How to Design and Implement a Successful Franchise Marketing Plan
Marketing a franchise business involves significantly greater challenges than marketing a small local company. As a franchisor, you may need to coordinate advertising costs for each of your franchise owners, and balance your digital marketing efforts across multiple channels in several different geographical areas — all while maintaining a consistent brand identity, and keeping relations positive among current and potential franchisees.
Still, some careful pre-planning, precise targeting, and content consistency can help you deliver strong ROI for each of your franchisees, and for your organization as a whole. By recognizing what’s unique about each franchise, adapting your targeting accordingly, and learning from the results, you’ll soon develop an iterative process for fine-tuning your tactics — enabling you to attract more customers, make more sales, and acquire more franchisees.
Here, we’re going to break down the most crucial steps to winning the franchise marketing game, by designing and implementing a strategy that’ll set you up for success.
Steps to Creating a Successful Franchise Marketing Plan:
- Create a consistent brand playbook for your franchisees to follow.
- Define the target audience segments for each franchise’s marketing.
- Prioritize marketing channels for each segment and franchise location.
- Prepare several weeks’ worth of targeted content for every franchise.
- Help each franchisee automate a steady cadence of targeted content.
- Review each franchisee’s content to ensure it’s unique and market-optimized.
- Encourage your franchisees to follow and capitalize on content trends.
- Study and learn from analytics to fine-tune your marketing tactics.
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Brand consistency is key to successful franchise marketing — and this can be a delicate balance. On the one hand, each franchisee should be able to tailor their marketing to their own customer base. On the other hand, it’s essential to prevent franchisees from drifting so far off-message that their branches are no longer recognizable as part of your brand.
You can help your franchisees maintain this level of consistency by putting together a detailed brand book. Your book should start with a clear explanation of your brand identity, along with your brand story — the problem you’re solving, how you’re solving it, and why. It should also include precise guidelines on logos, fonts, words, imagery, and color palettes to be used in each location’s marketing. Service and communication best practices are good to specify, too.
Innovation and creativity are great to encourage — as long as they’re consistent with your overall brand voice, and the goals and messaging of your marketing. The more clearly your franchisees understand your book’s guidelines, the more they’ll be able to contribute to your marketing strategy with their own creative ideas while reinforcing the consistent brand identity and story you’re working to get across to your audience.
Although your corporate marketing department probably has a core target audience in mind, your franchisees are often your best source for accurate customer data. They know who’s buying from their franchises, how those audiences are finding them, and why customers in that local area choose your brand over the competition. That real-world information will help you select audience segments that are likely to see and respond to your marketing — which will guide you in choosing campaign channels, and in crafting impactful sales content.
If your franchisees already use a turnkey customer relationship management (CRM) system, the data they’ve collected can provide invaluable insights about your most responsive customers. Encourage your franchisees to conduct surveys — in person, via email, or both — to find out how potential customers in their local area hear about your brand, why they choose you over competitors, and which features of your product or service they find most attractive.
Organize each location’s customers into groups (a.k.a. “audience segments”), according to their interests, the value propositions they’re most responsive to, and the platforms where they discover your brand. Different franchise locations will likely have different sets of customer segments — and that’s actually a good thing. The more precisely you can tailor your tactics for each franchise location, the greater ROI you can deliver for each of your franchisees, and for your organization as a whole.
Now that you’ve got target audience segments for each of your franchise locations, the next step is to figure out how and where to connect with those people. Ideally, you’d want a combination of blog articles, social media posts, video ads, locally targeted franchise SEO, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, email campaigns, and offline sales — all supporting one another in a unified omnichannel marketing strategy. But if that’s a bit much for your time and budget, the next-best approach is to prioritize the channels that generate the most leads at the lowest cost.
You may be surprised to learn that personalized emails generate 35 times more click-throughs than social media posts, resulting in ROI as high as 3,800 percent. But remember to keep your messaging focused, since emails with a single call to action (CTA) can increase click rates by 371 percent, and sales by 1,617 percent. SEO is also essential since 55 percent of searchers click on a website in the top three spots. So make sure each franchise’s website and business listing include keywords relevant to their local area. It’s generally a smart idea to supplement SEO with PPC advertising, which will ensure your franchises show up in search results for location-specific keywords. PPC is particularly crucial on Google’s display network, which reaches 90 percent of all internet users.
A social media presence is crucial, too; since customers are 71 percent more likely to purchase from a brand after a positive social-media experience — while a single negative social experience from just one of your franchisees makes a potential customer 50 percent more likely to boycott your brand entirely. The ideal choice of social platform(s) depends on each franchise location’s customer demographics. Franchisees with an older customer base may want to focus on Facebook, while locations with younger customers may prefer to prioritize apps like Twitter and Instagram. Along the way, remember to cultivate positive online reviews, since they influence 93 percent of customers’ purchase decisions, and can even determine whether franchise locations show up in GPS map searches.
It’s not enough just to create loads of content. To make it to the top of customers’ search results, your content needs to be relevant to each audience segment, unique to each franchise’s local area, and structured in a way that’s easy for search engines to understand. It’s also important to recognize that good content takes time to create — so before you launch your campaign, make sure each franchisee has several weeks’ worth of unique content prepared in advance.
Your franchisees will want to post on social media channels one or two times a day, and publish a minimum of three blog posts each week. Factor in videos, infographics and other media, and you’re looking at around 30 pieces of original content per franchisee, just for the next three weeks alone. This may sound like a big up-front investment — but the more content you prepare ahead of time, the more effectively you’ll be able to orchestrate your marketing strategy.
The good news is that you don’t have to create all this content yourself. In fact, you’ll get much better sales results by encouraging franchisees to write their own blog articles and social media posts, tailored for their local markets. For pieces of content that require more technical expertise, like videos and infographics, consider giving franchisees the budget to hire experienced freelance creators — or allow them to customize corporate content for their target audiences.
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Many marketers make the mistake of pumping out way too much content in the short term, then failing to maintain a steady rhythm over time. This is a major red flag for search engines, which prefer consistency and quality over volume. As long as you keep a few weeks of content in reserve, you’ll always be able to schedule an optimal number of posts for each channel over the course of each week. Stick to your schedule, and content cadence should be a breeze.
Automation will prove extremely useful when it comes to keeping your cadence steady. For example, most blog platforms let you schedule posts in advance, so they’ll be published automatically at the dates and times you specify. Social media automation tools, meanwhile, will let your franchisees schedule an entire week’s worth of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts in just minutes.
At the same time, the task of automation itself can sometimes slip below more urgent priorities. You can help prevent this by making content automation check-ins a part of your organization’s weekly routine. In each status meeting, ask your franchisees how much content they’ve prepared for the coming week and whether they’ve scheduled it to be published in a consistent cadence. These check-ins can also serve as opportunities to skim through the scheduled content and correct any issues that could interfere with your brand’s overall strategy.
Looking over your franchisees’ posts in advance can prevent another common marketing mistake: SEO interference. If several different franchises use the same keywords, they’re liable to interfere with each other’s search rankings — and as a result, they’ll all end up ranked lower. Franchisees should also avoid copy-pasting text from each others’ sites and social profiles, too, because search engines penalize duplicate content. In both these ways, your franchisees can unintentionally undercut each others’ marketing efforts, and hurt your brand as a whole.
To maximize your organic search ROI, each franchisee should post their own unique content, targeted around long-tail keywords specific to their local area and audience segments. If your corporate office approves, it’s also a smart idea to help each franchise build out their own micro-site, packed with useful pages optimized for their area and audience. When every franchisee tailors their targeting in cooperation with the others, each individual branch has a much better shot at dominating the organic search rankings in their own market — which can increase website visits by as much as 4,900 percent.
The world’s digital ecosystem is evolving at an ever-accelerating rate. Brand-new apps, social platforms, and technologies appear nearly every month; and some become so popular that your brand can’t afford to ignore them. TikTok, for example, was considered a minor “test market” as recently as 2020 — but users now spend more time there than on Facebook, attracting major ad spend from brands that consider the platform a crucial target for their social campaigns.
Whether your brand decides to advertise on TikTok or not, the point remains the same: to maximize the impact of your franchise marketing strategy, you’ve got to speak to your audience segments about the topics they’re interested in, on the platforms where they’re most engaged. And since those topics and platforms are constantly changing, the only way to stay relevant is to keep a close eye on content trends — and encourage your franchisees to do the same in their own local areas.
Google Trends is a great place to start. This free site allows you to view volume charts for any term that people type into the world’s biggest search engine. It even lets you compare the popularity of several search terms over the same time period, within specific geographical areas, so you can make more informed decisions about which terms to target. This information can help your franchisees take the initiative, by posting relevant, on-brand content about the week’s hottest topics.
It’s equally helpful to track trending hashtags on all the social media platforms where your brand is active. Top tags will keep you up-to-date on the latest topics of conversation and can inspire your franchisees to chime in with clever, relevant responses. Using a popular hashtag can even boost your social visibility, by increasing your posts’ likelihood of showing up in search results. Just make sure that, unlike some bumbling marketers, your franchisees fully understand the context and meaning of any hashtag they plan to use.
Once your franchise marketing plan starts delivering results, it’s time to dive into the numbers. Google Analytics can help you figure out where each franchise’s clicks are coming from, which keywords are driving the most traffic, which branches have low call-to-lead ratios, and how visitors behave on each branch’s website.
All this info will help you pinpoint roadblocks in each franchise’s marketing funnel, and improve current and potential customers’ experiences with your brand. And while studying metrics can be dry, number-intensive work, it’s well worth the time investment — since businesses that learn from their analytics are 72 percent more likely to develop an effective marketing strategy.
Successful franchise marketing requires significant investment, and it takes time and patience to get right. But by supporting communication between franchise owners and the corporate level, you’ll enable franchisees to deliver meaningful customer experiences, maintain excellent public relations, drive positive reviews, and fuel strong word-of-mouth that’ll keep potential customers coming through their doors. Coordinate these elements into a unified franchise marketing plan, and you’ll soon start licensing more franchises, and scaling your brand into a household name.
Since 2009, we have helped hundreds of local businesses grow their online leads and sales strategically. Let us do it for you!