While having a brick-and-mortar presence is often the backbone of many franchise systems and brands, there still exists a multitude of franchises that either don’t require a physical storefront as part of their business model or instead feature an extension of each location in the form of a service area. When it comes to online marketing, traditional digital strategies and best practices that are perfectly applicable to physical storefronts don’t always bear fruit for these types of unique franchises because of their mobile nature. To remain visible to online consumers, there are some key tactics and marketing opportunities that service-area businesses should at least explore in an effort to maximize customer volume from digital channels.
Google My Business Profile Setup for Service-area Businesses
Google My Business remains a key driver of customer foot traffic to franchise locations worldwide, but many service-area businesses are predicated on taking their business offering to their actual customer’s location instead (i.e. corporate office cleaning franchise). While an office location may exist for administrative purposes, there is virtually no value in having potential customers visit that location to purchase a product or service. As such, Google made some changes to how businesses can populate location info within Google My Business in early 2017 to address this issue. GMB guidelines state that service-area businesses should designate one page within GMB for each central office location and then set a defined service area from that central point. These areas can be determined by your choice of zip codes or cities that your franchise serves customers or can also be set as a geographical area around your designated central location. As a result, your GMB listing will now appear to local consumers searching for related services within your area, increasing your chances to convert them into customers. If you may still serve customers for any reason at your central office (i.e. billing processing, equipment returns), you can select that feature within your Google My Business page, thus displaying your physical address on Google.
Search Engine Optimization Tactics for Increased Local Visibility
As we’ve covered previously in Franchising USA Magazine, arguably the most important SEO strategy a franchise can implement is the creation of an optimized store locator and individual location pages for every single business within the system. For franchises that are mobile in nature, one key extension of this includes the addition of metro pages or city pages that help organize individual locations into defined service areas. Not only does this offer an opportunity to capture more real estate in search engine results with additional, relevant pages, it also provides an opportunity to improve the user experience in helping a customer choose which particular franchise can best be of service based on their own location. In addition to incorporating important on-page content like address, phone number, service area details and informational content, each location page should incorporate customer reviews. Not only do reviews help qualify a business for a customer, they also have SEO value and can serve to help your franchise location pages rank ahead of your competitors for key searches in your local area.
Hyper-Local Paid Advertising for Increased Customer Acquisition
As a mobile franchise or service-area business, it’s no secret that organic search can sometimes feature a few more potential road blocks to success than for a franchise relying primarily on in-store customer visits to drive revenue. The good news is that hyper-local online advertising on channels like Google and Facebook can overcome the “proximity” hurdle that often exists with regard to SEO. When you create local paid campaigns on Google and Facebook, you can simply predetermine the geographical area you want to target no matter where your office is located (or if you operate as a home-based business) and reach customers in your service area without ever needing to feature a physical address. In addition to geographic targeting, you can also leverage key demographic targeting parameters, customize ad copy and creative elements and select a unique location landing page for each ad that increases your ability to reach and convert more customers. SEO often requires a lot of long term planning and extensive work to achieve success, but setting up online ad campaigns with very detailed, specific targeting can create a positive ROI quickly – sometimes with only a small investment per location, if managed properly.
When it comes to online marketing, mobile franchises and service-area businesses require a bit of a different approach than those with a prominent brick-and-mortar presence because they serve customers at their own locations. While a long-term plan for local online presence management is critical to success for each franchisee, hyper-targeted online advertising can drive increased customers in a much shorter window. Striking the right balance between organic search marketing and paid media can ensure your franchisees reach more customers within the local areas they service.
As Director of Marketing, Josh Allen is responsible for planning, developing and managing Location3 and LOCALACT brand strategies, with a focus on establishing new business partnerships among franchise systems and multi-location brands. He also works with Location3 client partners to establish key initiatives for increased franchise engagement and growth. He is an active member of the International Franchise Association and has previously been featured by the American Marketing Association, Franchise Update Media, MediaPost and more discussing franchise digital marketing strategy.