This is a guest article written by Chris Anderson, co-founder at Empowerkit, a software platform specializing in the creation and easy management of franchise local websites. Chris regularly blogs about how franchises can leverage online marketing to drive local lead generation and sales.
Savvy franchisors nowadays look to leverage the web and social media to strengthen marketing and branding efforts, and in turn boost lead generation and sales at the local level. However, it’s next to impossible to do this well without a certain level of franchisee participation. Not to mention that franchisees are already seeking out ways to market their locations online, more and more by the day.
Since franchisors also have to ensure brand and regulatory compliance, it’s critical to approach local online marketing very carefully to strategically include franchisees and get the best results while avoiding costly problems. You don’t want to give franchisees too much control over their online presence, or else you’ll run into compliance issues right and left, and franchisee guesswork can yield poor results more often than not. At the same time, you can’t be too restrictive, or franchisees will simply break the rules until you track them down and enforce compliance. You need to have a clear strategy that strikes the right balance.
Here are 3 key tips and best practices to help you succeed in franchise marketing online while dodging common pitfalls:
1. Plan a Strategy: What are your end goals?
First and foremost, understand what you’re trying to accomplish, and plan your strategy for how you’ll get there. This doesn’t need to be an elaborate process involving outside consultants, but you should at least have a plan which you can update as you go. You should ask yourself questions like, “What are my end goals? What types of content are local customers interested in? Where do our customers 'live' online? What metrics and analytics can we use to track successes and identify areas to improve?”
2. Start With the Basics: Local Websites With Lead Generation
Most franchisees need qualified leads more than anything, and the best way to generate leads is through a local website for each location. Don’t panic -- there are tools specifically designed for franchises to set up and manage brand compliant local websites. The key is to make sure the sites have as much locally relevant unique content as possible and have clear and compelling calls-to-action, or else it will be an uphill battle to attract traffic and convert leads.
3. Rethink Compliance Policies: Adapt to the Changing Trends
The compliance policies in your FDD related to internet marketing are probably outdated, and chances are, several franchisees are in breach. Do you address local websites and social media adequately? Do you offer guidelines, best practices, and “how-to” examples? Consider rethinking what you can comfortably allow franchisees to do online, and instead of restricting control, think of how you can provide guidelines and strategies, and put monitoring tools in place to enforce compliance. When franchisees are given a clear strategy with actionable guidelines that produce real results, the amount of compliance issues will dwindle.
Once these initial steps are taken, the next action item is to drive traffic to the local sites, optimize conversion rates, and continually analyze results so you can further tweak your strategy. It’s a definitely a time investment, and success in local online marketing won’t happen overnight. But with the technology tools that are available to franchises, it can be greatly simplified, and the resulting increase in lead generation and sales over time will make the effort well worth it.
Originally published Nov 7, 2011 6:00:00 PM, updated March 21 2013