Inspect a few franchise locations and you’re likely to find a great deal of consistency in branding, messaging, pricing, uniform, and even whether the bathrooms uses hand-towels or driers. One thing you probably won’t find, however, is a common franchise-wide approach to online marketing. It’s as though the last two decades of internet culture never touched the franchise business model. Which is odd, given the fact that most consumers search for and discover local services online, and that most franchise owners rely on online marketing as a critical channel to acquire new customers.
For decades, a franchise operator has made a promise to a potential franchisee, offering:
- The Power of My Brand – Going it alone, you’ll never be as known, recognizable or trusted as you would be with the weight of a franchise brand behind you; customers trust the image the franchise has built through television, radio, print and network advertising and the promise that a large corporation stands behind their buying decision.
- A Playbook for Success – You’re good at providing your service or product, but you don’t want the overhead, expense and headache of trying to devise your own strategies for pricing, promotions, execution, fulfillment, and more. I’ll give you my proven system for managing the entire business.
- Support & Experience – It’s a lonely world out there, and having the support and experience of a full network of business owners just like you who are part of our franchise gives you a large pool of resources to call upon when you need advice or support.
It’s a powerful, effective and valid offer, and there is tremendous value to the local franchise owner to participate. Unfortunately, most franchisees are left to go it alone in the complex, constantly evolving and competitive landscape of online marketing. This leads to a fragmented and inconsistent online presence, damaging the brand of the franchise and tasking each franchisee with yet another difficult business issue to manage.
It’s not necessarily an easy problem for the franchise operator to solve, however. The pace of technology, and the challenge of trying to be locally relevant in each market without the resources to manage every franchisee’s online presence, has made this a daunting challenge. Still, most franchise operators are pouring significant dollars and resources into providing online marketing support to their franchisees, but they’re not able to coordinate a comprehensive approach on their own.
Each franchise market is unique, offering and emphasizing a different set of service or product offerings than others based on the tastes, needs and competitive influences of their individual market. This can make it seem almost impossible for the franchise owner to craft a coordinated, brand-consistent, yet locally-relevant online strategy for each franchise location. A problem only exacerbated in a market where the technology, including changes in the search algorithms employed by Google, Bing and Yahoo, the paid-advertising bidding ranking systems of a vast network of paid advertising networks, and the advance of mobile devices and map-relevance, advances so rapidly that just keeping up at a corporate level is almost impossible.
Empowering the Franchise to fulfill the promise in the digital era is the core reason the Yodle Franchise business exists. Yodle advises its clients to:
- Rethink the ‘website’ purpose: Some websites serve as ‘brochures’, educating the customer on the unique benefits of the franchise product/service. These sites are critical, but the local site for each franchise location needs a different emphasis: ACTION. Local sites should be brand consistent, follow a structured domain-name policy, and provide pages heavily focused on converting customers into callers, emailers, and prospects.
- Localize your search terms: Do you call it ‘pop’ or ‘soda’? Search terms can vary by location, and include descriptions for areas, neighborhoods, or communities that don’t reconcile to the place names on a map. Your search term keywords need to be customized for each location, and for each organic or paid search provider.
- Avoid family fights: Without a coordinated approach derived from the franchise operator, the more eager franchisees will take it upon themselves to run paid advertising campaigns on the web. However, without the expertise and coordination of a centralized plan, they can end up raising the cost for everyone by competing on search terms, and clouding and confusing the franchise brand. Get together and coordinate, possibly aggregating your efforts regionally when you have a number of franchises saturated in a single market.
With the leadership of the franchise operator, and the cooperation of the franchisees, the network can create an online presence that rewards every participant, reflects the preferences of each local market, and maintains a constant and consistent brand for the franchise. With that, the promise of the franchise is restored in the digital era.