Franchise marketing has not historically received the level of attention or importance that it deserves. The truth is that it can be harder for franchised businesses to stand out locally.
The brand name and reputation of the overall franchise goes a long way in helping with marketing but it is important franchisees and franchisors realise that the marketing efforts should not stop there.
Increasingly, local businesses have become a lot more aggressive in local marketing and to continue to compete, franchised businesses need to keep up.
The Importance of Franchise Marketing for the Franchisee
The key reason franchise marketing is important for franchisees is to ensure businesses can continue to create a truly local experience.
If you run a food or beverage business, or a class teaching or cleaning business, customers will want to seek out the best local options. That typically means best across quality, service and cost.
First, they need to be able to find your business and see it represented digitally as well as other local businesses are. As such, your franchise needs to be able to compete from the point of an initial customer search query in Google and other search engines.
Although the national brand will be well known to most people, and significant amounts of training and investment go in at franchisor level to ensure consistency of process, service, and standards, customers still want certainty around the quality of their local business.
If bookings are or can be made online, then it will be important you are able to drive large amounts of traffic to your site. This is especially important if your domain name is not the same as the franchisor domain.
All these areas can be addressed by effective franchisee marketing. Although traditional marketing such as print, radio, and TV has historically worked for franchised businesses, digital franchise marketing is the topic of this article given you can more easily assess investment vs. return and also given this is where consumer’s attention is today.
Key Areas of Franchise Marketing
It is important to understand that there will be some nuances for franchised businesses that will be different from non-franchised businesses.
An example of this is the freedom (or lack thereof) franchisees may have in setting the digital agenda, and the extent to which they can have their own domains, social media handles etc.
As such, the areas of franchise marketing to consider below will be applicable in varying degrees for each franchisee business.
Website & Mobile Optimisation
Websites need to load quickly (around 3 seconds) and you can use tools online in order to assess what this looks like for your business. Sites that load slower frustrate potential customers who are likely to leave to find what they are looking for from a competitor.
For franchisees where you do not have your own domain but are part of a franchisors main domain (i.e. you have a subdomain such as https://www.franchisename.com/yourcity), you can still ensure you optimise your page for better web search.
The principal area for this would be in terms of using the correct images. Larger images on a page make that page load slower. If you ensure you only use the size of image as necessary, that will work very well for allowing your specific location page to load quickly.
Given the amount of time people spend on mobile, websites need to be optimised for the web. Increasingly, more and more purchases are happening by mobile, which further necessitates the need for mobile optimisation.
If your domain is part of the main franchise page, this should already be done for you. Open up the website on your mobile to see if this is the case.
If you operate your own domain then you can use Mobiletest.me to see if the page is optimised for different devices and what you can do to improve this further.
Keyword research is about identifying the key terms that your customers would use in Google and other search engines in order to solve a problem that you can address for them. For example, someone looking to buy a birthday cake may type “birthday cake [town name]”. If you run a franchisee business making birthday cakes, these would be the kind of keywords you should pay attention to.
Once identified, you can then optimise a website or page for that or those terms.
If properly optimised, it will ensure that over time, your page will feature highly in Google for whenever people search for that term. As a result, you will get more traffic to your page that you can convert to customers to grow your business.
This works well irrespective of if you have your franchise under your own domain or if you have a subdomain page that is a part of the main franchise website. If you have the latter, you just need to optimise your specific page for the keyword term.
In terms of what keywords you should optimise for, this is an exercise of identifying what your customers would search for if they wanted to buy your product. We gave a brief example earlier.
You can use Google Search Console to see search terms that people already search for on the franchise web page, although you may need to get this information from the franchisor. From here you will be able to assess what the relevant terms are for your location that you should optimise your page for.
Alternatively, type an appropriate term for your business in Google and see what comes up. For example, if you run a coffee franchise in Boston, you might type “coffee Boston”. Then see if your business ranks and if so, where in Google it ranks.
The objective is to get your company ranking as one of the top three searches on the page as they get the most clicks.
You could then compare against those companies ranking higher than you and pay attention to their keywords to see what they may be doing better than you so that you can improve your own page or your site.
Social Media Marketing
We appreciate social media may be out of your hands as a franchisee and may be controlled exclusively by the franchisor at head office. If this is the case then giving social media update suggestions to the franchisors is a good idea to market your business.
This could be for example, if you have received positive feedback, or have hit a milestone for your franchise. These kinds of examples not only help your business, but they also help the franchise more widely to share interesting and useful content that also engages its wider audience base.
When considering the above initiative, you will be able to see the importance of creating an effective local experience.
Online reviews, which we will discuss next, are the best example of franchises being able to use franchise marketing to deliver exceptional local experiences.
The Importance of Online Reviews for Franchise Marketing
Online reviews have been proven time and again with regards what they bring for any business, especially consumer-facing businesses that have an online presence.
Some key statistics will help to underline the importance of online reviews for your business.
- Over 90% of consumers read online reviews before even considering a purchase
- The purchase likelihood for a product with five reviews is 270% greater than a product with zero reviews
- Most customers don’t trust reviews that are more than three months old
- Increasing your star rating by 1.5 can lead to 13,000 more leads to your business
- 31% more is spent on businesses with excellent reviews
It should be clear in today’s day and age that consumer-led businesses cannot operate without a proper strategy for online reviews in order to grow the business.
For franchised businesses, online reviews are even more important as they can provide the local experience and insights customers want in their town and cities. Even though the franchisor has its own reputation and brand, it is important for franchisees to carve out their own reputation and local reviews are an excellent way of them doing this.
Relying on an open platform such as Facebook or Google for reviews is not the best idea given anyone can write a review, even if they haven’t purchased from you. This can often be to the detriment of your own online reputation as open platforms can, unfortunately, encourage fake or manipulated review behaviour.
We will show in the next section how you can address these concerns to ensure all reviews are genuine and build your online reputation positively.
How to Use Online Reviews in Franchise Marketing
Using online reviews for your franchise business should not be a passive endeavour. Rather it should be something you are proactive about, as this will generate the best results.
Ask for More Reviews
We have already seen how more reviews not only generate more trust but also bring more credibility online. More reviews typically also mean more positive reviews as they encourage the masses of customers that have positive experiences to share their opinions. This is important, as usually, it is largely those who have had a bad experience who are more vocal about their experiences which presents an unbalanced picture.
In order to get more reviews, the easiest tactic is just to ask. Evidence has shown that those who are asked to leave a review are 76% more likely to leave one.
This is why leaving it for people to write a review on Google is not a good strategy. You will not be capturing all reviews and you are more likely to get more negative reviews that way.
Respond to All Reviews
Customers want to see that a business takes their feedback seriously. A good way to show this and to stand out from the competition is to respond to all reviews, whether positive or negative.
Ideally, you should respond to reviews shortly after they are written or then as soon as you can. This shows consumers that this franchise is responsive, that their reputation is being managed online, and that they care about consumer concerns.
Deal with Negative Reviews Quickly
In the process of responding to all reviews, you will inevitably come across negative reviews.
A lot of business owners are intimidated by the prospect of negative reviews but there is no need to be. All businesses receive negative reviews, including some of the best brands in the world. There is no way to avoid this.
Rather than freeze up when you get negative reviews the best thing to do is to prioritize them and respond to them as soon as possible. Try to understand the issue the customers had and try to take the conversation off the review platform by offering an email address or phone number that they can call.
Clearly you should try to address the problem and if you can, it is a great idea to ask the customer to update their review if they feel their issue has been resolved.
Share Positive Reviews on Social Media
Reviews are testaments to experiences individuals have with your business. As such, you want to spread the message of this far and wide.
Sharing positive reviews on social media is a great way to do this so that others can see what a positive business you are. This may be difficult if you do not have a local social media handle for the franchise, in which case you can offer positive review content to head office for them to share on your behalf.
Another great tactic to use when using social media is to use the right hashtags so you can attract new customers.
A hashtag that shows your location such as #islington if you are based in this borough of London or #brooklyn for the borough of New York, alerts the business to other potential customers in your catchment area who may search those hashtags on social media.
Reviews can be much more powerful in order to get broader insights to inform a business owner around what’s working and what is not working in a business.
Capturing insights over time through a form of sentiment analysis will allow franchisees to understand what they are doing well and what needs further attention.
This kind of analysis can be useful as it can bring up surprising results as people usually focus on the very positive or very negative whilst in reality, there is a vast array of other sentiments your customers may be having in-between that you may completely miss.
Use a Third-Party Review Platform
We touched on the importance of authentic reviews earlier. Even though customers find online reviews extremely helpful in order to make purchasing decisions, they are increasingly becoming sceptical of them due to the issues around fake and manipulated reviews.
To combat this, it is a good idea to use an independent third-party review platform to capture reviews for you.
This is what we focus on at Syntellio and why we built the platform in the first place. Not only do we collect more reviews on your behalf that you can share across social media, but we also allow you to respond to reviews, and gather insights.
Set up is easy and only requires one link from your local franchisee page to our site where the reviews are hosted. We do all the rest including setting things up for you.
The Importance of Online Reviews for the Franchisor
In addition to being useful for franchisees, online reviews are also extremely helpful for franchisors.
Online reviews can be used by franchisors for them to understand what issues are emerging at local levels. Indeed, reviews can also be used to see which stores are doing particularly well that others can learn from.
This information is great to provide insights for local or national training, based on the local feedback that franchisors can review.
Online reviews captured in this kind of granular manner provide real tangible, authentic data that can be used by franchisors to set goals and standards across the whole franchise network and for different franchisees to learn from what is working and what’s not across other locations.
We hope you can see why franchisees and franchisors need to buy into digital marketing on a national scale. Although some franchises have started adopted digital marketing more effectively, the truth is many franchises are a long way behind.
Customers’ attention is not on traditional advertising like before and digital marketing provides a real opportunity for franchisees to compete at a local level with other smaller, more nimble businesses that have the full suite of digital marketing at their fingertips.
Online reviews in particular can provide great insight for franchisees and franchisors to run the business better.
As long as reviews are collected to ensure authenticity, for example, through an independent third-party, that information can be extremely powerful.
Let us know if you collect online reviews for your franchise, or if you don’t, what’s holding you back.