While 2017 was a year for strong growth in digital advertising among franchise systems, there is still evidence that many franchises are sorely lacking when it comes to local search marketing strategy. Regardless of which industry vertical your franchise business operates in, your customers are online – 82% of customers conduct online research about business locations before actually visiting a store or making a purchase.
As users become increasingly savvy in their online research and more selective, it’s time for your franchise system to harness the power of local search marketing in order to increase in-store visits and in-store revenue.
The Top 3 Things You Need to Be Doing Right Now
1) Get Mobile, or Get Left Behind
Mobile shopping-related searches have been on the rise, increasing by 120% in the last year, with an astounding 78% of local-mobile searches (i.e. “best Mexican restaurant near me”) resulting in offline purchases. Consumers are increasingly on-the-go and when they conduct localized mobile searches, they tend to have a higher level of purchase intent, as the user is seeking something that fits their needs at that moment. Many customers also often search using brand-agnostic phrases rather than specific products or services (i.e. “men’s haircut” vs. “Great Clips”), signaling to business owners that they’re more interested in researching multiple options in their area rather than committing to a single brand. With this growth in mind, it’s key for franchises to adopt a mobile-first mindset, and develop an integrated strategy that includes a mobile-friendly website complete with action items like calls and form fills aimed at increasing customer conversions.
2) Everything Is Local – Your Franchise’s Digital Presence
As online user search behavior becomes increasingly localized, “near-me” searches and similar location-based queries continue to grow exponentially. Google reports nearly 33% of mobile searches are location-based queries. If your franchise location isn’t easily discoverable online, potential customers might visit your competition instead. The easiest way to improve your chances of online discovery is to establish consistent, accurate and robust information about your location in key directories like Google My Business, Facebook, Bing Places, Apple Maps and more. Additionally, ensure your core business information (name, address, phone number, business hours, website link) is consistently listed across directories and populate your profiles with non-branded keywords related to your business. This will help improve your overall search ranking, and make your business listings more visible. While you might have marketing brand standards and requirements, it’s important to complement branded content by populating business listings with custom details specific to your location (products, services, offers, affiliations, certifications, etc.) Lastly, customer reviews should be monitored and responded to on a regular basis, as businesses with more reviews (and responses) tend to rank higher in customer search results. Creating a high-quality local digital presence for your franchise location ensures consumers can easily find you online, and find your franchise location offline.
3) Hyper-Local Paid Search for Increasing Store Visits
Committing advertising dollars toward pay-per-click campaigns (PPC) focused on geographical areas related to your franchise location can help you increase awareness and drive more in-store traffic, often with only a small investment. While paid search ads don’t have the same aesthetic appeal as a flashy billboard or creative radio spot, they often provide a higher return-on-investment if executed properly.
Many franchises make the common mistake of casting a wide net and bidding on broad, competitive keywords like “pizza”, “department store” or “haircut,” rather than taking the time to develop more segmented campaigns using detailed keywords and geo-targeting parameters. Tremendous amounts of money is wasted by brands taking the former approach, when better research and data-driven strategies can reduce costs and increase customer volume at the same time.
When it comes to your franchise, you can easily tap into specific user searches that feature location information or keywords in order to identify consumer trends in your area. For example, searches like “happy hour deals near Times Square” provide both location intent and user category interest that you can leverage when building campaigns. Then, by developing advertising copy that connects with the user’s original search query (rather than simple, branded copy), you can create a better user experience and lower your overall costs. This leads to more customers for your business and less wasted budget. By letting actual, relevant user data influence your campaign structure, you can easily reduce waste and maximize your investment in franchise paid search advertising.
When executed well, an integrated local search marketing strategy can provide incredible ROI for your franchise. By building a foundation around an optimized mobile presence, accurate online business information, and investing in paid search campaigns that use existing customer data to reach more of your target audience, you can drive more customers to your franchise in 2018 than ever before.
As Director of Marketing, Josh 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.