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Brand advertisers find that striking a balance between traditional and digital media advertising is key to their success at the local level.

During a panel at BIA/Kelsey NATIONAL in Dallas today, brand marketers from across different business categories described on how they manage their localized marketing and advertising activities. The conversation focused on the unique challenges that emerge when blending efforts to gain new customers with promoting brand awareness. In Short: customer acquisition is a common theme for service-oriented businesses, brand awareness is a secondary concern.

Driving more customers to local businesses is the most important goal, said Dave Moody, Director of Field Marketing at Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning. Online marketing is only as useful as the actual revenue it drives back to local service branches, he said. “A click doesn’t mean much to me. The end goal for us is to get into a customer’s home, and we’ve worked on our SEO and search marketing efforts to drive more calls and requests for appointments.”

Service Experts has shifted their online strategy from search marketing (SEM) spending to direct-response offerings.

“We’re not paying for a lot of ads, we’re more invested in a pay-per-call advertising, including yellow pages and direct mail,” Moody said. That sentiment was echoed by Keith Dailey, Director of Internet Marketing for UniGroup, the parent company of United Van Lines. He added that in addition to creating a channel for driving more leads to local locations, an objective that guides marketing strategy for UniGroup is ensuring that location listings are consistently maintained and always accurate.

UniGroup works with an outside agency to manage the hundreds of local United Van Lines branches across the country, as well as managing where listings information appears online.

“We work with an agency to manage our listings across the board,” Daily said. “The majority of UniGroup’s listing management is automated, but they run into [data and customer preference] inconsistencies that drive the need to make manual changes on the fly.” He added that the need to manage listings manually is driven by where they are hosted: “It also depends on where the listings are located — some services like FourSquare and Yelp require more manual review to ensure accuracy and consistency.”

When asked about whether digital marketing accounts for the majority of their companies’ focus, all the panelists noted that they still rely on a mix of traditional and digital media. There was general agreement that the combination of old and new media drives the most impactful ROI for their brands. For Service Experts, the split leads to 35 percent to 40 percent of marketing spend going to digital, with the remainder focused on traditional pay-per-call offerings like direct mail and the yellow pages.

One brand advertiser offered a very different perspective from the service-oriented companies on stage. Brooks Brothers, a global retailer of men’s and women’s clothing, noted that for their business SEO drives brand awareness and e-commerce engagement. The company, which celebrated their 197th anniversary this year, has established a digital brand that is well known across markets, and it focuses their marketing efforts on keeping their brand top of mind with its consumer base online.

Mike Walker, SEO Specialist for Brooks Brothers, noted that a unique challenge his company faces relates to how it markets their multiple sub-brands, such as the recently launched Black Fleece. Using digital channels, Brooks Brothers aims for brand segmentation even in markets where the core Black Fleece audience is nearly the same as their Brooks Brothers brand.

“From an SEO standpoint it can be a challenge,” Walker said. “We offer a similar product across our entire Black Fleece sub-brand that we offer within our primary brand, and it lends to our brands almost competing with each other.” He noted that when managing multiple brands in a single market, cannibalization of audience share has to be constantly monitored.

The conversation was one of many that will take place this week at BIA/Kelsey NATIONAL, with more brand advertisers, their vendors and marketers scheduled to talk about the current state of marketing at the local level.

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