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Lessons Learned from a Roundtable with Top Franchise Marketers

By Courtney Blackburn, CFE

On the closing day of IFA 2019, I had the privilege of hosting two roundtable discussions around search engine marketing. Being an avid proponent of digital marketing, a Certified Franchise Executive, and a (small) multi-unit franchisee, this topic is near and dear to me. Several franchisors and industry experts joined to discuss the merits and strategy of digital marketing for a franchised business. Despite the early hour and the fantastic closing party the night before, the conversation was thoughtful and lively, and included discussions around how to pick the best franchise marketing partner, managing multiple providers / agencies, lowering cost per lead, and below is a recap of the questions that surfaced and the insightful responses shared.

When do you know it’s time to outsource/ bring in expert marketing help?

A number of thoughts were offered on this subject, ranging from:

  • If you are thinking about getting help, do! It’s likely that a company who specializes in digital marketing and knows your industry will pay for itself.
  • Are you running out of capacity? If yes, research companies before making a selection to ensure they have the knowledge, skills, and expertise to support both you and your franchisees. Work together to determine KPIs and then track and monitor them to drive success.
  • Determine what you do well in knowledge and ability, and outsource the rest.

How do I lower my CPL for a new brand/ concept within our existing business?

This is an interesting question for a roundtable but something relevant to all brands, particularly those who are not yet using a marketing partner to support their digital efforts. A number of questions were asked to determine what is and is not being done (i.e. identify gaps) and solutions offered. Among the options suggested:

  • Evaluate your ads and keyword strategy to know what is converting best. Ensure you are able to track online appointments / conversions as well as leads that result from ads, such as relevant phone calls and form or chat inquiries. Once the best keywords are known, capitalize on them and continue to test different ad types, language and offers. Ongoing A/B testing is critical to staying current and ensuring the CPL is as low as possible.
  • Track the various traffic sources – GMB Page, other organic pages, Paid search etc.
  • Balance paid search with sound on and offsite SEO; this is the best way to lower the CPL over time.
  • If applicable, run social media ads (straight ads and re-targeting) based on your best preforming keywords/ strategy.

How do I manage the risk of SEO bots / bad backlinks which may result from the activities a single franchisee and adversely hurt the domain/ entire network?

In developing an SEO strategy for the brand, consider the url structure, approach, backlinking tactics (who / how / where to place them), and what level of access Marketing Partners, Franchisees, and Franchisors have to a site. Ensure roles and permissions are clearly set and if access is fairly wide, it is limited in what can be done/ added. For example, it’s ideal for a Franchisor or their SEO Marketing partner to manage general content and a national campaign strategy. Franchisees could be given limited, local access to their page or microsite to share local news / tips etc. to really drive the sense of local community.

Also, ensure your site is regularly scanned for the on and offsite footprint.

How do I best support my franchisees who have autonomy to choose their tactics and marketing programs?

  • Knowledge is power! Share what you, as the Franchisor, know. Consolidate the best tools, tactics and tips into a repository for the Franchisees to share.
  • Have access to robust analytics so you can monitor the entire network and hone in on what is working best as well as markets that may be more competitive and, therefore, need additional help or budget.
  • Host Webinars or roundtables with the Franchisor or Marketing Partner as the moderator. There is no better way to encourage adoption and share great ideas that Franchisee to Franchisee.
  • Create marketing checklists for new location kickoffs as well as periodic reviews. One franchisor has a detailed questionnaire a franchisee completes before any marketing analysis call to ensure the Marketing Consult is fully apprised of all the tactics, results etc. and can offer the most relevant counsel. This is efficient for the Franchisor and also provides real insight into what is happening in the field: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

What are the top three digital marketing initiatives any emerging franchisor cannot live without?

  • Get found in search. Google is the new Yellow Pages. You have to be found. Two ways you can control being found is to by claiming your GMB listing and running targeted AdWords campaigns.
  • Focus on creating and adding SEO-friendly copy to your website. This is a long-term strategy but will pay off huge dividends in the long run. Research what SEO friendly copy means and/or consult with an expert to help.
  • Social Media Ads can often be very economical and allow you to focus on a highly targeted audience.

In conclusion, the knowledge shared from both the franchisors and the marketing partners was encouraging and offered some best practices that can be taken home and implemented to improve each brand’s digital results.