SEO benefit.
3. Local landing pages. Each brand location needs its own responsively designed landing page that offers comprehensive local information for consumers.
4. Reputation management. Online reviews are a critical part of local marketing, and they need to be managed.
5. Paid search and social media. Paid and social are core elements of the digital strategy, and they need to be customized to the city, ZIP code or region for maximum return.
What Can Local Marketing Automation Software Do?
The following capabilities are included in most local marketing automation software platforms:
- Listing management (includes claiming and cleaning listings)
- Listing distribution (either direct to publisher or through aggregators)
- Local SEO
- Local landing pages
- Mobile optimization of local content
Full-service platforms may also offer more extensive features, such as:
- Reputation management (through online reviews and ratings monitoring and analysis)
- Local paid search or social advertising campaigns
- Social media posting and management
- In-store beacon technology or promotion capabilities
- Local data analytics
What Are The Benefits Of Local Marketing Automation?
Whether you’re managing 500+ locations across the entire county or several locations within a given region, there are benefits and efficiencies to be gained from automating, including:
- Improved search engine rankings. Accurate business listings and optimized landing pages can boost search engine rankings. Search engine crawlers are increasing their reliance on site authority and validation — which come from accurate and consistent business information across a range of directories and backlinks. Automating listing distribution and landing page development and optimization expedite these processes and can help move individual store or dealer locations to the top of SERPs.
- Increased productivity. Manual tasks such as SEO and schema markup, online directory listing management and distribution, search engine map management and development and maintenance of local landing pages and mobile-optimized pages are time-consuming and tedious. Automating these processes frees up both your corporate marketers and your local managers to focus on their primary roles: marketing your brand and selling your products and services.
- More cost-efficient marketing. Case studies from national retailers show that automating local marketing functions can help to lower CPCs due to better SEO.
- Better message coordination and consistency. Local marketing automation tools foster coordination between national and local marketers through CMSs that centralize brand marketing messages, campaigns and product information, as well as location data including addresses, product selections and business hours. The result is the ability to disseminate brand-approved, consistent, accurate marketing information across locations.
- Expanded local marketing expertise. Digital marketing expertise varies widely across local networks of dealers, franchisees and retailers. Many local marketing automation vendors offer strategic services to help clients engage local businesses and make local marketing a more successful endeavor.
What Should We Look For During The Demo Of Local Marketing Automation Software?
Once you’ve determined the need for local marketing automation software, contact vendors and schedule demos, making sure that all potential internal users of the software are on the call. Pay attention to the following:
- How easy is the tool to use?
- Does the vendor seem to understand our business and our marketing needs?
- Are they showing us our “must-have” features?
Other questions to ask include:
- How do you syndicate listings? Some vendors do direct-to-publisher submissions via APIs, while others use large data aggregators, which can result in a significant (i.e., two to three months) time lag in updating data.
- What kind of global coverage does the platform provide? If you manage international locations and have a large foreign customer base, find out if the platform standardizes foreign addresses and syndicates listings to foreign online directories.
- Does the platform automatically optimize content for mobile devices? Some — but not all — vendors offer built-in mobile optimization for landing pages and/or listings. If capturing the mobile shopping audience is important to your brand, find out what the vendor’s mobile capabilities are.
- How easy is integration with our existing CRM or marketing automation platforms/tools? Integrating software systems has become critical for brand marketers who are inundated with digital data. Find out if the vendor can connect to your system APIs — or if you would need a more expensive custom integration.
- Is there a workflow built in that allows me to coordinate the work of my corporate marketers with all of our locations? Many national brands want to maintain marketing control on behalf of local distributors, franchises or retail locations. Some platforms will automatically deploy brand-approved content through a CMS. Others allow local and corporate marketers to create and post content. You’ll need to understand your organization’s needs and assess whether or not the vendor’s workflow capabilities are a good match.
- How robust and flexible are your reporting options? Find out if reports can be customized and automatically delivered to different users and types of users and whether data can be exported in CSV format.
- Do you white-label the platform and/or reports for agencies? Agencies represent almost half of the market for local marketing automation platforms. If you are an agency executive or a brand that plans to let your agency manage the platform, you may want to white-label all reports.
- What kind of ongoing support and client engagement will your account team provide? How will you gauge our use or non-use of the tool’s features? One of the most common reasons a company transitions out of a marketing technology tool is that they don’t use it enough. A vendor should be prepared to explain how the tool creatively engages users and gets them back into the environment.
- What new features are you considering? What is the long-term roadmap, and what are the launch dates? It’s important to understand the vendor’s level of innovation and the ability to add and track emerging technologies. Knowing a vendor’s new feature release date schedule and its ability to stick to committed timelines is also very important.
What Are The Names Of Some Local Marketing Automation Software Vendors?
Scott Brinker’s Marketing Technology Landscape 2015 lists 18 companies under the category of local and channel marketing.
MarketingLand’s sister site, Digital Marketing Depot, has published a report, Enterprise Local Marketing Automation Tools: A Marketer’s Guide, which includes profiles of the following vendors: Balihoo, Brandify, Brandmuscle, BrightLocal, Chatmeter, Kenshoo, LocalVox, Mediative, MomentFeed, Moz Local, Placeable, Rio SEO, SIM Partners’ Velocity, SproutLoud, SweetIQ, Sycara Local, Synup, Universal Business Listing, Yext, YP.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.