John Lincoln

Franchise Digital Marketing: How to Set up a Successful Strategy

Over the last 15 years, I’ve worked with hundreds of franchisees. I’ve also worked with corporations that facilitate great franchise work.

I’ve learned a lot about franchise digital marketing during those years.

And today, I’ll share some of my knowledge with you.

Franchise SEO

When it comes to franchise marketing, search engine optimization (SEO) ranks at the top among all the various strategies.

The franchisor should get the ball rolling with a national SEO effort. Hopefully, the corporation has that thing under control already.

After all, it won’t do the franchisee much good if the corporate brand name isn’t already optimized for web search. Or if nobody knows anything about the parent company.

Franchise SEO consists of optimizing for:

  • The company’s top national service terms
  • The top questions about becoming a franchisee
  • The top content marketing terms

Ideally, franchisees shouldn’t have to worry about any of that. They should let corporate do that work.

That’s the kind of stuff they should be doing with the money they get from the franchisee.

But there also needs to be Local SEO. To make that happen, each franchisee should pick 3-5 keywords related to the services offered.

And they should include phrases that people will likely use when searching online.

For example, if the franchise offers home decor, the company might want to optimize for “home decor store near me.”

People who are looking for a home decor store nearby will undoubtedly use that search term. 

Franchises could also add the “best” keyword in front of terms related to the brand.

To stick with the home decor store example, some folks might search for “best votive candles.” Franchises can optimize for that term.

Remember, though: it’s important to use the top search terms. It’s probably too time-consuming and expensive to optimize for everything.

Another thing to keep in mind: with Local SEO, franchises don’t just want to optimize so the local web page shows up in normal search results. It should show up in the local pack and in Maps as well.

Franchise Dashboards

Dashboards are critical. Full stop.

I’ve noticed over the years that lots of franchisors don’t have great visualization. But they wish they did.

Great dashboards that provide quick and easy access to all marketing-related analytics, such as:

  • Cost per acquisition
  • Number of leads coming in
  • Email marketing stats
  • Traffic channels
  • Conversion rate info
  • SEO data
  • And so on…

But franchises need a system that doesn’t just display the data. They also need to integrate the data.

They do that by tying those metrics tied into CRMs, accounting systems, and other analytics number-crunchers.

Franchises will likely need to ping a development team for assistance here. But it’s well worth the cost.

Once they’ve got all those ducks in a row, the dashboard will show all the hot-button, high-level stats on a single page. And if it’s a good dashboard, they should be able to drill down to get more details about specific analytics with just a click or two.

Additionally, the national dashboard should include a filter so that users can see data for a specific location.

So, for example, if a franchisee calls up the national help desk and says, “Hey, my metrics are down!” The analyst can use the dashboard to bring up the franchisee’s location and gain some insight into what’s going on.

On the local side, franchisees should also use the dashboard to glean info from Yext, Google My Business, and local keyword ranking data.

Paid Media for Franchises

This is another really important aspect of franchise marketing.

For starters, franchisors should run national ads.

What’s the point of national ads? They can be used to build brand-name awareness (think: McDonald’s). Or they can be used to attract franchisees.

Additionally, corporate can run paid media ads to recruit employees for local franchisees (think McDonald’s again). That’s going to help a lot because it’s often the case that franchisees have issues with staffing.

When it comes to paid media for the local franchisee, it boils down to cost per acquisition and return on ad spend (ROAS).

Let’s say that you’re a franchisee with $5,000 to contribute to paid media ads. Maybe you’d want to put some of that money into paid search ads, some of it into Facebook awareness ads, and some of it for Facebook remarketing.

In that case, your dashboard should show you the cost per acquisition as well as the ROAS for each marketing channel.

Armed with that info, you can double down on what works.

There may be some money budgeted for brand-name awareness. But that’s usually handled at a higher level.

Franchise Social Media Marketing

For starters, corporate headquarters need their own overall social media marketing strategy. You can check out the tweets from some popular franchises on Twitter to see how that works.

Then, the locals should follow that strategy as well.

Corporate will supply content that goes through each of the franchisee’s social media accounts. Local franchisees can use that for organic reach and promoted posts as well.

Now think for a moment about the power of that strategy.

Let’s say the company has 300 franchise locations across the United States. Each location has its own social media account.

And each location posts content (provided by corporate) three times per week.

That’s basically flooding social media with brand-name awareness. It’s a great way to build a business.

Email Marketing for Franchises

It’s really important to have a segmented email program on the national side.

If you’re unfamiliar with a segmented email marketing strategy, it involves keeping multiple email distribution lists. Each list caters to a specific interest or demographic.

For example, corporate might have one email distribution list for potential franchisees. And another for customers who made a purchase.

And the company should also take advantage of email automation. That’s easy nowadays because almost every email distribution service offers automation.

Additionally, everybody involved in this process should be split-testing their email distributions. That is, they should try multiple subject lines to see which one gets the most opens. Then, they can use that subject line for the rest of the emails in the distribution.

By the way: corporate should provide email automation for their franchisees. That’s a great way to consolidate costs and keep each franchisee as profitable as possible.

And once again, franchisors can provide content for individual franchisees so they can send out emails to people who’ve shown an interest in the business.

Conversion Rate Optimization for Franchises

When it comes to conversion rate optimization (CRO), it’s important to continue split testing.

Not just on the corporate home page, though. The strategists involved should test each franchisee’s home page as well.

In fact, everything should get tested. Including:

  • Ad copy
  • Messaging
  • Images
  • Calls to action
  • Trust signals
  • And more

Now, why is it so important to test everything? Because just a little change, like a 1% increase in conversions, across all franchisee web pages, will yield big results.

And don’t forget: CRO always pays for itself. If it’s done right, anyway.

Creative Services for Franchises

Franchises should do a video shoot or photo shoot at least once or twice a year.

But on what subjects?

One of the best sources of inspiration is a competitor. Franchise management can see what other companies in the same industry are doing and get some ideas.

Another thing they can do is run some creative content that highlights the company’s unique selling proposition (USP). That is, how the business stands apart from its competitors.

By the way, that creative content can get used in multiple marketing channels. Franchisees can use it on web pages, paid media, email marketing campaigns, and more.

In our experience, we’ve found that paid media performs a whole lot better with custom creatives.

For one customer, we were able to reduce monthly ad costs from $300,000 to $200,000 by simply putting an enticing creative out there. The right image can make a huge difference.

Franchise Web Design and Development

Franchises need a corporate website that identifies each franchisee.

If you take a look at the Dunkin’ Donuts website, for example, you’ll see that you can search for and find each franchisee.

The franchisee’s web page includes important info for customers, such as its street address, hours of operation, and other features (like whether or not it has a drive-thru).

But more than that, Dunkin’ optimized each franchisee’s web page for the individual location. They’ve done that by focusing on relevant keywords (“donuts”, “espresso”, “coffee”, etc.).

Wrapping It Up

There you have it. Some of the things I’ve learned about franchise focused marketing over the years.

If you’re a franchisor that’s struggling with online marketing, why not put into practice some of the things I’ve covered in this article?

And if you’re a franchisee, feel free to reach out to your franchisor to talk more about digital marketing and get the support you need.

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John Lincoln is CEO of Ignite Visibility, one of the top digital marketing agencies in the nation. Ignite Visibility is a 4x  Inc. 5,000 company. Ignite Visibility offers a unique digital marketing program tied directly to ROI with a focus on using SEO, social media, paid media, CRO, email, Amazon and PR to achieve results. Outside of Ignite Visibility, Lincoln is a frequent speaker and author of the books “Digital Influencer” and “The Forecaster Method.” Lincoln is consistently named one of the top digital marketers in the industry and was the recipient of the coveted Search Engine Land “Search Marketer of The Year” award. Lincoln has taught digital marketing and Web Analytics at the University of California San Diego since 2010, has been named as one of San Diego’s most admired CEO’s and a top business leader under 40. Lincoln has also made “SEO: The Movie” and “Social Media Marketing: The Movie.” His business mission is to help others through digital marketing.

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