Local Store Marketing (LSM) is by far the most important, impactful way for restaurant brands to connect with customers.
How else are can you emotionally engage with the community to introduce your brand’s story, products and services, especially in today’s chaotic mobile-saturated, intensely competitive times? As of 2018, consumers see an average of 5,000 ads per day – how on earth are brands going to rise above all that noise when it comes down to delivery and dining options? In essence, how can brands remain in business without LSM?
With LSM seeming like such a needed, timely weapon to tell their story and drive sales – why aren’t brands devoting more LSM time, resources or budget? The proof is in the data with more than two thirds of marketing budgets are spent locally, but not on LSM.
LSM’s origination and intent was to ensure operators of restaurants and retail brands keep their story, products, services and value circulating in the local community of consumers and businesses.
LSM’s origination and intent was to ensure operators of restaurants and retail brands keep their story, products, services and value circulating in the local community of consumers and businesses. Let’s also not forget, around 90 percent of overall US commerce remains being spent inside brick-and-mortar locations– where the volume and frequency is anchored by restaurants – hence the weighted impact of LSM on overall US commerce is massive.
Who’s responsible for activating LSM?
Historically, brands have leaned on in-store resources that report into operations, not marketing. This process requires the operator to step outside their four walls and socialize the brands’ community value, interest in sponsoring school-fundraisers, non-profits, first-responders and more. This usually requires some direction from corporate met with lots of time planning in discovering the neighboring businesses, scouring for local events, in addition to working with corporate marketing for the needed collateral.
Over the years I have spent most of my time and efforts in trying to help marketers and operators get smarter, more efficient and more effective in improving their local store marketing efforts to drive sales and traffic. After all this research and development – I’ve officially concluded: in order for restaurant brands to leverage the power of LSM, they need to stop relying on the wrong resource and here’s why:
Bandwith: By its nature a restaurant operation is busy and chaotic. People are yelling, food is burning, staff running around, employee no-shows, pipes bursting – it’s a full-blown circus each shift. Also, asking operators to do LSM isn’t a quick task – particularly if you want the LSM to be effective. Assembling lists, coordinating logistics, canvassing, door-to-door outreach, following through with prospects and sponsorships requires hours and hours of time.
Priorities: Operators weren’t hired to do marketing – they were hired to orchestrate the complex restaurant. The requirements to be a successful GM has little-to-nothing to do with being a good marketer. Their ability to manage chaos yields rewards and recognition within their current system, far greater than their ability to market the brand locally. Here's a real-time example of one of the most successful brands in the US hiring a GM, notice no mention of LSM.
Skill Set: Cold solicitations are challenging. Some operators are simply not comfortable doing tasks that most would consider extremely socially extroverted activities. Cold solicitations are challenging.
Wth those three points, it is truly amazing brands are still relying on this tired playbook to accomplish the wildly opportunistic LSM opportunity with an operating resource. So, what strategies can more effective, measurable methods and resources to drive LSM success? If what is being said here is to ditch the dusty old strategy of pushing operators into LSM, what options do we have?
Let’s wipe the slate clean and start with simplifying the strategy and identifying key partners. At this point anyone who’s experienced LSM over the years has an empathetic understanding of what works – and what doesn’t. Let’s break down a new recipe for success.
Creative: Cook up a really smart promotions that will incentivize locals to try your product or service. Put your Santa Claus hat on and bring gifts of free food to your neighboring schools and businesses – chips, cookies or anything to put a smile on their faces. This gesture of goodwill will not only positively introduce the brand, but emotionally attach them to your brand.
Targeting: Map out where to target within the community. If we wanted to keep it as simple as possible – reaching out to schools, first responders, non-profits and local businesses are incredibly low-hanging opportunities to engage with in the community. But, it can take a lot of time to assemble a list is and that is one of the primary frustration barriers to LSM. Identify local database companies available for purchase to decrease the time identifying local targets.
Distribution: Getting the message out to your audience takes a concerted multi-dimensional effort. Once the target list is stitched together, look for the most qualified representative for the brand to distribute the message and canvass the community. Consider a local agency who can staff brand representatives who can perform 1099 help. Additionally, a number of direct mail companies can help drive a hyper-local direct mail campaign.
Social: Facebook pages are great for localized store-level distribution, in addition to targeted Facebook, Instagram and Yelp paid ads as well as paid search on Google.
Structured Home for LSM
A single system or platform for LSM is critical for a number reasons:
- Knowledge center for sharing best practices
- Measuring impact against sales and traffic
- Centralized time efficiencies
There’s really a never-ending carrousel of ammunition to drive LSM. Here are some of the objectives we’ve seen over the years:
- Under performing stores
- Catering / off-premise sales
- Community involvement (first responders, non-profits, little league, etc)
- New restaurant openings
- Recruiting local talent
- New product launch
With LSM being the most powerful, immediate opportunity to drive new local customers, your team needs to wipe the slate clean and launch a revised LSM attack.