For franchise brands, local marketing has always been a challenge. And while some emerging tools are making franchisee marketing easier, the digital revolution has introduced new marketing challenges as well. Said another way: consumers' growing use of digital and mobile to find, select, and buy goods and services has fundamentally changed the way we as marketers must approach our jobs -- particularly in a distributed marketing environment.
Looking at the data, it's easy to see that franchise brands that want to succeed in local marketing must put a greater focus on intercepting consumers on their new path to purchase:
Despite knowing this, many major franchise chains have merely scratched the surface of local digital marketing with a "location finder" or "localized" microsites. In reality, these solutions are far from effective. Often designed by IT with basic functionality and generic, template-driven content, they provide a poor user experience and fail to accomplish the number-one priority of digital franchisee marketing: alerting and converting customers in a specific local market.
For franchisors to truly support franchisees through the use of digital -- and effectively reach their consumers -- we've developed this prioritized list of local digital marketing tactics to help franchisors increase consumer awareness and drive local sales.
Different sources estimate that anywhere between 25 and 55 percent of search engine queries include local intent, i.e., consumers searching for something in a particular place. Regardless of the actual percentage, Google has stated that location ranks among the top factors when determining relevant search results. For franchisors, this means each franchisee location needs an accurate online business listing including: business name, address, hours of operation, phone number, and description on major sites like Google, Facebook, YP.com, and many more. It's basic SEO, but it's also a pitfall that's costing businesses upwards of $10.3 billion according to one report.
For instance, take a restaurant franchisor we are working with. They were confident that their small, internal team of brand marketers had online listings for all of their 100+ locations accurately managed, providing adequate coverage for hungry searchers throughout the U.S. Unfortunately for this restaurant chain -- and their franchisees -- a diagnostic test we ran showed incredible inconsistencies from location to location. For one location, 80 percent of the available information was incorrect or missing across key sites and networks, meaning they were missing out on critical engagement opportunities, even when a consumer's search query contained the name of the franchise brand and their location.
Having consistent local business listings for each of your franchisees will help with search results, but getting to the top of a results page requires more authority -- the type of authority your corporate website can help provide to localized microsites. While independent vanity sites can make it easy for franchisees to personalize their online presence for local audiences, local landing pages or microsites rooted off your corporate domain give franchisees a major boost to search engine authority.
This is the basic principle of "barnacle SEO": attach yourself to a larger property and you'll be more visible to consumers floating by. For franchisors, it also requires providing franchisees with the ability and flexibility to localize and personalize parts of your corporate-approved web properties. Give franchisees the opportunity to create unique content and highlight local value propositions on their designated landing page(s) within your corporate site, while still upholding your corporate brand guidelines. The "rising tide" principle works with barnacle SEO as well, meaning authoritative local pages will help elevate the value of your entire site.
The old adage still holds true today: "Fish where the fish are." Getting found by consumers at their time of need means more than just showing up in search engine results. It also means showing up in the popular apps and tools consumers frequently use to find and research providers of your franchise's product or service. Mobile apps and sites like Yelp, Foursquare, and TripAdvisor are examples of highly trafficked destinations that garner interest and engagement throughout the consumer journey. And, because each of these sites has made considerable investments in their own digital marketing efforts, they will continue to attract large volumes of targeted consumers hungry for their fresh and relevant content. Ensuring that franchisee locations are prominently positioned within these popular destinations will help capture another critical source of local branding and consumer traffic.
For items 4--6 on this list, check back soon.
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