Are Local Affiliates Being Left Behind?

Running a business connected to a national brand can have its advantages. But brand recognition will only take a product so far, and when it comes to engaging with consumer on a tactical level, many affiliates may need some corporate help.

One of the findings within BrandMuscle’s third annual “State of Local Marketing Report” is that that very few local affiliates — only 19% — are using search advertising. Of the 81% who aren’t using paid search, 42% said it was too expensive, 23% said they don’t have the time for it. Nearly a quarter said they simply didn’t understand it. 

Instead, they’re relying on Web sites and e-mail, which would largely be considered the entry level for digital marketing. Both programs are essential, but as consumers become more digital, and especially more mobile, more and better tactics are necessary. (The report points out that “nearby” and “near me” searches have increased exponentially over the past five years.)



“Affiliates are experiencing what we’d call an ‘effectiveness gap’ with Web sites and email: they are among the most used tactics, but their effectiveness has plateaued,” according to the report. “To make digital work, brands need to help affiliates graduate to more advanced forms of digital marketing.” 

In fact, when it comes to search, many of these affiliates are left to fend for themselves. Of those using paid search, 40% are managing themselves (43% use an agency or vendor). Only 18% are working with corporate partners for their programs. With 83% of search marketing programs run without any corporate input, issues such as competing keyword programs, leading to higher pay-per-click costs.

Running a local business is hard. Many affiliate owners wear many hats. They’re responsible for opening and closing stores, setting inventory, managing employees and dealing with customers. Learning and managing relatively unfamiliar marketing techniques like search is easy to push down the to-do list. In fact, 36% of local affiliates said “more support from corporate marketing partners” is a top priority.

One solution posed by the report is for corporate marketing departments to get more involved in their local digital marketing efforts.

“Examining the local digital marketing behaviors of your affiliates can be an eye-opening exercise,” according to the report. “From misguided efforts to best practices, you’ll recognize ample opportunities to help affiliates through education, funding and marketing support.”

Such as discovering that few affiliates (23%) use online directory listings and, of those, many affiliates (44%) have not claimed their Google My Business and 15% don't know if those listings are up-to-date. Adopting a “Do It For Me” approach — an opt-in program that provides local marketing support — can help alleviate these issues, as well as those that might create competing keywords and other issues. 

“Opt-in programs will help you shift local affiliates toward better performing tactics that they may otherwise avoid because they don’t have the time, experience or resources to manage them on their own,” the report concludes. “Likewise, you’ll be able to execute more integrated and multi-touch campaigns that you can measure, optimize and scale more quickly for your brand.”

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