Often, as digital marketers, we get caught up in the business of completing tasks. When it comes to multi location clients, an agency's responsibilities can grow exponentially. Depending on our areas of focus, we develop long to-do lists of content to write, social updates to post, technical SEO items to finagle, and PPC budgets to adjust.
And that's all important.
But today I got a chance to catch up with Andrew Beckman, founder of Location3. While Location3 handles all the typical tasks expected of a digital marketing agency, the company also has some unique approaches to bringing added value to their multi location clients. It's not unusual to find Location3 engaged in client education efforts, or using their data to provide clients with solid process improvement advice.
If you're interested in turning your agency into more than a marketing agency, if you want to act as a partner to multi location clients, and not just as a service provider, then this interview is one you won't want to miss.
Of course, due to the nature of Location 3's client base, you'll find some great insights about multi-location local SEO as well!
On identifying and pursuing your target demographic
Carmen: Location3 knows exactly who your core customers are: franchises and multi location clients. Why did you guys zero in on that demographic?
Andrew: Over the past 20 years we've had many different types of clients. We just started to see as we started building out our internal technology and platform to help with local businesses, it just seemed to make the most sense for what fit us and what fit the business model. It helped us scale our growth at a more tolerable rate.
In the traditional agency model, it's like you get some big clients, you build because of that, and you lose them and end up getting rid of your staff.
A lot of different things aligned to make us say, we want to make a focused area. We do work with a lot of other types of enterprise clients, but the vast majority of our business is multi location clients and franchises.
On the unique challenges that multi location clients and franchises face in digital marketing
Carmen: What are some challenges unique to those franchises?
Andrew: I think the part that's unique from our perspective is the fact that all of these different businesses operate with all these different models.
All of them have the same challenge in that, "we have a large footprint, we have locations all over the country and all over the world, and we need to make sure we have local visibility."
But...they also run into a lot of challenges whether they're a co-op, they have corporate operations, they're a franchise system, and they all have different levels of engagement with individual owners. Some people want the franchisees to have as many touch points as possible with their location data.
Others want to control everything from the corporate level.
Others are a mixed bag, and others are like: "we have X amount of work that has to be done that's mandated by corporate," and other people have options to put as much or as little into their program as they like.
So I think a big challenge for us is working with all these different models that these types of companies have.
But we're happy to do it, because we want to be partners vs. delivering an off-the-shelf, menu service. We customize everything for our clients.
On being a data driven agency working with multi location clients
Carmen: As I understand it, your agency is very data-driven. How do you use that data to help your clients?
Andrew: I would say the biggest thing is just identifying opportunities to improve.
Number one, our main focus from a performance standpoint, is to drive growth. Once we've got all the foundational, fundamental areas taken care of, we are always looking for new opportunities to help us make informed decisions based on what's going to impact our client's goals.
More so than just saying, "Alright, we're going to do X, Y, and Z" for the next 12 months. It's more like, "Hey, here's where we're going to start." And the data's going to take us in different directions, and we're going to be flexible enough to go there.
On the starting point of the client and agency relationship
Carmen: What's the typical starting point for a franchise owner when you start helping them?
Andrew: A lot of our engagements deal only with the corporate level. We do have some where our customer support team is working with an individual franchisee.
For an individual franchisee, they do an onboarding process to get them onto our platform. We have our own software platform which gives them access to their Google My Business, analytics, and insights, lets them respond to reviews and to look at their Q&A, look at things on Facebook, and also manage their paid search campaigns and view the performance there. Setting up their Yelp account through our system as well.
If I'm a franchise owner just signing on to Location 3 and the LocalAct platform, I'll go through some training. Usually there's a kickoff webinar, and they'll talk to one of our customer support managers. We'll get their profile set up, kind of get to know what their goals are, past performance, issues they had in the past, and figure out the tolerance for tactics to invest incremental spend beyond what corporate's providing.
From there, it's focusing on what really matters to the franchisee. Whether I'm spending money on a Yelp campaign to help with reputation management because I previously had bad reviews, or found a location that was not run properly: some people want to focus there.
Others say, hey, we've had this business for ten to fifteen years, and we just want to make sure we're driving more foot traffic. Or more phone calls. If you're a service area business, making sure that the service area is set up properly. Everything's accurate, and we're able to put them in a good position for optimal visibility.
On the franchise level, it's getting in touch with our customer support team, getting set up, and then checking in on a regular basis to make sure the performance is what they expect.
On working with different types of multi location clients and identifying strategies that impact the bottom line
Carmen: You mentioned all these different levels of engagement and communication. Is there a certain style or level you prefer that really makes one of these companies a great client for you guys?
Andrew: No, everyone's a little different. And sometimes they're even working with one of our competitors for certain other things. We're happy to do whatever needs to be done with new relationships just to build that trust and show we can do the things we say we do.
We've learned over the years that just tends to turn into additional growth. Whether it's someone just coming in for a single service, just doing franchise paid search, or they're doing digital marketing at a local level.
And that's great, that's a great starting point.
We've had many multi location clients that have been with us for a single service for many years. We have a lot of other clients where they start with one, and they grow into an agency of record, and then we handle all their paid media display, organic search, content, all of that.
There isn't one ideal, just because the offering isn't really off-the-shelf, it's always customized. We're happy to help wherever we can.
Carmen: What's the most effective way your agency helps these multi location clients? The stuff that's really moving the needle for them?
Andrew: Like I said, every business is a little different, they have their individual challenges, but I'd say on the whole, on the organic side of things (that's my main focus, on the organic and local SEO side), one of the things we see from very foundational, basic things, is really just cleaning up all the duplicate accounts, a lot of wrong data, outdated location information.
Just really dialing into the foundational elements of Google My Business. We've seen so much additional usage over the past year and a half, with traffic coming in. We're driving a lot more phone calls, a lot more driving directions.
It seems like organic search from the SEO side of things, there's always growth opportunities there, but quick wins that we really see, usually pretty quick within a couple weeks of kicking off an engagement, it's like a light switch.
Just really being able to clean things up and make sure that all the data is accurate, the data distribution is aligned with what we have on the website and on our local profiles. That seems to be a big win really quickly these days.
Carmen: I'm surprised that's still so common, all the duplicate and wrong information.
Andrew: It is, and you'd be surprised to see where all these places are getting their information.
All the big data distributors are out there. You're still able to pull up old accounts from the old DexPage and Yellow Pages. That stuff is still out there.
Often what we see, especially in the franchise space, is people don't know corporate is building these accounts for them. So they decide to build their own profile, and they're not paying attention to making sure the phone number's right. They'll say, "Oh I want people to call me on my cell" vs. the store.
Or their address isn't set up across the board the way it is for everyone else.
So I think a lot of times those duplicates are happening because of miscommunication with corporate and individual owners, because they hear about something they should be doing and they try to do it, and they don't know if they're all on the same page or not.
On working with a corporate business to strategize, align, and communicate with each of their locations
Carmen: Do you find yourself having to help corporations develop a strategy for talking to franchisees or developing a policy for listing locations so that stuff doesn't keep happening?
Taking what we've learned over the years, a lot of it has an educational aspect. We go to a lot of our clients' yearly and quarterly conferences for their franchisees.
We go, not just as a vendor, but to go there and talk about what we're seeing in this space and why corporate is doing certain programs. We're really helping with the educational aspect for the clients.
Carmen: That's awesome! Do you have any success stories you feel comfortable sharing with me? Perhaps a time when you tried something unique and got positive results?
In our LocalAct platform, we pull in reviews and Q&A from Google.
It is a pretty common thing for people to know they should be looking at the reviews and not just responding to them, but taking what they learn from their reviews to heart.
Some of the things we've been doing from a data perspective is going through and trying to gain insight into what the actual sentiment is. Doing some sentiment analysis of reviews to to say, okay, where do the issues lie? Not just with a specific location, but the business as a whole.
We try to help make the business better. We try to create better functions from corporate all the way down. Maybe the corporate processes aren't aligned with what people are expecting or what not. So it's not always only the fault of the franchisee.
In one instance, we were able to pull review sentiment out of our platform for a company that has over 1000 locations.
They were able to identify some issues they had. They owned them. They said,
"Hey, we are changing some policies we have regarding this type of engagement with our customers. You guys have let us know about it, we're doing something to fix it."
They updated all of their content in their local pages, and in their business profiles, to speak to the things that were showing up within the reviews.
Within 2 or 3 months, we started seeing more positive reviews coming through.
We were still doing a lot with responding to reviews and whatnot, but as we started seeing that content change, that content shift to speak to issues that were being brought up across the internet, not just in Google reviews, we just started seeing more positive engagement.
And visibility, we saw a slight increase. However, we saw a much bigger increase in clicks and calls.
So clicks to the website, and calls directly from Google My Business listings. They were pretty significant.
We've seen growth across the board for visits to the website, calls, and even clicking to get directions to a location. For that one business specifically, the growth there was much larger than what we've seen across all listings as a whole.
Carmen: That's a pretty interesting and unique way to go about it. I don't see a lot of agencies also acting as business advisors.
They might say, "Hey, guys, look at your reviews and see what you need to fix." But this is the first time I've heard of someone saying, "Hey, we've analyzed this for you, and all your french fries are always burned," or whatever the issue is, "and this is what you guys need to fix." And then as you do that you get that offline change that drives the online change.
Andrew: Absolutely! I think one of the interesting parts about it is, it's not like, "Hey, this is one of the services we offer," but we brought up some of the sentiment analysis from our findings.
Our contact said, "Hey, yeah, that's actually a big thing that our CEO really cares about."
Or it becomes something beyond delivering your normal service, here's what the contract says, we'll deliver X, Y, and Z.
It's that we want to focus on what's important to you. Most of the time, the things that are important to our contact are performance. Driving the metrics that drive dollar signs. But sometimes multi location clients run into other issues where they have to shift their focus.
Like maybe it's more of a reputation play at this point in time. Having the flexibility to focus on what's important to our clients, focused on their goals outside of just being tied to a dollar amount in terms of performance, or different costs per leads, or driving X amount of traffic and phone calls. We take it a little bit further to do what is important to them at that point and time.
On outside-of-the-box data analysis for multi location clients
Carmen: Are there other types of data analysis y'all have done that aren't sort of typical marketing agency studies that have translated into things you've been able to help your clients with?
Andrew: Yes! We do a lot of pairing data. A lot of our multi location clients are multi-service clients. So whether we're working on local search or a paid organic standpoint to full blown enterprise-level SEO to paid search, a lot of times with our clients when we're running organic and paid campaigns, we share a lot of our paid search data with all the services we're working with.
Our Business Intelligence team has done some really cool work by taking our paid search data and pairing that with some of the basic keyword level data you get from Search Console.
And identifying opportunities from a content perspective, to help identify areas where areas where we should be focusing on creating more content to match user intent based off data from our paid search campaigns. These paid search campaigns can highlight areas where maybe we're just spending a lot of money. It's a competitive space, cost-per-lead is really high, we're just not seeing the performance we could be, and we're spending a lot of money from a paid perspective, maybe we can start pulling back on paid if we can improve organic visibility.
Utilizing that data has been really really helpful. I know some other agencies, I know Seer Interactive is doing a lot with that. Will Reynolds is pushing the Power BI, taking that data, filtering it through Power BI and developing some insights. Our Business Intelligence team is doing something very similar. I think going based off more Data Studio than Power BI.
On fixing bad reputations
Carmen: You mentioned cleaning up reputations. When you get someone who has a bad reputation, besides pinpointing the sentiment, what else do you do to try to turn that around?
Andrew: So that one's a little bit tricky. Everyone is a little bit different. But from that perspective it's more training the client on how to properly respond to reviews. One of our clients does not let their franchisees manage their Google My Business profile reviews, because in the past they've had franchisees who kind of go off the wall, take things personally, and end up leaving these angry rants.
Trying to develop a process for responding to those sorts of things while on the backend you're trying to come to a solution to solve these problems. It's more about education on how to manage them and how to respond.
Internally we don't respond to reviews. We don't know the business inside and out, specifically, like the franchisee or corporate would. So it's more just about letting them understand how to properly respond to things, how to create better PR from a content perspective, how to take advantage of the things you're already doing, like how a specific location is active in the community, things they're doing for employees, trying to help focus on the good things they're doing whether than letting their online reputation be visible.
On the future of local digital marketing for multi location businesses
Carmen: Finally, what are some of the upcoming challenges and opportunities you see coming up over the next year, two years or so, for multi-location businesses?
Andrew: We see a lot of stuff from a retail perspective where retailers are definitely struggling.
So I think eCommerce, and things like Amazon, are definitely a challenge to retail.
We do a little retail, but most of our clients are service area businesses, or places where people like to go or need to go, to a location. From my perspective, that's still helpful.
But I think in the coming years a lot of these different models, some of these direct-to-consumer models, are creating more competition, but also more opportunity for agencies like ours. If they've been direct-to-consumer, online only, now they're expanding into some places. Like the Smile Direct Clubs or Warby Parker, they're starting to build new locations.
Even Amazon and Trip Advisor now have physical locations. Stores that people can go to. So I think there's some opportunity there.
I think the biggest challenge in the coming year or two is Google is the main search engine most people talk about. They're kind of impeding on the space from a paid perspective. They're always looking for opportunities to drive more revenue. So working from the organic side of things, search result pages, maps results, voice search, stuff like that I think will shift quite a bit towards people paying to get better visibility there.
Also Google making more of a revenue stream, whether they're charging people to manage their data or have some paid services. They're foraying into that with the service area ads and stuff like that. That's another thing we'll have to keep dealing with.
That's why I like doing what we do. It's challenging, it's always changing. You have to keep learning and adjusting, going with the flow of what users are doing, what Google is doing.
Want more of Andrew's insights? Follow him on Twitter at @Andrew_Beckman.