Franchise Digital Marketing Foundations
As a franchise you are part of a unique family of businesses which typically share the same pain points as other businesses but have the advantage of numbers – usually reserved to large corporate organisations. When franchise digital marketing is done consistently, right and across the entire family of territories the power of the group greatly outweighs the sum of the parts.
One of the biggest pain points franchises have before joining the iSonic family is franchisees not getting a regular healthy flow of leads. What’s more, some locations may be getting great results whilst others fail to make ends meet but no-one knows why.
When a person buys into a franchise, they are wanting piece of mind knowing that they have a bought into a platform that allow them to be their own boss, whilst removing the risk of trying everything themselves. They buy into an existing business, cutting their slice of the market. As part of the purchase they receive systems and processes to deliver their products, services and training to run their new business and marketing is no exception.
Franchise owners come in all shapes and sizes and whilst there are similarities between many of them a unique marketing strategy is required that gives each franchisee the power to market their business effectively in their market while keeping within the boundaries of the franchise code. What’s more, in our experience, some franchisees love to get their hands dirty with the marketing of their location, while others have no interest in marketing and expect this to work for them in the background without input.
Core Areas of Franchise Digital Marketing
Developing your franchise strategy and marketing guidelines
Developing a sound strategy and execution calendar is the first step in creating a world class franchise marketing system. This is the first and most important step in getting your digital marketing cracking!
When developing consider the following:
- Stop/start list. What are you doing now that is working? what are you doing that is not working? Review past wins and current performance data for top/bottom franchisees.
- R&D – Rip-off and duplicate. What are other organisations doing locally and abroad which is making big waves and can you adapt this to your marketing.
- Talk to your clients. Pick min 10 of your existing best clients across franchisees and have a frank discussion about how they came to start using your organisation, what keeps them coming back. We also recommend getting a list of start/stop suggestions from them.
- Talk to your top franchisees. This can reveal some hidden gems especially in larger franchise groups as locations become less connected with head office.
Organise all of these ideas into a mind-map, pick out 3-5 strategies that your board agrees would be the most beneficial to implement over the next 12 months. Develop KPIs around these and the tactics that you can start testing over the next quarter.
The strategic plan should be reviewed quarterly with the strategy staying predominantly static during the process, but potentially pivoting on tactics depending on the success of the execution. If you are unsure of the difference you can find a clear article which explains the differences between tactics and strategies.
Free Tool: If you are unsure where to start you can download our Free Marketing Planner Guide. This is a easy worksheet which will help you get the ball rolling on developing your target personas, strategy, budget and execution plan.
Optimise each territory’s local business presence
Local search is a critical piece of effective franchise marketing and growing each location. Each location is a business in its own right, and therefore needs to have its own individual SEO presence and focus on that area. Included in this is the importance of directory and Google Business listings all coherent and working towards building on the local presence of the franchisee. This means that each location needs an individual tactic implementation which aligns to the overarching national or global strategy.
Locally targeted websites
Typically large franchise chains opt for one national/global website which encompasses all locations in directory format. This strategy is typically chosen to save on costs and management time. However, budget willing, we challenge our franchise clients to have a website created for each and every location as a locally targeted, highly optimised website which is templated in brand and design to stay in line with the franchise guidelines. The content however is rewritten for each location to talk about the individual team, owner, back story to better relate to their local market.
We have experienced the following major benefits with other franchises:
- Targeted SEO presence giving the sites much faster ranking result rather than being part of directory diluted by all other members.
- Franchisees feeling empowered by their online presence and story.
- Individualised content targeting their local market with local area photos and team shots increasing engagement.
- Additional value created for incoming franchisees.
Important aspects of a multi-website franchise digital marketing exercise:
- All websites should be built with the same CMS platform, plugins and components to optimise management time.
- Template layout, design and content to be optimised for SEO and conversion. Franchise guidelines to restrict franchisees from straying too far. This can be locked down if created correctly.
- Connect tracking systems such as Google Tag Manager to one head-office account so that statistics can be analysed as a whole and not individually.
- Give franchisees the ability to add new content, but do not rely on them as a way to build content consistently.
- Google penalises duplicate content, so each territory site should talk about the same topics but with different wording. A content writing specialist can help with this.
Google Business Listings
Optimising Google My Business is also an easy win for ranking optimisation which, when paired with a local website, can make a massive impact on brand visibility and lead generation. They are also adding more and more features regularly beyond just your business contact details and location. As of writing you can add posts (similar to Facebook) with photos, videos, services, about story plus much more. Set up a places listing for each territory and make the time to fill them out completely and review regularly. Again, duplicate content is a no-no so keep this in mind when populating these.
Social proof and review management:
Online peer reviews is one of the major factors consumers consider before making a purchase or enquiry. And with approximately one third of searches on Google considered to be a “local” search it is imperative that each franchisee has a strong review profile from it’s customer base. Getting the tick of approval from past customers in review systems such as Google My Business will help make your franchisees stand out and win that valuable click
The impact of regular positive reviews also has an added bonus of better organic search rankings. According to Moz, peer reviews are one of the top factors when determining your ranking especially in the maps pack on Google results.
Below is a graph from ReviewTrackers of the top peer review sites that user’s check before visiting your franchisees.
Systemising the collection of reviews:
Review management and collection for each of your franchise locations is critical to their individual success with the responsibility falling on the franchisor in creating the systems and communication templates and the franchisees in diligently implementing them.
The collection of reviews can be done in many ways and varies based on the type of business you operate. Here are some quick tactics to insert into the day-to-day running of the business:
- Ask for a review on completion of the order.
- Suggest content for the review (e.g. “We value your feedback and would love a review about the speed of the delivery for your service today, would you mind completing this while I finish up here?”)
- Add customer to email drip campaign on sales completion (e.g. 3 days after service completion receive an email asking for feedback and review with a link to your review page – not a private feedback page).
- Offer discount on next purchase when a review is left. Add a bonus discount if they also include a photo.
- Sharing on Facebook to go into a draw to win X.
Once collected it is ideal to have all of the reviews in one place for the franchisor to review and ensure quality work is being done from all franchisees. If you don’t feel that you can rely on your franchisees to collect the reviews then it can be managed by head office – just be sure to have a system for collection, responding and reviewing for all locations.
Below is an interesting chart from ReviewTrackers of of average review ratings across different industries.
Getting your franchise digital marketing down pat is critical for all businesses in today’s market and franchise businesses are no exception to this rule. Further to this, there is an opportunity in the digital space for franchise groups to “flood the market” locally with highly visible websites, maps listings, positive social proof and review management making the organisation an unstoppable force online.