Local Digital Marketing: Franchisor or Franchisee Responsibility?
For franchisors that want to rapidly expand their franchise systems, the local digital marketing imperative is clear. A recent survey of 437 service industry franchisees found that 58% view online marketing as "very important" or "important" to the success of their business. Nine out of 10 (89%) respondents also said that corporate online marketing is an important factor in choosing a franchisor.
It is clear that franchisees recognize the double imperative of corporate-level online marketing and their own local online marketing. So how are franchisors addressing this double imperative?
The survey also found that two out of three respondents (64%) are "somewhat disappointed" with the level and quality of support they actually receive from franchisors. That dissatisfaction, however, does not seem to be slowing franchisees from directing an ever-increasing portion of their monthly marketing spend to digital marketing. Spending among those surveyed is currently focused on direct mail, online search, social media, and online directory management, so it's already digital-heavy. The study states that "franchise owners are investing heavily in online channels, and express interest in increasing that spend."
So how are corporate franchisors in the service industry addressing the imperative of online marketing? Here's the breakdown according to the survey:
- 15% Corporate provides no support
- 6% Corporate provides and pays for everything
- 4% Corporate sets a budget we control
- 11% Corporate provides a menu of options that we can buy
- 36% Corporate takes a fee for programs they run
- 9% Corporate requires speci?c vendors
- 19% Corporate suggests speci?c vendors
You can see that there is not much consistency in how corporate franchisors collaborate with franchisees to execute local online marketing. What's apparent is that 40% manage the online marketing themselves, according to the study.
So it's clear that 1) franchisees believe online marketing is important, 2) there is not much consistency in how franchisors collaborate with franchisees in regard to online marketing, and 3) in general, franchisees are not very satisfied with the support they receive from their franchisors in this increasingly important area.
Plenty of large franchisors and other companies that sell through local partner networks have not put successful local online marketing in place, so the general dissatisfaction does not surprise me. Let's briefly talk about how to address the main problem at the root of that dissatisfaction. Who is responsible for local Internet marketing, the franchisor or the franchisee? The truth is, duties should be divided between both.
1) Franchisor duties
- Local search/directories. The constant battle of citation building, getting "mentions" of franchisee name, address, and phone number in local business directories such as Google+ Local, Bing Places, Yahoo Local, Infogroup, Acxiom, and Localeze should fall on the franchisor because such work is better centralized.
- Local web pages. This task is better left to the franchisor, since corporate may need to change the content and calls-to-action on 900 franchisee web pages instantaneously. The franchisor should be able to do that from a marketing resource management platform.
- Brand reputation management. I recommend that franchisees manage customer feedback over the review properties and social channels tied to their specific franchise, but the franchisor should have an oversight mechanism that aggregates customer feedback trends across hundreds of locations to glean insight regarding customer desires, common product or service dissatisfaction, etc.
- National content syndication. Content for brand building, new product announcements, and non-geo-specific updates can be pushed out from the central franchisor over the individual social accounts of franchisees, syndicated on local news sites, and over local and mobile web pages.
2) Franchisee duties
- Personal reputation management. Since any franchisee should have their own review property (think Yelp) and social media accounts, they should also be in charge of managing them. Too risky you say? Consider that brands miss 86% of customer feedback registered over social networks, according to a Venuelabs study. Now that is risky! The role of the franchisee in this case is to manage customer feedback, just as any other small business owner does.
- Local content syndication. There are marketing resource management platforms that allow franchisees to create their own local content, specific to their community (within brand limits governed by templates), but content creation localized to region and fed to franchisees is more common. Despite that, it is not hard to imagine heavily templated content passed to franchisees for local customization that will then flow out over their social accounts, local newsfeeds, etc.
Franchisors must create the framework within which franchisees can thrive. It's a no-brainer. Franchisors already do that with their business system, location selection, and supply chain management for their franchisees, so it should not be any different for online marketing. Franchisors that employ systems today to organize roles and duties of local online marketing between themselves and their franchisees will be ahead of their competition tomorrow.
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