This V9 interview features Robert Lane of Buhv Designs, Founder and President of the Denver-based web design and digital marketing agency. We at V9 Digital would like to thank Robert of Buhv Designs for taking the time to chat with us about his vision for Buhv and his expertise in marketing a multi-location business online.
1. What do you have planned in 2019? Where do you see Buhv Designs headed in the next few years?
At Buhv in 2019, we’re focused on building for the future of multi-location marketing. Our goal is to allow companies to focus on their day-to-day operations and utilize our team to help scale and manage their marketing programs and platforms.
2. Is there an ideal way to set up the online relationship between the corporate website and local marketing efforts? Do you recommend keeping everything on one domain or setting up separate local microsites?
Great question — and one we hear a lot from potential clients. And to be honest there’s not a right answer, or at least not an obvious one. We feel it’s always best to keep it on a single domain whenever possible. With a franchise, or when companies merge, we don’t always have the opportunity to make that decision. Keeping it all in one place does usually make it much easier and efficient for a marketing and development team to manage the process.
3. If a brand decides to have off-domain websites, how do you recommend sharing corporate assets or setting up cross-linking? Basically, how much control do you recommend that corporate has over these off-domain sites and how much support should they provide?
It’s so important to set a brand standard for how to use a logo, messaging, personas, and more. There’s also a huge opportunity for a brand to leverage its site value to help a local or off-domain site. But they need to really be aware of what’s being published or represented by an extension of their brand. Again, there are many scenarios that call for off-domain marketing, but a corporate brand really needs to own it’s messaging and assets. All that being said, there are two major benefits that come to mind from off-domain sites:
- New marketing ideas and ways of using a website that corporate may have missed
- Additional doorways, links, and SEO value into the corporate site
4. What is your general advice when it comes to managing third-party platforms like Google My Business and sites like Yelp? Is this done at a corporate level or by local managers? What pitfalls do you see with each approach?
Managing third-party platforms can be a huge undertaking for any marketing department, particularly within a multi-location or franchise model. The challenges that arise are related to scale and brand messaging.
With a company with 50-100 locations, scale proves to be a challenge because of the sheer amount of data, reviews, menu updates, booking systems, hours, etc. to manage by a single marketing department. Many times, that marketing department has 2-4 people at the corporate level, none of whom have time to keep up with it. Things like managing basic location data is easily achieved at scale with tools like Yext, but it doesn’t solve the other 5,000 tasks to manage within each platform. At least not in a proactive or timely manner.
The pitfall with corporate management of third-party platforms and location data is that it tends to get very “templated” and reactive over time. Which makes sense if you think about it. Imagine writing a unique profile description, setting up UTM tags, managing reviews, and updating location page links for 150 locations. You’re bound to find the most efficient way (read: cheapest route) to make those updates.
For privately run companies with a corporate management structure, there can be a huge advantage to having it managed at the local level. They know their customer at a deeper level and can be much more agile in using platforms like Google My Business to drive demand or create a buzz about their business. This is really hard to do with more than 10 locations or a very strong management team. There’s also the personal touch that can be lost when a marketing manager sitting three states away is responsible for “representing” an individual location.
Managing at the local level has its own challenges as well. Rogue employees, inappropriate responses to reviews, or the posting of misinformation can ruin a brand’s reputation. So then, the right approach is usually a mix between the two. What is required is a well thought-out strategy to implement as a brand, and a process to manage the many platforms and moving pieces that drive online visibility.
5. Tell us more about what you are seeing in offline conversion tracking. What new technologies are emerging that will help locations measure foot traffic, offline sales, and other online metrics?
Offline tracking is always the holy grail for digital marketers focused on brick and mortar or multi-location. It remains difficult — though, in reality, data providers like Google, FourSquare, and Facebook have this data in droves. They just have to be careful about how they use it.
You always have the tried and true promotions that you can reference back to a digital advertisement, promo code, etc. Those are easy to track if you run a shoe store offering 10% off, or a restaurant with a “free beer” promotion. But you still have to track it, and that is difficult with hundreds of stores.
As for the next wave of tech that will (hopefully) help this problem, here are a few to watch:
- Using beacons to track Bluetooth enabled devices
- Using device ID, device lookback, and geo-fencing to market and remarket to customers
- Using device ID, device lookback, and geo-fencing to market to your competitor’s customers
6. If you could provide advice to a corporate marketing team for a multi-location brand, what would be your one or two best nuggets or tips for digital marketing?
First, pick a platform or focus on finding an agency that can help you systematize all of the “non-brand” specific marketing items — especially managing third-party platforms and location data control. Second, build an actual strategy, no matter how basic, about what digital marketing is within your company and communicate it to your location managers. Third, brand wins above all else. Focus on building a badass brand and make sure all of your multi-location “loose ends” are tied up so that you reap the benefits.
Robert Lane is a father and entrepreneur. He thrives in a visionary role with a focus on growth and thought leadership and is experienced in building startups, teams, and established organizations from $0 to >$1M in revenue.