Episode 5 – Discussing Local Marketing with Monica Ho – Martechcube

Chandrima Samanta [0:00] In today’s episode of the magic you podcast, we are going to discuss the tips and tricks that the marketers and platforms should adapt in order to base with an ever increasing locally focused consumer population. Along with that, we are going to throw some light on the impetus of hyper localization as a revolution, along with focusing on the current state of location based marketing on the whole.

Chandrima Samanta [0:27] Joining us on the Martech podcast today is Monica Ho CMO at SOCi. As CMO Monica is responsible for developing and leading SOCi’s marketing and communication functions, as well as ensuring the company is uniquely positioned in the highly crowded social media and reputation management marketplace. Monica has done you’re in the industry includes nearly 20 years of digital marketing, advertising and research experience, including a solid foundation in sales strategy and data analytics. Prior to SOCi, she served as global cmo at ground truth formerly known as XAd Inc, where she helped grow the business from an early stage startup to an award winning global brand. Well regarded in the space. Monica has numerous accolades and awards, including being ranked one of the most powerful women in mobile advertising three years in row by Business Insider, and one of the 100 most influential North American b2b tech marketers, by hot topics. In addition to her role at SOCi, Monica serves on the board of the advanced digital marketing and media community of Austin, as well as serves on the advisory boards of several digital marketing and technology startups within New York, Texas, and California. Welcome to the podcast. Monica,

Monica Ho [1:46] Thank you so much for having me.

Chandrima Samanta [1:50] Before we get into our conversation, I think it would really help if we could define the differences between locations based marketing and localized marketing, perhaps. And what do you think is the power of each for marketers?

Monica Ho [2:03] That’s a great question. And I think that these terms are used widely across our industry. And they also have very broad definitions. And so when I look at the difference between the two, I think location based marketing has really been used to describe targeting, you know, whether that is, you know, based on your GPS location, your precise location, or even things like beacons. So there was a whole burgeoning industry that that surrounded itself around this term location based marketing. And again, I think that that relates a lot to the targeting. When I think of localized marketing, I think of, you know, a combination of both using, you know, marketing and technology to target to a specific geo or area. But it’s also the creative, the content that is also localized. So really localized marketing, to me brings together both the targeting and the content.

Chandrima Samanta [3:13] But that’s really great to know. Now, coming to location based marketing, and the revolution that it has seen, location based marketing has received great impetus from new technologies, as you explained about the beacons, geo maps, GPS, and sensors, etc. Marketers worldwide are picking on this trend in a wild frenzy and even technology developers are perpetrating its users with equal enthusiasm. Do you think hyper localization in a global market has been a sort of a revolution? And if so, what do you think was the impetus of that revolution?

Monica Ho [3:53 Yeah, I think hyper localization is definitely a revolution. It’s where our, our digital marketing has evolved. And I think one big reason why this has occurred has to do with the large platforms, you know, search social, and their ability to tap into different signals as context. So obviously, when you look at search today, one of the big things that have evolved is where consumers are conducting search at right, five years ago or more, you had to sit at your desktop, you were kind of tethered to your home location when you were conducting research or search. Today, that’s no longer the case that could be happening anywhere that you are, as a result of that. Now, more likely than not, a consumer search is happening off of a mobile device, right. The majority of search activity is happening on mobile, and you could say the same for search is awesome. Not search social as well. Because of that both search and social sites are using a consumer’s location as a powerful context indicator. So when you now are using your device, and you’re searching for something as simple as a gym, you know I’m traveling, I’m looking for the nearest gym, I no longer have to input my location, you know, or even say something like near me, my device recognizes that I’m in a certain area, and it’s going to deliver to me a very localized, curated list of businesses that are recommended for me based on my search. It’s the same for social, you know, social really started because it was it was a new platform that you could communicate with your community and have a real connection with that community a two way conversation, if you will. It wasn’t just about that one way kind of marketing. So social opened that up and what we found in social, although in the very early days, it was all about popularity, how many likes Did somebody get? What we found over the years is that that that’s that really isn’t, you know, the, the value in social value is in the engagements that you’re getting out of that community. And when you look at the recent data, and let’s turn this to a business scenario, if I’m a business and let’s, let’s keep it to the gym, and I’m talking about general content, like you should hydrate. And here are the best ways to keep your body hydrated, that’s great content. But that generalized content doesn’t receive that much engagement. However, if that same gym, use social to really connect at a local level with their local community, to showcase the fact that they’re now doing workouts outside, right to kind of appeal to those consumers that aren’t comfortable coming back to the gym, those type of posts see received 67%, if not higher, more engagement than the general posts. So, again, I think hyper localization has happened and has been a revolution because, you know, we’re no longer tethered to our devices, our location has tremendous context. And if you’re not leveraging that, as a marketer, you’re really not personalizing your message to the audience. So that’s, that’s probably the biggest

Chandrima Samanta [7:28] Right now. So you have spoken a lot about the change in user behavior and how the population have been increasingly more globally focused. So what sort of changes in strategy or tactics? Have you seen both marketers and platforms make to adapt to the demands and challenges of reaching an increasingly more focused locally consumer population? You know, like, what sort of strategies do you think that the marketers have been adopting lately?

Monica Ho [7:57] That’s a great question. I think there’s been changes happening ongoing, I mean, for marketers that are in the space, everything from search to social, our strategies are vastly different than they were just a year ago. If you look at search, and the way that the engines like Google are, you know, organizing their search engine results, your business information, your local business information is such a huge factor, and not just your, you know, the fact that you have a local address, but things like your ratings and reviews. What are your consumer saying about you? Do they do they think you are a good business as well? Do they agree that you know, you’re a reputable gym, and it’s that marriage of you know, both what businesses are providing these platforms to optimize their visibility for local results, as well as what the local community is saying about that business that is really helping this these businesses, you know, manage and maintain a healthy digital localized visibility. And then even on the social side, as I mentioned, I think again, a few years ago, marketers really cared about just having a presence in social, and then making sure that they were putting content out whether or not that community engaged back with them. I think now what marketers are start starting to understand is that we’re shouting in an empty room, if we’re not getting the community to engage back with us, so why are we doing all this work? And so now, what you’re finding is that a lot of marketers are really starting to figure out how do they tap into, you know, building that local community connection, you know, showcasing something that’s relevant to a specific audience so that that content feels very organic and authentic. And really, those are just a few You changes that, I think, you know, marketers are adapting to the constantly changing environment, and the fact that the environment is a lot more competitive than it used to be.

Chandrima Samanta [10:09] Right. Now, Monica, I feel and many reports have suggested that business owners are seeking higher quality data about their customers, especially about their buying behaviors. How do you think localized marketing and location based marketing have worked together in this case to bridge that gap?

Monica Ho [10:30] Well, it’s an it’s interesting, I think there’s definitely been a trend toward, you know, business owners and marketers really wanting to understand how their consumers are using this information to drive growth in their businesses, right, whether that’s in store traffic, or sales, online or offline. And I would say, I think what marketers are starting to understand is that these are powerful ways to not only increase awareness, but to drive that business into, you know, their, their local stores, their their different, you know, retailer outlets, I think there are new technologies out there that are allowing businesses to better understand the impact on you know, commerce, if you will. So for instance, there’s a lot of ways within social that you can now embed links, so that you can actually start to capture if somebody’s you know, ordered online, or if they, you know, accessed information that would allow you to think that maybe they came in store, call it driving directions or something like that. The same can be said for search searches, highly trackable. Now on your, let’s take something as simple as your Google business page, your Google My Business Page, Google has really been making a lot of changes to those pages to really allow marketers to better understand that traffic, and what that traffic is doing on those pages. So now you’ve got a whole insights dashboard that’s available. They’re also now enabling call tracking data, where you can now start to see what calls are coming through what is the volume, how long were those calls, etc. So as a business, you can really start to understand the impact these different channels, and your localized presence again, is happening having on your, your actual business.

Chandrima Samanta [12:35] Now, since we have spoken at great length, about customer data, privacy, something that we can really not leave out of this conversation. Now, privacy being the buzzword of 2021. And being It is always being on the top of the mind for consumers. And that companies are acting upon those privacy concerns by making fundamental shifts in the collection of data. Besides location is going to be greatly impacted with the release of iOS 14.5. How do you see these changes impacting how marketers attract and engage customers?

Monica Ho [13:09] Yeah, the iOS 14.5 is pretty big. And it really affects the type of data that marketers can use to target specific audiences. And that’s not the only change, right, there’s a lot of talk about the upcoming elimination of the cookie, which is a huge, you know, indicator of what your audiences what they do, what they like, etc. So these things are absolutely happening. Um, I think location is still an important plays an important part here, even with iOS 14.5. Now, where iOS 14.5 really impacts digital marketing is on behavioral targeting, behavioral targeting, in the sense that, you know, prior to this update, marketers could really track consumers across different sites and across apps. And and kind of stitch that information together to get a true picture of what that consumers doing and what they like etc. 14.5 eliminated that cross app tracking. So behavioral targeting, and this whole trend about really personalizing your digital marketing to that one to one person is going to be going away, there’s not a lot of that data left because consumers are concerned and they’re gonna say, I don’t want you to track me. Now and the same can be said for precise location data meaning, the ability to know exactly where a consumer is, at this moment in time, they call that precise location. So iOS 14.5. A lot of if somebody says they do not want to be tracked, you can no longer track their precise location. However, what that does allow what Apple baked into that update is, if you Don’t want to share your location, Apple will share a, it will share a proximity location, which is within a 10 mile radius of what your actual location is. why that’s important is because that proximity is typically good enough, if you’re just trying to talk to a specific community, right, somebody that’s an Austin versus somebody that’s in, you know, a different market. So that proximity, location is still good enough in marketing, whether you’re talking search or social, to really customize your creative and your content to a specific audience, while not stepping on the creepiness factor of knowing exactly where they’re at. So, again, I think location is still a powerful signal, I think it’s going to be one of those data points that’s going to be used far into the future, again, not only for targeting, but really to refine creative and our messaging to the right audience. And make sure that that seems very personalized for the audience. Despite all of these privacy changes, approximate location will still survive.

Chandrima Samanta [16:13] That’s, that’s pretty interesting to hear, especially with the cookie populates, approaching at any day right now. Now, in both localized and location based marketing, we run into areas of increased competition for visibility, and audience share. Examples of this might be in the case of more densely populated areas, or wherein there are overlapping business footprints, for example, like a shopping district or a mall. So how can operators best run localized campaigns that are aligned with corporate programming, while considering competition but franchised or corporate owned locations? Or for that matter, even locations with the same franchise group? And how can businesses stand out and be discovered in high competition areas, such as the ones I addressed before?

Monica Ho [17:01] Yeah, I mean, that is definitely a challenge, especially because, you know, we spoke earlier about the the changing consumer behavior, what we started to see now because your devices are so smart, and the platforms are becoming smarter, that what it’s done is it’s created some lazy behavior on the part of the consumer. So good example, a couple years ago, if I was looking for something in my area, let’s call it a restaurant, I would say restaurants 78738, like my zip code, and then it it, you know, we transformed to staying near me. Now, the biggest trend is the rise in non branded and non geo specific search, meaning, you know, even if I really feel like a particular restaurant, right now, I’m going to use my phone and just say, again, restaurant versus say AAA or Panera, because I want my device to tell me what they think is, is probably the better option for me based on my location, my past search behavior, etc. And because of that increase in non branded non geo search, what happens is that you’ve got all of these businesses competing for that very limited space on your mobile phone, or even on your desktop screen. Right. So just to give you a sense of, you know, the fact that that that that is absolutely happening, and it’s true. Now, can, you know, businesses cannot get around the fact that they are definitely competing amongst each other. And they’re competing with not only large franchise brands, but they’re competing with local SMBs, local mom and pop shops as well. And the winner is going to be those locations that are again, number one close in proximity to where that consumer is searching. Because that is such a powerful signal, when to that, you know, has done the work to optimize their business information in these powerful platforms, and are taking good care of customer service. So again, even if I was a business, and I was taking care of my business profile, I made sure all of my name, address telephone number, hours of operation are updated on Google and the bigger platforms. If I have somebody that is very similar to my business, they’re doing the same thing, but they have better reviews than me, right. So their customers really enjoy their business. They have a 4.5 average rating and 100 reviews. And I’ve got a 3.8 and 50 reviews, guess who’s going to get the visibility, that business that has updated their information and is taking care of their their customer service. And that’s what’s so complicated about this space. There’s not a you know, a quick fix to get the visibility and it’s not even as simple as buying visibility anymore, you have to optimize your presence. And you have to take care of your customer service. Those two things together, if as a business, you’re doing those two things, you’re going to win out, you’re going to be featured maybe not an every search, but you’re going to get your fair share of searches. Because you have a lot of different factors working in your favor. For those businesses that aren’t paying attention to optimizing their local business information, or even what their consumers are saying about them online, they’re at a huge disadvantage. And they’re going to continue to get further and further behind, as the space continues to accelerate and advance.

Chandrima Samanta [20:42] So clearly, preparation is the key to running the most optimized localized campaigns as well. Not talking about common competitions, products and offerings can be ubiquitous, or quite similar. From retailer to retailer. This can pose challenges for both suppliers and retailers, especially when they are trying to achieve scale and compete for local customers. What can you do to optimize your locations, digital presence, to enjoy that the customer buys from you.

Monica Ho [21:14] So there’s a lot of ways that you can do that, especially in Digital Marketing. Today, we talk a lot about building expertise in your business digitally. So again, if you go back and whether you’re a restaurant, a gym, maybe you’re a property management company, or maybe you’re a manufacturer, there are going to be similar businesses to you in the space. That’s just healthy competition. But if you break down any of these businesses, let’s stick with restaurants for a second. Although there are a lot of really great American restaurants near me right now, I’m sure that certain restaurants have things that they specialize in, for instance, there are certain restaurants that that have a gluten free menu. And for certain consumers that is appealing to them. For others, maybe they specialize in, you know, the best burgers in town. So what you would do as a marketer is in addition to just making sure that your business is being you know, is is fine double on the large search and social platforms, you want to make sure that you’re building content around your expert areas, and you build those expertise areas. So if I was a restaurant, and I have a lot of other American restaurants near me, and I know my gluten free menu is something we’re expert at, I would start building information in my different profile pages that speak to that specialty that expertise. So in addition to my primary category of being a restaurant, one of my secondary categories would be gluten free. I would also be building content on my social pages, or even my local search pages like Google My Business, I might post, you know, check out our gluten free muffin for this week. It’s, you know, carrot boba. So again, it seems like content, but you’re really building your expertise and awareness around you know, the specialty that you have, and then also your consumers. We had talked about ratings and reviews and making sure that you’re taking care of your customers. If your customers love your gluten free menu, and they post about, you know, this is a great restaurant for gluten free options. Those three things together will make sure that the platforms know that you are expert, not just in being an American restaurant, but you’ve got gluten free options. So the next time a consumer says gluten free restaurant, guess who’s going to pop up near the top of search results, your restaurant. So there are tactics like that, where marketers can be leveraging all of these really important areas of their search and social pages and presents to build that that differentiator to build that secret kind of sauce to getting more traffic, more searches and more conversions.

Chandrima Samanta [24:06] Right. Those are really some amazing insights in order to optimize anybody location, presence and digital presence. That brings me to the last and a very important question of this conversation. How can a company scale its business and still address local audiences?

Monica Ho [24:27] I think it’s, you know, a lot of businesses that better doing localized marketing our national or global businesses. We call them multi location businesses. And they have to really engage in localized marketing because although they’re large, they’re a large brand call it Ace Hardware, Panera Bread. If you’re, if you’re in a different segment, maybe Massage Envy, right. These are brands we recognize, but we engage with them at the local level. Because they have individual retailers or shops that we, you know, experience that service or product out of. So a lot of these brands have had to actually enable this type of marketing by leverage tech by leveraging technology. Right. So offering access to, you know, a really easy way to respond to ratings and reviews, and doing it in a manner that is, you know, brand approved, is, is a really effective technique, but you need to leverage technology to help you. Number one, enable your locations to make, you know, being aware of and responding to reviews easy. But then using that same technology, you can build in some workflow to make sure that from a brand perspective, when a when a when a business is responding back, they’re doing that in an appropriate way. So I think a lot of marketers need to understand that there. There are great technologies out there that can help them manage localized marketing at scale, if they’re looking to manage, you know, 50 100 1000s of locations, if there’s only a handful of locations, I think a lot of the platforms from search to social make their, you know, platforms very easy to use, and the ability to access insights and alerts. But again, for those that have a large scale of different locations are trying to activate, there are a range of wonderful technology platforms out there that can allow these marketers to get a lot of this done with very small teams.

Chandrima Samanta [26:44] That that was really amazing. And those were some really stellar insights for business optimization and scalability. This brings us to the end of this wonderful podcast. Monica, thanks a lot for joining us for this wonderful conversation loaded with strategic digital and behavioral marketing tips, especially for 2021. I really hope that you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did and our audience will.