Despite the economic and social devastation of the coronavirus pandemic, franchises accounted for 3% of U.S. GDP last year, demonstrating the resilience of the business model. Indeed, franchising is expected to grow 7% by the end of 2021, returning to pre-COVID levels by 2022.
As franchises, along with all businesses, recover from the pandemic’s upheaval, it’s clear that both franchisors and franchisees need to be innovative and agile. Marketing yourself in the interconnected but hyper-competitive modern world is no easy feat, and it often means repositioning your brand to attract more customers.
For now and likely beyond, franchise marketing means promoting your business almost entirely online. Follow six simple steps to master franchise marketing, build a strong brand and scale your business with the help of your franchisees. But first, we need a bit of background.
Growth Past 2021: What is Franchise Marketing?
In a typical franchising agreement, a business owner (the franchisor) sells a license to a franchisee. This license gives the franchisee permission to use the brand’s intellectual property as an extension of the brand, as well as the brand’s business model. In exchange, the franchisee pays a setup fee and annual licensing costs.
Franchise marketing is the strategy franchisors and franchisees use to build a relationship between the franchise and its market. It encompasses every action you take to promote your brand, whether that’s limited-time deals or social media posts.
While the franchise model is potentially lucrative, it makes marketing a real challenge. How can franchisors effectively promote the brand as a whole while promoting its separate locations in different markets?
Your best option is to utilize the experts and invest in franchise consulting, but brands still need a solid internal strategy to market effectively.
The 6 Steps of Successful Franchise Marketing
The key to successful franchise marketing is collaboration. Franchisors can’t mandate everything because franchisees need the freedom to customize to their local context. Because franchisees are closer to the actual customers, franchisors need to work with them to achieve better marketing.
Follow these six steps to thoughtfully scale your franchise marketing strategy to reduce costs, save time and dominate the market.
Step 1: Build a Strong Foundation
Before marketing your franchise, you need to ensure your brand is sturdy enough to stand out. Successful franchising demands consistency, which means every franchisor needs to educate franchisees on branding.
- Sharing brand guidelines: Train every franchisee on who you are and what you stand for, including guidelines for your logo, fonts, colors and tone of voice.
- Outlining operational practices: What experience do you want for every customer that comes through the door? Operational practices and quality guidelines are essential to providing a consistent experience between franchises.
As a franchisor, you need to invest in proper training for every franchisee. Arm them with documentation and ongoing training. Your brand can’t have marketing success without a consistently stellar customer experience, so ensure your franchises are up to par first.
Step 2: Create a Corporate Marketing Strategy
Franchise marketing can be difficult because it requires ongoing collaboration between franchisees and franchisors. It’s a delicate balancing act of preserving the brand’s reputation while allowing franchisees to personalize their promotions.
Franchisors need to create a framework for marketing, both on the global and local levels. This cohesive strategy should give parameters for every franchise so your promotions are consistent.
However, it should also give franchisees the freedom to personalize their marketing. This might take the form of creating procedures for franchises to request special promotions. For example, a franchise in Texas could request permission for Texas Independence Day marketing materials.
Step 3: Set Collaborative Goals
Once your strategy is in place, you need to set SMART goals. These should be at both the global and local levels.
How will you measure the success of your marketing strategy? This varies by brand, but goals generally include metrics, such as:
- Newly acquired customers
- Customer retention/loyalty
- Brand awareness
Be sure to equip franchisees with the right tools to monitor and measure their goals. That might include ongoing training or new software. This is essential for understanding which marketing tactics truly moved the needle for your brand, so they can be reproduced, honed and improved. Ensure your team has accountability tools for tracking performance and reaching its goals.
Step 4: Agree To a Budget
A franchisee’s licensing fees typically include marketing, so franchisors are under pressure to allocate enough resources to that operation.
Franchisors typically determine each franchise’s budget based on location, as well as marketing tactics, among other things. Franchisors may need to set up a separate account just for franchise marketing funds for the franchisee to access. Financial guidelines, like maximum spending limits, help franchisees better manage these marketing funds according to the brand’s strategy.
Step 5: Dive into Digital Marketing Tactics
Digital marketing is the most cost-effective way to promote a franchise during COVID-19. These tactics are affordable, preferred by your customers and simple to track. While franchise consulting is the easiest way to do great digital marketing, brands still need a solid understanding of which digital tactics are most useful.
Some of the most successful digital marketing tactics for franchises are:
- Web and app design: Can your customers easily order products or services online? It’s the digital-first era, which means every franchise needs access to clean, fast, bug-free digital experiences.
- Local SEO: Franchisors should focus on global SEO tailored to product-related queries. But franchisees should also focus on local SEO queries, such as “Tempe Ace Hardware.”
- Original content: Both the franchisor and franchisee should create content for the brand. Blogs, videos and podcasts are among the best ways to connect with your audiences obsessed with digital content, as well as a much-needed boon to SEO.
- Paid ads: It’s best to outsource paid ads to franchise consulting professionals because these campaigns require a lot of sophistication and finesse. Done well, paid ads through Google, Instagram, Facebook and other channels can help brands succeed at both the global and local levels.
- Email marketing: Email returns $42 for every $1 spent. It’s an essential way to connect with customers in the current global environment, so franchisees should have the power to send templated emails to deepen customer loyalty.
- Social media: This is a popular and cost-effective method to connect with customers, but it does require 24/7 management. Franchisees do well managing their own social media, provided they can use franchisor-approved producers, templates and content calendars.
Step 6: Monitor your results
Every campaign should have an end date. After the campaign ends, schedule a post-mortem to talk about your digital marketing performance. According to your tracking and analytics, what went well? What should you change going forward?
Franchise marketing can only work when you really fine-tune your approach. Always review campaign performance to improve success in future efforts.
What Does Good Franchise Marketing Look Like?
Before you invest in franchise consulting, it’s important to see how other franchises market themselves. Consider Chik-fil-A, Holiday Inn and RE/MAX, three of the most profitable examples of franchise marketing in the U.S., for inspiration.
Chik-fil-A controls many of its promotions from a national position, like Cow Appreciation Day. But thanks to the brand’s mobile app, franchisees have the power to share both push notifications and emails with local customers. It’s also not uncommon for Chik-fil-A store managers to set up personalized events, like family movie nights, to promote their franchise.
With more than 1,100 global locations, Holiday Inn encourages franchisees to share local content on Facebook pages designed for each location. Franchisees have the freedom to post about their hotel amenities, as well as local tourist spots, events and dining.
Realty is a personal business. Because real estate agents are the product, it makes sense for RE/MAX franchisees to do much of their own marketing. While you’ll see “For Sale” signs with the RE/MAX corporate template, they’re always customized with the local agent’s information.
Franchise consulting for businesses with longevity
Franchise marketing has many additional layers of complexity that make effective digital marketing a challenge, especially as your franchise grows. With more size comes more moving parts and new developments, so you need a dedicated team focused on scaling your business.
Powerful brands are consistent, cohesive and compelling. Leveraging brand funds and individual franchisee budgets, the Nitrous Effect creates customized plans to bridge distributed and sometimes fragmented organizations, helping you effectively build a strong brand across all franchisee locations.
We are a unique collective of specialist agencies that work together to solve complex challenges better and faster than the traditional multi-agency or holding company models. Top franchises, co-ops and other multi-level organizations rely on our combined expertise to reduce unnecessary costs, save time and streamline and elevate their businesses. Contact us to learn how our deep franchise experience and the collective power of the Nitrous Effect will transform your marketing and communication efforts.