Sears' CMO David Buckley Discusses Franchise Development

David Buckley, CMO at Sears Hometown & Outlet Stores, Inc., is a busy marketing executive. He's responsible for the development, planning, and execution of the consumer marketing strategies for not just one, but four chains under the Sears label. He also oversees marketing efforts for the brand's more than 1,200 locations. Before taking the CMO post with Sears, Buckley spent time as global director of for the Associated Press, where he led the advertising strategy for digital assets, focusing on and tablet technologies. For more of Buckley's views on the role of today's CMO, see the Q2 issue of Franchise Update magazine, available online by the end of May.

Describe your role as CMO.
As CMO for Sears Hometown & Outlet Stores, Inc., I am responsible for the consumer marketing strategies for four unique formats: Sears Hometown Stores, Sears Home Appliance Showrooms, Sears Appliance & Hardware Stores, and Sears Outlet Stores. With more than 1,200 locations across 50 states and Puerto Rico, my team and I are tasked to execute a national marketing strategy that also leverages the hyper-local aspect of retailing. We plan and execute marketing campaigns across a wide variety of marketing assets, including newspaper (preprint, ROP, TMC), radio, cable TV, billboard, and In addition, what we market in traditional media needs to be integrated into digital media, social media, and our loyalty marketing program.

Why is it so important for the marketing department to be quick and nimble in helping the brand reach out to prospects?
The biggest reason is that the general public is still not aware that Sears offers franchisees in four different formats. In fact, most consumers shopping our stores likely have no idea we are a separate company from Sears Holdings. Consumers can buy Craftsman and Kenmore appliances on and pick them up in our stores without realizing we are a separate, publicly traded company. In addition, it's important for us to distinguish the difference in the formats in that they target some distinctly different demographics.

How does this help your franchise development effort?
Since 2000, there has been a sixfold increase in the number of franchise offerings. Prospects have a myriad of choices to consider. More and better information gets to the prospect quickly, improving their ability to cut through the clutter, evaluate our franchise offering, and ultimately choose to franchise with us.

What tools do you rely on to do this?
We use Internet portals to increase awareness and help to aid in the discovery process. We also have a robust recruiting website optimized for SEO. We leverage LinkedIn, trade shows, public relations, and near-instantaneous response to prospects' inquiries.


How do you balance technology with maintaining a personal touch in a fast-paced recruitment environment?
Our opportunities are unique and we are targeted in our approach. The volume of our inquiries is managed such that every phone, Internet, and website inquiry is contacted initially with a return phone call. At least four phone calls and two follow-up emails are made until contact is made with each prospect. Once contact is made, a determination is concluded around their interest level. A follow-up email with additional information and an application is sent, leading to an initial personal meeting. Our process is extremely personal and high-touch.


How are you using different media channels to reach franchise prospects?
We use a mix of traditional and digital media. We've successfully used targeted print and as well as online portals and social channels like LinkedIn. We also attend a select number of industry events and recently launched public relations efforts geared specifically to help generate franchise leads. Online we focus on SEO and major portals to engage prospects into our process. Once they are engaged, we use a very personalized approach to continue the process.

Today's franchisees expect more from the franchise marketing department. How do you provide it?
We provide a very robust national media campaign that takes into account local input from the franchisee. We also provide a great deal of customizable marketing assets our franchisees can use to supplement this marketing locally, including ROP ads, television commercials, and direct mail. We keep an extremely open dialogue with our franchisees, and in fact have implemented some great ideas based on their feedback and partnership. We've formed subcommittees with our franchisees to generate their input on major initiatives.

How are you assisting your franchisees more quickly and efficiently?
The best way for us to quickly react to the needs of our franchisees is to anticipate them. We are in close contact with our franchisees through our field leadership and interact with them directly on a regular basis as needs arise. We provide a wide variety of customizable assets for our franchisees, but we can't anticipate every need. If a new need arises and is scalable across a sufficient number of our franchisees, we will look to solve it on an institutional level. For other needs, we'll work with the franchisee based on the scope of the project. We give our franchisees direct access to our creative agency for any needs we can't solve with existing tools or assets. We also ensure that the franchisee is given the same rates we have negotiated as part of our multi-year agency contract. Our franchisees get access to world-class creative talent--even to help design a flyer for a local event.

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