We all know that one of the benefits of becoming a franchisee is access to centralised support. An established franchise will already have a brand presence and there’s a lot to be said for this. They’ll typically provide brand guidelines and a suite of assets that are available to you as the franchisee, which saves a lot of time and money and ensures the brand identity remains consistent across the group. They may also run national advertising campaigns or other marketing activities, which will be helpful in generating awareness when you’re just starting out.
However, in most cases it’s up to the franchisee themselves to market their individual business locally. Today’s customers are moving away from chain stores, embracing the shop local ethos, and expect franchisees to be part of the local community. In fact, 97% of people find out about a local business online.
Hyper-localised targeting is therefore extremely important to franchisees and is making the business of running a franchise more complex than ever before. Traditionally, all collateral was produced at a national level and distributed to local franchisees, which is becoming more difficult as local audiences increasingly expect local marketing. Whilst the franchisor could assist in running these local campaigns, they’re unlikely to have the resource or insights to do so, at the desired level to have a positive impact locally.
Individual franchisees may not see the benefit of working together with their counterparts but there’s no point in multiple separate franchisees all paying a different agency to look after their digital marketing. SEO is a great example of this. Even if your franchisor has a centralised website, they may not have optimised pages for each of the local franchisees, considering aspects such as local target keywords and meta descriptions, so that each page ranks for search results for ‘near me’ or location-based searches. In our experience some of the common issues that we see for franchisees are:
- Duplicate content across all local pages across the website i.e. a home page or service page with exactly the same text but a different location name dropped in. Google deems these pages to be poor quality, and therefore will not take them seriously in the local search rankings
- Little or no maps optimisation. Google are making local search results more and more prominent so making sure your Google Business profile is completed fully and regularly updated is more important than ever
- Page title and headers tags tend to be duplicated with little thought for making these unique to each franchisee or specialism
- A lack of reviews on your local listing pages such as Google and Bing business pages. These sites take into account the number and quality of reviews for business in their local listings results.
Whilst there’s more technical areas to look at, addressing these fundamentals alone will significantly improve your SEO campaign and that’s before you get into aspects like link building and blogs.
It might sound like a lot of work to set up and optimise webpages for each individual franchisee, but the reality is it’s relatively straightforward. Local SEO principles are generally the same wherever they’re implemented, and these can usually be replicated across the entire group, quickly and easily. An agency who understands these principles can help to ensure the website is optimised for best practice locally. And with the power of the main franchise website behind it, search engines like Google won’t take long to start indexing these local pages.
Furthermore, local paid advertising (social and search) should always start with a strong organic strategy so that when a franchisee is ready to step into paid, they already have an established presence.
When it comes to paid activity there are some clear advantages to managing this collectively through an agency experienced in franchise marketing. They’ll target only those people who are physically near to each franchisee business, saving a lot of money and time by only paying for ads for a relevant specific area or demographic. They’ll also be able to ringfence the ads, ensuring that none of the franchisees accidentally advertise for areas outside their target area. Franchisees running campaigns in silo won’t have this intel and may encroach on each other’s plans.
A good agency can test and refine paid efforts in one geographical area before replicating across the others, and by running local paid campaigns simultaneously the data and learnings will be huge compared to running each local campaign in silo. The insights will benefit all the franchisees involved.
An agency who understands the franchise business model well can replicate the local marketing learnings of one franchisee across the remaining franchisees in the group. This offers consistency of the brand so that in every location, similar search results and ads are showing for each location. For example, imagine if each franchisee sets up their own Google Business Profile, how different this might look across the board. A streamlined approach can ensure best practice and consistency for all.
88% of consumers who search for local businesses on their mobiles either call or visit the business within 24 hours, so it’s really important that franchisees have a robust and targeted local marketing strategy. If you’re not visible online, chances are your competitors will be, and you could be missing out on valuable custom.