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People buy franchises for two reasons. First, they hope to be supported by experts in running a successful business. Second, they want to bond with a strong brand that everyone has heard of. The industry standard for franchisors is to provide training, technology and resources to support their franchisees. They don’t let them go alone.
When a multi-unit owner opens another auto repair service, it’s because he loves cars, not SEO. Franchisees reasonably assume that the head office will take care of this. Are they right? No – at least in most cases. This is why.
The broad marketing framework for franchises works like this: At the national level, marketing is about value and branding. It’s not about directing customers to a specific store, but about raising the profile of all stores in the network.
When it comes to local marketing, franchisees lack knowledge and support. So they often turn to agencies or find themselves sandwiched between search algorithms, incomplete listing profiles, negative reviews, and declining star ratings. If your franchisees lose their local competition, your brand could lose yours – globally.
Franchisors need to understand that when it comes to local marketing, the tango takes two. To win local customers, they need to provide hands-on support and always keep an eye on the business performance of their franchisees. Support packaged like a local marketing program can even differentiate your entire franchise offering. Here are three drivers of local customer acquisition from a business perspective:
Related: 5 Trends Shaping the Future of Local Franchise Marketing Right Now
1. Choose your local marketing approach: continuous training or internal execution
Your local marketing program can be run in two ways. Success in local markets can be achieved primarily by implementing ongoing learning opportunities for franchisees. A training program that is well developed and executed gives franchisees both confidence and hard skills. If you’re not already providing an employee learning framework, it’s worth considering how you can give your franchisees the tools to develop competent employees.
For example, the customers of PromoRepublic, travel agency Expedia Cruises and healthcare franchise Medi-Weightloss offer explainer local marketing videos and webinars, while maintaining a central information hub for storing best practices and frequently asked questions.
The second option is to do local marketing for your franchisees. After all, one of the benefits of franchising is business support to grow a business faster than it would otherwise be possible.
To relieve their franchisees, a family of home service brands, Authority Brands, offer local marketing programs. Their corporate marketing team is committed to building infrastructure on behalf of the franchisees and builds a dedicated team that can perform, not just coach.
The head office then measures the success of individual locations. This includes dashboards and reporting, not only to share with franchisees, but also to hold the marketing team running these programs accountable. What is measured is improved.
Related: The 4 Essential Elements of a Franchise Marketing Plan
2. Make Organic Lead Generation Easier for Franchisees
Brand discovery and the customer journey look very different these days. People now feel free to shop where it is most convenient for them, through a mix of channels. For example, last year 53% of vacation shoppers in the US checked online to see if a product was in stock before going to the store to buy it.
When switching online/offline, customers expect continuity and the same experience. To meet these expectations and bring in more leads organically, franchise brands are increasing their investments in digital marketing, aiming to build a unified omnichannel presence. Their efforts usually focus on:
Driving traffic to local landing pages: Before you spend money driving traffic to your website, make sure that customers go to a geo-specific landing page with the relevant information. Many established franchises, such as the auto brand, Ziebart or the educational Goldfish Swim School, rely on traffic from social media, listings or review sites and have increased their digital marketing budgets by about 50%. As a result, the swim school website has gained about 55% more traffic in the past 4 years.
Increase search and map findability: Shoppers often have an idea of what they’re looking for, but don’t necessarily know what product or brand they want. So they do their shop windows online. The local SEO can be just what you need to help potential customers find your specific location and buy from you. The fundamentals here are creating/managing GBP, automating the management of listings and reviews, and tracking performance in each location.
Improve online reputation: People trust online reviews, search for recommendations on social media, and rate companies. This affects the position and visibility of companies in search results and maps. Being seen is good for brand awareness, but to sell more, local businesses need customer trust. Franchises typically use online reputation management tools to improve and measure key metrics for this. What’s important here is to understand that your brand’s online reputation is a sum of the reputations of all your locations on the network.
Related: Keep It Local: The Importance of Localizing Your Franchise Approach
3. Facilitate content localization and price individuality
In the industry, we often see franchisors provide all the social content for a franchise’s local page. But this makes local businesses seem distant from the local community, inauthentic and inhumane.
While franchisors have significant reach, business marketers usually can’t localize messages for different regions, let alone micro-segments of a city, such as neighborhoods or streets. This is the point where headquarters can give franchisees a choice while still staying behind the wheel.
However, franchisees can create content that resonates with the local community and addresses their customers’ pain points. For example, they go beyond brand awareness to trust – an important next step before converting leads into customers.
The best way to give franchisees some freedom and allow them to add a local touch is to provide them with customizable content. This works great when HQ proposes templates and other pieces of content and allows editing. To prevent some franchisees from going rogue, you can use design approval workflows and upload your brand kits to keep your branding intact.