The Focus on Franchise Marketing is Local, Local, Local!

Local appears to be the common denominator in all discussions about marketing in franchise circles. From mobile marketing to social media to software solutions, the discussion always seems to comes back to “local.”. We have even seen Google’s continued shift to complete emphasis on local which has created what appears to be a whole new segment of marketing, local marketing, complete with its own strategies, methodology and tools.

The following is a guest post by Chris Anderson, Co-founder at Empowerkit. Chris enjoys sharing his perspective, insight, and experience whenever and wherever he can as is apparent by his active participation in various franchise LinkedIn groups.

5 Local Online Marketing Support Mistakes Franchisors Should Avoid

Bringing in new franchisees is how franchise systems grow and maintain financial stability, especially early on, and it’s what most franchisors lose sleep over more than anything. But to maintain steady growth, corporate support to existing franchisees plays an essential role – from marketing and advertising, to operations and ongoing training.

All too often, though, franchise support takes a backseat to sales, leaving franchisees feeling alienated from the franchisor and disenfranchised (pardon the pun).

One thing in particular which franchisees are desperately seeking guidance on is online marketing. More specifically, how they can make sure they’re staying competitive online, attracting as many local customers as possible, and generating leads to grow their sales.

Here are 5 common blunders to avoid in franchise local online marketing support:

1. Static Local Websites

Many franchisors, early in the growth process, publish basic landing pages for franchise locations with very little unique local content, and no easy way for the franchisee to make updates. This results in poor search rankings, pathetic conversion rates, and upset franchisees that often go rogue and create their own sites.

What should you do?

Provide a system like Empowerkit, where franchisees can easily make updates to their own websites, within the brand and content controls you set and can oversee at corporate.  Make sure the system is flexible and can adapt with your changing needs over time.

2. No Business Listings

Franchisees generally don’t know the first thing about submitting and maintaining their business listings on Google Places, Bing, Yahoo, Yelp, Yellow Pages, and other sites. So, if you don’t give them instructions and best practices, or provide an automated solution, then guess what…there are no business listings for your locations! Complete, comprehensive business listings are a key traffic driver and lead generation source, so don’t make this mistake.

What should you do?

First off, lead by example. Make sure your corporate listing is complete and consistently listed in all of the main search engines and directories. Next, decide whether to engage a specialized vendor, utilize an automated service, and/or provide documentation and best practices.

3. Ignoring Social Media

Whether you love it or hate it, social media is here to stay, and franchisees in almost every industry are trying to figure it out. Franchisors who ignore social media are finding themselves chasing down compliance issues, and seeing dozens of disparate profiles and pages that are poorly managed. Translation – a nightmare for your branding. Worse, they’re missing a great opportunity to gain a competitive edge. Don’t let this be you!

What should you do?

Don’t fight social media, embrace it. It’s the only communication channel that let’s a business directly interact with customers and other stakeholders, which is valuable any type of business. Develop a strategy with defined goals at the local level, layout any necessary policy guidelines, and train franchisees on best practices. Consider working with an outside consultant initially, and remain flexible to adapt your strategy based on results and changing trends.

4. No Attention to Lead Generation Optimization
It’s easy to get lost in what to focus on when it comes to local online marketing, and lose sight of the performance metric that matters the most – lead generation (particularly for service-based franchises). Generating leads is a science, which can always be optimized to bring in more, better qualified prospective customers. In most cases, though, franchisees have little more than a Contact Us page or their phone number and email on their website, and research shows this will produce the lowest possible lead generation results.

What should you do?

Have at least two compelling calls-to-action with connected lead captures on each page of your local websites. One for prospects that are just browsing (i.e. “Free Download: Top Tips for X,  Y, Z”) and the other for those who are “sales ready” (i.e. “Schedule a Free Consultation”). Have analytics events set up that track conversion rates, so that you can test and optimize the different lead generation variables over time to continually increase conversions.

5. No Content Marketing Strategy

What’s becoming key to all online marketing efforts is a sound content strategy. That is, understanding what types of content can be created at corporate and the local level to offer customers relevant, valuable answers to their questions, and solutions to their problems, which should directly relate to the franchise’s products and services. Value driven content is what should fuel the ongoing local website updates (and lead capture CTA’s), social media profiles, online ads, and it’s what has the greatest impact on SEO.

What should you do?

Think long and hard about your brand’s culture, story, strengths, and competitive advantages. Then brainstorm your target customers top questions and frustrations as they relate to solutions that your products and services offer. Come up with ideas for content that can address these questions in a compelling way, and that will help amplify your brand online. It may be through blog posts, videos, photos, webinars, or other content, but the point is that you put a strategy in place and start implementing it through your local online marketing efforts.

These are just five common mistakes that franchisors make. Please share other pitfalls to avoid, and let us know if you have any questions!

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Local Marketing Challenges: What is a Franchisee to do?

No TomorrowI believe the most common local marketing challenges in a franchise organization are the typical franchisee’s lack of marketing 101 skills, their inability to develop a defined marketing strategy, and certainly their inability to execute any marketing plan. However, let’s be fair. They may not have learned about marketing and marketing strategies.

Now, here’s something that franchisees do know something about, and that’s making things happen. Unfortunately, many franchisees don’t have the drive to do whatever it takes to make it happen as it sometimes means integrating their local marketing efforts with grassroots, guerilla, word-of-mouth, or as I like to refer to it as “get off your ass” marketing.

Many franchisees find it necessary to stand behind the counter and serve the customer when they would better serve the business by getting out from behind the counter and mingling with the customers, visiting other businesses, participating in community events, etc.

The major challenge is that most franchisees refuse to take this approach, feeling they’ve made a large investment and the business should come to them, or put the responsibility on the franchisor, or are just lazy and would rather wait for tomorrow. Well, as Garth Brooks sings, “if tomorrow never comes…” Instead, they need to make it happen today and forget tomorrow, as if there is no tomorrow!