The Focus on Franchise Marketing is Local, Local, Local!

Local appears to be the common denominator in all discussions about marketing in franchise circles. From mobile marketing to social media to software solutions, the discussion always seems to comes back to “local.”. We have even seen Google’s continued shift to complete emphasis on local which has created what appears to be a whole new segment of marketing, local marketing, complete with its own strategies, methodology and tools.

The following is a guest post by Chris Anderson, Co-founder at Empowerkit. Chris enjoys sharing his perspective, insight, and experience whenever and wherever he can as is apparent by his active participation in various franchise LinkedIn groups.

5 Local Online Marketing Support Mistakes Franchisors Should Avoid

Bringing in new franchisees is how franchise systems grow and maintain financial stability, especially early on, and it’s what most franchisors lose sleep over more than anything. But to maintain steady growth, corporate support to existing franchisees plays an essential role – from marketing and advertising, to operations and ongoing training.

All too often, though, franchise support takes a backseat to sales, leaving franchisees feeling alienated from the franchisor and disenfranchised (pardon the pun).

One thing in particular which franchisees are desperately seeking guidance on is online marketing. More specifically, how they can make sure they’re staying competitive online, attracting as many local customers as possible, and generating leads to grow their sales.

Here are 5 common blunders to avoid in franchise local online marketing support:

1. Static Local Websites

Many franchisors, early in the growth process, publish basic landing pages for franchise locations with very little unique local content, and no easy way for the franchisee to make updates. This results in poor search rankings, pathetic conversion rates, and upset franchisees that often go rogue and create their own sites.

What should you do?

Provide a system like Empowerkit, where franchisees can easily make updates to their own websites, within the brand and content controls you set and can oversee at corporate.  Make sure the system is flexible and can adapt with your changing needs over time.

2. No Business Listings

Franchisees generally don’t know the first thing about submitting and maintaining their business listings on Google Places, Bing, Yahoo, Yelp, Yellow Pages, and other sites. So, if you don’t give them instructions and best practices, or provide an automated solution, then guess what…there are no business listings for your locations! Complete, comprehensive business listings are a key traffic driver and lead generation source, so don’t make this mistake.

What should you do?

First off, lead by example. Make sure your corporate listing is complete and consistently listed in all of the main search engines and directories. Next, decide whether to engage a specialized vendor, utilize an automated service, and/or provide documentation and best practices.

3. Ignoring Social Media

Whether you love it or hate it, social media is here to stay, and franchisees in almost every industry are trying to figure it out. Franchisors who ignore social media are finding themselves chasing down compliance issues, and seeing dozens of disparate profiles and pages that are poorly managed. Translation – a nightmare for your branding. Worse, they’re missing a great opportunity to gain a competitive edge. Don’t let this be you!

What should you do?

Don’t fight social media, embrace it. It’s the only communication channel that let’s a business directly interact with customers and other stakeholders, which is valuable any type of business. Develop a strategy with defined goals at the local level, layout any necessary policy guidelines, and train franchisees on best practices. Consider working with an outside consultant initially, and remain flexible to adapt your strategy based on results and changing trends.

4. No Attention to Lead Generation Optimization
It’s easy to get lost in what to focus on when it comes to local online marketing, and lose sight of the performance metric that matters the most – lead generation (particularly for service-based franchises). Generating leads is a science, which can always be optimized to bring in more, better qualified prospective customers. In most cases, though, franchisees have little more than a Contact Us page or their phone number and email on their website, and research shows this will produce the lowest possible lead generation results.

What should you do?

Have at least two compelling calls-to-action with connected lead captures on each page of your local websites. One for prospects that are just browsing (i.e. “Free Download: Top Tips for X,  Y, Z”) and the other for those who are “sales ready” (i.e. “Schedule a Free Consultation”). Have analytics events set up that track conversion rates, so that you can test and optimize the different lead generation variables over time to continually increase conversions.

5. No Content Marketing Strategy

What’s becoming key to all online marketing efforts is a sound content strategy. That is, understanding what types of content can be created at corporate and the local level to offer customers relevant, valuable answers to their questions, and solutions to their problems, which should directly relate to the franchise’s products and services. Value driven content is what should fuel the ongoing local website updates (and lead capture CTA’s), social media profiles, online ads, and it’s what has the greatest impact on SEO.

What should you do?

Think long and hard about your brand’s culture, story, strengths, and competitive advantages. Then brainstorm your target customers top questions and frustrations as they relate to solutions that your products and services offer. Come up with ideas for content that can address these questions in a compelling way, and that will help amplify your brand online. It may be through blog posts, videos, photos, webinars, or other content, but the point is that you put a strategy in place and start implementing it through your local online marketing efforts.

These are just five common mistakes that franchisors make. Please share other pitfalls to avoid, and let us know if you have any questions!

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3 thoughts on “The Focus on Franchise Marketing is Local, Local, Local!

  1. Just wanted to touch on the social component for franchises and present the solution that we have built.

    BizBrag allows franchises to publish content through all of their franchisees’ social networks, greatly expanding their social reach. What’s even better, the franchisee gets to add their own content to it as it passes through, making it local and relevant to their business. The franchise gets to control the message and the branding, the franchisee gets content created for their social networks, and each message is local and relevant to the particular franchise. We currently support Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Blogger, WordPress, and Tumblr.

    I would like to know your opinion of the platform.

  2. Thanks for your critique Michael, always appreciate the feedback! Regarding franchisors’ focus on sales vs. support, the point I intended to make was that, too often, franchisors focus much more of their efforts and resources on selling franchises than on support. But by no means is that meant to discount all of the outstanding franchisors that offer a tremendous amount of support to help franchisees, while simultaneously growing their system through franchise sales.

    To your last point, just because franchisees are not employees does not mean they do not need and can greatly benefit from corporate support in their local marketing efforts. When there are tools and strategies for local marketing that can help all franchisees in the system be more effective, drive more traffic and leads online, etc. then that certainly behooves the franchisor to adopt such solutions/strategies, train franchisees, and incorporate them into their system. My point was that the franchisor mindset of finding cutting edge solutions, and helping to implement them system-wide on and ongoing basis is a win-win for the franchisor and franchisees, and it’s what helps a franchise remain competitive in the market place. That’s what I’m referring to when mentioning corporate support, and in the online space this requires a good bit of focus or else it’s very easy for a franchise system to start falling behind the times and losing market share.

    Thanks again,

  3. Couple of errors, worth point out in an otherwise great introductory article.

    Chris writes: “Bringing in new franchisees is how franchise systems grow and maintain financial stability, especially early on, and it’s what most franchisors lose sleep over more than anything.”

    Uh no, and double no. Any franchise system that reports more revenue from franchise sales than royalties is headed for trouble.

    Chris writes: “One thing in particular which franchisees are desperately seeking guidance on is online marketing.”

    Uh, every single franchise system is seeking guidance on online marketing.

    Chris writes: “To maintain steady growth, corporate support to existing franchisees plays an essential role – from marketing and advertising, to operations and ongoing training.”

    Uh, there is no corporate support for franchisees because they aren’t employees. Franchisor support for local marketing has to be viewed in light of what the franchise contract says – there may be no contractual reason for the franchisor to support the franchisee for any local marketing.

    Chris is dead on point, however, in emphasizing Empowerkit’s solution to maintaining online business listings.

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