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How franchise brands can use data science to market themselves

How franchise brands can use data science to market themselves

What was once a fairly straightforward process from awareness to consideration to purchase is now a constellation of countless directly and indirectly connected data and touchpoints that even the most seasoned franchise marketing team can find difficult to harness

Over the last several years, the best ways for franchises to market themselves have significantly changed. A profusion of new tools, platforms and digital technologies are now enabling a more insightful, holistic approach to marketing planning, better customer understanding and improved ways to convert new customers more efficiently.

However, rather than making things easier, this transformation has made marketing much more complex as the proliferation of technology has resulted in more ways to reach and engage with customers. What was once a fairly straightforward process from awareness to consideration to purchase, supported by a few broad-reaching media options, is now a constellation of countless directly and indirectly connected data and touchpoints that even the most seasoned franchise marketing team can find difficult to harness.

Consider that there are now hundreds of offline and online media channels available to reach customers. They can be reached in-home through direct mail, traditional broadcast television or streaming OTT (over the top) platforms such as Netflix or HULU, or on the go through out-of-home media and SMS text campaigns delivered to their smartphones or even their watches. Franchise customers also rely heavily on search to find what they are looking for and search differently on their phone versus their desktop or laptop. The fact that Google changes its search algorithm, which determines placement in search rankings, almost daily makes managing this alone a daunting task.

Start with the customer
Any successful marketing programme should start with the customer, or even better, a detailed, data-driven portrait of their demographic and behavioural characteristics. There are hundreds of customer data points available from first-party (information a company has about customers), second-party (information other companies like Facebook and Google have about customers), and third-party providers (aggregated information on customers from sources like Experian, First American, and Equifax). When combined in the right way these data types will paint a quantitative, actionable profile of a franchise’s customers.

One of the best ways franchises can collect, analyse and activate disparate customer data is through what is known as a Customer Data Platform (CDP). CDPs are technology systems that create a unified customer database from many different data sources. The resulting structured customer profile data is then made available to other systems like CRM and marketing automation platforms for activation. A CDP can also create look-alike audiences made up of people not doing business with the brand, but that share the same personal and lifestyle characteristics as its most valuable customers. These look-alikes have a higher likelihood of doing business than people in general. The benefit of using a CDP is that it collects, analyses, distributes and visualises customer and look-alike customer data, serving as a catalyst for more effective and efficient marketing programmes — from awareness all the way through to purchase and loyalty.

Avoid marketing silos
One issue many franchise marketing teams are dealing with is a siloed approach. For example, there may be one team or agency executing direct mail or video campaigns and another executing paid search or online display advertising. Additionally, there could be different agencies working for regional groups.

In some instances, these teams or agencies may not communicate well with others, resulting in a great deal of friction, inefficiency, and poor cross-organisational sharing and learning. The better approach is to bring everyone together, all armed with data insights from platforms like a CDP. When one integrated team — subject matter experts, media planners, direct mail specialists, broadcast buyers, search engine optimisation experts, data analysts and web developers — has shared, real-time access to information about what is being planned and executed as well as what is and is not working, they can make more meaningful cross-departmental connections and collaborate better. In this way, new ideas can flourish and campaigns can be optimised, resulting in better marketing performance for the organisation.

Refine the media mix
Take a smarter approach to attribution. While many customers may appear to convert online by say filling out a form on a website, their journey may begin offline where they were first reached by traditional media such as direct mail or a video ad. The most effective marketing practices today should be able to track a customer’s behaviour as they pinball between multiple offline and online media touchpoints and across different devices on their journey from awareness to conversion. Understanding these conversion or attribution paths and which media types play nicely together can help franchisees get the most out of every precious media dollar spent.

Embrace direct mail
The common last touch attribution model is widely used to determine which media channel generated a conversion or drove a sale. However, this model is deceiving and often overvalues the influence of online media since that is typically where the customer converts. Using a CDP and direct mail as an example, every piece of mail can be tracked and stored, down to the recipient’s individual address, providing insight into when mail was in the home of someone who later converted online from a programmatic display ad on a website, a video on YouTube, or through organic or paid search. Recent in-house analyses of hundreds of millions of mail pieces have shown exceptionally high correlations between the presence of mail in the home and online conversions.

Connect organic and paid search
Today when franchise customers are shopping, they start online and often use search engines to find what they are looking for. In fact, over 90 per cent of all web traffic comes from search engines, and 75 per cent of internet users do not look beyond the first page of search results before clicking. In addition, 46 per cent of all Google searches are locally linked, so ranking highly in organic search results should be one of the top priorities for a franchise business.

High rankings can be accomplished through an ongoing search engine optimization (SEO) programme. However, to get the best results from search, a brand’s SEO programme should be tightly integrated with paid search (PPC or pay-per-click). Understanding what keywords convert best allows the marketing team to be more efficient with local paid search budgets, especially in a franchise organisation. When combined with an advanced CDP, companies can have insight into conversions beyond a web form fill or online phone call — they can also have visibility all the way to the transaction, providing clarity into the most efficient and profitable paid search keywords.

Get with the program(matic)
A relatively new way to advertise online is through programmatic advertising. Programmatic advertising is the process of automating the buying and selling of online ad inventory in real-time through an automated bidding system. Despite its promise, it is often difficult to measure the effectiveness of a programmatic campaign because performance metrics are generally measured by impressions — a relatively meaningless KPI (key performance indicator). But, a sophisticated CDP can ingest data directly from the programmatic trade desk and get franchise performance analytics straight from the programmatic ad server, yielding insight into more actionable campaign measurement metrics such as video completion rates.

The most efficient conversion paths can also be identified, for example, whether a customer viewed a programmatic display or paid social ad but then converted through a search ad. Programmatic technology ingested by a CDP can also be used for new customer look-alike prospecting. This is done for the franchise through machine learning and online mining for audiences that look like customers who have already taken a desired action. A programmatic approach is also an effective way for new franchise customers that can serve incentive-based online ads to their competitor’s customers by geofencing the competition’s trade area.

While franchise brands like to control their message through finely crafted advertising and websites, the ubiquity of social media platforms and review sites like Yelp, Google reviews and Trustpilot have given rise to the voice of the customer. This has forced brands to be more transparent, to constantly monitor what is being said about them online, and to engage with customers in real-time to the customer’s experience with the franchise. There are tens of thousands of tools and platforms designed to help marketers plan, execute and measure marketing performance — all generating more data than any franchise organisation knows what to do with. Forward-thinking marketing teams should look for ways to insightfully connect the dots between multiple customer touchpoints along the path to purchase. This simplified approach allows for the delivery of the right message to the right customer at the right time on the right channel.

The author
Taylor Calise serves as chief executive officer of Imaginuity, a Dallas-based integrated agency that delivers transformative results for its clients. A native digital entrepreneur, Taylor is the architect of Imaginuity’s proprietary AdScience® customer data platform and has played an integral role in developing the agency’s groundbreaking Martech offering, which optimises cross-channel marketing programmes that drive both new customer acquisition and retention across traditional and digital media.

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