Franchising is regarded as one of the most effective methods of expanding a business. However, underlying the successes of most franchises are marketing struggles, especially in regard to enabling each branch to maximize its marketing potential.
This is more difficult, not because of having branches in multiple locations, but as a result of the fact that each branch is under the control of a semi-autonomous franchisee. Therefore, any marketing strategy that does not guarantee the success of the local branches has failed already. Nevertheless, the digital revolution has opened up more opportunities for franchises to succeed through more localized marketing strategies.
Franchise marketing challenges
Franchise marketing can seem like a puzzle. Franchises are able to project their brand image further by maintaining consistency across all their branches. On the other hand, blind replication of strategies and ideas across platforms can be counterproductive.
Therefore, franchisors struggle between maintaining cohesion and permitting creativity. Letting the franchisees determine much of the marketing would result in disjointed tactics. Placing too many restrictions brings poor results since a franchisor is only as successful as their franchisees are. All of the problems of franchise marketing flows out of these principal challenges:
Lack of uniformity: Consistency is the bane of every franchise marketing strategy. However creative franchisees want to be, without a uniform brand identity, voice, customer experience, and overall marketing, there is only so little they can do.
Lack of localization: Franchising places most of the marketing responsibility on the headquarters and it seems the role of franchisees is only to receive orders from the top. In this age of digital media, that may not be applicable anymore. It is not enough for a franchise brand to be well-known, it is important that its franchisees are prominent as well in their local markets. Demographics differ, as well as the needs of each branch. Without a plan tailored at every customer base, it would be difficult to achieve much success.
Building an effective franchise marketing strategy
Having considered what the problems are with franchise marketing, it becomes apparent that the ultimate franchise marketing strategy is one built on balance. Franchisors need to be able to strike a balance between both innovation and consistency.
The major winning tactics marketers use for franchises include local search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing, content marketing, and social media marketing, among others.
Top Team Garage Door, a garage door replacement company with branches in four states experienced an unexpected drop in website traffic and overall sales. It however partnered with an SEO company, combined local SEO tactics (including Google Maps marketing) with website development to facilitate higher rankings for searches in all the company’s locations. Within six months, it recorded a 50% increase in traffic and phone calls.
According to recent statistics, about 97% of consumers today go online to find and research local products and services. This has resulted in a spike in local searches. This shows that now, more than ever, local SEO has become expedient, particularly for franchises whose success depends on local marketing results and lead generation.
The two main aspects of local SEO to focus on are citations and backlinks. For a website to be more visible online, it needs to be listed on Google My Business, as well as on local directories and review sites. These platforms require no more than detailed contact information and other relevant information. Being listed does not guarantee higher search engine rankings, but it does increase one's chances. It is also important to update Google Maps location data for more effectiveness.
For instance, the Canadian pharmacy franchise Familiprix recorded an increase in business views by up to 320%. They achieved this by hiring a marketing firm that ensured smart and enhanced listings on relevant platforms including Google and Foursquare. The listing coverage increased up 29% to 86% and the number of online reviews tripled.
In addition to citations, Google recognizes the acquisition of backlinks as an important SEO strategy. Having backlinks to your site lends credence to it and boosts its reputation. To Google's algorithms, if a website is worthy of being linked to by many others, then it must be an authority in that area. You should, however, aim for natural backlinks through means such as guest posting and press releases, rather than by illegal methods like link farming and likes.
To rank high on Google, keyword optimization is important. Though Google isn't going to stop making changes to its algorithms to adjust its factors, behind all its actions is the goal of returning the most relevant results for queries. And since we are talking about local digital marketing, it is crucial to point out the importance of locally-optimized keywords to your content marketing strategy. For this, the franchise needs to regularly post helpful and unique content targeting their specific customer base.
Griswold Home Care, a senior care franchise benefited from content marketing. It achieved a more than 2,000% increase in traffic through extensive keyword research in relevant subjects, consistently posting relevant content, and using Google Analytics to know what worked and channel more efforts into it. The content marketing strategy included publishing guest posts and resource guides targeted at the specific demographic of potential customers.
As we discussed earlier, each branch has its own unique challenges and different sets of customers to serve. Therefore, the best content would be one that features relevant local keywords and calls-to-action to maximize lead generation. Of course, the franchisees need to do this while complying with the overall brand identity, but adapt the same to their specific conditions. However, local content marketing does not end with researching local keywords and publishing posts on your website or blog alone. It also extends to guest blogging (particularly for local sites/blogs) and press mentions to get backlinks.
It is important to note that content is not limited to written text alone. It includes video and graphic content, such as infographics. The latter can even be more effective than merely written text. All of these boost your chances of appearing in local search results.
Social media marketing is a very effective strategy for franchises, but things can spiral quickly out of hand without proper management and coordination. Uniformity is not important anywhere else than it is on social media. To create a compelling brand identity, there must be consistency in the message, appearance, and voice. An example is in the area of illustrations. You do not want one franchise location using a color scheme that is different from that of another branch. The same principle applies to the voice, or tone of messages posted. All the popular franchises in the world, McDonald’s, 7 Eleven, Burger King, Hertz, etc. run multiple social media accounts for each of their branches, each with a consistent message and theme.
On social media, each branch needs to maintain its own accounts on the relevant platforms. Use demographics and goals to determine which platform must are most relevant to your franchise. On social media, users expect to feel closer to the brand and get a more personalized experience. This is what having different accounts by locations achieve. While adhering to the central brand identity, franchisees are better able to focus on their target customers.
For instance, the Five Guys restaurant franchise recorded more than one million followers across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Despite having more than 1,200 branches, they were able to unify their social marketing efforts for better results by revamping customer service on social media, taking advantage of user-generated content, collaborating with individual franchisees and monitoring important trends.
Another important aspect of social media marketing is in optimizing profiles. Just as it is necessary for citations and Google My Business listings, all of your pertinent contact information should be complete and consistent across your social media channels as well. This also contributes to local SEO success.
Franchise marketing has its peculiar challenges and unique solutions. Mistakes at the base often affect the entire brand. Those that are able to take advantage of digital media channels have the greatest edge. The principles given here are practical tips that would enable any franchise to achieve its much-needed growth.