Businesses have started to reopen and having a robust digital presence is the ultimate requirement for business survival. Customers have gotten used to digital communication with brands during the lockdown. That means franchise businesses will have to adjust to the rules of the new digital economy. That’s why you at the Head Office level need to ensure that your franchisees stay visible both off- and online, and that they reconnect with local communities via various marketing channels.
How to ensure franchisees reflect your marketing strategy and win the hearts of local communities.
Digital marketing is a powerful channel for resuming communication with local customers. The marketing funnel is made up of three significant stages: awareness, conversion, and retention. Let's take a look at what can be done at each of them.
Ensure local visibility and awareness.
The first step to building an online business presence is creating local visibility and awareness for online customers. Pinning local spots on Google Maps and registering your business on local business directories, such as Yelp, Bing, Google My Business, and TripAdvisor will add value to your overall branding strategy. It makes your business easier to find in location-based Google search results and helps increase conversions. Google’s Consumer Insights has reported a 900%+ increase in “near me tonight/today” searches in the past two years.
Make sure franchisees adapt your brand’s social media strategy to the local community and address the very specific needs within their area. During business reopening, franchisees should let their local audience understand that they are well-aware of the necessary precautions and are taking all possible risks into account to ensure a safe environment for their customers. The posts may talk about the importance of complying with social-distancing standards, product updates, charity events, and important holidays for the community. British Swim School in St. Louis does a great job of communicating safety measures via social media and offline.
Give franchisees guidance on acquiring new local customers and increasing in-store sales.
It's time to help your franchisees approach their target audiences in a way that will enable them to multiply conversions. They can start by setting local SEO, a strategy that helps businesses become more visible in local Google search results.
Local SEO implies that franchisees optimize their website and social media content to customers' search queries related to their physical location. Their task is to mention all areas that might be associated with the local spot, like state, town, region, district, and street so that it is easier for people living nearby to find your business. “If people are searching for something near them, that’s a pretty strong signal of intent. Why? Because they assume the results will be automatically relevant to their location thanks to their devices” - says Lisa Gevelber, Google's VP of Marketing for the Americas.
Here is an example of website content optimization for local search queries.
It's recommended to set and optimize online advertising (on Google, social media, and the web) for local searches too.
Ensure franchisees provide excellent services and generate returning customers.
You should encourage your franchisees to incorporate marketing strategies that will help them show customers that their local business cares about them and their experience with your brand. In other words, franchisees need to understand the importance of client feedback. They should encourage their customers to leave reviews on your website and social networks, as well as invite them to participate in surveys. An excellent example is an online guest experience surveyinitiated by the KFC franchise partner in the United Arab Emirates. It helps them collect real feedback about KFC restaurants located across the UAE and learn how they can improve their customers’ experience.
How you at the corporate level can join forces with franchisees to secure brand reputation.
A successful franchisor-franchisee partnership is crucial for success, and a joint marketing strategy requires both unity and autonomy. The task here is to strike a balance between the franchisor`s national campaigns that require budgeting and advanced digital expertise and the franchisee`s local initiatives that require a personal approach. Although this is often one of the most challenging aspects of franchisor-franchisee relations, a highly coordinated online marketing plan efficiently attracts more customers to franchise locations and eventually boosts brand awareness.
Provide your franchisees with all the necessary guidelines on branding, marketing, communications, and marketing strategy localization. Familiarize them with your stylebook and the company's values. Provide assets with content and messages to ensure your brand voice is aligned across geographically dispersed locations. Constantly communicate about branding updates via social media posts, weekly newsletters, online workshops & training, and website updates.
It's a good idea to use social media marketing tools to keep track of all your brand mentions and communications. This involves monitoring reviews, inbox, and surveys, including those addressed to your franchisees. Many tools allow for filtering mentions and reviews by sentiment. Monitoring negative user feedback can help you stay informed about the sparks of discussions around your brand, immediately react to a critical situation, and save your company’s reputation. Moreover, these tools help detect policy violations and brand inconsistency so that you can handle these issues promptly.
Monitoring franchisees' performance.
An HQ dashboard is a must-have tool to keep abreast of franchisees' performance: keeping tabs on their online visibility, social media engagement, and audience reach. This approach helps to estimate the effectiveness of the overall brand marketing and strategies practiced by different locations.
The way franchisees start establishing relationships with customers during reopening requires a complex approach at the corporate level. Caring about your franchise brand consistency and reputation management, in addition to monitoring your franchisees’ performance on major digital channels such as social media, search engine results, and local business directories, can help your brand thrive even in times of recession.
Max Pecherskyi, CEO & Co-founder of PromoRepublic. PromoRepublic’s Social Media Marketing Suite connects brands with local audiences. The platform is designed to help franchise HQs eliminate inconsistent communications across multiple locations while giving franchisees powerful, easy-to-use tools for social media content creation and AI-driven scheduling. For more information on International Franchise Association (IFA) supplier member PromoRepublic, click here.