At the core of each franchise venture is a goal to keep the experience consistent across all properties.
The same is true for how a franchise is marketed. Customers will come to expect consistent messaging from the franchise, no matter what communication channel it’s coming from. The challenge some franchisers face is successfully implementing the new digital marketing techniques that have become widely available to the pandemic marketplace — and doing so in a way to meet the expectations of today’s digitally savvy consumers.
As digital marketing techniques have become more widely available, even to the smallest of businesses, it’s critical that franchise owners make best use of the technology and grow their operations, without off-putting their current or prospective customers.
Here are five techniques we’ve been recommending to our clients.
1) Zero-click search
Most customers are getting information about a franchise owner’s business through search engines — not the brand’s actual website. Zero-click searching was pioneered by Google and other popular search companies have adopted it. Using it, customers get all the basic information about the franchise — information like business hours, locations, phone numbers and even menu items or service offerings — without ever visiting the franchise website.
How? Google is providing this information as part of the search result — usually as a boxed item in the left column that provides these details. This saves the customer time, as they don’t need to click through to get this information, hence the name: zero-click search.
The problem with zero-click search? Search engines don’t always have the most up-to-date particulars about the franchise. This is where local listing management comes in. Those that want to win the search game, need to make sure Google (and others) are displaying correct information.
It’s not just customers searching the franchise name who find this info. Increasingly, voice assistant apps such as Siri and Alexa are sourcing their responses from this search box. Franchise owners who want a step up on the competition by capitalizing on local business information to help boost appearance in customer searches. Be sure the information listed is accurate, managed regularly and takes advantage of any other promotional information the listing offers.
2) Smooth and seamless user experiences
Be sure all marketing communications — be it email, website, banner ad or social media feed — provide a clean, friction-free experience for the customer. Avoid using cookie-cutter design templates and, instead, make the franchise stand out by providing a rich and memorable experience.
A good rule of thumb? Anticipate a customers’ needs first and then provide a simple path to providing a solution.
Too often, dated websites spend too much effort on impressing the customer with myriad promotional “come ons” when they’re there only looking for a specific piece of information, be it your customer service number or your latest sales flyer. They don’t have the time or patience to dig down through multiple pages of Flash animations and long videos. Anticipate the any number of things they might visit your site for and then provide simple navigation to quick answers.
Finally, be sure all your marketing communications are “mobile-maximized” because most everyone is viewing your communication on a phone or tablet. These are all crucial measures for increasing brand awareness, enhancing the user experience, and ultimately achieving customer satisfaction and return visits.
3) Content is still king but …
Content marketing has always been key to winning the digital marketing game and it comes with the added bonus of building SEO and finding superior position for search engine results pages (SERPs). Franchise owners may be tempted to provide general content about their franchise as a whole, but increasingly, the most effective content is locally focused.
To localize your content, a franchise should use keywords based on what terms customers are using in each of the franchise markets and then create boldly headlined, locally customized, content featuring those keywords. Also, make sure each franchise location offers slightly different content reflecting the likes and interests of that particular community.
4) Strategic media planning and ad buys
New or smaller franchises face the challenge of getting the brand’s name known and one of the most effective ways is through targeted media buys. Just be careful to make sure the media budget is working strategically. The most practical way is to get in touch with the region’s largest or most reputable media buyer. Look for those that have excellent relationships with the media, which will translate into better competitive rates and added value for the brand.
Spread your budget to cover the spectrum of media outlets until you find the one that works for you, whether it be traditional media: TV, radio, print and out-of-home signage, or new media: paid search, remarketing, display, paid social, programmatic, YouTube and mobile.
5) Reputation is everything
Especially in small markets, reputation and word-of-mouth referrals mean everything to a franchise’s success. Monitoring customer feedback on review sites (including Google, Facebook, Yelp and Citysearch) is important. They also need to continually monitor their own sites and social media feeds for complaints and issues that arise there.
Today’s consumers expect franchises to respond to feedback and address issues raised — even when the news is not good. Too often, unfortunately, many franchise managers leave social media management in the hands of employees who don’t understand the two-way nature of social media. Responses need to be consistent across all channels … including social media ones. One franchise office, for instance, should not be handling a complaint one way, while another office handles it differently.
Today, most people tend to read online reviews before deciding on where to take their business. Five-star reviews are important to customers, but seeing the business engage with these same customers through reviews is just as important. Take control of how your customers look at your business by monitoring and responding to their feedback.