Q&A with Direct Energy Vice-President of Marketing Dave Kozak

National brands looking to capitalize on the consumer trend of buying local often rely on affiliates—franchisees, dealers, agents, or distributors—to carry their marketing message to local audiences.

Brandmuscle's recent research explored the nuances of these distributed marketing networks and some of the ways national brands can effectively support their affiliates to drive consumer demand at the local level.

We've taken lessons from that State of Local Marketing Report to a franchise marketing executive to learn more. Dave Kozak, VP of marketing for Direct Energy Services, manages national and local marketing for three distinct home services brands that are consistently ranked as the top franchises in their categories.

So what is Kozak doing with Mister Sparky, One Hour Air Conditioning & Heating, and Benjamin Franklin Plumbing franchisees that make them so successful at local marketing? We asked.

How do you make sure franchisees have well-rounded marketing programs, considering our research found that 62% of local affiliates are integrating tactics for their marketing campaigns?

We're vested in our franchisees' success, so our local marketing efforts start with national brand recognition. Consumers are looking for a known brand with a local presence—especially in the home services category, where they're inviting technicians into their homes.

Recently, we invested in a national program partnering with Mike Rowe of CNN's "Somebody's Gotta Do It" and Discovery Channel's "Dirty Jobs" fame. In addition to creating a brand connection for consumers nationally, we also developed components of the Mike Rowe campaign for local marketing.

Mike Rowe with technicians who work with franchisees

That's where our content management site or "marketing tool box" comes into play; it gives franchisees timely access to customizable materials across all of our brands. The marketing effect is an integrated layering of national ad buys with localized tactics that franchisees execute for their unique audiences.

One-third of local affiliates spend just a few hours a week on marketing. How do you view a national brand's role in local marketing, and how do you align your investments with what is working at the local franchisee level?

As a franchisor, we have an obligation to support our franchise community, which includes 253 unique owners and 630 territories. In our eyes, this includes giving them the tools and infrastructure needed to plan, support, and execute local marketing in a way that maintains national brand consistency. In addition to a content management site, we have PR, digital, and analytics teams that help review franchisee marketing data and support the network. These teams aren't a direct cost to franchisees, but they do create marketing efficiencies to ensure the programs and tactics we execute are focused on shared objectives.

How do franchisees know their local audience?

Our internal Consumer Insights team uses Experian household data to define customer audiences so we can better understand who we are communicating with at the local level. We're able to distill our messages for specific customer types and make it simple, since we know franchisees aren't usually trained marketers. The data franchisees end up with is tremendously valuable and makes local marketing significantly more efficient: When done correctly it essentially tells them which doors to knock on.

Our research shows that local affiliates struggle with social media and digital marketing. What role does Direct Energy play to help franchisees get the most out of online marketing?

We know that people are making purchase decisions based on online reviews, so we use our national agency support for social media channels and reputation management. For digital, our in-house experts provide content creation and SEO management on a national basis. Specifically for local, we provide digital templates and fresh content from our PR and digital teams that franchisees can use on their sites. We also help connect our network to vetted digital vendors that align with our brand objectives.

We had a lot of local affiliates blast Yellow Pages as a marketing tool in our survey, but in the home services business, it still seems to work... How do you explain this?

Part of our business relies on our brands' being found when people need our services. In some markets that means being in Yellow Pages—both the hard copy and digital versions—but it also means being in other digital directories, having a local PPC (pay-per-click) presence and monitoring online review sites. Call-tracking is important to determine what's working and what's not. I'd also say that Yellow Pages work for us because we have a noticeable brand. When consumers open the book, they see a recognized brand and trust us to come into their home to get the job done.

Our findings showed that only 20% of local affiliates track ROI of all their marketing efforts. Does call tracking help franchisees with this?

We offer a national call center that tracks phone numbers from calls to appointments and gives franchisees the ability to measure which marketing channel their revenue comes from. This allows the franchisee to connect sales results to marketing efforts and identify which marketing tactics are most important to them at the local level. We also suggest call-tracking vendors to track lead quality.

We found local sponsorships are a great way for national brands to get their name embedded within the community. How have you supported franchisees looking to take this approach?

We've partnered with the Children's Miracle Network nationally and locally. A designated national charity gives our franchisees an opportunity to support their communities and make a difference in people's lives. It has become an extension of our brand promise, and our franchisees and our customers have responded in a big way. Based on company and franchisee contributions, as well as donations collected after home service visits, we provided the highest average donation amount in the first year of our partnership than any other franchise network.

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image of Sanket Patel

Sanket Patel is a senior manager of client development at Brandmuscle, a provider of local marketing automation software and services that help national brands own local.

LinkedIn: Sanket Patel