The do's and don'ts of franchise marketing

Franchise marketing can be a huge advantage if done correctly but can hurt a business if done incorrectly

7Mar

The expansion of a business using the franchise model can turn a small business into a household name in a matter of years. Most people tend to think about restaurants opening up new franchises and expanding across the country. Gyms are another that have been extremely successful expanding through the franchise model. Marketing for the original location can be difficult as regional differences can impact the ROI of a marketing campaign. The marketing also has to focus on getting others to invest in a franchise of their own in order to maximize quality expansion.

We look at some of the do's and don'ts of franchise marketing.

Understand regional differences

Franchise marketing strategies need to be changed even when venturing domestically. The same marketing ploy that works in Seattle might not work in a more conservative city like Houston. A fast food restaurant would want to market a healthier option on the menu for a location that have a more health conscious demographic. While national campaigns are unlikely to be changed for one location the person opening the franchise could be a huge resource. This person understands the market and could even help come up with promotions that help improve the community's view of the new franchise opening.

Regardless of the business that is being run it is important to stay away from hot topic issues when marketing. Politics is the number one thing to avoid in any marketing campaign as it can alienate a huge part of the customer demographic. Boycotts are not as uncommon as many business owners might think and this can permanently ruin profitability for a location if not handled sensitively.

Understanding international differences

There can be a resistance to a company from abroad expanding to certain countries. This is not the time to ram marketing tactics down their throats but rather to humanize the company. If the local consumers can put a face to the company, it makes the company look less like a heartless corporate entity and more like a business of likable people. Running a community cleanup or sponsoring a charity event can go a long way in certain locations. Depending on the location this can cost very little when compared to doing the same thing domestically.

Do not for any reason think that the same marketing tactics are going to work in a completely different country. The first thing that needs to be done is starting a digital marketing campaign in the native language of the local area. All over the world consumers flock to search engines to find services or products that they will need. Going to the third page of search results is not common so placing yourself on the first page could be the difference between a quick or slow start at the new franchise.

Edgy social media content in a specific country might be able to draw customers while it can be frowned upon elsewhere. Do the appropriate research to know what works and what does not. Enlisting the help of a marketing company abroad can give the new franchise an idea of how they should approach marketing in their new location.

Create a buzz before the new franchise opens

One of the most important things that a business opening a new franchise can do is create a buzz in the local area. There is a chance that the business has zero name recognition in the area so establishing this early is important. Depending on the size of the city that a new franchise is being established press releases can be a huge help. The demand for a new franchise can also be a huge driving force as something like In N Out Burger coming to a city on the east coast would create a buzz in itself. Getting into local publications about the opening should not be difficult as local newspapers often times announce new business openings.

The last thing that a company wants to do when marketing a new franchise is annoy the local community before the location even opens. Make the local community aware without it being the only thing they hear on the radio or on television. Social media can also be tricky as a company does not want their social media feeds seeming like commercial rather than producing quality content and engaging with current/potential followers.

Rely on data to help shape future campaigns

Do use data from market research companies or other franchises opened to help shape the franchise marketing strategy. Try to find the best marketing tools available that help track the ROI on a specific marketing tactic. Try changing one aspect at a time so the change can be tracked instead of making multiple changes which makes it tough to figure out which change made the largest improvement.

Do not try to use the data to make every decision as not all openings will be the same. This can be used as a guide but taking out the human element of marketing can be a large waste of marketing budget. You also want to market opening a franchise to the right demographic as great franchisees can do huge things in a local area. Often times you see a successful owner of a franchise expanding further in the area if there's a large enough demand. Make information available on how to franchise in an easy to read way as it could attract far more interest than telling potential franchisees to call to get more information.

Connect with the local community

The connection with the local community when opening a business in a tight knit one like that of the city of Tampa is important and can yield in far more customers. Sponsoring events is one way to do this but there are also things like military appreciation day that can be done weekly due to the proximity of MacDill Air Force Base located in the city.

Don't downplay opening the newest franchise even if it is in a far smaller market than the original location. Prices need to be adjusted as well as the cost of living is different throughout the country. Market this as a place that understands that having a huge budget for something is not always an option for many consumers.

Brand consistency can't be undervalued

Establishing a brand is tough work and it can take a company years to establish a brand built on delivering quality products/services to all its customers.

"Franchisors who are able to grow their networks effectively typically have incredibly strong and consistent mechanisms in place to monitor, respond and execute brand management responsibilities," advises Chris Conner, president of Franchise Marketing Systems.

So, to achieve success, take the time to establish that same strong brand in the new location whether it stress customer service or quality products. The digital marketing that you have done in the past can help with the local rankings with a little local SEO work.

Don't undermine the brand as this is the one thing that is most important to keep healthy. A brand's name being pulled through the mud can impact sales nationwide and can be extremely detrimental in one area near the franchises not pulling their weight. The old days were full of corporate training videos that tend to be outdated in a couple of years. Online training can be very effective especially if the material covered is tested at the end of the training.

Reuse graphics, flyers, and other already designed marketing materials

The cost of starting a franchise can be extremely expensive for certain individuals just starting out. Allowing them to reuse designed marketing materials can help them save as far as costs go. Not only is this budget friendly but it can also help to create a good rapport between the franchisee and the corporate offices. The last thing the brand wants is poorly printed flyers for the business which reflect on the business in a negative fashion.

For example, a branch opened in Arizona could possibly use the same marketing materials as another southwestern state. Reusing the same marketing materials for differing locations like Salt Lake City and San Francisco could alienate the customer demographic you are trying to appeal to. The website design of another location can be used as well as long as the copy is custom to the new location.

Monitor rogue franchises as they can create a disaster

As mentioned briefly above rogue franchises can do a lot more harm than good. Mistreatment of employees is one of these things that the entire brand will suffer from one manager going on a power trip. Random visits from corporate are necessary as those visiting will be able to see if the high standards of the brand are being incorporated into daily production.

The most important thing to monitor when expanding franchises overseas is working conditions. Even some of the largest corporations in the world have come under fire due to the way workers are treated at locations internationally.

Local SEO is imperative

Local SEO is digital marketing that targets a specific area which is perfect for a new franchise. While the franchise might rank for certain terms they might not for ones in the designated area. Updating a local Google listing might seem like a pain but it can make a huge difference in being listed with other related businesses as, according to Hubspot, 72% of consumers who search for local businesses end up visiting stores within five miles.

Reaching out to local publications can help the new franchise get ahead of the game as these publications will rank high locally. Even something as simple as an announcement on a few local newspaper websites can build enough backlinks to have the franchise ranking in a matter of weeks. This is going to be run by the local franchise so make sure they understand what type of content is consistent with the brand. Marketing training being a part of opening a franchise is not uncommon for that very reason.

Creating franchise specific social media accounts can be a huge help as well as this will help with customer service. People are not going to call a fast food restaurant to complain as a manager might not be on duty. Social media is where people flock to complain as it is public so monitoring these things can help retain customers and attract new ones with the dedication shown to the existing customers. This is where a franchise should put a trusted employee on the accounts as a wild employee could reply rudely to a customer for all the followers to see.

Social media can be a great place to announce promotions and daily deals if this applies to the franchise. Social media contests for gyms are quite popular with plenty of people interacting in hopes of winning a free month or two of membership. Building a sense of community among followers is the best thing that can be done as followers could check the account to see the banter between the franchise and longtime customers.

Create ways to generate email marketing lists

The contact page leads and people that previously have been in touch with the business are the perfect place to start building a bulk email marketing list.

Email marketing is an incredibly effective form of marketing, with 58% of millennials saying email is their preferred way to be contacted by a brand according to Adobe and with McKinsey claiming that email is 40x more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter.

For those that attend industry conferences getting the contact info through business cards can work on a small level. Certain businesses have visitors leave business cards in a fishbowl with the hopes of winning something. These can be used after the drawing to build the email list as well as these bowls fill up quite quickly as most people in business carry around a card of some sort. The key is to not email too frequently as the recipients will quickly unsubscribe from the email list if the business sends daily or multiple emails per day. The email can be used as a weekly newsletter as well so there is substance to the email rather than 'Today would be a good day to visit XYZ for a great deal' which is plainly advertorial.

Final thoughts

There are plenty of things to worry about when trying to grow a business using the franchise model. Marketing needs to be done with care as a failed location reflects poorly on the brand regardless if it was a rogue franchisee that disregarded everything corporate had told them to do. Marketing is the lifeblood of growing a franchise business as there is a possibility of hundreds of marketing campaigns going on at once. 

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