Wendy Odell Magus: New position, new ad fund and the orchestration of a digital journey.

Wendy_Odell_Magus_alt_logo_quoteMeet Wendy Odell Magus, CFE, Vice President of Marketing for Kiddie Academy. Wendy takes us on a journey to bring a classic brand into the digital economy. In this edition of CMO Outlook she discusses balancing brand resources with franchisee needs to create the ideal environment for driving qualified prospect leads into Academies.

CMOO: It’s been more than 7 years with Kiddie Academy, where did it all start?

WOM: Coming from Sylvan Learning, I understood the parent audience and how they went about selecting services for their families. This selection behavior was shifting online, and I knew that our opportunity lay in diversifying the marketing mix, integrating digital. That was the biggest gap in my mind–defining our target’s digital journey and developing integrated programs to surround our prospective customers.

CMOO: How do you determine what activities your home office team should handle and what franchisees should handle at the local level?

WOM: The home office has to ‘own’ things that are critical to the growth of our brand. These things, like PPC for example, need a global, consistent strategy. This can’t be accomplished by running hundreds of individual franchisee campaigns, even if they were all executing perfectly. When we decided to bring digital diversity to the marketing mix, we also decided that it needed to be from a national perspective first, to provide the strategic context for everything that comes after.

CMOO: How does social play into all of this?

WOM: Shortly after joining Kiddie Academy, the marketing team said, “okay, Facebook is big.” Parents/moms are ‘super users’ of Facebook. Our franchisees were seeing Facebook as a place to engage with moms, and moms were talking about us on Facebook. But it didn’t have the control that traditional marketing channels allow. So we developed our own strategy, which has evolved over time.

We encourage our franchisees to manage their own FB pages. A lot of brands do it for them, but I don’t think that’s the best model because social is so personal. Starting from the needs/wants of the audience, we layer together content from a brand perspective, a category perspective and an individual franchisee perspective. That way we keep franchisees focused on the content that is most important to their customers and we can fill the gaps from a brand perspective.

CMOO: Of your online marketing mix, what aspect is most important?

WOM: The ‘holy grail’ is that perfect online search results page–one where we’re listed somewhere in the sponsored ads, in the 6-pack, and showing up in the top of organic. Also, getting the maps correct, because those listings are what customers are clicking on the most. The whole local listings section is really what mobile is all about. More and more of our website traffic is coming from mobile so having the correct, rich data there, is most important from an online perspective.

CMOO: Are unique customer experiences important?

WOM: Our franchisees are aware of their marketplace and many adjust their marketing mix to suit. We support franchisees who want to test new strategies, so long as the strategies won’t harm the brand. We review results and share best practices across our community. When new ideas work, we figure out how to scale them so the whole community benefits. Great ideas come from every facet of our system.

CMOO: How have you seen competitors react or is that even an issue?

WOM: I’m not big on following the competition. I’m big on saying ‘where do we need to go’ and then getting us there.

CMOO: What’s been the impact on business results?

WOM: We were looking at positive same store growth in the high single digits, year over year, even as we went through the economic downturn. Now we’re up into the double digits. We’ve analyzed how long it takes to achieve utilization levels that allow the academy to be cash flow positive. We’re using that as a barometer for measuring the impact of their marketing. There are so many layers that go into calculating this, because it’s not just how many leads they got, but also, did that franchisee convert those leads.

CMOO: So what’s next?

WOM: We need to solve mobile. I think it’s a challenge across the board for brands, because mobile tends to be more of a branding play than a transactional play for purchases that are considered—like child care. So many people are engaging with us and our academies on mobile devices. We want our mobile experience to provide customers with added value, some kind of utility that makes engaging with us easy and worthwhile.

CMOO: What advice would you have for marketers stewarding established brands?

WOM: Know your customer and their behavior. Understand how they engage with you and your services. Give them what they want.

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