3 Tips on How to Empower Your Franchisees to Acquire Local Customers
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People buy franchises for two reasons. First, they hope to be backed by experts in running a successful business. Second, they want to attach themselves to a strong brand everyone has heard of. The industry standard for franchisors is to provide training, technology and resources to support their franchisees. They don’t let them go out on their own.
When a multi-unit owner opens another car-repair service, he does so because he’s keen on cars, not on SEO. Franchisees reasonably assume the head office will take care of that. Are they right? No — at least in most cases. Here’s why.
The broad marketing framework for franchises works like this: At the national level, marketing is about value and brand awareness. It’s not about driving customers to a specific store, but rather about raising the profile of all the stores across the network.
When it comes to local marketing, franchisees lack knowledge and support. So, they often turn to agencies or are left sandwiched between search algorithms, incomplete listing profiles, negative reviews and dropping star ratings. If your franchisees lose their local competition, your brand may lose yours — globally.
Franchisors need to understand that when it comes to local marketing, it takes two to tango. To win local customers, they must provide practical support and always have one eye on their franchisees’ business performance. Support packaged like a local marketing program could even distinguish your entire franchise offering. Here are three drivers for local customer acquisition made from the corporate perspective:
1. Choose your local marketing approach: ongoing training or in-house execution
Your local marketing program can be executed in two ways. Success in local markets can be reached by, first, implementing continuous learning opportunities for franchise owners. A training program that’s developed and delivered well will give franchisees confidence as well as hard skills. If you don’t already offer an employee-learning framework, it’s worth considering how you can give your franchisees the tools to develop a competent workforce.
PromoRepublic’s clients, travel agency Expedia Cruises and healthcare franchise Medi-Weightloss, for example, provide walk-through videos and webinars on local marketing while maintaining a central information hub to store best practices and FAQs.
The second option is to do local marketing for your franchisees. After all, one of the benefits of franchising is corporate support to help grow a business more quickly than it could be done otherwise.
To take things off their franchise owners, a family of home service brands, Authority Brands, offers local marketing programs. Their corporate marketing team commits to building infrastructure on behalf of the franchise owners and sets up a dedicated team that can perform, rather than only coach.
The head office then measures the success of individual locations. This involves dashboards and reporting, not just to share with franchise owners but also to hold the marketing team executing these programs accountable. What gets measured gets improved.
2. Make organic lead generation easier for franchisees
Brand discovery and the customer journey look a lot different today. People now feel free to shop wherever it’s easiest for them, using a mix of channels. For example, last year, 53% of holiday shoppers in the U.S. checked online to see if a product was in stock before going to the store to buy it.
When switching online/offline, customers expect continuity and the same experience. To meet these expectations and capture more leads organically, franchise brands grow their investments in digital marketing, aiming to build a unified omnichannel presence. Their efforts usually center on:
Driving traffic to local landing pages: Before spending dollars on driving traffic to your website, ensure customers will get to a geo-specific landing page with the relevant information. Many established franchises like car-care brand, Ziebart, or educational Goldfish Swim School rely on traffic from social media, listings, or review sites and have grown their digital marketing budgets by about 50%. As a result, the swimming school website has gotten about 55% more traffic in the last 4 years.
Increasing search and map findability: Shoppers often have an idea of what they’re looking for, but they don’t necessarily know what product or brand they want. So, they do their window shopping online. The local SEO can be exactly what you need to help potential customers find your specific location and decide to buy from you. The fundamental points here are creating/managing GBP, automating listing and review management and tracking performance across each location.
Improving online reputation: People trust online reviews, search for recommendations on social media and rate businesses. This impacts businesses’ rankings and visibility on search and maps. Being seen is good for brand awareness, but to sell more, local businesses need customer trust. Franchises usually utilize online reputation management tools to improve and measure key metrics for this. What’s important here is to understand that your brand’s online reputation is a sum of the reputations of all your locations across the network.
3. Facilitate content localization, and praise individuality
In the industry, we often see franchisors providing all the social content for a franchise’s local page. But this causes local businesses to appear removed from the local community, inauthentiс and inhuman.
Though franchisors have significant reach, corporate marketers usually can’t localize messaging for different regions, let alone micro-segments of a city, such as neighborhoods or streets. This is the point where the head office could give franchise owners a choice while still staying behind the wheel.
However, franchisees are able to create content that resonates with the local community and addresses their customers’ pain points. Thus, they move beyond brand awareness to trust — a key next step before leads convert into customers.
The best way to give some freedom to franchise owners and allow them to add a local touch is by providing them with customizable content. This works excellently when the head office suggests templates and other pieces of content and allows editing. To avoid some franchisees going rogue, you can use design approval workflows and upload your brand kits to keep your branding intact.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.