At ROI Amplified we’ve done a great deal of digital marketing for franchises. Franchises have an interesting predicament when it comes to marketing. You’ve got the reputation of a big company, but you’re kind of on your own when it comes to marketing yourself.
In this day and age, a lot of traffic and business comes through digital marketing. We’re going to explore digital marketing for franchises today, giving you the fundamentals of the entire process and looking at different things your franchise can do to try and find success.
Hopefully, the information below can serve as a jumping-off point for your franchise. Let’s take a look.
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Digital Marketing for Franchises: The Basics
It might be hard to imagine why you would pour a big chunk of your marketing budget into digital avenues. This is especially true if the other methods you use have worked well in the past.
The thing is, business is shifting in a digital direction. In many ways, the business world has already gone digital. Even if you’re in a small town and rely on word of mouth, digital marketing for franchises especially will hold a big role in the coming years.
When individuals are looking for a product or service, what do they do? They open their phone, make a “near me” search, and click one of the top few results.
That’s a simplified view of the equation, though. People engage digitally on many levels, but the fact is that business gets done online. At the very least, a large part of the sales funnel exists online.
Before we dig into the practice of working your campaign, it’s important to know a little bit about digital marketing for franchises, the pieces that constitute a franchise good campaign, and what it can do for your business.
While it may seem like “digital marketing” is just one thing, it’s actually a number of pieces that work together to achieve a singular goal. Many people only talk about search engine optimization, for example.
While search engine optimization is important, there are three or four other categories to address to round out a good campaign. All of the elements of digital marketing feed into one another, but each one has a hard time succeeding without all of the rest.
So, let’s look at all of those pieces. We’ll examine search engine optimization, PPC advertising, social media, and content marketing.
Understanding Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization is the ongoing process of managing your website in a way that produces high search rankings on Google results pages.
The goal is to place your website at the top of rankings that your target audience searches on a regular basis. There are a lot of factors that go into whether or not your website ranks well.
This, in part, is because of how complex the search engine algorithm is. The algorithm consists of some 200 ranking factors that work together to provide users with the most relevant results.
Our job as marketers is to create content and manage web pages in a way that observes the value of those ranking factors and adjusts to them. We’ll look closer at the most important factors later in this article after we go over the fundamentals.
You also have to consider the kind of competition you’re up against and the keywords you’re ranking for. You can rank well and draw a lot of traffic even if your business is relatively small in comparison to other sites in your niche.
Popular keyword results tend to be occupied by the biggest companies in the niche. Those rankings will be hard to achieve. That said, there are always less popular keyword phrases that draw the same audience.
Slight variations on popular keywords have a similar audience and fewer businesses are trying to rank for them. The goal is to find keywords with high traffic and low competition, then create content that’s optimized for those terms.
PPC (pay-per-click) advertising is a form of advertising that exists on search engines and social media feeds. There might be other applications for PPC ads, but the dominant ones exist in the feeds of results pages and social media pages.
These ads allow you to insert yourself into the search rankings of a particular keyword phrase or in the feeds of interested users in your target audience. When you choose keywords well, the content you’re advertising is in line with what that individual would otherwise see in the feed or results.
That allows you to place ads that don’t look like ads at all. The content just seems like something that would fit into the stream of what the user is used to. They’ll know it’s an ad eventually, but it helps to have content that isn’t obtrusive to the user.
Further, the position in those feeds and results is very important. You find yourself at the top of a popular keyword’s results page. You can find yourself in the feed of tens of thousands of individuals in your target audience.
For the ad to be successful, you have to optimize your website and streamline your user experience, but these PPC ads get you right in the door. We’ll discuss more about these later.
Social Media in Franchise Marketing
Social media also plays a big role in the marketing plan.
Social media doesn’t hold much power over your search rankings directly, but there are ways to use a following in order to boost your content and get a lot more out of your SEO campaign.
When you cultivate followers, you also get direct access to the feeds of people you know are interested in your content. The more people that follow you on social media, the better able you are to market directly to your people.
You can also use that following to push content that you want to rank in search engine results pages. When you create a piece of content and share it on social media, the users that click it will be directed back to your actual website.
Any time someone is on your website engaging with your content, you generate good SEO karma for that page. Successful pages create good karma for the rest of the site.
Google takes engagements and user activity on a website as signs that the content is interesting and useful. So, when you present an article to 3,000 social media followers, a number of them will go to your page and engage with the content.
That allows the content to get some buzz and you might see your rankings improve a little bit.
Content marketing is infused in the previous three categories, but it’s important enough to warrant a section of your own. Content marketing is the act of getting the content you produce out there and visible to users
It’s also a way of incorporating the content that you create into your sales funnel. Whereas the ideas of SEO, PPC, and social media are efforts of attracting individuals to engage with your brand, content marketing is geared toward generating leads.
Depending on the type of business you run, “leads” will have a different definition. You can use content marketing to educate, incentivize, inform, and build brand awareness that directs the user through the sales funnel and toward a conversion.
It’s a tough thing to do, though. You need elements of SEO, social media, and PPC to see serious results.
Marketing Your Franchise
Now that we’ve taken a look at some of the essential ideas, let’s dig into the way that you can find success through franchise marketing.
It’s important to distinguish whether you’re in the position of a franchisor or a franchisee. As a franchisor, your goal should be to push your franchisees toward using digital marketing.
Many individuals who run franchises might not be familiar with digital marketing and its various tactics, so the idea of using this unfamiliar form of marketing could be a little nerve-wracking to them.
Their time and money are valuable, and taking a risk on something that seems new or risky could be a hard sell.
Depending on your business structure and the franchise that you own, those individuals might be in control of how they spend their marketing budget. In fact, there’s a good chance that the franchises control almost all elements of their unit’s branding.
That said, a successful marketing campaign for one of your franchises will do wonders for your brand at large. It’s in your best interest to help all of your franchisees to incorporate digital marketing into their business plan.
If you’re a franchisor trying to convince a franchisee, make sure to focus on ROI. Things like click-thru rates and “conversions” don’t have a real-world meaning for most people, but the idea that marketing online brings financial returns is a pretty compelling one.
Once you’re ready to start putting things into motion, you can use the guide below as a rough outline of your campaign.
1. Get a Site Audit
Odds are that you already have a functioning website. That site is bound to have a few rough edges if you haven’t had it looked at by a digital professional or some kind of audit software.
We often forget about all of the time and effort that goes into producing a successful site. Just because your branch has a big name backing it doesn’t mean that your franchise’s site will do well in search rankings or user experience.
Because a website’s rough edges are hard to pinpoint in a lot of cases, it’s smart to run a website audit on your page. This allows you to get a look at the minutia that comprises a successful site.
Things like site speed, site architecture, nuances of language, and so much more are all factored into the search engine algorithm. Further, there are a lot of aspects of user experience that we pick up on only subconsciously. Those kinds of factors are the ones that make a difference.
You should even run a site audit if your branch’s site was created by the marketing professionals at your company’s headquarters. That way, you’ll get a clear idea of what needs to be done and how you can move forward with your digital presence.
2. Refine The Back End of Things
Once you get a read on how your site is performing and what your particular issues might be, it’s time to work with professionals to craft a better site.
The nuts and bolts of your website are what lay the foundation for a great digital marketing campaign. In order to produce an excellent site, you have to work in the areas of graphic design, web design, and web development.
Unless you’re a tech-whiz, it’s probably a good idea to work with someone who has professional experience with those processes. These are individuals that can refine, organize, and craft your website to be well-optimized, user-friendly, and generally better at attracting and keeping new customers.
All you have to do to start that process is schedule a consultation and discuss what your options are. After that discussion, you’ll have a much better idea of what needs to be done. You’ll also have a great look at how much those changes will be able to boost your revenue.
3. Identify Your Digital Target Audience
You know who your audience is, and you might even know a number of their faces.
That said, the landscape is a little different online. In digital terms, your audience is more of a general demographic profile that you can use to place content and advertisements.
Things like age, zip code, sex, income level, and other personal factors come into play when you’re generating this profile. You can use this target audience as a tool when you select the keyword phrases that direct your content creation campaigns.
This is a tricky thing to grasp at first. You can look at the traffic data on various keywords in your niche and see that there’s a lot more traffic for keywords that your target audience isn’t searching for.
You might think that getting more traffic, in general, is the way to generate leads and increase revenue. The thing is, marketing to a small group of individuals that are interested in your product or service tends to be a lot more effective than reaching a big group of uninterested people.
4. Locate Search Results Goals
Anything you can do to ground your intentions and goals is a good thing in digital marketing. You can start out with a vague idea of “boosting sales” or “increasing traffic” but those things don’t happen without clear benchmarks.
In the case of most small businesses, those benchmarks are local search results and Google maps rankings. For example, let’s say you run a restaurant franchise in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The holy grail of rankings might be your target audience’s “food near me” search.
In those results, there are a couple of benchmarks to shoot for. The first and most obvious benchmark is the list of rankings. You want to be first, or rank at the top of the stack right below the couple of advertisements that Google inserts.
When you’re there, you’re the first thing that comes to the user’s mind, and the fact that you’re at the top of the list gives you a sense of credibility. It’s also just a force of habit for people to click one of the first few search results.
Besides the list of rankings is the “snack pack.” The snack pack is that little section of Google results that lists a few businesses and offers directions, reviews, prices, menu items, images, and more.
When it comes to digital marketing for franchises, a common mistake is not setting realistic goals. You might look at a few of the key keyword searches and set gradual goals for those areas. For example, you might set the goal of ranking fourth in that search in the next three months.
You might say that you’re trying to get into the snack pack four months from now. When you have those specific goals, you can start to climb your way toward them by using your competition as a reference for what needs to be done.
Look at the websites that are ranked above you and compare your pages. Why are they at the top of the stack and you’re still at the bottom? Do they post more content?
Is their website more user-friendly? How many Google MyBusiness reviews do they have? All of these factors might come into play, they’re all useful as you try to craft your marketing campaign.
5. Create Lead-Generating Content
Once you’ve narrowed down your target audience and set keyword-based goals, you can start to produce content that helps you achieve those goals.
Content should be created in response to the keywords that your target audience is searching for. Further, you should create content that ranks for various keyword phrases in your niche.
There’s a wide net of keyword phrases that each target audience searches. There are a few that come up most often, odds are that there are dozens of searches in your niche that would draw the same kind of business.
For example, “food near me” is just as applicable as “take out options near me” if you offer takeout. The same goes for “best places to eat in Salt Lake City.”
Whatever your niche, know that there are a lot of options to optimize for. When you identify a keyword, the goal is to produce content that addresses the question or concern implied in that keyword.
Establish keyword research and content posting schedule that allows you to keep placing yourself in those searches on a regular basis.
Structuring Content for Leads
Great content doesn’t help you if it doesn’t lead to a customer or client, though.
So, make sure that your content provides real value to the user. At the same time, ensure that there’s an angle embedded in the content that nudges that user toward your home page or product pages.
Infuse your content with the idea that you’re an authority in the field, and working with you would solve their problem or meet their need. You should include some form of a call to action that comes right out with that suggestion as well.
Your entire piece of content shouldn’t be heavy-handed with self-promotion, but there can be one or two direct messages that tell the user to visit your site and engage with your business.
6. Reinforce Campaign with Advertisements
We put most of the emphasis on SEO and site development because those are the factors that will last. Those strategies situate you in your niche and provide a position in search rankings that draw business.
That said, those methods take a little bit of time to start working. Further, they don’t always reach a massive number of people right away. If you’re looking to generate fast brand awareness or push a particular promotion, advertisements are the way to meet those goals.
As we’ve discussed, PPC ads are an effective way to reach large groups of people with very little time or effort. PPC ads can be incorporated into the long-term marketing campaign as a supplement to site management and content creation.
When executing digital marketing for franchises, there are numerous platforms or environments you can use that will allow an ad to flourish. Social media platforms are a great place to spread the word and generate brand awareness.
If you’ve got a new product or offering, posting that information at the top of the search results with a Google ad might be the best way to let people know. Over time, the methods above will help put you in a position to rake in all of the web traffic that you can.
In five years’ time, who knows how far the scales will have tipped in the digital direction. It might be very hard to stay afloat if you don’t have the proper digital marketing foundations.
Want to Learn More about Digital Marketing for Franchises?
There’s a lot more involved in setting up the right marketing campaign for your franchise. Digital marketing for franchises is half about tailoring your efforts to your audience and the particular niche that they occupy on the web.
We’re here to help you move forward with an excellent campaign. Contact us to learn more about all of the areas of digital marketing, SEO content creation, franchise marketing, and what professionals can bring to the table.