This past April, Planet Fitness announced it had passed 10 million active members worldwide. By the end of this year, the brand hopes to add nearly 200 locations, raising its total to more than 1,500.
Franchises such as Planet Fitness with large footprints depend on smart messaging to sustain their momentum. Overall brand marketing is important, of course, but campaigns that focus on the local level are just as beneficial for franchisees and the franchise system as a whole.
Consumers are influenced by a brands' local, regional, and national campaigns, but they are consciously invested in their local communities, which means local messaging is particularly important. If franchisors want customers to connect with their locations, franchisees must appeal to local tastes.
Consumers today crave authenticity, which means they want to feel less like customers of a faceless national chain and more like supporters of a friendly local business. The Nieman Journalism Lab discovered that social media posts targeted to specific geographic regions are six times more successful than posts shared globally.
Franchisees don't need to create independent campaigns from scratch. If franchisors empower local units with custom templates and guidelines, franchisees can easily reach existing and potential customers in their communities.
Localized franchise marketing campaigns that complement a brand's overall message will fuel growth at both the local and system-wide levels. To encourage and support franchisees as they develop their campaigns, franchisors should take the following steps.
Identify preferred vendors franchisees can use to create ads featuring their local stores and employees. These ads will resonate with local customers as they recognize faces from the locations they visit, and the professional marketers will ensure that local and overall branding campaigns meet the same quality standards.
Establish guidelines for social media posts. Whether individual locations own their social pages completely or depend on headquarters for content, the quality of the posts shouldn't differ from region to region. Provide examples on how to promote local individuals, accomplishments, and community involvement.
National campaigns should focus on big-picture messaging, while local advertising should handle more specific needs - but that doesn't mean the two should be unrelated. A senior care franchise could run a national campaign around the quality of care it provides, for example, while local ads could introduce the public to specific caregivers in the area.
Video content is especially strong for local ads, and personal stories from community members encourage others in the area to listen to the message. Let national branding handle elements such as product images, but encourage franchise locations to publicize employees, buildings, customer successes, and community involvement in engaging visual formats.
Different franchise brands have different expectations of online posts. Teach franchisees about best practices, then monitor from a distance and provide feedback when necessary.
Sometimes that means letting local franchisees make mistakes in exchange for long-term exposure. A local restaurant owner might forget to acquire permission to post a photo of some happy guests. Don't discourage the local outreach - customers want to see their neighbors interacting with the brand - but do enforce brand standards and help franchise owners establish local ties.
Give stores the freedom to take advantage of local events. The more timely the posts, the more genuine the local connection feels. Franchisees could hold back-to-school sales or celebrate local sports teams reaching the postseason, for example. Those campaigns wouldn't make sense on a wider scale, but they can be effective on the local level.
To take it a step further, points of local pride, such as universities and alumni associations, sometimes allow chains to become official partners or providers of products and services. Seek out these advantages to turn a seemingly impersonal chain into a popular local destination.
By identifying local marketing opportunities, franchises can increase their local successes without sacrificing brand standards. Follow these steps to establish guidelines for franchise locations and transform pockets of regional growth into company-wide success.
A targeted, quarterly magazine that takes CEO's, VPs and Sales Executives to the cutting edge of franchise development.