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Franchise Marketing 101: How to Compete with Online & Local Businesses

September 20, 2017 at 11:12 AM

franchise marketing tips

Franchises Have Unique Marketing Concerns and Opportunities

As of 2017, 2.9% of U.S. firms are franchises. That doesn’t sound like much at first. But that means almost 740,000 franchise establishments employ 7.9 million people. Franchises include popular business types from restaurants to car dealerships, grocery stores to gas stations. Franchise businesses have a huge impact on consumers' everyday life. Not surprisingly, franchise marketing has its own special challenges and advantages.

Local franchise marketing and branding concerns differ from independent businesses or branches of big brands. A franchisee pays for rights to operate a branch of a corporation. That may be a boutique hotel or a food court stall. Along with rights come corporate support. This can include branding materials, guidelines and customer lists. Discounts on necessary materials or services are common. It also includes advertising and tips to help with local marketing.

Franchisees benefit when customers recognize the corporate brand. But they have less autonomy than non-franchise businesses. Big brands have the benefit of consistency. Customers know what to expect from their products, prices and services. Local small businesses have the benefit of uniqueness. They can adjust products or services to meet market demands. Franchisees enjoy some benefits of both types of business. They also enjoy the established name and bulk-buying clout of their corporations. But they also have limitations.

Franchise Rights and Responsibilities

Franchisors grant rights to franchisees. How much responsibility and authority they give you to market your franchise varies. Some give franchise owners opportunities to build a local marketing strategy or create online ads. Other corporations rule with an iron hand. All want corporate branding and messaging to be consistent. Some allow individual franchisee social media pages or websites that link to the main corporate site. Others don’t.

New franchisees may think corporate relationships will save them local advertising headaches. Sadly, corporations often provide less training, regional advertising and franchise marketing assistance than expected. 

Do you own a franchise? When you advertise your franchise locally, don’t echo corporate ads. Extend their message and add a local twist. Market your franchise in a way that’s consistent with the corporate direction, but show what extra value you offer.

Franchise owners have traditionally used print, broadcast and billboard ads. These were the gold standard. Today, digital advertising and communications are an essential part of the customer experience. Most consumers research businesses and view online advertising before visiting them. If your franchise doesn’t appear in their search results, they’ll turn their attention to businesses that do.

Choose the Best Online Ad Platforms for Your Business

How should you choose the best online ad platforms and social media for your target audience? The most popular search engine, Google, is essential. It's the primary place to go for searches on products, services and businesses. It knows to search for local businesses and it serves geo-targeted ads. Whatever your target market, Google AdWords can serve ads to it. 

Of social media sites, Facebook is most popular. It's the first social site most online consumers think of when they want local business info. Are you choosing a single search engine or only one social media site to market your franchise? Choose Google and Facebook.

franchise marketing ad platforms 

Spatially Ads is an easy, cost-effective way to reach the greatest number of potential customers on these ad platforms. Enter a few key details about your business, your key search terms and your target customers. Spatially Ads then finds key audience clusters near your business. Our customer targeting locates your key audience. We find people with the right spending and shopping habits, income levels, interests and demographics for your business. Then we serve your text ads directly to them using Google AdWords. We serve ads with images (and even videos) to customers using Facebook.

In mere minutes you can set up focused ad campaigns on Google AdWords or Facebook using Spatially Ads. Keep track of all related advertising analytics using our online ad management dashboard. Our platform provides you with simple-to-use, effective franchise advertising. It boosts your conversion rate, and it’s economical.

So first, aim your ads using the most popular search engine and social site. Then, choose secondary social networks based on your primary audience. This explanation of social media audience demographics shows which ones fit the segments you’re going after.

How Franchisee and Franchisor Priorities Differ

Remember, the greatest priority for the corporate franchisor is to build the brand. They sell a system of doing business and ongoing franchise support. The franchisee sells the products. The two have a symbiotic relationship, but corporations don't take care of everything. Your franchise will have limited success unless it takes local outreach seriously. Franchises add the local magic that makes them feel like real members of the community. When you market your franchise, you want  to prove that you’re an expert in meeting the needs of local customers.

Franchisors benefit when local owners come up with franchise marketing initiatives. However, they won’t be happy if franchisees don’t follow branding guidelines or corporate strategies. Smart franchisees make sure messaging quality and content meet corporate standards. They also help potential customers to see them as authentic local businesses.

Franchisors provide training, tips and suggestions for new locations. But if they're not local themselves, they may not know an area well. Even longtime locals can't know everything that goes into finding a great business location. Here’s the good news: Spatially can help you with franchise site selection. Our location analytics provide demographic and behavioral information about your market. Spatially uncovers hidden market segments. We can show you which locations are likely to draw the largest audience for your business. Go ahead: enter a business address here. Discover and define your target market for free.

Franchises sell products that already have a following. Some owners add local versions of products to the lineup, or drop products that don’t appeal to locals. But each franchisee must follow maintain product quality rules and protect the brand's reputation.

Each franchise competes with local businesses. The franchisor may provide funds and materials to boost brand awareness. Franchisees usually pay for local marketing campaigns. It is standard to spend one to three percent of monthly sales income on local franchise advertising. This might include sharing regional advertising campaigns. or using the same advertising strategy as other franchisees.

marketing a franchised business  

For prospective business owners, franchising can seem a safer way to own a small business. The brand has a reputation; the products have a following. The franchisor provides advice, ideas about financing and business location. It supplies supporting materials, training and advertising. Franchisors have greater buying power, so franchises often get good prices on supplies. Banks often assume franchises are less risky than wholly independent businesses. This can make bank loans easier.

Make Your Franchise Marketing Stand Out Online

What local franchise marketing initiatives should you consider? Radio, TV, direct mail, print ads and outdoor ads are standard, but they’re not interactive or well targeted. They leave franchises unable to determine campaign effectiveness or attribute conversions. This is the “spray and pray” approach. It leaves advertisers hoping something sticks, but unsure about results.

As with any business, a franchise owner wants to reach market segments likely to convert. Consider using tools like franchise websites, social media, local blogs and email marketing. However, franchisors often exercise strict brand control. If yours does, you may have limited authority to advertise your franchise.

Often, franchisors offer templates to set up email marketing or social media pages. They use corporate guidelines but allow for local details. This makes outgoing messages consistent. But incoming customer messages need individual responses from the franchisee, too. All customer communications need prompt, courteous responses.

Reviews and Testimonials—A Business’s “Social Proof”

Reviews and testimonials are important tools to prove company quality and reliability. These forms of “social proof” help your business look reliable and trustworthy. A full 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. 

Don’t miss the opportunity to market your franchise by engaging with customers on ratings sites like Google and Yelp. Check for other website comments, too. When prospective customers view your business online, they seek positive reviews. These must be genuine. Customers (and online tools) know when businesses build their reps with fake reviews. 

Be polite and helpful in all your responses. Post authentic customer testimonials. Share them on web pages or social media pages. And don’t be afraid to ask satisfied customers to leave reviews! Seven out of 10 consumers will leave reviews if asked. 

Respond to each comment, even unpleasant ones, with courtesy. Show empathy toward customers. Turn negative comments into chances to build goodwill. Offer solutions and encourage continued engagement. Burnish your reputation and grow customer loyalty through positive interactions.

Your franchise must take care to follow guidelines when using brand assets. Use the most recent, highest quality versions in print and online advertising. Double-check logos, typefaces, service marks, product names, descriptions and imagery for accuracy.

Using personalized outreach for an individual franchise is powerful. Franchises know the locals. Reach out to people who've shown interest and who fit your target demographics. If your franchisor allows it, consider websites, social pages, blogs and emails. Use online analytics to track your franchise marketing campaign success rates. Then you can adjust as necessary.

Local ad initiatives often rely on franchise funds. To get the best return on investment, aim local ads at the most responsive market. Catch likely customers when they’re most interested and ready to buy. Use Spatially Ads to aim ads at them during their Google and Facebook searches.

franchise marketing

Finally, every franchise should keep tabs on the competition. Some franchise owners assume corporate branding will do the heavy lifting. This is a mistake. Franchises must differentiate themselves from similar businesses and do their own franchise marketing to attract customers. If you own a franchise, ask yourself:

  • Do you set yourself apart from other businesses?
  • How do you differentiate from other locations selling the same products?
  • What products do competitors offer? At what prices?
  • What do they do especially well or poorly?

Once you’ve considered how they do business, think about these questions:

  • Can you offer better hours or more convenience?
  • Can you provide a more pleasant atmosphere?
  • How can your salespeople be more useful to customers?
  • Are you more engaged with your community than competitors are?
  • Are you positive and helpful online?
  • Do you offer special events or customer-appreciation programs?
  • Should you offer extras like free delivery or customization?

When you let customers know what makes you different, don’t focus on what you do. Focus on how what you do benefits them. 

Every local franchise offers something unique and useful to its community. Think about how to market your franchise by capitalizing on those special differences. Your customers will see how valuable your franchise can be to them. 

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