As new franchise brands enter the marketplace and existing franchises expand, it is critical to understand there is more and more competition for the same dollar. Additionally, those consumers are smarter, with their ability to research a brand instantly with their smartphone. Smart franchises are recognizing these trends and are taking advantage of the increased online consumer engagement in new and exciting ways. Ultimately, marketing dollars must be spent wisely as a reflection of your customer's buying habits, and for emerging brands with limited resources, translating that to your franchisee often is the job of a third-party agency.
During our agency life, we have had the pleasure of working with new, emerging franchises like Bratworks as well as more established brands like Sharky's and Poquito Más. It's always a challenge to draw the line between marketing to the one-offs versus marketing for the franchise brand as a whole. It's a question we get all the time. For example, "Do I create one Bratworks Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram account, or do I create them for each location that I expand my franchise into, e.g., BratworksLA?"Here are 5 helpful tips to determine whether to market your franchise locally, store by store, or as a larger brand on a global platform.
The first step in determining if you should be developing your brand's marketing on a global level or the local level is asking where your audience lives, works, and plays. For a franchise giant like McDonald's with more than 55 million Facebook followers, marketing becomes less about the location and more about the product, so breaking up the brand into a hyper-local campaign doesn't make sense. For companies like The Habit Burger Grill, which is more location-focused and much smaller, having local pages makes a lot more sense; their clients can engage based on their Habit Burger location.
This is kind of a no-brainer. If you are a company that has very specialized and specific calendars of events like Bassett Furniture, where deals are focused more on national holidays, it makes more sense for you to focus on developing marketing for the whole company, as opposed to a franchise like City Wok, where the deals differ from location to location.
Marketing for location-based franchises is a direct reflection of how that targeted consumer wants to be marketed to. For example, a City Wok in LA might promote their low-calorie menu, whereas their Palm Springs location might promote an early bird special. At the end of the day you want to avoid consumer confusion at all costs: this is the number-one reason consumers say no to a potential purchase. Making sure your marketing, whether national in scope or hyper-local, is clear and targeted is one of the top ways to ensure franchise success.
This is always the million-dollar question. How much do you require your franchisees to spend on marketing per year, and have you defined what those allocations should look like? Again, the giants like McDonald's are incredibly smart and usually ask for about 3% of the local dollars from their franchisees to put back into a larger marketing budget. Smaller franchises tend to rely more heavily on the owner/operators to understand their unique markets and to allocate budget accordingly to outdoor, hard mailers, etc.
As your small franchise grows into the national beast you desire, you must ask yourself if controlling the brand message is important. Obviously, as part of the franchise deal there are standard operating procedures, but the auditing and controlling of the messages gets harder and harder once you expand. One of the main reasons the larger brands require the franchisee to return a percentage of revenue is so they can, as the parent, strategize and disseminate consistent marketing messages. If you want each franchisee to have their own voice, this becomes less important.
Most companies don't think about the long term when it comes to marketing. They are focused on expansion, property acquisition, and targeting new owner/operators. But a smart franchisor will think strategically about the future, asking and answering the questions above in a thoughtful and methodical way. Only by doing this can a new franchise control the marketing chaos that inevitably erupts as a brand rapidly expands into new markets.
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