A common theme at this year’s Franchise Consumer Marketing Conference was that franchisors are seeking new ways to help support the local marketing efforts of their franchisees.
Our team met with marketing VPs, marketing directors, and CEOs, and the message we heard from all of them was that franchisors are actively looking for opportunities to help franchisees at the local level. The trick is finding the best way to support those efforts.
Most franchises require every franchisee to contribute to a national ad fund that goes toward franchise marketing campaigns that benefit the brand as a whole. Franchisees understand those funds are typically used to research and develop branding campaigns, search campaigns for branded terms, and display campaigns for company-wide initiatives. Unfortunately, that is not enough.
In addition to reaping the benefits of national marketing campaigns, franchisees should be encouraged to advertise locally. Local efforts benefit the company at all levels — not only by producing higher Google search rankings, but also by yielding more leads, more foot traffic, more local sales, and brand consistency.
Here are four things franchisors can do to ensure that all of their locations are making the most of local marketing opportunities and tactics:
1. Identify preferred vendors.
Create a short list of approved vendors for franchisees to use in their local marketing efforts. Vet vendors to ensure they share your franchise’s values. Establishing relationships with specific agencies ensures any localized marketing projects will be in line with brand standards and that all parties are operating under a shared set of expectations.
McDonald’s, for example, reportedly has just seven preferred vendors for all of its U.S. locations. The fast-food chain formerly used about 60 agencies to handle local advertising. For a brand as large as McDonald’s to narrow its vendors to that short list means it can maintain the overall look and feel of its branding while still allowing franchisees the freedom to create local marketing campaigns. As your list of preferred vendors shrinks, the consistency of your branding grows.
2. Regionalize media buying.
If a franchisor handles the national media buy, it makes sense also to encourage franchisees in a specific region to pool their resources for local media buying. Their marketing dollars will go farther as a group, and advertising opportunities will increase.
Let’s say a franchise with 30 locations in a particular market contributed just $500 per location for a regional ad fund. That would give the group a significant budget to pursue opportunities on multiple platforms, such as through local digital and social ads, expanded paid search options such as including local competitor names, and even music streaming sites and TV ads. These regional campaigns still would include a localized aspect that would help drive customers to visit locations close to them.
3. Develop channel-specific guidelines.
If your franchisees are handling their own local advertising, every member of the company should be trained on the guidelines and recommendations for each channel used across your franchise. These guidelines should cover design, wording, and posting frequency. They also should address differences among various social platforms, such as the types of images that will be successful on Instagram versus Snapchat or the type of text appropriate for Facebook versus Twitter.
Having these guidelines in place will help franchisees feel confident in their efforts and should lead to success, as location-specific posts that show images and faces customers recognize are more likely to get a response than stock imagery because they feel more relevant to the target audiences. Eye-tracking studies show that consumers look carefully at photos of real, relevant people and products and pass right over generic images.
4. Localize pay-per-click and social media ads.
Supplement national advertising with local advertising in both pay-per-click campaigns and social media ads. Encourage franchisees to use content approved or provided by the franchisor to promote your brand alongside their content related to local events and deals.
By creating their own marketing plans using franchise-approved creative and messaging, franchisees can take control of their local advertising and business results without losing the franchise’s brand identity along the way.
Franchisors and franchisees both benefit from building complementary marketing programs. With proper training and access to preferred vendors, franchisees’ efforts can make a huge difference in both engaging on-the-ground employees and attracting customers at the local level. Taking the steps outlined above can help both corporate and local franchisees and lead to more successful franchise marketing campaigns.
Lora Kellogg is president and CEO of Curious Jane. With nearly 15 years of experience and a portfolio of top brands, Curious Jane is a leading ad agency specializing in franchises. Lora and her team work with Franchise Times’ Top 500 franchises and emerging franchises to grow sales, increase traffic, build brand awareness, and generate leads.