Franchises, at their core, are simply businesses. While many franchise activities can seem confusing because they are split between franchisors and franchisees, franchise marketing should be a united effort with a goal of driving positive business growth.
Not only do franchises need to worry about overall national brand messaging, franchisors also need to be aware of how their message breaks down at the local franchisee level. Avoid these five marketing mistakes and your franchise will present a consistent and positive image to customers.
Mistake #1: Not defining your marketing message
Whether you are building a franchise or have already established your business, your marketing message should speak to your original core values. Brand consistency is a defining feature of great franchise marketing and is reliant on a strong core marketing message.
Defining your marketing message early will set your brand identity and provide customers with a baseline for expectations.
Key areas you should focus on include customer service, operations, logo usage, advertising campaigns and quality control checks. While some of these areas are not traditionally thought of as “marketing,” you need to remember that marketing is everything a business does — from the name tag design that an employee wears to the promotional posters displayed in stores — that impact the franchise’s brand image.
Mistake #2: No guidelines
After you have defined your marketing message, you need to decide who will do the actual marketing — the franchisor or the franchisee?
Establish guidelines of how the marketing materials and messages can and should be used, as well as what the franchisee is responsible for. For any area the franchisee is responsible, make sure you give clear directions on how to accomplish each task.
For example, if your franchisees implement their own social media marketing, you should provide them with directions on how to set-up social profiles on networks, best practices and sample posts. When giving marketing freedoms to franchisees, highlight locations that are doing an exemplary job and share their success (and how they did it) with everyone.
The next three mistakes are problems that could easily be mitigated by providing marketing guidelines to franchisees.
Mistake #3: Micro sites
Local franchisees should have an online space available to them to share local activities and news, but separate micro sites are not the answer. In addition to weakening overall franchise SEO, separate franchisee micro sites can be confusing to customers.
Franchises should have a main website that allows franchisees to have sub-domain pages. Sub-domain pages keep the SEO juice flowing to one website, while giving customers the opportunity to find the specific location they are searching for. The sub-domain page can contain local contact information for each franchisee, deals/promotions or social activity.
Sub-domain pages are an area where it is a good idea to give your franchisees some creative freedom so that they can spark some fantastic local marketing ideas.
Mistake #4: Not having local listings
Just like you want all your franchisees to be discoverable on your main website, you also want each individual location to be easily found by customers in online searches.
Being listed on Google, Yelp and other local directories will help your franchisees be more visible online and drive more SEO back to your main website.
An example of good franchisee differentiation is Panera Bread. Panera Bread calls their St. Louis locations “Saint Louis Bread Co.,” in order to give these locations a local characteristic that differentiates them from other locations.
Mistake #5: Ignoring reviews
Not responding to reviews, whether a franchise or franchisee, leaves you at risk of losing business. 79% of people trust online ratings and reviews as much as personal recommendations, so a negative review can turn quite a bit of business away. However, responding to reviews can change the reviewers mind.
A negative or moderate review is often left soon after a visit, when emotions are running high. By listening and apologizing to a customer, you mellow emotions and give your reviewer time to change their mind about your business (and in turn, their review).
Don’t let review sites be one-way — respond and have conversations with your customers.
The best place to optimize local franchise marketing is with a local marketing platform. Vivial gives your franchise the ability to monitor ratings and reviews, share local deals, news and manage local listings (to name a few) — all with the touch of a button.