When a franchisee becomes part of a franchise business, they can feel a little bit like it’s going to market itself. You’re part of an established brand, after all, oftentimes one with national-level recognition. And while it’s true that takes care of some of the heavy lifting, nationally successful brands can still have individual franchisees — or groups of them — that fail.
Whether you’re a franchisor who wants to ensure the success of your franchisees, or a franchisee hoping to ensure the success of your location(s), you have to be proactive about your marketing. And multi-location marketing is a different kind of animal than other types of businesses. The needs are different, the audiences are different, and the strategies are different. Ultimately, the overall goals are the same: get customers in your door and money in your pocket.
To do that, though, you’ve got to get a handle on the fundamentals. Here’s how:
Strong Branding — Know Who You Are
A key component of any marketing strategy is establishing strong brand guidelines. If you’re a franchisee, this is one of the areas where being part of a franchise business does a lot of the work for you. You likely have a book or folder of branding guidelines — great! Study it! You’re going to want to know those guidelines inside and out, so that whenever and wherever you employ marketing of your own, it’s in alignment with standards.
If you’re a franchisor, of course, establishing that brand identity and brand guidelines is something that’s up to you — which is no small feat. Once you’ve built up that brand identity, maintaining that consistency across your entire network and multiple communication channels is a lot of work. Either way, branding is all about establishing a narrative, telling the story of your brand to the public. Maybe it’s about quality service at lower prices. Maybe it’s about providing a more-authentic product than your competitors. Whatever your brand identity is, it’s important to keep it in mind so that you can consistently drive that home in all your marketing operations.
Know Your Target Market — And Build On It
Now that you know who you are, it’s important to know who your customers are. Franchise operations often have two different kinds of audiences: potential customers, and potential franchisees. The primary focus of this article is for franchisees, detailing strategies for cultivating potential customers. However, if you happen to be engaged in promoting franchise opportunities to prospective investors, a lot of the broad-strokes principles remain the same.
You’re going to want to know your target audience: their demographics, their needs, their behaviors, and their buying habits. Part of that is market research, some of which you already did when you picked where to place your locations: What sort of people live near your stores? How much do they make? Building up a profile of your customers will help you down the line, when you start developing marketing campaigns tailored to your audience.
Once you know your audience, you’re going to want to build on that. Establishing a marketing database can help you track your customers and potential leads. Your customers can also help lead you to additional customers, by establishing a referral program. And referral programs are just one part of encouraging loyalty from your existing customers.
Hyperlocal Marketing — Market Where Your Customers Are
A truly key component of a multi-location marketing program is hyperlocal targeting. Your best customers are the ones within easy travel distance of your locations, and you want every one available to know all about your products and services. Paired up with your tracking, referral, and loyalty programs, hyperlocal marketing helps you reach those demographics you’ve identified.
More and more often, customers cap off a search for a product or service with the phrase, “near me.” Paid search marketing ensures that when a potential customer does that within a certain radius, your page comes up in the search engine results page (SERP).
The best approach to hyperlocal marketing is, as we’ve mentioned before, a multi-pronged marketing strategy, and can include things like paid search, Facebook marketing, email campaigns, and more.
A well-executed local marketing strategy can be one of the most effective and cost-effective way to get your brand in front of the right people.
Control Your Web Presence — Don’t Ignore Social Media
Hyperlocal marketing is just one way you need to take as much control over how you’re viewed and portrayed online as possible. In many ways, the Internet is the Wild West, and you’ll have to get used to the idea that you can’t control everything. But you’d be surprised at how many things online are out there for you to tweak and adjust to make the impression of your business more favorable.
If your location is responsible for your own website, make sure that the listings and information about your location are accurate and up-to-date on the corporate site. Facebook pages and social media accounts are another area where you may want to establish a footprint (again, depending on franchise guidelines).
Social media ads and accounts are another way to target your local audience, and it creates another avenue for you to alert people about sales, specials, limited-time offers, new offerings, and more. Beyond that, you’re going to want to keep an eye out for mentions of your site on review sites like Google and Yelp, so that you can respond quickly to any negative feedback.
Empower Locations — Use Every Tool
While you’re part of a major brand, you’re not a monolith: your individual locations will each need a tailored way to stand out on their street corner or in their strip mall, and they need leeway to be able to do that. If you’re a franchisor, that means empowering your franchisees. If you’re a franchisee, that means ensuring that each franchise you operate gets the tailored approach necessary to succeed. Hiring a local kid to spin a sign at the traffic light, billboards, sponsoring a Little League team – even in the world of franchises, the solutions aren’t going to be one-size-fits-all. Keeping your ear to the ground about the needs and performance of your individual locations is important.
Staying on top of emerging adtech trends is another good way to make sure you’re using every tool available to you.
Have A Plan — And A Partner
Most importantly of all, though, is that you can’t shoot from the hip with something like this. Marketing strategy can be sink-or-swim for a franchise location, and it needs to be considered from the ground up. You need to create a content marketing plan, outline a budget for paid digital marketing, and make optimizations on that plan as it progresses.
If that sounds like a full-time job, it can be — and not the job that your franchise is ostensibly there to do. That’s why choosing a partner is the way to go.
Balihoo works exclusively with multi-location businesses, and knows the ins and outs of making your marketing sing with your target audience. Our transparency guarantee ensures that your media budget goes to your media, with no hidden fees. And our automation and dashboard tools mean you can see the performance of your campaigns in real time, and quickly and easily manage your ads whether you’ve got one location or a hundred.
We could go on – and we have, before, at length. But while franchise marketing can certainly be a lot, if you’ve got the right partner in your corner, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
Sean Kelly, Senior Content Writer
Sean Kelly is a Senior Content Specialist, St. Louis-based engagement expert with 20 years of experience in content writing, and 8 years in adtech.