Franchisors seeking to build a loyal customer following and remain competitive in 2011 must develop and deliver national and local marketing programs for their franchisees--deploying the latest social media tools in addition to their traditional methods.
Today's rapidly evolving consumer marketing strategies are relying less on traditional marketing channels and tools with each passing day--simultaneously sowing confusion and creating opportunity for franchise marketing and branding managers and staff, as well as for their franchisees.
To help sort out the current consumer marketing environment and where it's headed, Franchise Update Media Group conducted a survey (Click Here for details) to measure franchise brand marketing, advertising, and branding efforts. As the results began to flow in, it became evident that social media is redefining how brands spread their messages, connect with customers, and measure the effectiveness of their strategy. The smart and savvy brands are doing this, while some others still need a little push in that direction.
"Providing intelligence and franchisee support for attracting and retaining customers within their markets is critical to the success of all franchise organizations," says Therese Thilgen, president and chief content officer of Franchise Update Media Group. That's one of the reasons the company has set a date for its first Franchise Consumer Marketing Conference, June 14 and 15 in San Francisco. Chief marketing officers and executives from some of the largest, as well as upstart, franchise brands will gather for two days to get up to speed on--and out in front of--the latest tools and trends franchisors are using successfully to connect with their customers. For details, see www.franchiseconsumermarketing.com.
And, in tandem with this magazine's redesign and expanded focus, Franchise Update has also just launched its newest monthly electronic publication, the Franchise Consumer Marketing Report.
The 2011 Consumer Market Research Questionnaire was sent to franchise CEOs and other top franchising executives and chief marketing officers in early February. Franchise food, retail, and service industries all participated in the survey. Early responses have indicated some expected findings, some not so expected, and a few shifts in traditional consumer marketing strategies.
As you might expect, brands still rely on print media to get the message out: newspapers, direct mail, and circulars accounted for 20 percent of the marketing budgets of those companies surveyed. Online advertising (including streaming video) accounted for another 17.6 percent of the budget. Perhaps not so surprisingly, social media accounted for nearly ten percent of marketing budgets, and is expected to climb as the new technologies and tools take hold.
Indeed, one of the most striking results to be uncovered in the survey is the rising growth of social media in brand marketing. In effect, today's social marketing is the equivalent of yesterday's word of mouth. It's out there and it's everywhere--but unlike with word of mouth, when it comes to brand reputation and social media, franchisors can have a little more control.
Nevertheless, the survey found that consumer marketing continues to be fraught with challenges for franchisors. For example, when asked about the most pressing consumer marketing issues facing their systems, respondents raised issues including brand awareness, declining cost-effectiveness of print media, how to use social media and measure its ROI, and working within marketing budget constraints.
Asked what factors would help build consumer marketing success within their system, respondents said (no surprise here) identifying and marketing a consistent brand message, targeting consumers, building relationships, and creating loyal customers. But now they must balance their budget spend across more channels.
In essence, consumer marketing continues to play a significant role in franchisor strategies today. Asked about the importance of consumer marketing in building a brand and in attracting and retaining customers, more than 50 percent said it was "extremely important," the highest rating on the scale, and an additional 20 percent responded "very important."
The first-ever Consumer Marketing Research Questionnaire findings confirm that consumer marketing initiatives are indeed a cornerstone of successful franchise brands.
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