There are many franchisees that rely heavily on their franchisors to bolster their local marketing efforts. In those cases, the online presence of the franchisee’s location can often be hidden behind the franchisor’s own corporate marketing efforts.
Whether for an established franchisee with years in business, or a start-up franchisee just getting operations underway, it doesn’t matter; without a robust online presence, franchise owners could potentially be missing out on numerous opportunities in attracting new clientele, retaining old customers, and creating better brand awareness.
You know your customers and you know your market, so look for opportunities to bring a local voice to the brand. To assist you, here is something that you, as a franchisee, should keep in mind: it doesn’t pay to leave your local marketing just up to the franchisor. In fact, you may be legally required to conduct a minimum amount of local marketing to grow your business. Don’t rest on the laurels of your franchisor: get ready to put your gloves on and make your local business shine online.
Here are 5 ways to boost online presence for your franchise business.
- Build a lead generating website. Franchisees need to be able to compete in the digital space among larger players. One way of doing that is by developing an effective website, built to convert online and mobile visitors into legitimate leads. Questions to ask yourself when building this website are: Does it match the look and feel of the franchise brand? Does it accurately represent the company? (Your franchisor should be able to provide guidance on these first two questions). Is it easy to navigate? Does it appeal to the consumer? And, are there any specific calls to action on the website? Are the website’s forms long and cumbersome, or short and sweet?
- Drive people to the website. Before you have visitors fill out a form, you need a strategy to get the audience to your website. There are several ways to do this, but perhaps the most obvious way is SEO (search engine optimization). Your SEO has to be done properly, following best practices and avoiding trickery, so that Google, for example, doesn’t penalize you. Creating new content, adding keywords on your website, and having guest bloggers and reporters add links back to your website are some of the many things that can be done to improve your SEO.
- Social Media. Social media is said to be the new face of marketing. It is where more and more people are leaning to obtain information about brands and technologies and engage in discussions about what is happening in their lives. Social media platforms like Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram are great vehicles that allow franchisees to stay connected with customers. Sharing special deals, releasing exclusive news about a product or service, and engaging in conversations with customers are sure-fire ways to keep people interested. And, to take things a step further, you can use social media to run contests, place ads, and more.
- Build and Maintain a Good Reputation. Online review sites such as Google+ Local, Angie’s List and Yelp are great places to find out what customers think of your business. Pay very careful attention to what consumers are saying. A stellar rating is great, of course, but you have to be equally prepared for negative reviews, and be able to do effective damage control should the situation arise. Not only can online reviews determine the future of your business, they can even influence the purchase decision of a prospective franchisee – meaning broader ramifications for the franchise system as a whole, well beyond the walls of your local business.
- Publicize the brand. Whether you hire an agency or do it yourself, be sure to spread the word about your business. Who you are, what you do and, most importantly, what makes you stand out from your competitors is important information to convey to the public about your company. Press releases distributed on frequent bases and secured media coverage can live both in print and online, and can greatly benefit a franchisee’s brand presence. Press coverage not only attracts the notice of search engines, helping improve your SEO ranking, but it also builds brand credibility. Plus, it can open doors to help your franchise business bring in new customers and, again, on a broader scale for the franchise system as a whole, can create brand “buzz.
Don’t think that just because you are a local franchisee you can’t have your own presence online; there are, of course, certain parameters that must be met, based on the terms of your franchise agreement, as to how much flexibility and freedom you have to do your own local marketing efforts, how much you should be spending on local marketing, and what kinds of prior approvals you need from the franchisor for your efforts. But, following these five tips can be a good way to build your business’ brand power and increase brand awareness for your local company. And, it can have a ripple effect that can ultimately help the entire franchise network in the long run.
About Matthew Jonas
Matthew Jonas is the President of TopFire Media, an award winning integrated public relations and digital marketing agency specializing in franchise marketing and consumer branding. Together with the leaders of iFranchise Group and Franchise Dynamics, Matthew established TopFire Media to provide a strategic and synchronized method for digital marketing in the franchise industry.
As a digital marketing strategist with over a decade of in-depth experience in SEO & PPC, social media publishing, conversion based marketing, inbound marketing, sales management, and online lead generation, Matthew has built a career dedicated to delivering an integrated marketing approach that achieves client success and long-term relationships.