Franchise Marketing: Emerging Brands Guide on How to Grow Successfully

Franchise marketing sounds easy in theory, but it’s actually very difficult in practice.

Franchises have to produce marketing game plans at multiple levels to succeed:

Both at the overall business level and for individual franchises.

This means potentially straddling multiple diverse markets in local areas.

That’s why we developed the franchise marketing guide for emerging brands.

Using this guide, you will be able to get a full understanding of franchise marketing, how to bring your strategy digital, and how to create a marketing plan to grow your business.

What is Franchise Marketing?

Franchise marketing is a complex, two-fold definition. With franchise marketing, there are two distinct factors that you have to take into account.

  1. Marketing your business to get new franchisees
  2. Separately marketing those existing and new franchise locations in their local area

For instance, McDonald’s has to develop a plan to get franchisees to establish. But that’s not all. They then have to produce marketing content for each new franchisee to attract customers to dine there.

With franchise marketing, you will need a digital (and offline) strategy for both your corporate company and each franchise under your corporate umbrella.

This means crafting different market strategies for various local areas where competition can vary dramatically as well as population sizes, actual business locations, etc.

According to data from Wayne State University and professor Timothy Bates, out of 20,500 businesses studied, 65% of franchises survived after four years.

Compare that to independent businesses which see 72% survival rates after four years. In the retail space, it’s even more grim for franchisees: 61.3% survival rates vs 73.1% for independently owned businesses.

These survival rates signify a need for better, stable marketing plans that transcend beyond just the corporation and into each franchisee location. This is where things get tricky: how can you differentiate between corporate marketing and local franchise marketing?

This is what we will show you in this guide. So, where do you start? By analyzing the local competition.

How to do Competitor Research (Know the Competition)

Before jumping into a marketing game plan and hitting the ground running, you will need to do competitor research. And this goes for both your corporate plan and individual franchisee plans.

Chances are, you’re not the only corporate entity in your space. Everything from fast food to plumbing to auto shops have competition. At the corporate level, you will need to assess who your top competitors are, what they are producing, and how they attract both customers and franchisee interest.

At the franchisee level, you will need to assess competition in their local region and who you will be competing with for business.

Thankfully, you can kill two birds with one stone here.

In just a few easy steps, you can conduct basic competitor research for your corporate franchise  and franchisee locations.

The key areas you want to assess here are:

  1. Who your direct competitors are
  2. Where they have franchise locations in relation to your franchisees
  3. What marketing efforts they are using to promote the brand as a whole

First up, you will want to find your direct competitors. To do this, you can head to Google or even Google Maps and look for franchise companies near your corporate location or HQ.

For instance, searching for other pest control companies in your area:

As you will quickly notice, some household names pop up: Terminix, Orkin, etc.

If you recognize business names, they could be franchise companies operating under the corporate brand name.

These will be your competitors at both the corporate and franchisee level.

Compile a list in a spreadsheet and save it for later.

Next you will want to compare each of these competitors on your list to individual locations for your franchisees.

For instance, if you have a franchisee located just outside of Nashville, examine if those same corporate competitors have locations here too. Chances are, you will uncover more data on competitors by doing so.

Adding them to the list, you should have a large list of potential competition. The last step is marketing research:

What are your competitors doing to market their business? What social media platforms are they on? How often do they post on them? What content do they publish on social media? Are they using Google Ads? Do they have a blog where they write content?

All of these questions will play a role in what you focus on in your marketing plan. For example, if your competitors aren’t blogging, that’s a huge opportunity for you. If they are dominating social media, you will have to put more stock into social to establish your own presence.

Research the following factors and rank them from importance to decide where you will start to target:

  • Social media: note how often they publish, how engaged their following is, and what type of content they post.
  • Blogging: How often do they blog? What is the content about?
  • Customer service: What channels do they use for service? Compare those to your current service offerings.
  • Paid advertising: Do they advertise on Google Ads? Conduct a search for their brand to see if they show for paid ads.
  • Local SEO: local marketing is how well you are ranking for local searches in your niche. What local keywords or PPC campaigns are they running? How is their Google My Business Profile? What local events are they sponsoring?
  • Offline marketing:  What offline marketing tactics are they using? Direct mail? Booths? Fliers? Billboards? Radio? Conventions? Sponsoring local events?

After you have compiled all of this data in a spreadsheet, you should have a clear picture of what the competition is doing. This serves a dual purpose:

  1. It tells you what the baseline of your marketing has to be to remain competitive in the market.
  2. It shows you areas that your competition isn’t succeeding with, giving you direct chances to take market share in that area.

Now, let’s identify a target audience before hitting the ground running!

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Identify and Locate Your Target Audience

Identifying your target audience is key for multiple reasons. Without a clearly defined target audience, you will struggle to communicate value that resonates with your customer base.

For instance, if you are a retail franchise selling clothes for millennial business workers but you are reaching CEO’s in their 50s and 60s, you won’t be selling much product.

Identifying your target audience and locating them is critical. If you place your business in the wrong location, it could be far out of the way and inconvenient for your target market.

For instance, you wouldn’t want to buy land in the suburbs if your business was catering to people living in populated city areas.

If you don’t currently have much of an online presence, you can craft a few distinct factors to identify and locate your ideal targets:

  • Demographics: Age range, genders, etc.
  • Income: average income / disposable income
  • Pain points: what your average customer has trouble with that you can fix or provide
  • Online or offline: where your target market is most receptive
  • General locations: geographic locations where your target market is densely populated

If you already have an online presence, use tools like Facebook’s audience insights to analyze your current audience for marketing campaigns.

This data can be found on the Facebook Business Manager. Essentially, these insights will give you data on who engages with your Facebook business page the most, signifying their interests and other demographic data that can help you build a target market:

Factors like location and job title will help you build local connections and personas for different target markets.

This becomes especially critical when building a marketing plan for each individual franchisee.

Once you have a clear-cut audience nailed down for your franchise and franchisees, it’s time to focus on branding.

Create A Marketing Plan

In 2016, here at HigherVisibility, we conducted a “Franchise Industry Marketing Survey” in which nearly 2,000 franchise businesses and professionals were contacted to provide feedback.

In this study, we found some shocking results on the state of franchise marketing.

According to survey results, traditional marketing channels that are mostly offline were not delivering the results that franchises were looking for:

Only 39.47% of those surveyed said that their direct marketing efforts were paying off.

The majority said they weren’t, and nearly 20% said they weren’t sure.

This allude to multiple issues with the current state of franchise marketing:

  1. Too much of it is focused on offline tactics, leaving online marketing on the back burner and halting growth
  2. The disconnect between offline marketing tactics (like direct mail, etc) and tracking data

In this section, we will help you craft a digital marketing presence that helps your franchise get found and perfect your offline presence to accurately track data.

Let’s get started.

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Enter your email and instantly get a template to help you build out your franchise marketing plan.

Craft Your Digital Presence

Digital marketing isn’t just for online-only businesses or tech companies.

According to Google’s research, 80% of consumers (or 4 out of every 5 people) use search engines to find local information on businesses:

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Crafting a strong digital presence is critical to meeting the needs of common user behavior.

Nowadays, everyone heads to Google before doing any sort of business with a company. To meet these needs, you have to create an online presence that attracts, delights, and converts searchers into paying customers.

Here are a few key marketing tactics to focus on when building your digital footprint.

Website / Content Development

Building out your corporate website is a given. But just how do you do it?

How do you create a website for your business that attracts qualified customers time and time again?

There are two distinctive routes you can take with franchise marketing and websites:

  1. Building out a single, corporate website with company information and a business location finder to help people locate a franchise near them
  2. Build out websites for each individual franchisee.

The most common setup is the first option, which we will discuss here. We highly recommend NOT building out new websites for each individual franchisee.

Selecting the first choice, you can build up your corporate website with valuable content, videos, and information for customers (and those looking to franchise) without competing against yourself.

Setting up websites for every franchisee can lead to competition issues for similar content ideas and keyword searches. I.e, duplicate content issues and competing against your own franchisees.

For instance, both the franchisor and franchisee would be competing for articles about DIY bed bug treatments.

This can lead to burdensome maintenance and even penalty issues with Google.

So, where do you start? By creating content. Content is king for growing your business and brand.

No matter what industry you are in, people will be looking for helpful content in that space.

According to HubSpot data, companies in both the B2B and B2C realms get the most website traffic by blogging more often:

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In fact, consumer facing brands generate more leads, sales, and brand awareness by implementing a blog to their website:

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Posting 11 or more times per month will generate far more leads than not posting or just posting a few times.

What do you post?

To generate ideas, look at common keywords that your customers are searching for.

If you have Google Analytics established, you can look at the on-site search report for starter ideas. This report shows what people are searching for directly on your site:

You can quickly turn these into information blog posts on your website.

Using Google as a resource, you can find suggestions and commonly searched questions in your space. To do so, start typing a general question that your customers likely have. Sticking with the pest control theme, a common search would be, “best ways to treat bed bugs.”

In the results, you will see a “People also ask” box, giving you additional topics that you can write about for your website:

At the bottom of the search results page, use the related searches section to capture even more topic ideas:

Repeat this process for any topic that you can think of (or any topic in your on-site search report)!

Set goals for your content strategy:

  • How often you want to publish new content
  • What topics you want to cover
  • How in-depth your content will be in length and topic coverage

Steps for franchisors: Develop your corporate website with content on a consistent basis. If you are looking to enable franchisees to create and scale their own content marketing efforts, produce materials to guide them:

  • Logos / assets to use
  • Topics to cover (and what not to cover)
  • Guidelines: how long the content should be, what it should accomplish

Establishing set rules will make the hand-off  process of marketing materials to franchisees easier, without tons of back and forth or miscommunication.  A great place to store this information is a private company knowledge base software where your franchisees can access the info and follow tutorials on how to use it properly. For instance, Asana’s knowledge base:

Steps for franchisees: if your franchisor allows you to produce your own content for business growth, request materials from them on guidelines and rules to follow. Utilize a knowledge base for improvement and growth. This will help to ensure that your branding remains consistent across all channels and franchisees.

Local SEO

Local search engine optimization is one of (if not the most) important facets of franchise marketing.

When someone searches on Google for a local business, you need your franchisee’s locations to display immediately.

If they don’t, the odds of them getting the sale and securing business drop dramatically.

And that impacts both the franchisor and the franchisee for income and growth.

A great start to Local SEO is optimizing your local business profile to display key information for browsing users:

When a search is conducted, each franchise location should show up with key information and a direct map location.

Information like business hours, address, reviews, phone numbers, appointment scheduling, questions and answers, photos, and more. These should all be available for each franchisee location based on a user’s local search.

All of this information can be inputted and updated on Google My Business, where listings can be created for each franchised location.

Depending on how you structure it, you can give control to each local business listing to the franchisee, or control it at the corporate level.

But local SEO is far more than just a Google My Business profile.

More areas to assess are:

  1. Local on-page optimization: areas like schema markup for local searches, local keyword research, and local content marketing.
  2. Local event outreach: contacting and supporting local events to improve direct marketing
  3. Local link building: generating links from local companies strategically to help more local customers find your business. This can mean industry citations, business listing links, and more.

If you control it at the corporate level, you can hire someone that knows local SEO, avoiding potential complications of teaching SEO to franchisees. This circumvents potential disasters and can help you consistently rank for local searches. In doing so, you can control all of the information and updating each listing regularly.

If you give control to each franchisee, ensure that you give them proper materials and documents to help them with the setup process. Don’t throw them into the weeds and expect a masterpiece. Make sure to consistently follow up with each franchisee to keep the profile updated, respond to reviews, and make sure information is correct.

See also: Local SEO for Multi-Location Businesses

Paid search, also known as pay-per-click marketing, is creating paid advertisements that show up on Google searches or display partner websites.

For instance, those ads you see when searching for a product or business type:

These ads are a great way to boost brand visibility for both your corporate business and local franchises, not to mention generating direct sales and leads for the franchise.

Again, depending on how you want to structure the control of advertising, you can do it all from a single corporate account on Google Ads, or allowing each franchisee to manage their own advertising.

If you choose the latter, we recommend never letting a franchisee manage their own advertising fully.

The best approach would be to have a franchisee to pay into an ad fund that a franchise council determines how to allocate. The danger with this strategy is quality and consistency of the advertising.

For best performance, it’s likely that you will want to manage it in-house at the corporate level or through preferred vendors, as managing it is a full-time job and isn’t easy for beginners.

For promoting your corporate business, focus on brand awareness and keywords that aren’t local. For instance:

  • Best termite company
  • Bed bug removal

For advertising for franchisees, you will want to target local keywords to capture a local audience:

  • Best termite company in [location 1]
  • Bed bug removal [location 1]

In doing so, you also want to set a target radius for advertising in each local area to ensure you are capturing local business.

Social Media

Social media is a great way to build favorable brand awareness in your local markets, and even generate direct sales.

According to the latest research, consumers are 71% more likely to buy from your company if they have a good social media interaction / experience.

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Social media can be used for anything from talking directly with customers, solving support issues, driving sales or leads, or just creating great posts that engage your target market.

For your franchisees, this is one channel that is very easy to run. But like others, it needs maintenance, consistency, and branding.

When developing social media for your franchise and franchisees, be sure to nail the following:

  • Scheduling: Set out a clear schedule for your franchisees to follow. Be sure to tell them how many times they should post per week (we recommend at least once a day of high quality content). Help them get setup on a scheduling tool like Buffer to do the posts in advance and make sure they stay on track.
  • Branding: Supply them with the right branding materials, like images and logos that they can use as profile pictures.
  • Tone: Educate franchisees on the tone that the social profile should craft. The key with franchising is consistency. You want all franchises to communicate the same information.
  • Guidelines: Be sure to list what is off limits and guide them on every step from scheduling to posting to responding to customers.

On the Facebook Business Manager, your corporate franchise can manage all Facebook pages using the locations feature:

Each franchisee will have their own Facebook page linked to the location. This makes it easy for you to keep track of each franchise and the efforts they make to improve social media.

On social media, you can also take advantage of Facebook advertising to drive leads and sales.

For example, running ad campaigns to local markets for coupons and discounts:

Or use lead-form ads on Facebook to drive new consultations and quotes:

Facebook advertising is a fantastic way to grow direct revenue and should be utilized heavily for your franchise and franchisees.

Establish Re-marketing and Generate Email Lists

Re-marketing is the marketing strategy of sending further marketing messages to people who have engaged with your site or messaging before.

For instance, let’s say that someone heads to Google and searches for “termite company near me.”

They find your website and click to it, exploring the options you offer. They decide not to buy anything today, so they leave.

You can’t email them just yet, since they didn’t provide any of that information. Instead, you need re-marketing.

Re-marketing allows you to display marketing messages to those users based on what pages they visit on your website, or even engagements from social media.

In doing so, you can attempt to get their email and contact info.

Re-marketing can easily be set up directly in Google Ads via the Audience Manager.

For re-marketing ads, you want to focus on acquiring leads for your business and for franchisees.

One goal here is to collect email contact info that your franchisees can use to build their businesses. Another could be to re-target people that failed to fill out a lead form, bringing them back to hopefully get them to convert next time.

Focus your advertisements on high quality content, like reports, videos, social media content, and more:

Once you have collected (or helped to collect) contacts, you can guide your franchisees on how to send good email marketing campaigns.

One great example of an email campaign is from a franchise business is Potbelly:

Keeping the tone neutral, they focus on offering discounts and deals to their customers via email. Providing helpful links at the top, like Order Now and Find a Shop, customers will be able to locate their local franchise and use the coupon.

To keep things consistent, develop templates for your franchises for various email marketing goals:

  • Promoting general coupons and discounts
  • Announcing events
  • Big changes to store hours or offerings

Developing these templates in advance, your franchisees will have consistent messaging and a template to turn to for creating great email campaigns that reflect positively on the brand as a whole.

Don’t Neglect an Offline Marketing Presence

Online marketing is supremely effective for just about any business and any business goal.

But that doesn’t mean you should drop traditional efforts, especially if they are already doing well.

Here are a few offline marketing methods you can establish for your franchise and franchisees to utilize for business growth.

Direct Mail Marketing

Direct mail marketing is still a valuable tactic for most businesses. Latest data shows that over 100 million adults in the United States purchased from direct mail catalogs in 2016 alone.

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Direct mail can be a great tool for delivering coupons and incentives or even more information to customers.

Direct mail can also help you to up-sell existing customers and continue their loyalty.

Postcards, fliers, and coupons are easy to generate at scale, too.

Radio and Television

Radio and TV ads are still immensely popular, but can be much more costly than most online and offline marketing tactic, not to mention harder to attribute ROI to.

Direct mail is very cheap to run, whereas radio spots can cost from $200 to $5,000 weekly.

TV advertising is always going to be more expensive.

If you have just begun franchising, consider putting these formats on the back burner for now.

Outdoor advertising

Outdoor advertising, like billboards and posters, are another solid offline marketing channel to encourage your franchisees to use.

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Depending on where your franchise locations are, billboards and posters can drive tons of local traffic, as well as people passing through the local area.

If you decide to proceed, be sure to give your franchisees the proper materials to create billboard ads, like logos, creative, and more.

Try tailoring the creative to each individual location to personalize the messaging if possible.

Grassroots Marketing Tactics

Grassroots marketing tactics should be your go-to offline marketing tactic.

Grassroots marketing usually involves referrals, participation in local community events, hosting events, raising money for local communities / charities, and sponsoring events.

No matter where your franchise or franchisees are located, you will be able to find local events to host or sponsor.

For instance, Great Clips’ corporate franchise hosts career events to find new potential managers and franchise owners.

And their individual franchise locations often host events in local areas or support local causes:

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This dual-approach provides business growth opportunities for your franchise and franchise owners.

Establish a Loyalty / Rewards Program

Loyalty and rewards programs are a fantastic way to keep customers coming back to your business locations.

According to recent studies, 66.3% of consumers will shop at your store if you have a loyalty rewards app.

Plus, loyal customers spend 66% more with a business over their customer lifespan.

Potbelly is a great example again of using loyalty and rewards to keep customers dining with them:

Using their mobile app, your purchases go straight into your profile, helping to build rewards for future free items.

Pro tip for loyalty programs: reward customers with smaller rewards, faster. The biggest complaint in regards to loyalty programs is that it takes far too long to get rewards.

Similarly, Chick-Fil-A has a mobile application rewards program to incentivize repeat business.

With rewards programs, you can run them directly at the corporate level too, making it an easy addition that franchisees can benefit from without worrying about training them to run it!

Developing a rewards program also helps you sell your franchises to potential owners, as it’s a great marketing tool that can help them increase sales and grow the business.

Next Steps

Franchise marketing is much more complex than marketing a single business.

You have both a corporate business to brand and market, as well as individual franchisees that need customers.

Navigating both without capsizing one is tricky. It is much easier if you lay the foundation for this early, rather than implementing brand new systems of marketing later on.

But using local marketing both offline and online, you can produce powerful campaigns that distinguish between the two.

The next steps are to craft your very own Franchise Marketing Game plan.

Thankfully for you, we’ve developed a franchise marketing template that you can download and put to work instantly.

Get Your Free Franchise Marketing Plan Template

Enter your email and instantly get a template to help you build out your franchise marketing plan.

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