Franchise Marketing: Emerging Brands Guide on How to Grow Successfully

January 11, 2019
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Franchise marketing sounds easy in theory, but it’s actually very difficult in practice.

Franchises have to produce marketing game plans at multiple levels to succeed:

Both at the overall business level and for individual franchises.

This means potentially straddling multiple diverse markets in local areas.

That’s why we developed the franchise marketing guide for emerging brands.

Using this guide, you will be able to get a full understanding of franchise marketing, how to bring your strategy digital, and how to create a marketing plan to grow your business.

What is Franchise Marketing?

Franchise marketing is a complex, two-fold definition. With franchise marketing, there are two distinct factors that you have to take into account.

  1. Marketing your business to get new franchisees
  2. Separately marketing those existing and new franchise locations in their local area

For instance, McDonald’s has to develop a plan to get franchisees to establish. But that’s not all. They then have to produce marketing content for each new franchisee to attract customers to dine there.

With franchise marketing, you will need a digital (and offline) strategy for both your corporate company and each franchise under your corporate umbrella.

This means crafting different market strategies for various local areas where competition can vary dramatically as well as population sizes, actual business locations, etc.

According to data from Wayne State University and professor Timothy Bates, out of 20,500 businesses studied, 65% of franchises survived after four years.

Compare that to independent businesses which see 72% survival rates after four years. In the retail space, it’s even more grim for franchisees: 61.3% survival rates vs 73.1% for independently owned businesses.

These survival rates signify a need for better, stable marketing plans that transcend beyond just the corporation and into each franchisee location. This is where things get tricky: how can you differentiate between corporate marketing and local franchise marketing?

This is what we will show you in this guide. So, where do you start? By analyzing the local competition.

How to do Competitor Research (Know the Competition)

Before jumping into a marketing game plan and hitting the ground running, you will need to do competitor research. And this goes for both your corporate plan and individual franchisee plans.

Chances are, you’re not the only corporate entity in your space. Everything from fast food to plumbing to auto shops have competition. At the corporate level, you will need to assess who your top competitors are, what they are producing, and how they attract both customers and franchisee interest.

At the franchisee level, you will need to assess competition in their local region and who you will be competing with for business.

Thankfully, you can kill two birds with one stone here.

In just a few easy steps, you can conduct basic competitor research for your corporate franchise  and franchisee locations.

The key areas you want to assess here are:

  1. Who your direct competitors are
  2. Where they have franchise locations in relation to your franchisees
  3. What marketing efforts they are using to promote the brand as a whole

First up, you will want to find your direct competitors. To do this, you can head to Google or even Google Maps and look for franchise companies near your corporate location or HQ.

For instance, searching for other pest control companies in your area:

As you will quickly notice, some household names pop up: Terminix, Orkin, etc.

If you recognize business names, they could be franchise companies operating under the corporate brand name.

These will be your competitors at both the corporate and franchisee level.

Compile a list in a spreadsheet and save it for later.

Next you will want to compare each of these competitors on your list to individual locations for your franchisees.

For instance, if you have a franchisee located just outside of Nashville, examine if those same corporate competitors have locations here too. Chances are, you will uncover more data on competitors by doing so.

Adding them to the list, you should have a large list of potential competition. The last step is marketing research:

What are your competitors doing to market their business? What social media platforms are they on? How often do they post on them? What content do they publish on social media? Are they using Google Ads? Do they have a blog where they write content?

All of these questions will play a role in what you focus on in your marketing plan. For example, if your competitors aren’t blogging, that’s a huge opportunity for you. If they are dominating social media, you will have to put more stock into social to establish your own presence.

Research the following factors and rank them from importance to decide where you will start to target:

  • Social media: note how often they publish, how engaged their following is, and what type of content they post.
  • Blogging: How often do they blog? What is the content about?
  • Customer service: What channels do they use for service? Compare those to your current service offerings.
  • Paid advertising: Do they advertise on Google Ads? Conduct a search for their brand to see if they show for paid ads.
  • Local SEO: local marketing is how well you are ranking for local searches in your niche. What local keywords or PPC campaigns are they running? How is their Google My Business Profile? What local events are they sponsoring?
  • Offline marketing:  What offline marketing tactics are they using? Direct mail? Booths? Fliers? Billboards? Radio? Conventions? Sponsoring local events?

After you have compiled all of this data in a spreadsheet, you should have a clear picture of what the competition is doing. This serves a dual purpose:

  1. It tells you what the baseline of your marketing has to be to remain competitive in the market.
  2. It shows you areas that your competition isn’t succeeding with, giving you direct chances to take market share in that area.

Now, let’s identify a target audience before hitting the ground running!

Get Your Free Franchise Marketing Plan Template

Enter your email and instantly get a template to help you build out your franchise marketing plan.

Identify and Locate Your Target Audience

Identifying your target audience is key for multiple reasons. Without a clearly defined target audience, you will struggle to communicate value that resonates with your customer base.

For instance, if you are a retail franchise selling clothes for millennial business workers but you are reaching CEO’s in their 50s and 60s, you won’t be selling much product.

Identifying your target audience and locating them is critical. If you place your business in the wrong location, it could be far out of the way and inconvenient for your target market.

For instance, you wouldn’t want to buy land in the suburbs if your business was catering to people living in populated city areas.

If you don’t currently have much of an online presence, you can craft a few distinct factors to identify and locate your ideal targets:

  • Demographics: Age range, genders, etc.
  • Income: average income / disposable income
  • Pain points: what your average customer has trouble with that you can fix or provide
  • Online or offline: where your target market is most receptive
  • General locations: geographic locations where your target market is densely populated

If you already have an online presence, use tools like Facebook’s audience insights to analyze your current audience for marketing campaigns.

This data can be found on the Facebook Business Manager. Essentially, these insights will give you data on who engages with your Facebook business page the most, signifying their interests and other demographic data that can help you build a target market:

Factors like location and job title will help you build local connections and personas for different target markets.

This becomes especially critical when building a marketing plan for each individual franchisee.

Once you have a clear-cut audience nailed down for your franchise and franchisees, it’s time to focus on branding.

Create A Marketing Plan

In 2016, here at HigherVisibility, we conducted a “Franchise Industry Marketing Survey” in which nearly 2,000 franchise businesses and professionals were contacted to provide feedback.

In this study, we found some shocking results on the state of franchise marketing.

According to survey results, traditional marketing channels that are mostly offline were not delivering the results that franchises were looking for:

Only 39.47% of those surveyed said that their direct marketing efforts were paying off.

The majority said they weren’t, and nearly 20% said they weren’t sure.

This allude to multiple issues with the current state of franchise marketing:

  1. Too much of it is focused on offline tactics, leaving online marketing on the back burner and halting growth
  2. The disconnect between offline marketing tactics (like direct mail, etc) and tracking data

In this section, we will help you craft a digital marketing presence that helps your franchise get found and perfect your offline presence to accurately track data.

Let’s get started.

Get Your Free Franchise Marketing Plan Template

Enter your email and instantly get a template to help you build out your franchise marketing plan.

Craft Your Digital Presence

Digital marketing isn’t just for online-only businesses or tech companies.

According to Google’s research, 80% of consumers (or 4 out of every 5 people) use search engines to find local information on businesses:

(Image Source)

Crafting a strong digital presence is critical to meeting the needs of common user behavior.

Nowadays, everyone heads to Google before doing any sort of business with a company. To meet these needs, you have to create an online presence that attracts, delights, and converts searchers into paying customers.

Here are a few key marketing tactics to focus on when building your digital footprint.


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