Working with independent retailers can be deeply beneficial to large, multinational brands. Through these partnerships, brands can leverage local resources and connections and quickly expand their global reach.
But, as with any business initiative, execution is key. Businesses are often eager to cede control of operations to independent retailers—especially in foreign markets—but Harvard Business Review points out that this passing of the torch can create inconsistencies in marketing and branding efforts.
Taking back control of content marketing for distributors and retailers may seem like the right move, but it's too much of an overcorrection in most cases. Independent retailers may possess assets that serve your brand marketing's impact on local communities. That's why a collaborative approach is typically the best way to maintain brand consistency when connecting with local markets.
If you're in search of a system to better communicate and distribute marketing content among your company's independent retailers, here's a framework to help you approach that process.
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Start With a Marketing Audit of Independent Retailers
If your business is just making its foray into relationships with independent retailers and distributors, you have the luxury of building a content marketing strategy from the ground up. Sometimes, that's easier than correcting bad habits and dealing with culture shifts when revamping one that simply won't work for these new business partnerships.
But if your company already has a network of independent retailers and distributors working under its brand name, your first step should be conducting a content audit. Technology Therapy recommends starting with the digital elements of your content marketing campaign. Take stock of what's available on each independent retailer's websites, social media accounts, etc.
Identify areas of consistency with your brand messaging, as well as spots where the local retailer's branding is at odds with your ideal messaging. This can be everything from the tone of blog content to the colors and captions used on social media—flag for review anything that feels out of character for your brand.
Also look at the customer experience: Are online stores across different markets easy to navigate? Is your brand's social media team responsive to all customer inquiries? Are the types of content your brand emphasizes being represented in each distributor's content strategy?
Once you've identified areas of strength and marketing gaps/inconsistencies, you can then address your brand's oversights and guide content in the right direction.
Establish Universal Brand Standards
As Entrepreneur points out, establishing brand standards allows you to build awareness while also distinguishing your company from the rest of the competition. These brand standards accomplish a third critical benefit when you're working with independent retailers and distributors: They help ensure consistency across all branded properties and partnerships.
These brand standards are essentially a set of rules to govern how content marketing for distributors and retailers is developed and deployed. They can cover everything from graphics, logos, fonts, and colors, to the tone of your written content and the buyer personas you wish to reach. While, yes, brand standards can help you establish consistency across many different branded properties, but they can also help you achieve a slew of other goals.
According to a study published in the Arabian Journal of Business and Management Review, having brand standards in place can help you reduce the relative risk of your content marketing strategies—something of particular benefit if you're establishing standards for retailers in foreign markets. By creating a set of brand standards to follow in content marketing efforts, multinational brands can support marketing success in foreign markets by building on strategies that have proven to be successful among domestic audiences. This borrowing of sorts can help brands create safe and cost-effective templates for creating content plans that distributors in new markets can follow.
These brand standards can also provide flexibility for localization, which is a critical consideration to optimize marketing messaging. Localization provides the ability to tailor messaging to individual markets, accounting for differences of language, culture, and business practices. This helps your brand enter a new market in a manner that best serves your target audience.
Consistent brand standards also make it easier to manage campaigns across many markets and to amend marketing strategies as your business goals evolve over time. Simplified management can also reduce marketing overhead.
Collaborating on Execution
Once brand standards are in place, the rollout of a new content plan for retailers can begin. But this shouldn't be a process dictated from start to finish by executive leaders. Due to the challenges of localization—and the importance of striking the right chord with consumers in these local markets—collaboration is key to the success of your execution.
By collaborating with representatives in these local markets, whether it's managers or marketers working for independent retailers, your business can adapt its message for the best possible impact on target consumers.
In writing for the ITA Group, Shawn Russell recommends developing a stringent education program that educates all involved parties on both the purpose of your new content plan for retailers and the value of maintaining brand consistency in these marketing efforts. Instituting an education program is a two-headed process that requires not just the development of training materials, but also a system to effectively deliver these lessons to the front lines of your independent retailer relationships.
Over time, any brand is sure to identify additional shortcomings when working to uphold these established brand standards. But with a structured system for marketing management in place, your brand leaders will be better equipped to identify these weak spots and bring them up to expectations.
No matter how great your branded content may be, you still need to oversee how it's distributed to ensure it's delivering the intended online and in-store experiences. By establishing brand standards and creating a structured system to implement and enforce these changes—while still providing flexibility to account for localization—brands can continue their expansion into new markets without putting their reputation at risk.
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