What is Local Marketing Automation?

BMI Icon Marketing Written by: BrandMuscle Marketing

Editor's Note: For a simple, visual explanation of local distributed marketing, be sure to check out our infographic on how brands manage hyper-local marketing.

The difference between marketing automation and local marketing automation

The marketing technology landscape has ballooned to the point of absurdity with nearly 1,900 vendors across 43 categories according to chiefmartec’s 2015 “supergraphic.”Because Brandmuscle’s been around since the late ‘90s – with some heritage dating back to 1960 – we think of ourselves as pioneers. Our time in the space has given us an opportunity to find our niche and help define the category: software and services that help national brands market on the local level.

So, what’s our niche called? It depends on who you ask. We’ve heard it defined as:

  • Distributed Marketing Management (DMM),
  • Marketing Asset Management (MAM),
  • Marketing Resource Management (MRM),
  • Channel Marketing Management,
  • Through Partner Marketing Automation (TPMA),
  • Through Channel Marketing Automation (TCMA) and
  • Local Marketing Automation (LMA)

...All different interpretations by vendors and analysts to decipher our mission: help brands with distributed sales networks (franchisees, dealers or agents) manage, optimize, incentivize and automate marketing functions.

LMA vs MAWhich brings us to the term Local Marketing Automation (LMA). Born from the trend of using “automation” to make any process seems like it can be tackled with a set-it-and-forget-it attitude, LMA is sort of like marketing automation’s quirky kid sister. Sure they share the same surname and come from the same general background, but when you get to know them, they’re quite different.

Marketing Automation refers to streamlining a process within marketing; for example if a prospect downloads a white paper, her name is automatically added to a database to receive emails relating to the subject. And, depending on the prospect’s actions after receiving an email (open/click/download), she may receive a phone call and offer for a free product trial. Complex marketing automation can take into account web site visits, social interactions and other digital behaviors, but it generally represents using technology to replace a repetitive task within a sales and marketing funnel. The key differentiation for our discussion: marketing automation triggers personalized marketing tactics directly from a brand to consumers; it does not account for third party affiliates in a distributed network.

Enter Local Marketing Automation – and all the “quirks” that lead you to ask: does she really belong in this family?

At its core, LMA is a collection of distributed marketing functions brought together by software and services that allow national brand managers to effectively manage hundreds or thousands of local marketing campaigns including both digital and traditional marketing. LMA automates the repetitious and complex processes occurring in distributed channels locally across the entire country – or globe.

What does local marketing automation mean at a national level?

If you’re a manufacturer, franchise or sell through independent dealers, agents or distributors, LMA helps you establish a consistent brand experience at the local level. LMA gives your local representatives the marketing materials they need to carry the national brand in a way that resonates with local audiences, preferences and tastes. It also incentivizes sales of the products and services that make the most impact for national brands. In essence:

Local Marketing Automation helps national brands strategically and systematically grow local sales.

…which is a great glossy statement, but means very little unless we dive into how that’s accomplished:

Part 1: Activate – Offering templates for localized branding of materials

At Brandmuscle, we call this our ad builder solution, and it boils down to allowing local dealers, agents and franchisees to access brand-compliant marketing materials that they can customize to resonate better on a local level. This is more complicated than simply enabling a local dealer to slap their location information onto a branded template you have provided; effective templates and LMA solutions ensure all brand standards are maintained while still allowing local affiliates to adjust the marketing creative in a way that speaks specifically to local customers and tastes without mistakes.

Part 2: Execute – Integrated, distributed campaign planning

This sounds like an oxymoron, but it isn’t. LMA should allow national marketers to effectively plan campaigns that integrate various marketing tactics (broadcast, digital, print, etc.) so they can be executed across a distributed geographic network. Accomplished through local media planning support and print-on-demand services, Part 2 ensures that the marketing components created in Part 1 are executed properly.

One of my favorite examples of local campaign planning is about a local dealer who wanted to place a cheap holiday ad and unassumingly suggested a high school publication with fairly significant reach. The only problem was the publication was the annual yearbook; the price point and reach may have fit the local dealer's media budget, but a timely holiday ad didn't make sense in an annual publication. This potential misstep is more obvious than most issues our local marketing specialists deal with, but steering the local dealers to the most effective local tactics is as crucial as ensuring the message is correct. Especially as local digital tactics proliferate, having an expert to make sure these campaigns are optimized is important for effective local marketing.

Part 3: Fund – Management of channel and co-op funding

Here’s where Local Marketing Automation can get tricky. Coincidentally it's also the place where most national brands are still working to truly “automate.”

National brands often benefit from selling specific products at specific price points in specific markets. By incentivizing local dealers, agents and franchisees to promote and sell specific products–usually because they’re either high-margin or high-inventory–national brands have more control over their distributed sales and marketing network. Automating these programs is where things get complex. Simple SPIFFs or rebates are the start, but as indirect sales channels grow in complexity, so do the programs that guide incentive funding throughout distributor, partner and retailer networks. Market Development Funds (MDFs), channel marketing programs and co-op marketing funds have grown from their inception decades ago, leaving many channel marketing managers to drown in spreadsheets and paperwork. Newer online tools and channel marketing experts can help immensely with overly complicated programs.

Keep in mind that these three parts don’t operate independently. Getting Parts 1, 2 and 3 above--Activation, Execution and Funding--to play together is really the secret sauce – it’s what makes local marketing automation programs truly successful and is a key focus for Brandmuscle and its national clients. After all, you know what they say about a two-legged stool.

A combination of product and service is key to Local Marketing Automation.

There’s one more key element to Local Marketing Automation – a tie that makes it similar to its marketing automation family. Local Marketing Automation automates a lot, but it's not necessarily automatic. LMA makes complex distributed marketing channels easier to navigate and provides tremendous support for local affiliates. The right system saves a lot of time for channel marketing or local marketing managers at the brand level and makes marketing more effective, consistent and measurable. But it also requires strategic setup and maintenance, i.e., to be effective, you need more than just a technology tool: you also need service.

Brandmuscle offers a variety of services for this reason: distributed marketing networks need help with different aspects of their program at different levels. For instance:

  • Brands want to make sure the co-op funds they award to their dealers and agents are being used on marketing tactics that generate the most return on investment (ROI). They realize their local dealers and agents aren’t experts in putting together local media plans, deciding on creative/offers and negotiating for discounts with media reps. Some clients have gone as far as making Brandmuscle the only approved vendor to use co-op funds  for media placement and other marketing (this applies to the Execute section above).
  • Custom designers work with brands who use template functions but also need an additional layer of graphics expertise on hand (covered in the Activate section above). Using templates to maintain national brand consistency while still appealing to local customers and tastes works for most, but one-off projects and hands-on design guidance is an additional service valued by both national and local marketers.
  • Creating complex channel marketing programs to manage co-op marketing funds is a task that can be overwhelming for clients. Our experts have decades of experience and leading industry technology that can be helpful when implementing and managing complex co-op programs. Falling within the Fund section above, these services help our client drive behavior throughout the channel marketing programs.
  • More and more, we’re seeing increased requests for digital support. Brandmuscle has social media and search experts available to work with local dealers as needed (Execution) and often work hand-in-hand with channel marketing teams to implement custom co-op fund programs (Fund) based on digital promotion and content requirments.


Which bring us to our final point of distinction:

Marketing automation is designed to be used by marketers.

Local Marketing Automation is designed to be used by both marketers and small businesses.  

Local affiliates don’t need a marketing degree or years of experience to make marketing work on the local level if their national marketing teams give them access to an effective LMA resource. Resource is a key word to remember. Using local marketing automation, national brands and channel marketing managers can efficiently establish brand consistency and best practices among local dealers, agents or franchisees. In the process, a combination of technology and service spanning Activation, Execution and Funding form a dedicated marketing resource building your brand from local affiliates up to the national level.

Did we answer the question? Are you bored stiff or have something to add? Let us know in the comments below.

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