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As Marketers Straddle The National/Local Divide, Placeable’s Keeping Score

The location services provider ranks the top 30 companies in their adeptness at managing place-based marketing.

Placeable's Melissa Risteff
Placeable’s Melissa Risteff

Placeable’sNatLo Top 30” is a different kind of countdown: the location-based platform has developed a list of criteria that aims to show just how well brands with multiple franchises are doing when it comes to managing their digital advertising at the local level.

To compile the NatLo Top 30, Placeable examined 280 brands across industries that tend to have a strong national/local connection, including retail, banking, restaurant, hospitality, and others. The brands were not necessarily affiliated with Placeable, notes Melissa Risteff, the company’s head of marketing. Rather than look to its client list or a general industry catalog, the NatLo companies were selected merely from the Census Bureau’s North American Industry Classification System.

Companies’ NatLo score was based on a point system from zero to 100 for each brand, with the points being allotted according to their performance across four “key dimensions” of local online marketing: Visibility, Depth, Precision, and Reach.

Letting The Data Speak

“The point of the NatLo list is to let the data tell the story,” Risteff says. “We started by assembling a sample size of different verticals and markets where we felt there was the largest propensity of multi-location businesses that the enterprises scaled. We ran the data, and ironically, only 10 percent of the 300 that we surveyed rose to the occasion and actually met the criteria, the screens, that we put in place.”

A look at the top 10 marketers in the NatLo list shows a degree of diversity in the first half, with an auto parts and services marketer in the lead, while hotels and hospitality dominated the remaining half:

  1. Meineke
  2. Nationwide Insurance
  3. Papa Murphy’s
  4. Best Buy
  5. PetSmart
  6. Ramada
  7. State Farm
  8. Holiday Inn/Express
  9. Super 8
  10. Days Inn

In a wider sense, Placeable’s rankings show how far some marketers have come — auto parts and services provider Meineke ranked highest, while regional fast food chain Whataburger came in at number 30 — and how far they have to go in using digital as an instrument to drive their enterprise businesses at the local level.

“The starting point of NatLo 30 was more about creating an education and methodology exercise,” says Dan Weiner, Placeable’s VP of Product. “Obviously, local marketing is critical given consumer usage patterns, the shift to mobile-location awareness. But we recognized from working with enterprise advertisers that it’s a complex undertaking to optimize your location marketing. There’s a bunch of different elements to it.”

Placeable's Dan Weiner
Placeable’s Dan Weiner

Classifying The Elements

The array of factors that make an advertising effort successful can be vast and varied — and practically infinite. But narrowing the metrics for the NatLo index wasn’t much of a challenge, Weiner and Risteff say. Aside from accuracy, simplicity and getting to the heart of what enterprises want to accomplish is fairly easy to grasp.

With the four areas of online marketing objectives — Visibility, Depth, Precision, and Reach — in place, scoring each area between 0- and 100 was also done to encompass a wide range of abilities. Plus, it was clear for any marketer to understand and appreciate, Weiner says.

For example, within the “Visibility” category, some factors are worth 2 points, 3 points, 1 point, and so on, Weiner says. In the end, you ultimately have the total points you earned divided by the total points available, and there’s your percent from 0 to 100.

Over time, other areas of marketing accomplishments might be added, such as figuring how adroit a marketer’s social media usage is.

“As Dan and I started to really develop the NatLo index with Placeable’s research team, we realized that we were learning so much along the way that it ultimately evolved into something that we felt like we could share and use as an ongoing educational process,” Risteff says. “It’s an evolution that we went through as we took the journey developing this list.”

How To Climb The NatLo Index

While developing criteria is one thing, figuring out what some players did better than others is quite another; what separates a Walgreens (ranked No. 12) from a CVS (No. 16)? And what’s Meineke doing that Whataburger isn’t?

These are more involved questions. Weiner and Risteff are careful to say that the judgment of any ranking, especially one with a relatively narrow focus on national/local digital marketing, should remain within the narrow parameters of the index.

“If you look across something like the NatLo Top 30 or any list of large brands, there is a mix of what are franchise models, with some operating in a more centralized way and others opting to be more decentralized,” Weiner says. “It’s worth mentioning that this is an evolving area. So the more centralized folks are probably a little more ahead of this.”

Centralization vs. De-Centralization

For the most part, Weiner and Risteff conclude that most franchises are getting their basic data and visibility right, “which is always the first step,” Weiner adds.

As an example, if you’re Taco Bell, the local marketing that Pandora’s going to sell you might be a little more on the franchise and local market level, Weiner says. But, in the same way that Taco Bell centrally buys its national brand ads, it’s an entirely different thing to ask, “Does Google have my data indexed correctly? Does TacoBell.com have the right local landing pages and visibility?” That kind of foundational marketing is still done at the national and brand level, Weiner notes.

“The navigation of local marketing areas tends to happen at the national level, even for franchises,” Weiner says. “When we look at where this market is going, or some of the next stages for what we do at Placeable in our road map, we then see it evolving down a little more towards targeted local and paid marketing. That’s the progression that we see and we think it will be reflected in the NatLo index over time.”