The options for an effective marketing campaign can seem overwhelming. Stacey Ruth picks her way through the maze
There is no magic formula for effective franchise marketing. On the contrary, it is endless work, when it’s operating perfectly. Franchise brands experience the same challenges as any other brand, plus they have the added burden of perfecting their local marketing at intensified levels.
The “buy local” trend worldwide adds another challenge to the delicate balancing of marketing efforts between the franchisor and the franchisee. As a result, many brands are looking to redesign their strategies to match the rapid shifts in global consumer buying habits. Successful franchise brands are altering how they market themselves in this new landscape.
Here are the 10 Effective Marketing Mandates these brands have in common, which are necessary for the next generation of franchise brands:
1. Mandate: measure everything
If a brand doesn’t know what’s working well, they aren’t measuring effectively. Digital marketing options provide countless ways to measure results, but without knowing what to measure, the data is meaningless.
For example, knowing an email got 33% click-throughs sounds successful, but when the intention is to recreate (or improve!) that is not enough information by itself. There are too many components that create a particular result, either individually, or in combination. Whether it’s the offer or subject line, demographic segmenting, or time of sending, the success (or failure) of a campaign cannot be repeated without A/B testing. Effective marketing can only be repeated if it can be measured.
2. Mandate: narrow the focus
There are endless marketing options available to franchise brands. That is a good thing, but it can also be very confusing. Between 30-40% of franchise organizations self-report experiencing challenges converting leads into customers and having enough time to get everything done. Another 16% admit feeling they don’t have the marketing expertise to be fully effective.
The simple answer is to leverage the #1 Marketing Mandate to Measure Everything. Measure where you are getting the largest results, and focus there first. Although younger brands can be unsure where to start, the best strategy is always to create a strong brand presence in just a handful of channels, and become masterful there. Spreading a brand too thin too fast creates a diluted presence.
3. Mandate: up your digital game
55% of franchises are focusing on social media presence, 39% focus on SEO, and 39% use PPC. If your brand does nothing else, start digitally.
This is true in Europe and Asia as well as the US. Although Europe has lagged behind its US counterparts leveraging content marketing, and the presence of Asian censorship demands a different set of digital platforms, all consumers are all looking to digital media for search results, recommendations, and answers to their questions.
4. Mandate: brand consistently, not rigidly
Franchise brands are hyper-vigilant about brand consistency. With hundreds or thousands of franchisees operating units independently, it can be easy for a brand’s identity to drift. The focus has become one of managing the franchisees, instead of focusing on the brand itself. While franchisee inconsistency cannot be ignored, they will be the brand’s greatest asset for compliance if the brand attends to two key tenants:
The first tenant of brand compliance is to know your customers and what they want from you. A franchise brand holds this sacred trust between the customer and itself, and must communicate it to its franchisees regularly and compellingly. When the franchisee understands the “why” of the brand compliant materials, they are more likely to use them.
The second tenant of brand compliance is to make it easier for the franchisee to use brand compliant materials than any other option. Access, customizability and usefulness are vitally important. Too often franchises have complex systems that are difficult to navigate, and franchisees, desperate for anything, will begin developing their own promotional tools.
It is also necessary to allow franchisees some freedom to customize for their local market. The particulars of a certain brand communication must have built-in flexibility for local differences; otherwise required brand compliance begins undermining local success. Rigid compliance is letter of the law only, and not delivering the spirit of compliance, which is trust in the brand to meet the consumer’s needs.
5. Mandate: think like a local
It is all too common for US brands to think of “Europe” as a market. In fact, Europe includes 51 independent states when you add in transcontinental countries like Russia and Turkey, and those located in the West Asia territory like Armenia. Similarly, it is easy for a European or Asian franchise to think of the US as a single local market, when the vast geographic area demands customization.
Local areas have dietary preferences, seasons, holidays, products, sports teams, and community service opportunities – just as a starting point. Beyond that, there is a growing dissatisfaction with unsustainable business practices, and profit for profit’s sake alone. This latter movement to build self-sustaining communities, combined with local preferences, is requiring businesses intent on going national or global to become well versed in each market they enter.
The easiest way for a growing brand to think locally is to find a local franchise partner to advise and establish connections in the most meaningful ways. Additionally, becoming visible using local digital content, rather than universally applicable (but locally ineffectual) content. When it comes to going global, small is the new big.
6. Mandate: co-op-erate effectively
The growing cost of advertising on a local level requires a shared funding approach. So it isn’t surprising that 65% of franchisees use co-op advertising dollars to pay for their advertising, which is increasingly digital. Most co-op advertising programs focus on targeted digital such as search and display advertising and traditional channels like direct mail, radio and community sponsorships.
However, many co-op participants are not using all the funds available to them. A recent Local Search Association study asked why franchisees left co-op dollars unspent. Many cited the difficulty of accessing either funds, or approvals. However, 16% replied that the marketing tactics they were using were not available.
In order to make the co-op work for both franchisor ad franchisee, it must be built collaboratively, or it will fall flat on the local level, where the brand must create its first line of effective marketing.
7. Mandate: de-commoditize with content
Commodities sell products. Brands sell a feeling. Content marketing takes commodities to brand status like no other vehicle. But it requires the franchise to intimately understand its customers so its content can benefit them. Answering the questions that customers have is a great place to begin, since the buying process almost always starts with a search.
Content marketing is effective, but only when the brand (and the franchisees) focus on quality content published regularly. The timetables many content providers suggest are overly aggressive for most brands. Find a publish rate that works for you.
8. Mandate: get personal
Consumers crave high-touch experiences, so your brand must give it to them. Still, the personalization of marketing is about more than beginning an email with the consumer’s name, as important as that is.
Personalizing your website experience through responsive design with mobile-friendly features like swipe and click-to-call can create conversions almost twice the rate of desktop websites. Your franchisee sites need this even more than your company site.
Personalization is about convenience, not follow ads. When a page or email is customized for them, a customer feels you took the time to know them.
9. Mandate: you’ve got mail! (or else)
With all the digital marketing available, it can be easy to overlook the power of email. According to Sprout Social, email marketing boasts 3800% ROI – at least double any other marketing channel.
Done correctly, email marketing maintains the franchise brand while creating a seamless consumer experience. Many email service provider allow brands to share creative assets—like logos, images, and templates—with numerous sub-accounts for franchisee use. A handful also let you ensure parts of the email can’t be edited, maintaining your brand control where it matters most.
10. Mandate: budget effectively
Budgeting effectively for marketing might seem obvious, but without it, none of a brand’s great initiatives can be effectively accomplished. Roughly 1/3 of franchise brands admit they struggle both with having the budget to build their marketing, as well as funds to hire staff to execute it. As a result, this 10th Mandate may be the most important mandate of all. Without it all else is just a nice theory.
To build an effective budget, it is important to know what the projected ROI to the system’s bottom line is. Hard data backing up a proposed marketing spend, with tracking built in, means an appropriately substantial budget is far easier to demand. But if the dollars simply aren’t there at first, the idea of focusing in Mandate #2, and then sharing the burden of funding via a collaboratively build co-op from Mandate #6 is the best possible alternative approach.
As Peter Drucker said, “Marketing is the totality of the business.” When a franchise markets effectively, its success is nearly assured.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stacey Ruth is the founder of Inside Out Marketing. She is a leadership and branding speaker on the Unstoppable Leader and The Unstoppable Brand. She is a brand consultant, and author of Truth and Dare: Inside Out Marketing.
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