When it comes to franchise marketing, it’s all about location.
While many franchises have a solid development marketing strategy, it’s important not to forget about a few consumer marketing tips, or actually getting people into your stores and purchasing your goods or services. This type of marketing could be something you let each branch handle on their own, but your decision should depend on a variety of factors, which you can learn more about here. (In general, most national branches handle all marketing efforts in order to stay consistent and not compete with one another.)
The real question is, how do you put a consumer marketing strategy in place? And what do franchise factors really affect?
Fortunately, consumer marketing doesn’t have to be confusing or overwhelming. Franchise companies have to do things slightly differently than traditional companies, but that doesn’t make an online presence more difficult. Go step-by-step and you’ll be well on your way.
Consumer marketing tips
Once you know who will be managing your consumer marketing efforts, you’ll find that there is always something to do. It helps to split up your tasks based on different marketing sectors. In this case, SEO and paid search. A few strategies and tips include:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
We all know SEO is incredibly important when it comes to online marketing, and that doesn’t change when we’re working with local search or franchise businesses. A few tips to help you improve your SEO for your franchise include:
Setup Local Accounts, Including Google+ Places, Yahoo Local, and Bing Places
This is something that every business should do in order to be successful in SEO, but it’s also something important for franchise owners looking to make their company known to potential buyers. Those interested in buying a franchise oftentimes search with location-based queries, so you want your business to show up. Local search is huge even when it comes to consumer marketing (discussed in the next section), but don’t count it out for development marketing.
Whenever setting up a local account, you want to make sure you have all of your information filled out, including:
- Proper categorization
- Completed description
- Quality photos
- Location and phone number
- Good number of online reviews
- Consistency and verification
Use tools like Yext or Localeze to make sure your brand is consistent across all local accounts because sometimes you have to claim your business if the page is already created. You can learn much more here about optimization and local search. Once you do start the process of creating these local accounts, I think you’ll find that it’s fairly simple. Just follow the directions and you should be good to go.
Below is a screenshot of a local search page on Google — the carousel for newer results in certain categories, and the old version for the rest:
Connect with Your Audience on Social Media
Social media efforts are always great for any type of business, but what’s great for franchises is the idea that social media caters to all locations. You can have one social media account and actually segment your audience by location on most of the major networks. For example, Google+ let’s you create circles of different people and make it easy to share certain posts with those certain groups.
Note: Of course you can also have separate social media accounts for each location. I wouldn’t recommend it for consistency reasons (and because you don’t want to confuse the consumer), but this is successful for some smaller franchises.
You can also create what are called “custom audiences” with Facebook. This allows you to target a particular audience with paid ads on Facebook. For example, you may want to create an ad that features a special deal for a grand opening of a store in a particular location, so you can use custom audiences to show that ad to only fans near a certain area.
Of course, other social networks allow you to do similar segmenting for both paid ads and posts you create. Visit any social network’s website and type in “segmenting audiences” and you’ll find a detailed guide of how to make it happen.
Consider Microsites and Location Pages
If you’re going to have one website for your entire franchise, you may want to think about having a location page so that visitors can see special deals or specifics about one particular location. This is most common if your franchises are in very different areas (ex: rural vs. urban) that require different products or overall vibes.
You can list all of your locations either in the footer of your website or on a contact or “about us” page. Below is an example I found through Brightoak.com of a custom homebuilder who created a page specifically for Vancouver:
Many sites also have separate URLs for each location’s page complete with a geographic marker, which helps consumers and Google categorize that page. For example, if you have a Seattle location for your hair salon, you might want to choose the URL seattle.hairsalon.com or hairsalon.com/seattle. Your homepage should then link to these URLs in order to help drive traffic. These are sometimes considered microsites, and there is never much on the page aside from maybe the location and some photos. But, it still gives users a solid way of knowing that they are dealing with the right location.
Of course, paid search is also a great way to get involved with consumer marketing for any franchise. It’s a great way to promote your brand in front of a relevant audience. In this situation, your relevant audience are those looking up categories and industries related to your company. Use your social and SEO data to determine who these people are, and then get started with AdWords campaigns. Again, the further you get into your campaign the more data you will have and the better results you should get.
According to successful workout franchise Fitness19.com, paid search has worked well for their company. I spoke with Trudy Cohen recently and she explained, “As a fitness organization, we by nature lose and gain clients all the time. SEO can oftentimes be more unpredictable and slower to see results, and while we certainly still see the value in SEO efforts, paid search is something that gets us the numbers we need quicker. We always make sure to follow up and retarget customers who are interested. After all, a little push is oftentimes what our potential clients need to get started, so we like to have the data available to give them that push.”
Breaking up franchise marketing into two sections is an easy way to make sure you cover both the before and after of this type of business. But in reality, each of the bullet points discussed above is a different strategy. Franchise owners shouldn't try and get involved with different SEO and paid techniques; they just need to make sure things stay organized and consistent. Always make sure all of your mangers at each branch are on the same page when it comes to marketing.
Do you know of any other online marketing strategies for franchises? Is there anything that didn’t work for you? Let us know your story and your thoughts in the comments below.
Amanda DiSilvestro gives small business and entrepreneurs SEO advice ranging from keyword density to recovering from Panda and Penguin updates. She writes for the nationally recognized SEO firm HigherVisibility.com that offers online marketing services to a wide range of companies across the country.