Is Facebook still a viable channel for local marketing? (Part 1 of 2)

Facebook recently announced a fairly significant change to its algorithm that will change how it treats organic content published on Brand Pages starting in 2015. Another step in the direction of limiting purely sales- and marketing-focused content in Facebook’s News Feed, there has been a lot of discussion about the future of Facebook for Business as a credible marketing channel.

Facebook Under the Magnifying glass

As Facebook continues to change how it treats brand and business pages, some local marketers are second guessing the value of the social network in the digital marketing mix.

The big question many are asking:

Is Facebook for Business still worth it for local marketing?

We think it is and will tell you why (part 2 coming soon), but first we wanted to share the details of the change so you know what’s going on. Keeping up with changes in the social space can be hard, and we coach our clients to make decisions based on all the information. Here are the top questions we’re addressing with our social media clients:

What’s changing?
When a brand posts content to Facebook that is “overly promotional,” it will reach fewer consumers via the Newsfeed. Specifically, they’ve defined that content as:

  1. Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app
  2. Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context
  3. Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads

This doesn’t mean all content from brands will be punished. As AdAge puts it:

“The change will not apply to all of a brands’ posts, just the less creative ones that fit certain criteria…”

Why is it changing?
It depends on who you ask. Facebook has always contended that changes to its algorithms are based on user feedback and are meant to create a better experience for consumers – the recent change is no different and cites a user survey where consumers said they don’t like seeing promotional content from brands. Many critics in the marketing discipline think the change is less about responding to consumer complaints, however, and see the change as a deliberate attempt to get brands to pay for more Facebook ads to ensure their content is still seen by its fans on the platform.

Big picture, it’s worth noting that Facebook is making changes to compensate for growth in the number of posts it receives, i.e. competition for what is displayed in the News Feed has increased dramatically as the number of Facebook users increase and mobile devices allow for more frequent posting.

Hasn’t Facebook done this before?
In varying degrees, Facebook has made adjustments to its algorithm since the site launched News Feed in 2006, most notably in 2011 when it switched to showing top stories first as opposed to a predominantly chronological display like Twitter uses. Ultimately, Facebook is trying to make sure people spend more time and find information on Facebook versus other media, including direct competitors like LinkedIn and Twitter as well as indirect “competitors” for people’s time and attention like TV or, say, a face-to-face conversation.

Notable changes in recent months and years include:

Are other sites/social networks doing this?
Yes, but not to this degree. Facebook has compared its approach to social content and advertising with Google’s approach to search algorithms; though, comparing the social network and search giant is really apples-to-oranges. Still, the growth in content and users gives some credence to Facebook’s claim and no one disputes that there is increasingly fierce competition from brands and consumers alike to show up in News Feed .

From a social network standpoint, other platforms change the way their content is found via feeds and search (including Twitter and LinkedIn), but not to the same degree as Facebook. As the social network giant continues to grow into its public company status, though, marketers should expect more changes if they want to reach consumers on this important media platform.

We’ll touch on how local marketers can accommodate for these changes in our next post. Let us know if you have any questions using the comment section below, and we’ll do our best to address them in that post.

Branding, Local Marketing, Marketing, News, Social Media, Social Media Marketing , , , , , , , ,

Which Traditional Tools and Tactics Still Work in Local Marketing?

Survey of local marketers show that some traditional tactics fair better than others on the local level.

According to our State of Local Marketing Report, Brandmuscle uncovered a tough truth about the way many dealers, agents and franchisees market their businesses: they’re more comfortable using old tools regardless of whether or not those tools are the best to get the job done.

Think of this as building a house using only your favorite tool – except your favorite tool is a hammer. Sure the hammer is one tool you need to complete the project, and you’ve become an absolute expert with it, but the hammer is much more effective when combined with newer tools. For instance, a nail gun. If you are willing to learn how to use the nail gun, you could be more effective and speed up the process.

For local dealers, agents and franchisees, however, the marketing version of a “nail gun” might be even scarier than actual power tools. Think paid search or social media marketing. Also, if the traditional “hammer” is still working, they may not see a need to upgrade.

Old tools like hammers, saws and wrenches laid out on a rustic bench.

Some traditional tools and tactics still work in Local Marketing. Do you know which ones?

According to our study, traditional marketing tactics like coupons, direct mail and newspaper advertising still function as basic building blocks for many local marketing programs. These tried-and-true tactics are still effective for reaching customers and are familiar for local marketers.

On the other hand, some traditional tactics aren’t as effective and are being replaced with newer tools. Think of these as the “handsaw” of marketing – a tool that has mostly been replaced with more powerful alternatives like miter saws and radial saws, which perform a similar function in a much more dynamic and efficient manner. As an example, we found that traditional Yellow Page listings have seriously declined in usage and satisfaction with the growth of online search, digital directories and social media.

So how can marketers look at traditional tactics and determine which one is the trusty hammer and which one is the outdated handsaw?

Understanding industry trends can help, which is one reason we published The 2014 Brandmuscle State of Local Marketing Report. An understanding of marketing trends can help corporate marketers see how best practices are applied in similar business models.

Ultimately, though, determining which tactics will drive customers to your local affiliates requires both art and science. Reviewing numbers and trends can hint at what it takes to achieve success, but a combined expertise of corporate branding and local know-how can be the perfect mix.

Which traditional tactics still work for you? What doesn’t work?  How do you determine what works on a local level so you can shift your efforts? Let us know in the comments below.

Branding, Digital Marketing, Distributed Marketing Management, Local Marketing, Local Marketing Automation, Local Marketing Best Practices, Local Marketing Research, Marketing , , , , , ,

The Key to Brand Consistency on the National Level is Marketing Consistency on the Local Level

Consistency is key to branding. It’s about knowing what to expect when you buy your favorite brand of coffee or cheeseburger or toothpaste or orange juice. You know exactly what you’re getting. There’s no guess work. Today, that coffee will be the same as it was yesterday and it will be tomorrow. We like that, because in a world that’s changing quickly, it’s nice to be able to rely on some things staying more or less the same no matter where you go.

Corporations spend millions and even billions of dollars developing their brands, so it’s no surprise that they are extremely protective of them.

McDonaldsBut the product itself is only one aspect of the brand. Marketing also plays a monumental role. If a local McDonald’s franchise suddenly decided to switch its Golden Arches logo to a Purple Bridge logo, not only would it confuse consumers, it would probably make headlines in the news, and McDonald’s would be seriously upset. It’s a big deal.

While brand consistency is essential, local affiliates of national brands have their own unique needs and objectives with marketing. To reach the customer, they need to speak to the customer in ways that seem relevant to their lives. Particularly for businesses that need to get customers through the door of a physical location to generate revenue, taking into account geographic proximity – and intricacies – is paramount when developing marketing campaigns.

How is a national or global brand expected to localize content for audiences around the world while abiding by its own branding rules and standards?

shutterstock_198890366Letting the local affiliates do it on their own without any guidance isn’t an option. Why not? Letting local offices do marketing one-offs threatens consistency, and thus threatens the brand.

Another option is to let the national office handle all localized content across local affiliates nationwide. Logistically, this is a huge burden for business on both the local and national levels, requiring continuous back-and-forth communication and long lead times to make it work. Consequently, it’s also a very expensive option, often prohibitively so.

What local businesses really need is a combination of brand consistency and local autonomy – a way that allows local affiliates of national brands to tailor marketing messages within the context of both the brand guidelines and the local audience.

This is Distributed Marketing. Or Local Marketing Automation. Or keeping your local marketing affiliates happy and effective without sacrificing your brand integrity.

This is also exactly what we offer through our local marketing automation solutions at Brandmuscle.  We take out the guesswork for local affiliates, enabling them to connect with their local customers in exactly the right way, with no surprises, no “Purple Bridges. Just compelling, localized marketing content that works.

Branding, Distributed Marketing Management, Franchise Marketing, Local Marketing, Local Marketing Automation, Local Marketing Best Practices, Marketing , , , , , , , ,

Adwords Update: Google Places are now Google My Business Locations

If you’re running a paid campaign and using Google Places, you’ve probably noticed a switch from Google Places to My Business Locations (formerly Google Places for Business), an automatic upgrade that recently occurred.

Google My Business Upgrade warning

Changes occurring from Sept. – Nov. 2014 have replaced Google Places with Google My Business Locations.

This upgrade to My Business Locations has also changed Location Extensions within Google Adwords. The main impact for local marketers is in the way Location Extensions are set-up within the Adwords account(s). Manually entering addresses is no longer an option, and any existing extensions that were manually entered will no longer run.

To run location extensions, you have to link My Business and Google Adwords accounts. Instead of adding multiple location extensions, advertisers now add a single location extension to the campaign(s) with the email address associated with the My Bussiness account. Once that is completed, all addresses within the My Business account are eligible to show as Location Extensions for those campaigns.

As more consumers search online for local business information such as hours, phone number and location, having these location extensions is crucial. The red box in the example below shows how a location extension appears in the ad:

Google Places Upgrade example

Luckily, Google doesn’t make it difficult to take advantage of the upgrade. They provide plenty of resources to navigating the change, and we’ve compiled some of our favorites/most useful.

General information on Google My Business Locations:

An article noting the differences between Google Places and My Business Locations:

Especially important for local marketers managing multiple locations, an article about managing 10+ locations:

Have you noticed the upgrade for locations you manage? What’s your experience been? Let us know in the comments below.

Digital Marketing, Distributed Marketing Management, Local Marketing, Local Marketing Best Practices, Marketing, Mobile Marketing , , , , , ,

If Digital Marketing Works, Then Why Aren’t More SMBs Using It?

Small business owners aren’t always satisfied with the results of their marketing efforts. When asked which types of tactics they USE and which they are actually SATISFIED with, the equation wasn’t always balanced.

As part of our The 2014 Brandmuscle State of Local Marketing Report, we compared how often local franchisees, dealers and agents used a variety of marketing tactics with how satisfied respondents were with those activities. Generating an index to make the average score equal to 100, you can see how various marketing tactics compare in the chart below.

Media Use and Satisfaction Index

Using an index to make the average value equal 100, we can compare media usage and satisfaction across digital and traditional marketing tactics. Click the chart to view an enlarged size.

Tactics above the index bar in both use and satisfaction represent areas where local affiliates are finding and replicating marketing success. Tactics below the bar in both categories are the opposite: areas where franchisees, dealers and agents are limiting their use because they are unsatisfied.

It’s where we see a variance in use and satisfaction that is interesting. For instance, newspaper advertising is used more than average with an index of 105 but has a below average satisfaction index of 71. Conversely, online display advertising has an above average satisfaction index of 107 but is used by roughly half of our respondents giving this digital tactic a below average index of 87.

Is this a case of local affiliates sticking with what they know while the media and marketing industries change around them? Perhaps. But to be fair, keeping tabs on the shifting media landscape isn’t normally on the top of a small business owner’s to-do list.

The silver lining is that local franchisees, dealers and affiliates often have national brand partners to provide guidance – and co-op funding – to support local marketing efforts. National marketers can help their local affiliates by providing education about industry trends like the ones captured in the chart above. In addition, channel marketing managers can build co-op incentives based on marketing best practices and help replicate small business success.

What have you seen with your marketing efforts?  Have you shifted budgets to accommodate for digital trends recently? Let us know in the comments below.

For more information about how marketing tactics are being put to use local affiliates, you can download The 2014 Brandmuscle State of Local Marketing Report here.

Satisfaction Index Methodology: The Satisfaction Index compares the satisfaction with each individual media type with the average satisfaction for all media types. Overall, 65% of respondents were somewhat or very satisfied with the media types they use so the index benchmarks each media type against the 65% level of satisfaction. A media type for which only 32.5% of users were very or somewhat satisfied would have an index of 50 (half the average) while a media type with 100% satisfaction would have an index of 148 (nearly 1.5 times the average).

Channel Marketing, Digital Marketing, Local Marketing, Local Marketing Best Practices, Local Marketing Research, Marketing , , , ,

Five Data Graphics that Will Change the Way You Think About Local Marketing

We’ve been sharing insights from a recent report on the state of local marketing we published to help national brand marketers start their 2015 marketing plans. Between a report, webinar, blogs and news coverage, we’ve put out a lot of words. Now it’s time for some pictures.

Below, you’ll see five visuals of data points we thought were the most surprising. Since we specialize in distributed marketing management, we’ve got a unique view of how franchisees, dealers and agents employ resources from their national brand partners at the local level. The data here is based on a survey of hundreds of local affiliates as well as an investigation of more than $2 billion in co-op spending.

Read. Click. Share. Comment. And Enjoy!


Your Thoughts?

What trends do you see?

Which one of these charts surprises you the most?

What else would you like to see?

Sound off in the comments below.

For a full copy of the report examining all marketing tactics and responses from local affiliates, visit Brandmuscle’s report download page.

Channel Marketing, Digital Marketing, Distributed Marketing Management, Email Marketing, Franchise Marketing, Local Marketing, Local Marketing Best Practices, Local Marketing Research, Marketing, Social Media, Social Media Marketing , , , , , , , ,

Coupons and Direct Mail: Don’t Put These Local Marketing Work Horses Out to Pasture

You can’t get much more traditional than direct mail and coupons, but local marketers are still using it widely and are generally satisfied with the results they are seeing, according to the 2014 Brandmuscle State of Local Marketing Report.

Direct mail is popular among local affiliates, with 81% using it and three out of four of those (75%) saying they are somewhat or very pleased with the results. Respondents overwhelmingly stated that direct mail is more effective at retaining existing customers than at attracting new ones. This is what they told us:

  • “Direct mailers tend to be brought in more than any other item.”
  • “Mailing and postcards are great for retention but it’s still tough bringing in new customers.”
  • “Thank you postcards give return customers an incentive to come back.”
  • “Direct mail is a benefit to bringing customers back.”
  • “Direct mail – it got customers in the door!”

There was some disagreement, however, with some respondents saying they were less than enthusiastic about direct mail:

  • “Direct mail is just more junk mail for most people.”
  • “Direct mail is not interactive.”
  • “A very small percentage converted from direct mail campaigns.”

The top reason some local marketers avoid using direct mail is the cost.

Coupons performed well in terms of overall satisfaction and were the most widely used tactic on our list with 83% of respondents using them and 77% of those saying they were either somewhat or very satisfied with the results.  Here’s what they had to say:

  • “People seem to be drawn to discounts.”
  • “Print coupons on the backs of receipts of grocery stores have been highly effective.”
  • “Handing out coupons at retail locations seems to do well .”
  • “Coupons work best for me.”
  • “Everyone likes coupons.”

The news wasn’t quite as good for “digital coupons.” Daily deal sites like Groupon were used by only 29% of respondents and nearly one in four stated they were “least satisfied” with the results. Daily deals also topped the list of tactics that affiliates felt were “too risky” (14%). In this case, the traditional tactic — coupons — outperformed the trendy up-and-comers.

To learn more about the tactics local marketers are using to drive business, download the 2014 Brandmuscle State of Local Marketing Report.

Distributed Marketing Management, Local Marketing, Local Marketing Best Practices, Local Marketing Research, Marketing

Small Businesses: In-Person Events and Local Sponsorships Drive Sales

Despite living in an increasingly digital world with online shopping growing at astounding rates, small business owners appreciate face-to-face interaction with buyers more than ever. That’s according to the 2014 Brandmuscle State of Local Marketing Report, which surveyed hundreds of local affiliates, agents and dealers from across the country.

In fact, local events captured the highest rank for overall satisfaction across all tactics considered in our survey, with 80% of respondents stating they were somewhat or highly satisfied with the results, and 71% saying the same about community sponsorships. Overall, 79% of respondents said they participate in local events.

8 in 10 SMBs like marketing at  local events

Satisfaction ranked highest for local events according to our report. Download the report here.

What do local marketers like about events?  Here are a few comments, tips and observations from our respondents:

  • “Local events create great word of mouth for my business.”
  • “We host a Customer Appreciation Day. Free food, prizes, and giveaways. Customers seem to like entering to win a high dollar accessory just for upgrading.”
  • “Local events give me the opportunity to talk to the local community about our services and products.”
  • “Face-to-face community events work well. Face to face is the most powerful way to connect with people.”
  • “Community events and sponsorships put us in the community; they let people know we care.”
  • “Local events are best. They give us the ability to have face time with customers and create a great experience to enhance our brand image.”
  • “Dedicated local events allow for repeat appearances to create brand recognition.”
  • “Concerts and local events work for me. Every year I run a local country music concert and we average about 20 sales!”

At Brandmuscle, we recommend that local marketers leverage events and sponsorships to develop a consistent presence in their communities and establish a reputation as a trusted local provider.

Local events and sponsorships can be relatively inexpensive when compared to other traditional tactics, and can serve as an effective tool for local affiliates who want to close sales on-site or gather leads. By meeting your customers where they are or offering them an event they’re interested in, small businesses can create a great opportunity to get in front of people.

The message from our survey seems to be this: never underestimate the power of meeting with your customers face-to-face. We completely agree !

To learn more, download the Brandmuscle 2014 State of Local Marketing Report.

Event Marketing, Local Marketing, Local Marketing Best Practices, Local Marketing Research, Marketing , , , , ,

Brandmuscle in the News: Local Marketing Survey Receives Industry Attention

In late September, we released study findings about the state of local marketing.  And the industry took notice.

Combining a survey of hundreds of local dealers, agents and affiliates with insights based on tracking $2 billion in co-op funding over the last three years, The 2014 Brandmuscle State of Local Marketing Report was created as a guide for national brand managers heading into the 2015 planning season. The report was well received by both current and prospective clients as well as industry media outlets who included details of our report in the stories below:


Why Franchisees Don’t Use Digital Advertising

Focusing on the disparity between adoption and success of digital marketing tactics, franchise beat writer Kate Taylor showcases one of the major findings from our study: local affiliates are slow to adopt seemingly complicated online and social media marketing, despite evidence that they work.

  •  “Many franchisees and agents aren’t prepared to invest the necessary time and energy, even if the (social media) account could prove to be a highly valuable marketing tool.”

UPDATE: The Entrepreneur article was syndicated on Yahoo! News,  NBC News and more.



The Most Used (and Liked) Marketing Tactics by Local Affiliates

Using several charts and graphs from our full report, MarketingProfs contributor Ayaz Nanji noted one important observation at the very beginning of his article:

  • “Traditional marketing tactics remain some of the most used and well-liked channels by the local affiliates of US companies”



The Local Marketing Landscape: What’s Working?” 

Compiling some of the data in our report into a chart listing media use and satisfaction, Marketing charts his on a major theme of our report in their opening paragraph:

  • “Traditional media remains a significant part of the local marketing mix…. Digital marketing, while scoring high satisfaction rates, tends to be seen as too complicated or time consuming by those not using it.”



Study: Traditional Media too Pricey for Local Businesses, Digital too Complicated

A breakdown by the Local Search Association, this article written by Joe Morsello does a deep dive into our comparison of media usage and co-op spending, pulling some interesting insights from the data.

  •  “While the insights featured in the study reinforce industry trends – marketplace confusion, unclear ROI, digital disruption, traditional decline and the power of the good old-fashioned coupon – the developments in co-op spending are worth noting.”



Local marketers say they prefer direct mail over digital” 

Honing in on the direct-to-customer tactics, Cynthia Boris highlights our findings around direct mail and email marketing. Examining one aspect of the larger theme (local marketers balancing traditional and digital tactics), her piece is worth the read for the first two paragraphs alone, plus this nugget:

  • “Even though most of us prefer email to physical mail, 81% of local businesses are still using direct mail as a way to reach customers.”


 UPDATE (10/29/14):


5 Proven Marketing Tactics to Gain (and Keep) Local Customers” 

Distilling the key findings from our report into five actionable steps, BND’s Nicole Fallon combined our survey insights with commentary from industry experts, including Brandmuscle’s Chief Strategy Officer Clarke Smith. Touching on individual tactics as well as marketing as a whole, Fallon’s “five tactics” help small businesses make marketing more manageable:

  • “(S)mall businesses have the added burden of finding the time to strategize on top of all their other responsibilities…. Smith recommended scheduling time for marketing, even if it’s only an hour a week. ”



Report: Small Businesses Avoid Digital, Social Marketing” 

In a thorough summary of our report’s key points and insights, Franchise Update Media featured the high-level takeaways of Brandmuscle’s report on its website and newsletter saying:

  • “(A) report from Brandmuscle reveals that many smaller local affiliates are slow to adopt social and digital media … favoring some (but not all) of the more established marketing tactics.”



Are Traditional Marketing Channels Past Their Prime? [Infographic]” 

“There’s a reason these oldie-but-goodies are still around,” Elyse Dupre starts her coverage focusing on the continued success of some traditional tactics highlighted by our survey. Breaking down our study by tactic with a review of use, satisfaction and commentary, this are article also includes a great visual component that’s worth checking out.

  • DMNews screenshot

You can watch a presentation of the results or download the full report on our website.

BrandMuscle Buzz, In The News, Local Marketing, Local Marketing Best Practices, Local Marketing Research , , , , ,

Five Local Search Tips to Overcome Google’s Pigeon Update

Yesterday, we discussed the details of Google’s local algorithm update nicknamed Pigeon. If you’re looking to improve your local listing in the wake of the Pigeon update, here are a few tips to get you started:

Google's local algorithm update is nicknamed Pigeon

Google’s local algorithm update, nicknamed Pigeon, impacts search results on the local level.

1. Focus on Directory Listings

Initial testing post-Pigeon update revealed that Yelp and other local directory sites are seeing a significant boost in rankings. Consider encouraging your local affiliates to ask customers to post reviews on these types of sites. Research the most influential local directories in your niche and make sure that your local affiliates are registered with accurate information on these sites.

2. Review SEO 101

If you notice a significant drop in your rankings, you may want to take a closer look at your site’s overall SEO efforts. Do some research to see how your site stacks up against the high-ranking competition with backlinks, content and other positive SEO characteristics.

Make sure you have high-quality content on your site, your metadata on each and every page is accurate and optimized to include keywords. Check to see that you have a high domain authority and plenty of good, quality backlinks.

3. Improve SEO with website housecleaning

Even if your site isn’t affected, now is a great time to focus on the search engine optimization (SEO) of your site. If there’s out of date content that isn’t positively impacting your SEO, get rid it. If there are links and content with no activity, think about moving them to an archive or other less prominent section on the site. These minor tweaks can mean major gains from an SEO perspective over time.

4. Optimize on Google+

Another important step to take is to create a Google+ page (or optimize the one you already have). Make sure that your address and phone number found on your Google+ profile match the one found on your website. This can help build authority for both your website and your Google+ profile. The basics matter. Having your phone number and address in both Google+ and present on your website is essential for local SEO.

5. Consider a Paid Boost

If you notice a significant drop and see your website is no longer listed in local search results, especially within a “Map Pack,” a short-term solution to consider is running a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign to make up for traffic losses. For the long-term, focus on adding those keywords into your website. Update metadata site-wide and create new, quality content around those key terms.

Have you noticed your website impacted by the Pigeon update? What have you done to adjust? Share below!


Digital Marketing, Local Marketing, Local Marketing Best Practices, Mobile Marketing, Uncategorized , , , , ,

Google’s Pigeon Update: What Does it Mean for Local Marketers?

As a marketer, you’re probably aware of the Pigeon (Local Algorithm) update that Google pushed out late this summer. It’s a major update that will have a significant impact on local search results, so we wanted to cover off on the basics here.

Google's Pigeon Update

Google’s latest search update is nicknamed Pigeon based on its heavy impact on local searches.

Unlike other recent Google updates, Pigeon is a core change to the local search ranking algorithm and not a penalty-based update aimed at cleaning up search engine results and removing low-quality content. It’s a significant update for local searches and local businesses that aims to provide more useful, relevant, accurate local search results within both web search and Google Maps search results.

The update includes two main parts that you should pay attention to:

  1. The algorithm update improves Google’s distance and location ranking parameters.
  2. The update ties local search results more closely to traditional web search ranking signals, including domain authority, backlinks, metadata and other SEO ranking factors.

The distance/location update is a main change that will affect local businesses. In many cases, the radius of a search query has decreased. For example, if you’re searching for a clothing store in Austin, Texas, the search radius has decreased from 12 to 6 miles when the search is done from a mobile phone. This update will also affect web search results and Google Map results.

In terms of mobile marketing, a smaller search radius could be viewed as a positive change. By returning results that are closer and more relevant to a customer when searching for your store on their mobile device, the likelihood of them coming to your store and making a transaction is much greater.

The second major change associated with Google’s Pigeon update impacts “Map Packs,” which are displayed as boxes with a business’ phone and address in organic listings:

Google Map Packs Example

Google’s Pigeon update changes how Map Packs are displayed within search results.

For some search queries, these have completely disappeared, but for others, there are no longer multiple listings of separate businesses, only the highest authority listing within that area. Also, before the update, Map Packs generally included seven listings. After the update, the size of the map packs may vary, and organic listings could be pushed downed by paid and starred listings.

What to do:

Overall, some local business may notice an increase or decrease in web site referrals, leads and businesses due to the Pigeon Algorithm update. Keep a close eye on your site and be prepared to act swiftly if you notice a drop, to minimize revenue damage.

We’ll post Local Marketing Search Tips to Overcome Pigeon as a follow up to this post later this week. Until then, we’re curious: Have you noticed your website impacted by the Pigeon update?

Digital Marketing, Local Marketing, Marketing , , , ,

Small Businesses Avoid Social Media and Digital Marketing Because It’s ‘Too Complicated’ and ‘Time Consuming’

SMBs Continue to Invest in Traditional Marketing Tactics, Despite a Varying Degree of Satisfaction, According to Brandmuscle Study

CHICAGO, Oct. 1, 2014 — Despite massive growth in digital marketing in recent years, new research from Brandmuscle shows that local small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) are struggling to adopt new media tactics when compared to their larger national counterparts.

Chief marketing officers anticipate 75 percent of their budgets will be allocated toward digital tactics over the next five years, according to Accenture. Analysts at BIA/Kelsey expect US-based social advertising will reach $15 billion in the same time frame. Nevertheless, Brandmuscle reports that social media and other forms of online marketing are still viewed as being overly complicated and time consuming by local small businesses, who continue to favor more established marketing tactics such as local events, direct mail and coupons.

Click here to download The 2014 Brandmuscle State of Local Marketing Report.

Brandmuscle’s latest report highlights opportunities for national brand marketers planning for 2015 and beyond. Download it here.

“Consumers are shifting the way they make purchases, with some reports estimating that as many as 80 percent begin their search for products and services online,” said Clarke Smith, Brandmuscle’s chief strategy officer. “Based on our research, we see a big opportunity for national brand marketers to help local affiliates reach these consumers with digital marketing tactics.”

About the Study:
The 2014 Brandmuscle State of Local Marketing Report surveyed hundreds of local dealers, agents and franchisees across a wide range of industries and asked them to share insights about their local marketing experiences. Brandmuscle compared the results to trends identified by tracking over $2 billion in co-op and channel investments made by Brandmuscle clients over the last three years. The result is a comprehensive national survey on the current state of local marketing across social media, digital media, print media, direct mail, events and more.

Highlights of The 2014 Brandmuscle State of Local Marketing Report (available for free download: include the following:

Some Established Marketing Tactics Are Highly Rated

  • Local small businesses deem some of the most tried and true marketing tactics as most effective. In terms of overall satisfaction, top rated tactics include Local Events, Coupons, Billboards and Email.
  • The most frequently used tactics are coupons (83%), Direct Mail/Postcards (81%), Local Events (79%), Email (72%) and Websites (72%).
  • Least frequently used marketing tactics include Daily Deals (e.g., Groupon) (29%), Magazine Advertising (45%), Billboards (45%), non-traditional advertising (pizza box toppers, gas pump toppers, vehicle wraps) (47%) and Television (50%).

Traditional Media Leaves Many Dissatisfied

  • “Old media” is taking it on the chin when it comes to performance. Small businesses are least satisfied with Magazine Advertising, Newspaper Advertising and Yellow Pages listings.
  • Traditional media costs big money. “Expense” is the top reason local affiliates are shying away from Television, Billboards, Radio, Newspaper Advertising and Yellow Pages listings.

Digital and Social Media Adoption Still Lags

  • Adoption rates for digital and social tactics remain relatively low. 40% of local affiliates don’t use Keyword Search, 37% don’t use Facebook and 57% don’t use Twitter.
  • New media is too complicated and time consuming. Affiliates cited complexity as the top reason they don’t invest in Twitter, Facebook, Online Advertising and Online Keyword Search.
  • Despite a relatively high adoption rate (72%), one out of four local businesses we surveyed (28%) still doesn’t have a website.

Local Marketing Budgets Are Growing

  • Marketing budgets are growing, with 33% of respondents saying that their budgets are increasing by more than 10% and more than half (52%) saying their marketing budgets will remain about the same.
  • Overwhelmingly, businesses are using marketing to generate new business. 83% say the top reason is to generate new leads and new customers.

“According to our study, the primary reason local affiliates avoid online marketing is because it is too complicated or time consuming,'” said Smith. “National brand marketers are in a unique position to help their local affiliates make the journey to online marketing, which when executed correctly can be both cost-effective and measurable — two key considerations when attempting to maximize the ROI of smaller budgets.”

The 2014 Brandmuscle State of Local Marketing Report is available for download at

About Brandmuscle
Offering a comprehensive local marketing automation platform backed by 24/7 on-demand support, Brandmuscle helps national brands capitalize on opportunities and local market conditions with brand-compliant, customized marketing across all mediums and formats. Headquartered in Chicago with offices in Cleveland, Austin and New Jersey, Brandmuscle employs over 650 talented professionals and serves nearly 200 of the world’s leading brands. Brandmuscle has appeared on Inc. Magazine’s 500 | 5000 Fastest-Growing Companies in America List multiple years, and is the only software provider ranked “Best” in all categories of Gleanster’s 2014 Local Marketing Automation Vendor Benchmark report. For more information about Brandmuscle call (866) 464-4342 or visit

Local Marketing Best Practices, Local Marketing Research, Marketing, News , , , ,

Four Key Takeaways from Content Marketing World 2014

I already shared my one big “Ah-Ha” moment from #CMWorld2014 – that no one totally gets it yet – but in the spirit of learning, here are some key takeaways from my experience at the event that I wanted to share:

1) Quality over quantity
We can be our own worst enemies. Don Draper never had the data we have at our fingertips today or the ability to keep as watchful an eye over the competition as we do. It’s easy to get swept up into feeling like you need to “feed the beast” that is content marketing. Scott Stratten of UnMarketing pulled up a slide and asked the crowd to select which of the four were the best days to send an email. Turned out, all were the right answer; depending on which report you read.

How many Tweets or Facebook posts do we need to send each day or each week? When is the best time to blog? We need content for each stage of the funnel, how do we map this to decisions in the buying cycle? Do we have enough case studies? Do we need more white papers? Maybe this works better as an infographic? Have we optimized this for search? Yikes!

2) Take a breath and solve problems; create positive experiences
Breathe; it turns out customer’s value quality over quantity. Develop content that is helpful and answers questions to generate demand. Once you’ve earned the right to a subscriber, fan or follower, continue to share high-quality pieces of content, helpful insights and information that makes his/her life and job easier. While developing a content marketing strategy and calendar keeps us on track, it’s better to share one piece of high quality content a week than ten pieces of worthless junk. Google knows this too. You’ll kill two birds with one stone.

3) Nobody has all the answers
Andrew Davis, Author of Brandscaping: Unleashing the Power of Partnership, had the crowd in stitches with his depiction of an online buyer’s journey and quest for information. He reminded us that a buyer might be online looking for one thing (meatloaf) and end up buying something entirely different (two tickets to see Meatloaf in concert and a meatloaf pan from Amazon).

Image courtesy of the talented Kelly Kingman at Kingman Ink.

Image courtesy of the talented Kelly Kingman at Kingman Ink.

What does the sales funnel look like today?  I think we saw at least eight different variations. Do the four P’s still exist today? How do people shop for services? Will content marketing plateau? Nobody is an expert. We’re all learning from our own experiences and sharing with each other.

4) As marketers we have an obligation to “send the elevator back down”
I suspect I went into Content Marketing World like many others wondering #WTF does Kevin Spacey know about content marketing? But I came away with this: as marketers, we have far more power than we realize. Outside of our sacred circle of marketing bees, and the big brands we represent, we ourselves have more subscribers, fans and followers than anyone on the planet. The things we share can influence and change the world.

If you feel overwhelmed by the insurgence of social media and the idea of developing engaging content to stay at the top of Google’s search results, imagine how a small business owner must feel? Regardless of where you think you are on the content marketing journey, I guarantee that you probably know more about marketing in the digital age than the guy who owns your favorite local coffee shop.

As Kevin Spacey said “once you’ve broken through a certain ceiling, remember to send the elevator back down.” Share your knowledge; give that coffee shop owner a “helpful lift.” As marketers, we’re obligated to share our knowledge and help those SMBs succeed.

What do you think? Did you attend or follow #CMWorld2014? What were your takeaways?

Digital Marketing, Marketing, Social Media , , , ,

My take on Content Marketing World: No One Has it All Figured Out

I had the pleasure of attending Content Marketing World in Cleveland (woot!) last week. I’m sure I would have attended if it were in another city, but being in my hometown made the experience so much sweeter. Thanks, Joe Pulizzi!

As a marketer, there’s nothing more exciting than spending a few days with a group of creative professionals who live-and-breathe the same challenges and exude the same passion about digital marketing as I do. Only marketers can understand each other; we never stop obsessing about doing things better and faster and we never stop working because some of our best ideas come to us late at night. Our friends and family may think we’re crazy (ever try explaining how Twitter works to your mother or why Google’s latest algorithm is making you late for dinner to your husband?), but we find our place together at Content Marketing World.

Being a Marketer. It’s not sane.

I guess you could say that #CMWorld made me feel like the bee in the Blind Mellon video when she finds all the other bees just like her.

And I was one happy bee. Keynote speeches came from the biggest names in the business – experts who’ve spent decades (and sometimes millions) building their brands by generating content and experiences so amazing that consumers are even willing to pay for it.

It was inspirational to hear how Julie Fleischer, Director, Data + Content + Media at Kraft Foods, built a content marketing engine so robust that it’s generating four times better ROI than targeted ads AND fueling insights to capture and share data and segment consumer experiences across paid channels.

As we went into breakout sessions, we heard firsthand, step-by-step how some of the best and brightest in our profession like Leigh Blaylock, Manager of Content Marketing at Red Hat and Gary Van Prooyen, Senior Director, Global Brand & Content Operations at Motorola Solutions have implemented content marketing strategies that have transformed their businesses from the inside out.

Amongst the worker bees, one thing was apparent: marketers are competitive. We want to be the best. Each session was mixed with a sense of anxiety and inspiration as we asked ourselves: “Why aren’t we already doing these things?” Then you’d see folks turning to each other and commiserating: “I’m a one-person department” or “we’re in XYZ industry. It’s very conservative and I just convinced my boss to explore social media.”

The good news for those of us who HAVEN’T figured it all out is that we’re in the vast majority. Only a few people from the audience are truly rocking out solid content marketing programs, and those who are, tended to be the presenters.

Luckily, we walked away with a handful of ideas and a heck-of-a-lot of inspiration to rock out ourselves. After all, Cleveland is the city of Rock and Roll.

To see more of my thoughts from the conference, check out my post on the four key takeaways of Content Marketing World 2014.

Digital Marketing, Marketing , , , , ,

National Survey Unveils Successes, Failures in Local Marketing

Brandmuscle Report Highlights Trends in Social Media, Digital and Traditional Marketing – What’s Working, What’s Not and Ways to Improve

CHICAGO, Sept. 10, 2014 – Local affiliates of national brands are making the shift from traditional to digital marketing but not nearly at the pace of their parent companies, according to the latest report by Brandmuscle.

In June 2014, an in-depth study of hundreds of local affiliates reviewed the implementation and success of common marketing methods including traditional media, in-person events and digital marketing tactics. The results are compiled in Brandmuscle’s “State of Local Marketing Report,” which the company will unveil during a webinar on Tuesday, September 30, 2014.

Brandmuscle Local Marketing Roadmap

“Marketing has probably changed more in the past two years than the previous fifty,” said Clarke Smith, Chief Strategy Officer at Brandmuscle. “Insights from our study help corporate marketers and their local affiliates make sense of the growing complexity of communication channels so that the marketing programs they build can work across dozens, hundreds or thousands of regional markets.”

The report leverages insights from Brandmuscle’s client base of more than 175 national and global brands, including 700,000 local affiliates and more than $2 billion in channel marketing investments the company tracks each year. The study focused on tactical execution, asking dealers, agents and franchisees about the current state of local marketing across social media, digital media, print media, direct mail, events and more.

Major findings from the study that will be discussed in more detail during the webinar include:

  • Local affiliates are frustrated by digital tactics and tend to avoid them, despite a varying degree of satisfaction with traditional tactics.
  • Local affiliates drive marketing success using traditional media in non-traditional ways.
  • A clear digital divide exists between local affiliates and their customers, especially as it relates to their presence on the web and social media.

“Corporate marketers, regional brand managers and industry enthusiasts will learn from the results and insights uncovered in our study,” said Smith. “Beyond a snapshot of how the industry approaches local marketing at the tactical level, we’ve outlined easy steps for improvement.”

About the webinar Presenter: Clarke Smith has spent two decades in leadership roles as a corporate and agency marketer, including time with Hallmark Cards and Bernstein-Rein Advertising in Kansas City. Smith has been an active influencer in the marketing technology space and currently guides technical and strategic development at Brandmuscle.

Click here to register for the webinar. Space is limited, so you are encouraged to reserve a spot now.

About Brandmuscle
Offering a comprehensive local marketing automation platform backed by 24/7 on-demand support, Brandmuscle helps national brands capitalize on opportunities and local market conditions with brand-compliant, customized marketing across all mediums and formats. Headquartered in Chicago with offices in Cleveland, Austin and New Jersey, Brandmuscle employs over 650 talented professionals and serves nearly 200 of the world’s leading brands. Brandmuscle has appeared on Inc. Magazine’s 500 | 5000 Fastest-Growing Companies in America List multiple years, and is the only software provider ranked “Best” in all categories of Gleanster’s 2014 Local Marketing Automation Vendor Benchmark report. For more information about Brandmuscle call (866) 464-4342 or visit

Local Marketing Best Practices, Local Marketing Research, Marketing, News , , ,

Gleanster Ranks Brandmuscle “Best” in All Categories in 2014 Localized Marketing Automation Gleansight Report

Only vendor top-rated for ease of deployment and use, features and functionality and overall value

 Chicago (July 22, 2014) Brandmuscle, a leading provider of local marketing automation software and services, has achieved the highest possible ratings in all categories in Gleanster’s “2014 Localized Marketing Automation Gleansight Benchmark Report.”

Brandmuscle was the only Local Marketing Automation Technology vendor named in the report to receive top ratings from survey respondents in all four categories.

The Gleansight Benchmark Report is based on the qualified responses of 191 marketers surveyed by Gleanster in the second quarter of 2014. Out of three choices (Good, Better, Best), survey respondents ranked Brandmuscle the Best among Local Marketing Automation Technology providers in the following categories:

  • Ease of Deployment
  • Ease of Use
  • Features & Functionality
  • Overall Value

The Benefits and Challenges of Localized Marketing Automation Technology
According to the report, the most compelling reasons for top-performing marketers to implement Localized Marketing Technology are: to personalize local marketing materials (93%), increase revenue (62%), and reduce costs (54%).

Among top-performing marketers, the most challenging aspects of Localized Marketing Technology are: visibility into campaign performance (94%), lack of expertise on the local level (65%), and getting comfortable with emerging tactics and technologies (51%).

“While Brandmuscle is a software-as-a-service technology platform, the company also offers a managed service offering – which makes Brandmuscle very attractive to local marketers who may not have staff or expertise to execute complex local marketing efforts,” stated the Gleansight Benchmark Report. “The platform is extremely robust and delivery agnostic, which means it includes everything from back-office asset management to multi-channel customer engagement.”

“The 2014 Localized Marketing Automation Gleansight Benchmark Report shows that marketers increasingly view local marketing automation technology as a revenue driver, not just a money saver,” said Clarke Smith, chief strategy officer for Brandmuscle. “Nevertheless, lack of marketing expertise at the local level and ease of use continue to be challenges. Brandmuscle is uniquely positioned in the industry to offer top-rated simplicity, performance and value backed by expert local marketing support, enabling national and global brands to truly ‘own local’.”

About Brandmuscle
Brandmuscle enables national and global brands to “own local,” offering a comprehensive, user-friendly local marketing platform backed by 24/7 on-demand support. Brandmuscle enables local affiliates to capitalize on local opportunities and conditions with brand-compliant, customized messaging across all mediums and formats. With offices in Chicago, Cleveland, Austin and New Jersey and serving nearly 200 national and global brands, Brandmuscle was selected for Inc. Magazine’s 500 | 5000 Fastest-Growing Companies in America List for the fourth consecutive year in 2013. For more information about Brandmuscle call (866) 464-4342 or visit

Local Marketing Automation, News, Uncategorized

Global Technology Leader Automates Channel Partner Incentive Program and Achieves Record Worldwide Partner Participation

At Brandmuscle, we’re dedicated to the notion that people are more likely to benefit from Download Nowsales and marketing software solutions that are both simple and powerful. And yes, they can be both, we promise you. After all, we’ve built our business on it.

How do we help channel marketers achieve record results? By offering a solution that combines the value of power and simplicity, backed by excellent, on-demand customer support.

One of our clients is one of the most innovative and recognizable technology companies on the planet. The company has offices throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia and relies on a worldwide network of independent channel partners to drive sales of the company’s solutions.

Despite being known as one of the most innovative companies in the world, the channel marketing team had to rely on cumbersome, manual processes and spreadsheets to manage the company’s global sales incentive programs. The entire process for requesting, submitting, approving and processing incentive payments was slow, inefficient and error-prone.

After meeting with the client to understand their goals and objectives, Brandmuscle developed and implemented a customized, online channel incentive solution to streamline and automate the incentive program. The platform provides the ability to quickly and easily calculate, track and offer incentive payments. In addition, it automates the allocation and distribution of marketing funds to the client’s business partners.

In June, 2013 the automated partner incentive program was launched in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In late 2013 the program was expanded to include the United States, Canada and South America. By Q1 2014 the client reported record worldwide adoption and participation in the program.

Our clients tell us that Brandmuscle is a huge time-saver compared to the way they were processing payments before. They say that our channel marketing automation solutions improve efficiency while also providing access to a wealth of valuable data that can be used to hone their sales strategy according to what’s working — and what isn’t.

Simple … and powerful.  The best of both worlds.

How would you like to make your channel incentive program more efficient, more productive, and easier to manage, all at the same time? Download the case study to learn more.

Channel Marketing

Website Magazine Reveals Experts’ List of “Must-Have” Marketing Automation Features

marketingautomationfeaturesRecently, Brandmuscle was included in a three part Experts Speak feature for Website Magazine on the topic of marketing automation. Specifically, the top three characteristics prospective buyers should look for when choosing a marketing automation solution.

Our CEO, Philip Alexander, shared these three key features:

1. Ease of use: A recent survey by Regalix on B2B marketing automation tools found that 86% of respondents said that having a tool that is easy to use is the most important thing they look for when it comes to the decision process.

Marketing is a dynamic industry. Marketers need to consistently conceive, develop and launch new marketing campaigns every few weeks – sometimes days! Choosing a marketing automation solution that is easy to adopt and use allows marketers more time to invest in the creative side of their job.

2. Customizable/Flexible: Choose marketing automation software that gives you the power and flexibility to quickly launch highly targeted campaigns across your multiple marketing channels. This will generate more revenue for your company with less manual effort by your staff. Look for a vendor that will tailor its solutions to meet your company’s specific needs and will serve as a strategic partner in growing your business.

3. Stellar Customer Support: When choosing a marketing automation solution provider, the importance of reliable and professional customer support cannot be overstated. Look for a vendor that offers robust technical support (fast, easily accessible, reliable), ongoing training and personalized one-on-one support, including strategic guidance (you want them to feel like a partner, right?).

The bottom line is that there is no one-size-fits-all “best” marketing automation solution. The best choice is usually the solution that fits comfortably inside your company’s culture, helps fulfill your current business objectives while being flexible enough to meet your company’s needs as it grows, and, of course, is easy for your team to use.

To read the full article, visit Website Magazine.

Local Marketing Automation, Local Marketing Best Practices

Creating Marketing Calm in a Sea of Content Chaos

marketingcalmIf you need more evidence that the media landscape is more fragmented than ever, just take a snapshot of your own life.

If you’re like many people, you might check your email on your smartphone and take a quick look at Facebook, Instagram or Twitter even before you roll out of bed in the morning. At breakfast, you read the newspaper or watch the morning news on television. On your way to work, you listen to the radio in your car, perhaps making a quick stop at the supermarket to pick up something for lunch.  When you get to the office, you scan the latest breaking news on your computer and maybe even check in on Foursquare…

All of these channels have a significant impact not only on consumers, but on the businesses that advertise through them. The challenge for marketers is to take all of these moving parts and somehow create a unified media strategy.

Too often, the marketing “solution” ends up being as fragmented and complicated as the challenge it’s supposed to overcome. Rather than working together, each tool remains isolated in its own universe, creating duplication of efforts, eating up resources and potentially resulting in message inconsistency and confusion. Marketing Automation, Ad Builders, Market Resource Management (MRM), Market Asset Management (MAM), Marketing Automation (MAM): it can be overwhelming just reading the names of these solutions, let alone trying to understand what each does and how it’s different.

With tiered or distributed sales and marketing channels comes an additional level of complexity. Each franchisee or channel partner has their own unique set of local marketing issues that need to be addressed without straying from the brand. No wonder it’s called “content chaos.”

Our goal at Brandmuscle is to cut through this chaos, simplifying local marketing through a holistic, integrated approach with a robust software platform and on-demand professional support that together solve each piece of the distributed marketing puzzle. It may seem counter-intuitive, but simplicity makes you a much more (not less) powerful marketer. You and your team are more likely to use something that’s easy to use. And since we are a cross-medium solution, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. When franchisees and distributors are able to  leverage a variety of media channels while also staying on-message and protecting the brand, great things happen for our clients. And we like that.

Local Marketing

Marketers Say Continuous Change Goes with the Territory

The only constant is change, the old saying goes, and the marketing world is no exception.

64% of marketers expect their role to change in the next year, and 81% predict it will change within the next three years, according to a study by Adobe.

What’s driving change for marketers? More than anything else, they say it’s the increasing number of digital channels they are expected to utilize and manage.

91% agree that marketers need to become skilled in more than one area, and 90% agree that digital tools and channels are fundamentally changing the nature of marketing.

When asked what capability will be the most important to marketing in the years to come, personalization topped the list, beating out big data, mobile, real-time marketing and social media. 63% of high-performing companies say they are completely or very focused on personalizing their customers’ experiences.

For large companies with local affiliates, providing consumers with personalized, distributed local advertising across a variety of mediums – while staying true to brand messaging –  can prove to be a challenge.

A local marketing automation platform like Brandmuscle’s BrandBuilder® can resolve the major concerns identified by marketers in the Adobe report and enable them to achieve local, multichannel success – without losing their cool.


The Key Benefits of Local Marketing Automation: Who Wins and Why

Local Marketing AutomationLocal marketing automation fills a need in the marketplace, and demand continues to grow. Why? Because it works. When implemented correctly, the results can be amazing — not only on the bottom line, but the top line, too.

Local marketing automation is fundamentally different from conventional marketing automation and campaign management solutions. That’s because local marketing automation provides all of the benefits of a multi-channel marketing automation platform — while also offering capabilities that are essential to distributed marketers.

The defining characteristic of local marketing automation technology is the ability to uniquely support an environment with a centralized corporate marketing function and a network of regional or localized businesses with their own local target audiences. According to Gleanster, these organizations have the following needs and requirements:

  • A need to manage marketing communications via a corporate entity that oversees the brand and executes marketing campaigns.

  • A desire to provide regional, local or field business operations with corporate-branded and approved materials that can be personalized for the nuances of a local target audience.

  • A need to manage multi-channel engagement across email, the web, and offline locations.

  • A need to centrally manage brand compliant templates, logos, graphics, and standards to ensure that the brand is consistently represented across all regions and channels.

  • A need to segment customer data or customer lists for use by field marketers.

  • A desire to customize marketing communications (print, digital, signage, etc.) for local audiences but still ensure compliance with the brand.

  • A need to reduce or manage redundant relationships and costs with agencies and technology providers.

  • A need to manage shared financial investments across corporate and local marketing efforts.

In summary, the Gleanster research points out that the customer experience has emerged as critical component to earning share of wallet. Great customer experiences are defined by highly relevant channel-sensitive engagement. Nobody knows local target audiences better than local marketers, so it behooves distributed organizations to find a way to empower, not just control, local marketing communications.

Local Marketing Automation

Brandmuscle Reports Record Revenue in Q1 2014

Growth Fueled by Unmatched Local Marketing Technology Capabilities and Stellar On-Demand Support

Chicago (April 29, 2014) Brandmuscle, a leading provider of distributed marketing management software and services, announced today that the company experienced record sales in the first quarter of 2014. The growth is due to the addition of 11 major national and international brands to its client roster as well as increased business from existing clients. Brandmuscle’s expanded client list is a result of the rising demand by brands for a comprehensive local marketing platform and support system that allows affiliates to capitalize on local opportunities and conditions with brand-compliant, customized local marketing programs.

New Brandmuscle clients include national and international insurance providers, medical device, tax preparation and manufacturing companies, a popular fast casual restaurant, national and international franchise retailers and service providers, a global hotel chain, a global information technology company, a global health care company and a leading North American tire manufacturer.

In Q1 2014, Brandmuscle launched its latest version of the BrandBuilder® platform, which combinesad builder,print on demandlocal media planning and buying and co-op management into one seamless, centralized distributed local marketing platform. The latest version of BrandBuilder® includes improved CRM integration, an enhanced shopping cart, and a variety of search and workflow enhancements.

“At Brandmuscle, we understand that a successful local marketing program requires careful planning and strategy,” said Philip Alexander, Brandmuscle CEO. “Too often, we hear from marketers who purchased ad builder or local marketing automation solutions that looked good on paper, but failed in the field. Our focus is not merely on providing powerful, user-friendly technology. We are equally committed to providing the professional service and support our clients and their affiliates need to execute highly effective local marketing programs. The success of our unique model is evidenced by our record-breaking revenue and client growth. We look forward to continuing to offer turnkey integrated marketing solutions that enable global and national brands to own local.”

Brandmuscle enjoyed double-digit revenue and EBITDA increases for the quarter.

About Brandmuscle
Brandmuscle enables national and global brands to “own local”, offering a comprehensive, user-friendly local marketing platform backed by 24/7 on-demand support. Brandmuscle enables local affiliates to capitalize on local opportunities and conditions with brand-compliant, customized messaging across all mediums and formats. With offices in Chicago, Cleveland, Austin and New Jersey and serving nearly 200 national and global brands, Brandmuscle was selected for Inc. Magazine’s 500 | 5000 Fastest-Growing Companies in America List for the fourth consecutive year in 2013. For more information about Brandmuscle call (866) 464-4342 or visit


Brandmuscle is bulking up, according to Crain’s Cleveland Business

Brandmuscle is featured in an April 27, 2014 article in Crain’s Cleveland Business, which examines the recent growth and success of the company as a leading player in distributed marketing technology:

“There’s a reason why Brandmuscle expects to keep breaking sales and profitability records it just set. The lines between the three marketing technology companies that merged to form Brandmuscle largely have been erased, according to CEO Phil Alexander.

Now the combined company is starting to roll.

Brandmuscle added 11 national and international brands to its list of 175 clients since late 2013, and it posted double-digit increases in sales and profitability in the first quarter, hitting new records in both categories.

That growth should continue now that Brandmuscle is operating as one seamless company, Alexander said.

“No one talks about what we were. Everyone talks about who we are,” he said.

The final stitches that unite the three former companies – BrandMuscle, Inc. in Cleveland, Centiv Services of Chicago and TradeOne Marketing of Austin, Texas – now are in place.

The new version of the company’s BrandBuilder® software weaves together technologies from all three businesses.”

To read the rest of the article about Brandmuscle and our position in the local marketing automation landscape, visit Crain’s Cleveland Business.

News ,

‘Local Marketing Automation’ is more than just ‘Marketing Automation’

Is your marketing department suffering from content chaos? You aren’t alone.Local Marketing Automation vs Marketing Automation

According to Gleanster, organizations today are juggling an average of three to five different marketing technologies.

That might seem like a lot to manage, but in a distributed marketing environment, the challenges of managing multi-channel execution are even greater. That’s because corporate marketing has one objective, while local marketers have another. Corporate wants to establish a compelling and unified relationship between the brand and consumers. Local marketers want to drive local sales.

If corporate and local marketers work together well, their objectives can be complementary. But if the relationship between corporate and local isn’t well-managed, both sides can actually end up working against each other – a waste of time, energy, and ultimately, revenue.

In a regional or local marketing environment, it’s not uncommon to see local marketers investing in their own marketing technologies for greater autonomy in communications with the local audience. That means the actual number of technologies utilized by the brand can be amplified by 200 to 300 percent according to Gleanster, and that’s a recipe for even greater chaos.

This creates opportunities for inconsistent branding, challenges in managing customer preferences, and a general lack of visibility at the corporate level about the success of local initiatives.

When you are dealing with a distributed market, how do you engage a target audience with just the right message, at just the right time, in just the right channel? Point solutions like campaign management and marketing automation are not designed to make the brand scalable for both corporate and local stakeholders.

The most comprehensive, effective solution is local marketing automation technology.

Local marketing automation provides all of the benefits of a multi-channel marketing automation platform — while also offering capabilities that are essential to distributed marketers. In this way, local marketing automation technology is fundamentally different — and more comprehensive — than marketing automation or campaign management.

To learn more about the local marketing technology landscape, download a free Local Marketing Automation Whitepaper from Gleanster here.

Local Marketing, Local Marketing Automation

5 Powerful Distributed Marketing Strategies That Will Boost Your Local Marketing ROI


Gleanster recently surveyed 182 brands with distributed marketing environments to benchmark the key trends and best practices exhibited by Top Performing marketing organizations. Download a complimentary copy of this Deep Dive to learn how the best distributed marketing organizations are fueling local demand for their products and services while gaining visibility into local spend and performance.

Important takeaways:

  • How distributed marketers are overcoming digital marketing challenges
  • Common metrics marketers use to measure the success of their local marketing efforts and their investments in distributed marketing management platforms
  • The role of analytics in distributed marketing platforms; how are distributed marketers measuring their performance and ROI?

Key findings:

  •  74% of Top Performers said “personalization” across all brand communications is a top challenge and area of focus
  • Top Performers don’t prohibit local affiliates from participating in local marketing efforts but empower them in a controlled environment that centralizes data capture and encourages the push of communications through a centralized system
  • 96% of Top Performers currently use or plan to invest in a distributed marketing management platform

Download a complimentary copy of 5 Powerful Distributed Marketing Strategies now.




Distributed Marketing Management, Local Marketing Best Practices, Local Marketing Research, Whitepapers , ,

Social Media Management for Franchises: How Are Brands Executing at the Local Level?

A recent study shows that marketers are struggling to find the perfect balance between protecting and strengthening their brands through the use of social media at the local level and how involved their franchisees are in managing local pages.

According to the report by BIA/Kelsey, 51% of franchisors are “highly involved” with the social media presence of their local franchise businesses, with many requiring their local franchisees run public dialogue with local customers through their national corporate sites. Another 23% of franchisors are “somewhat involved” in the local social media presence of their franchisees. These franchisors allow their local franchises to use social networks, and they have established and enforced rules and guidelines regarding franchisee messaging and activity levels to ensure a consistent local brand conversation.

Would your national brand benefit from having individual local social media pages for each of your locations? And if so, whose responsibility should it be to manage those local pages and conversations? How can you make sure your brand is delivered consistently?

All franchisees and owner-operators believe their local markets are different, and in fact, they often are. Urban or suburban, varying demographics or socio-economic statuses; if your franchise locations are so different that you allow variation in products, price, promotions and other in-store marketing, it may be more beneficial not only to fans and followers, but your bottom line, to entrust franchisees to take an active role in managing their local presence.

Social media offers a way for franchisees to help build brand awareness on a local level, and if executed well, can only mean good things for your national brand. The question remains for national brands, is there a way to ensure franchisees are effective on social channels without being too heavily involved or worrying about how they are representing the brand? It is a delicate balancing act and may require a shift in thinking about social media within your company. However, by establishing guidelines for franchisees to follow, educating them on best practices and providing the right tools, they can drive fans and followers to your brand and fuel “authentic” conversations.

Social media management tools offer a great way for franchisors to rest easy knowing their brand identity is being protected and provides marketers greater insight into what’s being done at the local level. It can also help keep local franchisees happy by empowering them with the ability to contribute.

With social media management for franchises, local franchisees can access a library of brand-approved templates and content to create social media profiles and schedule posts in advance. They can also opt-in to corporate-provided content streams, or even have the ability to create their own posts. Social media management tools help to streamline the amount of time franchisees spend managing their local pages, while still maintaining the corporate brand and ensuring content is fresh and current.

Would social media management tools benefit your business? Learn more or contact us today.

Franchise Marketing, Local Marketing, Social Media

New Study Explores the Local Marketing Automation Technology Landscape

Download Now

Managing multi-channel communications is challenging enough for marketing organizations. But if your company’s marketing team supports a network of dealers, sales reps, branches, agents, franchisees, independent retailers, etc., you know it’s exponentially harder to manage brand consistency and the customer experience in this distributed marketing environment.

Local marketing automation is an emerging class of technology that makes it easy for corporate marketers to maintain brand consistency as well as give their local affiliates freedom and flexibility in communications to their local target audience.

The defining characteristic of local marketing automation technology is the ability to uniquely support an environment with a centralized corporate marketing function and a network of regional or localized businesses with their own local targeted audiences. Through local marketing automation, you can control brand consistency and multi-channel messaging at a local level.

While many marketers invest in local marketing automation platforms to drive down operational expenses and achieve better brand consistency, Gleanster found that the top performing companies using local marketing automaton reported a 300% or more increase in revenue growth within the first 12 months of investing in the technology. Proving, local marketing automation is often a win-win for the top and bottom lines in most organizations.

Important takeaways:

  • What makes local marketing automation platforms different from other traditional campaign execution tools
  • Deep dive on the landscape of local marketing technologies available for distributed marketers
  • Nuances of campaign management, email marketing, marketing automation and digital asset management  in distributed marketing environments
  • How to justify your investment in local marketing automation software
  • Gleanster’s recommendations for local marketing automation

Key findings:

  • Top Performers are 9x more likely to leverage local marketing automation tools
  • Top Performers using local marketing automation technology reported 300% or more increases in revenue growth within the first 12 months of investing in the technology
  • 76% of Top Performers indicated divesting of legacy processes was one of two top challenges with investing in local marketing automation

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Local Marketing, Local Marketing Automation, Local Marketing Best Practices, Local Marketing Research, Whitepapers ,

Brandmuscle Named to Inc. Magazine’s 500|5000 List of America’s Fastest-Growing Companies

Leading Provider of Distributed Marketing Management Solutions is Named to Inc. 500|5000 for Fourth Consecutive Year

Chicago (August 27, 2013) Brandmuscle, a leading provider of distributed marketing management software and services, announced today that it has been named to Inc. Magazine’s 500|5000 Fastest-Growing Companies in America list for the fourth consecutive year.

Between 2009 and 2012, Brandmuscle increased revenue by over 50% while creating 156 jobs. Demand continues to rise for the company’s distributed marketing solutions that provide global and national brands with the ability to address all their local marketing needs; from local media planning and ad customization, to the delivery, fulfillment and financial management aspects of their local advertising. Brandmuscle achieved record-breaking new client growth in the first half of 2013, welcoming fifteen major national and international brands to its client roster.

“It’s truly an honor to be recognized by Inc. Magazine alongside some of the most successful companies in America,” said Philip Alexander, Brandmuscle CEO. “The fact that we continue to share in these types of achievements year after year is a direct result of the team we’ve built at Brandmuscle. The passion our employees have about the health of our business, their appetite for innovation, and desire to exceed our clients’ expectations are the primary keys to our success.”

Complete results of the Inc. 500|5000, including company profiles and an interactive database that can be sorted by industry, region and other criteria, can be found at

About Brandmuscle
Brandmuscle is reinventing local marketing as a revenue driver by giving local affiliates of global and national brands user-friendly customized solutions, on-demand support and fast reimbursement to build local marketing programs that both advance the brands, and flexibly address the needs of local markets. For more information about Brandmuscle call (866) 464-4342 or visit

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Jeff Hoffman, Founding Member of Joins Brandmuscle’s Board of Directors

Accomplished Innovator and Entrepreneur Brings Extensive Global Technology and Marketing Leadership to Distributed Marketing Management Solution Provider’s Board of Directors

Chicago (June 27, 2013) Brandmuscle, a leading provider of online distributed marketing management solutions, today announced the appointment of Jeff Hoffman to the Company’s Board of Directors.

Hoffman is currently a founder and partner in ColorJar, LLC and has served as a founding member and CEO in a number of startups and high-growth technology companies, including; Enable Holdings, Inc. (operating online sites and; CTI (acquired by American Express in 1992); Virtual Shopping Inc. (acquired by Wallenberg Group in 1996) and Black Sky Entertainment.

Hoffman is on the international advisory boards of Global Entrepreneurship Week (the Kauffman Foundation), the APEC Startup Initiative (21 member nations), JumpStart, and the US State Department’s GIST program (Global Innovation through Science and Technology).

“Jeff brings tremendous experience to the board, having successfully built and led a series of high-growth technology companies,” said Philip Alexander, Brandmuscle CEO. “We are pleased to welcome Jeff to the board and look forward to him playing an active role in the next chapter of Brandmuscle’s growth.”

“Brandmuscle has emerged as the unequivocal leader in distributed marketing management; helping global and national brands leverage the value of local marketing like never before,” Hoffman said. “I am honored to join the board of directors at such an exciting time and I am pleased to be involved in the company’s next phase of growth.”

Hoffman recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Collegiate Entrepreneurship Organization and was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the National CEO Council. He received the 2012 Champion of Entrepreneurship Award from Rising Tide Capital and JP Morgan Chase and has twice been honored as one of the 25 Most Influential Executives in Travel and Tourism Worldwide.

Hoffman received his Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Yale University.

About Brandmuscle

Brandmuscle is reinventing local marketing as a revenue driver by giving local affiliates of global and national brands user-friendly customized solutions, on-demand support and fast reimbursement to build local communications programs that both advance the brands and flexibly address the needs of local markets. For more information about Brandmuscle call (866) 464-4342 or visit

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Brandmuscle Reports Record New Client Growth in First Quarter of 2013

Launch of Integrated Local Marketing Platform Results in Strong Growth for Brandmuscle

 Chicago (May 7, 2013) Brandmuscle, a leading provider of technology-enabled local marketing solutions, announced today that the company added eight major national and international brands to its client roster in the first quarter. Brandmuscle’s new client growth is being fueled by a strong demand for turnkey integrated marketing solutions that provide global and national brands with the ability to address all their local marketing needs; from local media planning and ad customization, to the delivery, fulfillment and financial management aspects of their local advertising.

New clients include global and international pharmaceutical, automotive, energy, document management, and manufacturing companies, a leading Canadian retail pharmacy chain and two non-profit organizations, one with world-wide operations.

Earlier this year Brandmuscle announced the launch of the first end-to-end distributed marketing management solution, which combines user-friendly Web-based tools for customizing brand-approved traditional and digital media, high-touch and personalized customer support, and instant reimbursement to local affiliate, franchise and distributor partners. Industry analysts estimate the distributed marketing management software market to be valued at approximately $2 Billion.

“As marketing becomes more local, social and fragmented, brands face unique challenges that can only be overcome with investment in their technology infrastructure. Today’s marketing organization needs to do more with less and as evidenced by our exceptional new client growth in the first quarter, they are increasingly turning to Brandmuscle for the tools they need to drive demand at the local level,” states Philip Alexander, Brandmuscle CEO. “Last year Gartner predicted companies that focus on integrated processes for local marketing enablement will increase revenue by 15 to 20%. Owning the local decision point has never been more imperative for brands.”

Other key highlights of Brandmuscle’s first quarter include:

  • Integration of Brandmuscle’s ad builder technology platform with the company’s fulfillment and co-op platforms.
  • Launch of a social media marketing application that allows marketers to facilitate and automate the delivery of brand-approved content across local affiliate Facebook and Twitter pages.
  • Partnership with WineQuest to launch a digital menu application for iPads and Android tablets, enabling clients in the restaurant and wine and spirits categories to drive measurably more product sales at the local point-of-purchase.
  • Expansion of the company’s digital delivery team to support increased demand for digital marketing.

About Brandmuscle

Brandmuscle is reinventing local marketing as a revenue driver by giving local affiliates of global and national brands user-friendly customized solutions, on-demand support and fast reimbursement to build local communications programs that both advance the brands and flexibly address the needs of local markets. For more information about Brandmuscle call (866) 464-4342 or visit

Local Marketing, News, Uncategorized

Brandmuscle Launches Digital Menus for iPads and Android Tablets

Partnership with WineQuest assures best in class technology and content

Chicago (February 26, 2013) Brandmuscle announced today the launch of digital menus for iPads and Android tablets. An extension of the company’s local marketing platform, the application allows restaurateurs to create customized, interactive digital menus that can be browsed tableside by customers and waitstaff to confidently make wine and beverage selections and submit orders.

Easy to use administrative tools allow restaurant managers to customize the look and feel of the menu, arrange the order in which items are displayed and add meals for food pairings. Managers can also update pricing, add or delete SKU’s and access dashboards to manage inventory and track product sales.

Brandmuscle partnered with WineQuest, the leading provider of Wine Menu Management solutions in North America to develop the application, tapping into WineQuest’s propriety beverage database that contains information on over 177,000 wines, beers and spirits including label data, images, product facts, tasting notes, winemaker stories and unique flavor profiles.

“We are excited to partner with brandmuscle on this new digital menu system,” said WineQuest’s managing partner, Jim Lawless. “The unique combination of our wine expertise and brandmuscle’s menu development experience will set a new standard for beverage service in the digital era.”

“With the convergence of digital media and local marketing, this was a very logical extension of our business,” adds Dave Wilson, brandmuscle’s President Beverage Alcohol. “Restaurateurs want to deliver a unique experience for their guests and offering their customers more information on wine and or wine and food parings, allows them to do it. This is also true for spirits and beer. Tablets provide an outstanding delivery mechanism at the table and we’re developing complementary mobile applications as well. For over a decade brandmuscle has delivered industry leading technology solutions to empower our clients to more effectively and efficiently execute their local marketing efforts. We are very excited to introduce these new digital technologies and through our partnership with WineQuest, I am confident our digital menu application for tablet devices will be very well-received in the marketplace.”

About WineQuest, LLC

WineQuest, LLC provides Wine Menu Management solutions for restaurants, hotels, distributors, and producers to help them understand, manage and sell wine more effectively to their customers.  New to the company is WineQuest Mobile, an iPhone app that helps consumers find wines that match their unique flavor preferences. It can be downloaded in the Apple App Store under ‘WineQuest’.  For more information about WineQuest call (707) 255-8333 or visit

About brandmuscle

Brandmuscle is reinventing local marketing as a revenue driver by giving local affiliates of global and national brands user-friendly customized solutions, on-demand support and fast reimbursement to build local communications programs that both advance the brands and flexibly address the needs of local markets. The result is a powerful new way to grow sales at multiple local touch points. For more information about brandmuscle call (866) 464-4342 or visit

Digital Marketing, Local Marketing, Local Marketing Best Practices, Mobile Marketing, News

Brandmuscle Reinvents Local Marketing

Global Brands Can Now Own Local Marketing and Increase ROI Without Compromising Brand Equity

Chicago (January 14, 2013) Brandmuscle today announced the launch of the first-ever, end-to-end solution that enables national and global brands to seamlessly empower their local affiliates, franchisees and distributors to tailor brand marketing to meet local needs. Brands can now produce messages for local timing, tastes and other provincial differences, while still maintaining their consistency and brand standards. By providing a comprehensive system of user-friendly customizable communication tools, high-touch and personalized customer support, and instant reimbursement to affiliate, franchise and distributor partners, brandmuscle has reinvented local marketing.

“Brandmuscle offers global brands a powerful new way to grow sales at multiple local touch points,” said John Larkin, brandmuscle CEO. “By combining the fundamentals of creating local marketing programs, executing them, and managing the back-end fulfillment under one roof, corporate marketers now have a real opportunity to utilize local marketing as a strategic weapon to generate a greater marketing ROI than ever before,” he said.

Brandmuscle offers local distributors, franchisees and other brand affiliates the powerful combination of: a user-friendly local marketing platform for customizing traditional and digital media; campaign and execution tools, including local media planning and buying services; unmatched print-on-demand POP and cross-media capabilities; and industry-leading channel program management and co-op reimbursement offerings.

The company was conceived to alleviate marketing issues faced by large companies struggling to achieve success in their local markets. Although affiliates may ask for brand support, they are typically either reluctant or inefficient at utilizing national resources, which consequently turn corporate support into a cost center. Brandmuscle has identified the challenges that distributed marketers typically face and developed their solutions to overcome them:

  • Many local franchisees are eager to execute local marketing, but often run renegade programs that do not uphold brand equity.
  • Others are receptive to co-op marketing incentives, but don’t have the tools to effectively execute local programs.
  • The largest group doesn’t value investing in meaningful, message-driven marketing.
  • Finally, there are others who simply don’t understand strategic marketing or have access to the support needed to be an effective marketer.

The new brandmuscle offerings overcome these challenges by providing a comprehensive solution that has dedicated support teams, in a simple platform that encourages engagement.

Customers can create differentiate messages across local markets. This increases effective promotion of the brand at the local level and enhances brand compliance, while eliminating the need to work with multiple providers.

Brandmuscle serves its customers through the biggest geographical footprint in its industry, with specialized customer support teams in 80 locations nationwide. A local affiliate can count on brandmuscle’s customer support staff to assist them in using their technology platform to create advertising campaign and marketing materials in multiple mediums – from print to broadcast, POP to social media and digital – and even assist them with media planning and purchasing while keeping brand identity in tact.  

“The talent that comprises brandmuscle has deep expertise in industries ranging from food and beverage, telecom, insurance and more,” said Larkin. “By combining the suite of services that many brands previously outsourced to multiple agencies and adding high-touch customer service in each area, we are poised to help brands move the needle.”

Brandmuscle works with more than 200 national brands and many Fortune 500 companies across a wide range of industries. For a glimpse at some of its clients, please visit:

About brandmuscle

Brandmuscle is reinventing local marketing as a revenue driver by giving local affiliates of global and national brands user-friendly customized solutions, on-demand support and fast reimbursement to build local communications programs that both advance the brands and flexibly address the needs of local markets. The result is a powerful new way to grow sales at multiple local touch points. For more information about brandmuscle please visit:

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