At BIA/Kelsey NATIONAL: Dave Walker Obliterates the National-to-Local Myth

Chief Marketing Officers are in “an exclusive club that drinks a lot and makes bad decisions,” Dave Walker, Chairman, BizHive, told BIA/Kelsey NATIONAL.

His tongue-in-cheek opening statement set the stage for a rapid-fire dissection of the disconnect that afflicts the national/local conversation. An accomplished marketer who has led go-to-market strategies for Walmart, Microsoft, Toys R Us, and Home Depot, among others, he recently launched BizHive, an SMB advertising and marketing services marketplace.

Walker kicked off his session explaining the results of the CMO Council’s survey of CMO satisfaction with their local marketing:

* Only eight percent of CMOs reported being satisfied with their current local marketing.
* This despite the fact that 57 percent of national brand marketers say local is critical to success.
* 63 percent had “nothing in place for their local measurements.”
* Only seven percent of CMOs say they currently have a successful local marketing program in place.

Walker suggested that today’s CMO lives by The Three C’s: Capture, Captivate, Convert, which are intimately linked to their compensation, but can interfere with addressing the customer on their terms. A sea change in thinking is necessary for a transformation of local marketing, which currently lives on a leash held by national marketers who discount the importance of individual preferences.

A language barrier

“We are seeing that there are so many ways to describe “local” that this is part of the problem,” Walker said. “Everyone has a different definition. So, who is defining ‘local?’ Is it a service, a technology, a map?” In 1980, when he started his CMO career, Walker said, CMOs defined local with lines on maps.

By the 1990s, they were using demographic, density and drive-time maps in addition to simple geographic distinctions. In the 2000s, predictive heat maps gave CMOs the illusion that they could predict the outcome of programs. Digital changed all that, Walker said, exposing the chasm between the careful plans of national brands and the messy reality of local marketing.

“Today, the customer defines ‘local,'” Walker said. Marketers try to track customers all day, and have made “serving the new targeting.” Simple connectivity issues have redefined “trade areas” and “tracking,” leading CMOs to talking about “marketing localized in motion.” He described a fractured perspective, exacerbated a lot of products and services and technologies that are designed into the local model, but, Walker asked, “what goals do they serve?” That question is not answered, yet.

Instead of talking about local-to-national or national-to-local, marketers need to make the distinction between local and local-at-scale. Are local programs aimed at the market or are they national campaigns with many local instances that don’t map to the consumer’s definition of their local needs. “We’re not talking about the collective power of all the localized activities marketers undertake today,” Walker argued.

It’s still all about the numbers

Marketing remains all about making your numbers, and this has been true throughout Walker’s career. Yet make-or-break metrics are not applied in local — 60 percent of CMOs, as seen, don’t have local measurements in place. They are “flying blind,” Walker said.

To get into a marketing program’s efficacy at the personal level is tremendously difficult challenge. With so many different metrics now that we no longer need to bet the farm on one metric or one solution, Walker said, pointing out that this leads to marketers having no standards for success.

“We can leverage that [lack of consistent metrics],” he said. “Let’s encourage multi-variate testing and learning at the local level to help marketers tune their message and mechanisms.” Walker added an endorsement for QualPro which said is “the premiere provider in MVT testing [for] highly complex decision-support at speed.”

We know we need multi-variate analytics, that it is a daily challenge, Walker continued. “We’re waiting for more technologies to answer that call. Today, only 11 percent of CMOs have a local marketing program in place. This is because most logistics and supply chain and inventory management tools are not connected across local markets. Walmart can do it, why not bring that to the local marketplace? Then we have the ability to make decisions in a very sophisticated way across many different markets.

The Berlin Wall of Corporate Culture

Walker delivered a caveat for technologists seeing nails everywhere their hammers can reach: “Before you build the machine, you have to address the cultural barriers to adoption by companies.” Companies, including brands and media firms, need to change. It is not simply a matter of introducing new technology. The real cultural bias today is not “national-to-local” but “corporate-to-field,” he said. “Corporate makes the the plan and the field takes it apart.”

In the physical marketplace, all dimension of business are locally defined, but marketing has not localized. Marketing very often operates from the top a mountain, issuing dictates in a loud voice, versus acting as the hub of a wheel. Marketers must suppress the impluse to control and dictate everything, Walker said. There was a palpable wave of relief, followed immediately by nervous laughter among audience members. Truth, at last, with a dose of responsibility.

CMO principles

Walker shared the CMO Council’s response to the survey results, three simple changes that can transform the local marketing conversation:

Enable Local Web.Just do it. Stop with the hand-wringing.”

Enable Local Networks. Let stores have their own sites, pages, and conversations with their customers, don’t funnel everything through a national filter.

Enable a Local Point of View. “Local is not a step-child, it is where business actually is transacted,” Walker said.

These three things will start the change marketing needs to address the local market, Walker concluded. Let things bubble up organically. Let contributions to your programs come from the local level, he urged as he concluded.

Walker summarized his three-year-old startup, BizHive: The company served more than 30,000 SMBs in the US, who shop for marketing and advertising services at the site. The SMBs become better educated and qualified leads for vendors and resellers. They also white label communities, such as for Sprint, which launched a BizHive-powered site called Sprint Resource Marketplace. These programs are combined with in-person events offered by BizHive that help SMBs make better decisions. Walker said it is a boot-camp approach that is working.

During the Q&A, Walker added these tips:

CMOs these days need to be CIOs. “If you are not technically savvy, you will not be a CMO long.”

“When we were planning national spending, we were ignoring local.”

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