Your Complete Digital Franchise Marketing Strategy Guide
December 30, 2018
If you own a franchise business, you probably already know that marketing your business in the digital world is quite challenging, to say the least. Indeed, a lot of franchise owners stumble when it comes to getting the word out digitally about their business.
The reason for this is twofold. First of all, you have to market your franchise at a top level – the corporate level. At the same time, you have franchisees trying to succeed with their own specific marketing strategies, goals, and issues. These are local franchisees. You have to succeed at both levels at the same time.
Thankfully, digital marketing for franchise businesses is not as complicated, convoluted, or hopeless as many franchise business owners think. Whether you are a franchisor or a franchisee, we can help you make sense of the ins and outs of online marketing to help you get the results that you are looking for.
In this article, we’re going to analyze the solutions to the biggest issues facing franchise marketers. Whether you are a franchisor or a franchisee, this information, as well as our professional digital franchise marketing team, can help you get the results that you need. At the very least, we can help you kick-start an effective franchise digital marketing campaign.
Franchise Marketing Defined
Before we tackle the problems facing franchise marketing, it’s a good idea to first start with a definition of this type of marketing. Franchise marketing all revolves around a brand strategy.
Each franchise location that is given marketing rights by the franchisor has to promote the overall corporate brand in their local area. This means that the franchisee has to have a localized digital marketing strategy.
There is no one-size-fits-all, “magic bullet” solution that applies to all franchise areas all the time. These local market areas vary in terms of local competition levels, area demographics, weather patterns, climate and size.
You have to factor all of these in to pull off a successful franchise digital marketing campaign both on a national and a local level. Accordingly, you have to be very specific about your digital franchise marketing in the areas your franchisees operate.
Why Promote Franchises Online?
It’s very tempting to ask this question because, for the longest time, local franchisees have advertised through brick and mortar traditional channels like press releases, public relations, direct mail campaigns, radio advertising, tv ads, as well as print media. Unfortunately, these are simply not enough.
Four out of five American consumers go on search engines in order to locate information they need to make local purchasing decisions. If you are a franchisor and you have local franchisees all over the place in the United States, you have to wrap your mind around this reality. This is why it’s crucial for franchise marketing to include digital channels like local SEO, video ad marketing, social media marketing, PPC, and general SEO.
The bottom line is simple: if you want more sales for your franchisees, as well as boost the number of your franchisees, you have to allocate a substantial portion of the marketing budget of your firm for digital marketing.
Online franchise marketing is crucial. The problem is, a lot of local franchisees have a tough time with digital marketing because of complications regarding their phone number, address, and name (NAP) citations.
It’s very easy to mess this up because they are franchisees. They have a national brand associated with their business name. If they don’t know the right name to use online, this creates confusion. They may not get the online traffic they could otherwise be getting. This happens quite a bit.
One common instance involves local franchisees relying on the national corporate website of the franchisor to produce leads locally. This did not go far. The national site can only produce so many leads for the local franchisee.
We worked with our franchisee client to build and promote their own specific website. The problem is, they were scared that their own local efforts would weaken or otherwise cannibalize the online promotions being done by their national franchisor.
Thankfully, they listened to us. And we’re happy to report that over the two years that we digitally promoted their website, their site’s organic visits went up by close to a whopping 5,000%.
This is just one case that we worked on. We have successfully launched and maintained several digital franchise marketing campaigns for a wide range of clients. These run from the corporate franchisor itself, all the way to local franchisees.
Regardless of which entity we’re working with, we employ a data-focused marketing strategy where we closely track where their leads originate from. We then optimize these sources to get better results.
What Should Local Franchisees Include in Their Digital Marketing Strategy?
I’m sorry to report that if you’re going to search online for local franchisee digital marketing strategy tips, chances are, you’ll find yourself misled, hyped up for no reason, or simply disappointed. The truth is, you have to drill deep locally for your local franchise digital marketing strategy to gain traction.
You can’t use preexisting, canned or formulaic or generic online marketing strategies. Those are intended for online businesses that people from all 50 US states could order from. You, on the other hand, have a purely local business. Sure, it has a national franchise brand associated with it, but your customers are purely local.
Please pay attention to the very detailed local franchise digital marketing action plan listed below. Now, of course, this is supposed to serve as a framework. Feel free to make changes or optimize based on your local circumstances.
Every local market is different, as we have mentioned above. Feel free to tweak and modify these based on how things actually play out on the ground.
Quick Overview of Purely Localized Digital Franchise Marketing
You’ll get a locally grounded run-through of digital marketing basics finely tailored for franchise businesses. You’ll also get information on how to deploy these.
You will see a list of the common problems faced by both franchisors and franchisees involving digital promotions.
Common fixes for the most typical digital franchise marketing issues faced by most franchisors and franchisees.
Franchise Marketing Channels Available Online
It doesn’t matter whether you are a franchisor or a franchisee, it’s extremely important that you wrap your mind around the different digital promotions platforms available to you. You have to have a clear understanding of the broad range of available digital promotions channels out there so you can piece together a strategy that would produce the results you’re looking for.
Search engine promotions (online content, your company’s online presence)
Social media content (this includes video)
Pay-per-click marketing (both search-based and display-based)
Email or newsletter marketing
Traffic tracking, reporting and analytics
You have to have a clear understanding of the five elements above so you can figure out the areas where you need improvement and your best sources of results. For instance, your hamburger franchise may do better with social media marketing than an education franchisee would.
Different franchise industries have different audiences. These different audiences have different habits.
In the sections below, we’ll analyze these different marketing channels more closely. We’ll also identify common challenges posed by these channels that applies to both the franchisor and the franchisee. Finally, we’re also going to discuss ways to overcome these challenges.
Marketing Through Search Engines for Franchise Businesses (SEO or SEM)
Whether you are a franchisor or a franchisee, if you are in any way, shape or form connected to a franchise business, SEO is absolutely vital. You have to be found. Regardless of whether your customer is using Bing or Google or another search engine, you have to get in front of your prospects’ eyeballs.
Remember, with search engines, people only search when they’re most interested in what you have to offer.
SEO is a term for a series of practices that aim to move you in the highest position in organic results on search engines. You have to shoot for the top spot because there are no consolation prizes in SEO.
It is a well established fact that over 50% of search engine users only bother to click on the top three results of your searches. The other results on the page might as well not exist. The top three gets the lion’s share.
Usually, it’s broken up this way: 31 percent goes to the number one spot, 40 percent to the second spot, and then 10 percent for the third spot. Then it’s all downhill from there.
Four Things You Need to Know to Ensure Optimal Organic Ranking for Your Franchise Business
You will need to post a significant amount of relevant, unique and valuable content. This is content that provides information that adds value to the lives of its readers. This content must answer key questions that are implied by the search phrase used by your users.
Please understand that these people are searching for information related to your service or merchandise because they have a problem they’re trying to solve.
Your website must look good for mobile devices. It must be secure, and it must be fast. Also, its content must be structured so that search engines can quickly index, read, and find your information.
All your pages and your business’ online presence must position your brand authoritatively. You have to look like a leader in the industry you’re in.
This is particularly important for franchise businesses because they often suffer from bad content and faulty or inadequate website structure. They can quickly get high quality links from partners, suppliers, vendors, and other media websites, but all that is wasted because their content is thin or their website structure leaves much to be desired.
Your website has to be localized so as to maximize visibility with searchers in your target area. This requires the right type of content as well as strategically marking up your website content.
Picking Out the Right Website Content Strategy
If you are working with a large franchisor or you’re a franchisor with many franchisees, chances are, you already have a lot of content.
The truth is, just because you have a lot of content, it doesn’t mean it’s the right content. Similarly, if you’re under the impression that your franchisees already have enough content but your franchisee rankings are lower than your competitors, you should be seeing red flags.
One of the most common reasons why franchise networks don’t do well in organic ranking is due to a shortage of content. If only things were this easy.
You can’t just go crazy and come up with tons of content because doing that is not going to solve your problem. You’re also going to have to structure that content in such a way that it can easily be found by search engines and ranked higher.
There are two things going on here: lack of content and faulty content structures are both problems that you need to diagnose and fix.
If your franchisee locations all have specific domains and websites, pay close attention to the amount of content they have. Do they have enough to work with so they can rank high organically? Are you supporting them with the right policies and initial content so they can grow their content base with material that is geared for better search engine rankings?
For instance, we did work for a national franchise company that provided insulation services. We took a look at dozens of their franchise branches located all over the United States. We worked with each branch to help them rank at the top for organic searches in their localized markets.
How did we do it? Search-optimized content.
Franchisee Tips for Success
The most common hurdle local franchisees face is that they depend too much on the marketing as well as the leads generated online by their corporate parent.
If you are such a franchisee, you probably already know that you cannot rely on the national website of your franchisor. You might not get a nice, steady volume of leads. You would have to come up with your own branded micro website that has a lot of content and is optimized for search engines.
You have to clear this with your franchisor first. Pay close attention to the rights and licenses they give you.
If this is not possible, you may want to focus on other online promotions channels you could control, like your franchisee business’ social media presence.
Take Control of Your Website’s Internal Code and Structure
It’s extremely important to note that Google favors mobile-friendly, secure and fast websites. This is set in stone. This is not guesswork or theory.
Google itself has stated that if your website looks good on mobile devices, loads quickly, and is secure (because you are on HTTPS instead of HTTP), you will rank higher on Google.
Google let the cat out of the bag. These are low hanging fruit in terms of ranking advantages. Just get these right and you will get a search engine ranking advantage.
While these are important, they only give you a headstart. They provide a solid foundation. But the most important part of local SEO for franchised businesses is content.
This website content has to be valuable and relevant in your local area. This way, you will be able to better handle the needs of your local search market and compete better with other companies.
It’s important for both franchisor or franchisee to constantly communicate with each other to ensure they are working towards the same goal. This is very important if you are a franchisee looking to optimize your digital marketing for your local market. You have to have the right licenses or legal permission from your franchisor, as far as your brand goes.
It’s important to understand the amount of leeway each party has so they can craft an effective marketing strategy at their level. The franchisor operates at a national level, the franchisee operates at a local level. These have to align and work towards the same goals.
It’s important, whether you are the franchisor or you are a franchisee, to select an online franchise promotions company that has the right experience managing, building, and optimizing multiple brand sites.
The ideal professional service provider would have a clear understanding of the intricacies and complexities of the franchisor-franchisee relationship. If they don’t have a clue, they won’t be able to help you all that much. In fact, they might land you in hot water legally.
If you’re a franchisor, you probably already have a central website that is quite massive. You’re dealing with a lot of content because you are managing the different locations of your franchisees.
Whether you do this through individual, standalone websites or you manage all of these through one domain name, it’s a lot to handle. You’re putting quite a bit of stress on your content management system.
On the other hand, you may have set up your system so that different franchisees are given a wider leeway in running their own franchise website. The big challenge here is to make sure that all your franchisees stick to your quality standards, brand use policies, and other important considerations that may have a negative effect on your national brand.
We strongly suggest to franchisors that you produce shared content and network assets that can be used by your franchisees. This requires you to come up with a bulletproof website infrastructure. This is the best way to provide your franchisees with the necessary assets they need to succeed locally.
The biggest challenge you face would be the amount of assets you have access to. This can involve brand assets. This can also involve content.
To complicate matters even further, you also have to worry about overlaps in the SEO efforts of the national franchisor as well as your fellow franchisees.
We strongly recommend that you build your own “micro website.” This carries the brand of your franchisor, but it’s highly targeted to your franchised local territory.
Doing this maximizes your control in tracking, generating traffic, and optimizing conversions in your local area. In fact, micro sites can produce marketing insights that may be helpful to their national franchisor.
Here’s the Problem
If your franchise agreement doesn’t allow you to build your own branded micro site, you have other options. You can choose to build a presence for your franchised business on social media platforms.
Overcoming Local SEO Problems
Local franchisees need solid local SEO for them to rank high in their target areas. It’s really important to wrap your mind around the concept of local SEO. Otherwise, you’re going to have a tough time.
It doesn’t matter whether you are going to be hiring a professional company to do it for you or whether you’re going to do it yourself. You have to have a clear understanding of what local SEO is and what it can and cannot do for you.
With that out of the way, when it comes to local SEO, one of the biggest challenges franchises face is the issue of multiple locations.
It’s very easy for branded franchises to show up many times on local searches. A lot of franchisees think this automatically a good thing. No, it isn’t. Because if each listing is not optimized using GoogleMyBusiness, and is not properly verified, they’re going to drop off.
Worse yet, these multiple listings will cannibalize each franchisee’s traffic. It can easily become a race to the bottom. Instead of each franchisee getting customers from their franchisor-designated area, they end up poaching customers from other franchisees. This can lead to all sorts of headaches with your national franchisor.
You can thank unorganized and chaotic nature of localized directories for this. Also, faulty multiple listings can lead to confusion as far as your end users are concerned.
Local SEO Franchisor Tips
Your biggest goal should be to properly manage your multiple locations and ensure that they all rank well. This is not easy. Your franchisees may have no clue about SEO. They might just list their businesses all over the place and this creates chaos.
These franchisees have their specific marketing game plans or they’re dealing with their own set of local vendors. Accordingly, you get uneven results. Some of your franchisees are listed on GoogleMyBusiness, others aren’t. Others rank well, and others are completely invisible.
To get a handle on this, you have to have a clear protocol of explaining to all your franchisees the importance of getting listed on GoogleMyBusiness. You also have to work with them to make sure they properly update their listing. You have to apply pressure on them to push them to claim GoogleMyBusiness listing.
The alternative to localized control is for your national franchisor business to fully control all the local listings of your franchisees.
You can handle this either way. What’s important is that you clearly educate your franchisees regarding their local listings.
You also have to constantly communicate with them. This way, people aren’t stepping on each other’s toes.
The most common obstacle facing franchisees when it comes to local listings are their faulty or complete absence of SEO knowledge. It’s bad enough when the national corporate franchisor office doesn’t like the marketing plans you have, it’s close to disastrous when your national franchisor has absolutely no clue about digital marketing.
If any of this is true, don’t just move on. Push back and put in the time and effort to let your national franchisor know about the full range of benefits they and their franchisees stand to gain from digital marketing. You also have to be clear as to why you would like to take this direction.
If you are prevented from handling your local search listings, you still have an option: you can optimize your local franchisee location’s social media presence. You can also put up your own branded website (within the restrictions of your national franchisor parent).
Social Media Marketing for Franchise Businesses
Do you think your franchise business can benefit from social media marketing? If you’ve answered yes, you are absolutely correct. Social media can help franchisees tremendously because this is one channel they are given a lot of control over.
The problem with this arrangement is that there is often quite a bit of inconsistency as far as local franchisees’ messaging and branding are concerned. If these aren’t bad enough, these differences in franchisee social media behavior can also lead to local SEO problems since these profiles are giving off so many different signals because they are managed by so many different people.
It’s important for you to set clear guidelines, backed up by company policies that clearly spell out allowable franchisee messaging and branding behavior on social media. You should also give them tips on how to successfully use social media to promote their local franchise businesses.
If you don’t know where to start or feel that you can’t do this, get in touch with us. We will step you through the process of putting together effective franchisee location management policies.
How to Manage Multiple Franchisee Pages on Social Media
It’s important that you stick to one name page for your brand. This page must not have a specific location or address. This is the corporate presence of your brand.
However, from this page, you should branch off into specific location pages. You should farm these out to your franchisees. You should also let them know that you reserve the right to access their pages and monitor how they’re running their pages.
Please understand that while you can read up on this on Facebook to learn how to figure this out yourself, if you want to do things smoothly, you need to manage these multiple pages using a tool like Facebook Business Manager.
The better approach would be to hire a digital marketing company that is equipped with the best tools to optimize this often confusing multi-franchisee brand page system.
Ask your franchisor or corporate headquarters to create Facebook pages that are specific to your location. Once you are given access to these, leverage them fully. This means you should post videos, photos, contests, and create fresh content so you can grow your local community audience. You should also get a YouTube channel and leverage the many different social media platforms your local target audience already visits.
PPC Tips for Franchise Businesses
If you want to quickly get in front of the right eyeballs online, the most effective way to do this is through pay-per-click ad buys. Your business information gets placed in front of searchers precisely at the point in time where they are in most need of whatever it is you’re offering.
As awesome as this marketing opportunity is, there is a big problem when it comes to franchise businesses: too many chefs spoil the stew.
Use search and display ads to market the different national level offerings of your business. You should also use these ad buys to promote your local franchisees’ locations.
By building up your national brand, you make it easier for your franchisees to get noticed in their local area. This increases the likelihood of getting leads, and eventually sales, at the local level.
You can use the strategies we mentioned above for franchisors. However, you need to be more targeted and specific.
Each location-based PPC buy has to be customized so as to produce localized ads that are both compelling and relevant. They have to be specific to a particular area.
You can do this by doing any of the following:
You can put the names of local cities, towns and municipalities in your PPC ads and keywords
You can differentiate the text in your ads as well as your offers, from those of your local competitors
Finally, you can play around with the different negative keywords in your PPC campaigns to optimize visibility for the most commonly used local search phrases
Email Marketing Tips for Franchise Businesses
If you’re looking for the most powerful form of digital marketing, look no further than opt-in email. Hands down, this is the most powerful and effective way to reach and convert your customers.
Email opt-in marketing involves sending email messages to people who already have a relationship with you. They may be vendors, referral partners, prospective customers, or existing customers.
Whatever the case may be, you have an existing relationship with them because these people have opted in to your list. They have given you permission to send them messages.
What’s the big deal? Well, when somebody gives you permission to send them content, there’s a higher chance that they would actually open and act on the emails that you sent. They’re not going to respond to unsolicited emails, aka spam. They will, more likely, open emails that they have specifically asked for.
This is the main reason why email marketing blows away all other types of digital marketing. And yes, that includes SEO.
The biggest challenge facing national level franchisors is message targeting. Your messages have to be relevant on the local level.
You can farm this out to franchisees by enabling them to come up with their own emails, but this can cause damage to your brand. Also, there’s no guarantee that the messages that they would send would be all that effective.
We highly recommend that you come up with different email templates targeted to specific locations. By doing so, you retain full control of the branding, mailing consistency, and overall style of these messages.
If you decide to take full control of the emails being sent out by your franchisees, it’s very important that your content be relevant to all these different local areas.
The biggest issue you’re going to face involves branding and message consistency. Tell your national franchisor the specific goals that you have with email marketing, and share whatever creatives you have come up with.
As far as your own list building goes, you can get that going through form ads specifically designed for lead collection using social media platforms. Once you build your newsletter, use it to communicate with your community.
Understand the Importance of Statistics Reporting and Analytics in Digital Franchise Marketing
Okay, okay, I get it. Analytics and statistics reporting do not exactly form a standalone marketing channel. Still, you need to be able to understand them fully. Why? Well, you can save yourself from a tremendous amount of headaches if you are able to figure this out.
Imagine that you’ve got 20 different franchised locations spread out throughout the United States. All these locations are owned by different people. Let’s say you have followed all the digital marketing tips we’ve shared above, accordingly, you see a nice 10% boost in the leads you get from all your 20 franchisee locations. Awesome, right?
Here come the hard questions:
How many, if any, of the phone leads your company got came from your different franchised locations?
Are there franchisees that have a very low ratio of calls to leads?
Which of your many branches have a higher volume of calls, but register fewer leads?
How do the visitors of each of your franchisee websites behave after loading your franchisee’s website?
Which part of your overall sales process should you improve to further increase sales, both on the franchisee and overall level?
Sadly, if you are like most of the owners of franchise businesses we’ve consulted with over the years, you’re probably drawing a blank to most of the answers above. Don’t feel too bad. You are in good company.
The good news is, if you have the right analytics and tracking system in place, these questions will quickly get answered. You get a big picture view of not only the main franchisor website’s performance, but you get important insights on how to boost all the specific franchisee’s results.
Please keep in mind that analytics require a lot of number crunching. You have to know your way around data. You also have to be very comfortable with finding yourself up to your neck in numbers.
If you don’t have the right personnel for this or you’re not personally interested in the data but could use improved results, get in touch with us. We have analysts who are dedicated and are passionate about teasing out important strategies from huge collections of digital traffic data. Best of all, we have a proven track record of success in turning data patterns into greater sales for our clients.
Franchisor and Franchisee Tips
If you understand the importance of tracking and data analysis above, great. The problem is, when it comes to the franchisee and franchisor relationship, data sharing can be an issue. In fact, it can lead to an erosion of trust if not properly handled.
For example, if franchisees are allowed to come up with their own independent analytics and their own reporting and analytics programs, they might actually come up with wildly varying and flat out inconsistent tracking data.
Worse yet, this information tends to stay local. It doesn’t get shared with the national franchisor or other franchisees. It may well turn out that the information picked up by one franchisee can be used by other franchisees to step their own individual sales up in their local areas.
Another headache that can arise from multiple franchisee analytics and tracking systems involves conflicting tags and pixels. These tags have to be managed properly in a unified and coherent way.
Franchisors must step in to make sure that tags, pixels and other tracking elements are properly managed and coordinated so there is no chance of conflicting or overlapping code.
If you need help on how to do this, get in touch with us. We have many years of experience helping franchise businesses accurately track and analyze their website’s statistics.
Reverse Engineer Your Competitors for Optimal Digital Franchise Marketing Results
Our company is serious about reverse engineering and analyzing your competitors.
Let’s face it, you might have the best franchise business idea in the world. You might even come up with the most awesome digital marketing strategy. But the sad reality is that if your business’ competitors consistently outrank you, all your great ideas and your plans would be a waste of time.
We suggest that before you start implementing your grand digital franchise marketing strategy, get in touch with us so we can give you a free analysis of your competitors. This will give you an inside look on how your franchise stands in relation to your competitors. We will also analyze this audit to give you some tips on how you can beat the competition.
One of our experts is online, she will get back to you
Our experts always strive to provide the best possible service to the valuable customers. Therefore, you don’t need to worry about anything when you get our services. Quality for the service we offer is always guaranteed and you will love what you get at the end of the day. The amount you spend on our services will definitely be an excellent investment that you can do towards the future of your business.