With 160,000+ brick-and-mortar locations across the United States, 50 million guests served daily, and 44 percent of customers headed through the doors at least once per week, the quick service restaurant (QSR) industry is no slouch when it comes to competition for top-quality consumer dollars – or franchisee leads, for that matter. Intimidating, sure. Impossible, hardly. For franchisors looking for a piece of the rather large pie of potential franchise buyers, tried and true ingredients are a good place to start.
Local hot spot
Google noted that “near me” searches doubled in 2015. Optimizing for “near me” and “nearby” search queries is a great opportunity not only to attract customers but, especially for franchise marketers with multiple locations in a single city, to build awareness and credibility among franchisee candidates. Among those visiting your QSR are potential franchisees, both ringing the register and gathering information from existing owner-operators. A huge first step toward making the business “mine” for any potential franchisee is to picture him or herself in the business as an owner.
Granted, Google’s algorithms play a big part in which results appear when a “near me” search is conducted, but a few simple tips can help the local SEO cause:
- Be prominent: Make sure that the business name, address and phone number are frequently displayed on your site
- Be “open for business” online: Being indexed on Google My Business is the simplest strategy to help your local online visibility
- Count on reviews: Provide quality service, then encourage consumers to tell the world via Google reviews to impact local map rankings
Mouthful of PR
An effective public relations program can be the sharpest knife on a QSR franchisor’s lead-delivering countertop. By leveraging traditional and digital tactics including press releases, media outreach and blogger relations, leads delivered from a PR campaign are typically of top quality and carry with them the weight of a third-party endorsement that attracts potential franchisees.
Because today’s news lives and breathes on the web, a quality placement is much more than a nice article to frame on your wall. Digital PR placements contribute to SEO efforts through the backlinks within the text, driving potential franchisees to your site early and often. Additionally, a well-calculated placement in a local daily serves as a recruitment tool within desired growth markets.
Moreover, leveraging trade publications both in the restaurant and franchise space help you a hit a target audience engaged and positioned to hear your franchise pitch. A good portion of the people who read publications like this one are the kinds of people you may like to have join your franchise system as its next owner.
Salivating over social
In the second quarter of 2016, 1.13 billion active users visited Facebook daily, and there are now 433 million registered LinkedIn users. Social marketing for brands is no longer optional.
Arguably the most important component of creating and nurturing your brand persona, an active social presence not only has the potential to drive customers through the door, but is a hot platform where you can target new franchise recruits. A strategic social presence enables your brand to articulate core media marketing values, share updates and boast powerful testimonials from both customers and other franchise owners.
By identifying relevant keywords, building connections, and creating content designed to engage specific target audiences, LinkedIn is like the front window of an ice cream shop, showcasing your brand and providing you the opportunity to engage in discussions with like-minded individuals and companies through targeted custom audience campaigns. Additionally, by establishing conversion goals in Google Analytics, you can track web leads you receive that originate from LinkedIn (and any other social platforms or websites) to support your franchise development efforts.
PPC for pizza
Leads in less than an hour with no more than a credit card number? Sign me up! Sure, it’s not quite that easy, but an effective PPC campaign should be at the top of the Internet spend budget for any QSR franchisor. PPC advertising for your QSR brand and franchise:
- Allows you to conduct hyper-local targeting: Platforms like Google Adwords enable franchisors to target as deep as the zip code level, essential if they’re looking to award franchises in specific geographic regions.
- Is highly affordable and customizable: While it may be tough to maintain the top search results as your competitors bid on the same keywords, optimizing your ads consistently throughout the life of the campaign gives you the fighting chance to stay on page one.
Keep the site ingredients fresh
When it comes to website viewability, you have about 30 seconds to impress potential franchisees before they turn foot and head out to your competitor.
In developing your franchise website, make it simple for prospects to get a feel of your brand and messaging in an easy to navigate format, especially on mobile. Remember to keep them interested with a compelling call to action that gets potential franchisees excited about the opportunity, but stop short of providing too much information that may disqualify your franchise from consideration.
Opportunity is hot on the grill
Given that the growing QSR segment accounts for more than 50 percent of sales in the entire restaurant sector, marketing to franchise prospects in the QSR industry is always going to be highly competitive. With a number of new brands opening annually, adding to the mix of already established QSR franchise concepts, leveraging these tried and true principals of digital marketing can give your brand a fighting chance. The bottom line: marketing done right yields predictable results in the franchise industry. Now go generate those leads and award some QSR franchises.
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, Jonas established TopFire Media to provide a strategic and synchronized method for digital marketing in the franchise industry. As a digital marketing strategist with more than a decade of in-depth experience in SEO and PPC, social media publishing, conversion based marketing, inbound marketing, sales management, and online lead generation, Jonas has built a career dedicated to delivering an integrated marketing approach that achieves client success and long-term relationships.