Local Largesse: National Brands Struggle To Support Digital Marketing By Small Partners

National brands have a blind spot about their local business partners. 

A full third of brands depend on 40% or more of their revenue from local outlets. Yet two thirds have only a moderate understanding or worse about these businesses, according to National Brands Kickstart Local Demand, a study by the CMO Council and Brand Muscle. 

Among other things, local firms need digital marketing support. 

For example: "Sharp Home Appliances serves 1,500 independent dealers, and Peter Weedfald, senior vice president for sales and marketing for Sharp, runs a sub-program called Radius that recognizes top independent dealers and invests in marketing campaigns in their region,” the study states. “He might also leverage SHARP Home Appliances’ professional video studio to produce videos for dealers.” 

In return for these services, dealers agree to promote SHARP Home Appliances in their emails and social networks. “I’m more concerned with driving foot traffic and eyeballs at the last feet of the sale with an independent dealer than I am with worrying about spending the same money and driving traffic back to our SHARP web site,” Weedfald says. 



Sometimes that requires education. 

“If I double-click on digital, what does that mean?” says Jessica Fernandez, senior vice president, chief marketing officer at Calamos Investments. “It’s about utilizing email, virtual events, website and social to reach clients with relevant content.” 

Of those polled, 83% say their local partner channel marketing program is effective, but only 19% say it is very much so. 

A good local partner program often includes reimbursement for digital marketing tactics. But only 48% offer this, and 60% of those that do admit that a mere 40% of these funds are being utilized. 

The top challenges are:

  • Access to locally relevant digital content/assets
  • Lack of local partners’ sophistication and capabilities
  • Program fragmentation
  • Local partners have more press priorities
  • Lack of local partner digital confidence
  • Access to locally relevant digital tactics

Another issue that local companies are often reluctant to give up control. 

“Not a lot of local brands are really willing to roll with what’s going to be relevant and disruptive enough on the internet,” says Steve Brauntuch, chief marketing officer at Misfits Gaming. “The smaller the company the harder it is for htem to give up create control. They’d rather repurpose existing traditional creative assets digitally.”

Caterpillar says it will “introduce dealers to customers they didn’t know existed in their territory and demonstrate a revenue pipeline,” says Dustin Childers, global business manager for Caterpillar.. “If they like the results, we’ll negotiate a percentage back.”

What are national marketers working on to improve local performance? They plan to focus on the following over the next 12 months:

Marketing execution solutions — 63%

Digital training and education — 55%

Brand management — 48%

Asset accessibility — 43%

Co-op and marketing funds — 33%

“Local partners are the last mile to purchase and have the most interaction with customers,” says Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council. “If national marketers really want to know their customers, they need to work closely with local partners, collaborate on marketing projects, share data, etc. Shoring up your local partner channel marketing program is a great place to start.”

The CMO Council surveyed over 140 marketing leaders across B2C and B2B industries and conducted in-depth interviews with executives at SHARP Home Appliances, Caterpillar, Gap, Invesco, Nationwide, BNY Mellon Wealth Management, KloudGin and MisfitsGaming.




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