10 Online Marketing Tips for Franchise BrandsYour business might be offline, but the impact of the online world has never been greater. The internet has changed the way consumers find and interact with local businesses. As a franchise, you face the challenge of leveraging the benefits of a strong parent brand effectively in today’s world of increased web usage and social media connectedness. Fret not, here are 10 online marketing tips to build your brand at the local level in today’s increasingly-connected world.

1) Create a Dynamic Website

A website is nice, a dynamic website is essential. According to comScore, Internet usage on mobile devices have surpassed desktop usage in early 2014. Businesses need to adapt to this landscape with a beautiful, interactive, responsive website design.

Your website is a virtual storefront, where customers can go to find out about your products and services. Best practice for franchise brands is to promote the brand itself on a main, centralized website, but create franchisee pages using a sub-domain for each location. This strengthens the brand’s online presence tremendously while avoiding the common SEO pitfalls around duplicate content.

Maintain consistency online by providing banner designs and templates for franchisees to use on their pages, and encourage them to post engaging content relative to their location. Every page should feature a call to action, whether it’s to make a reservation, watch a video, join a contact list for emails, texts or newsletters, or simply call for more information. Apply these techniques on your Facebook pages using their new CTA features for added benefit.

Keeping the website fresh with regular updates will improve search rankings, especially if you post helpful information, tips and tricks on a regular basis. Above all, make sure the website is not just mobile-friendly, but mobile-optimized.

2) Claim Your Local Business Listings

Think about this scenario, John is looking for a new gym, so he goes online and starts his search, gym A has updated online profiles across the major business directories as well as social media pages full of rich content, gym B has neglected to build out their online presence. Which gym is John most likely to go to? Hint: It’s not gym B.

In the same way, make sure each franchisee claims their business listings on Yelp, Google+, Bing Local, Yahoo Local as a start and on any other business directories that may be relevant to your industry. To keep from confusing the Google Bots (which is never a good thing), ensure that each franchisee’s NAP (name, address, and phone number) is posted the exact same way each and every time. Provide a template as to how each listing should appear to ensure consistency.

3) Engage Customers in Social Media

Encourage franchisees to create their own social media pages, to engage in more interactions with their customers and foster a family atmosphere around their branches. Provide them with helpful resources such an informative content, company news, product information, and corporate artwork, along with a clear set of guidelines on their usage to maintain the style and reputation of the brand. Check out our post on how social media has changed franchise brand management for more in-depth helpful information.

4) Focus on Content Marketing

Would you rather be accosted on the street about the latest earphones, or be exposed to posters displaying its features and their performance compared to other earphones? Rather than blatantly shoving a product into the face of a consumer, content marketing resolves around drawing potential consumers in with interesting and informative content, and gradually introducing the product as a solution to a dilemma. To accomplish this, a marketing team needs to understand the customer and what motivates them, what their needs and desires are. This usually comes in the form of a blog, newsletter, video, or white paper. When a customer perceives that they are getting valuable insights for free, they are much more likely to respond to your call to action.

5) Try Out Online Advertising

In the world of online advertising, one can easily be overwhelmed by the terminology. Pay per click (PPC), pay per view (PPV), featured listings, sponsored posts, what does it all mean? And more importantly, which options are free versus paid and is it worth it? If Facebook’s crackdown on “overly promotional posts” is any indication, paid advertising is becoming the norm in today’s landscape.

So what kind of online advertising is right for your franchise brand? One simple starting point is to check out what your competitors are doing and see what works for them. If you truly know your customer (Remember this? You should, you just read it before this section!), you should be able to discover where and when your ads more most likely to be favorably received.

Start small with a finite budget and see what happens. Always be open to test new avenues, but don’t forget to optimize all the free ones first.

6) Leverage Retargeting Techniques

Convert window-shoppers to proud purchasers using retargeting practices. Generally speaking, only around 2% of visitors to an online site actually purchase something on their first visit. Retargeting works by pacing anonymous retargeting cookies into your visitors’ browsers. When the customer visits other sites later, such as Google and Facebook, your targeted ads will appear. This is an extremely effective form of marketing that helps keep your brand top-of-mind with potential customers, and gives them repeated opportunities to reconsider the particular item they may have been looking at.

7) Practice Effective CRM

Ensure your customer relationship is on the ball collecting relevant information on customer interactions. The information from CRM can be used to support remarketing, upsells, refills and servicing, and so much more. One popular home improvement store make a huge splash with customers a few years ago by offering to provide customers with their previous year’s purchase information for holiday day lighting. Diving into the customer interaction information will help you better foster customer relationships, by familiarizing yourself with the customer’s needs and concerns.

8) Don’t Forget about Email Marketing

Despite what some pundits may try to tell you, email is here to stay. Why? Emails may not be read instantly, but they can be read at leisure when the recipient is relaxed and has time to browse. Email is in a position not afforded to other advertisements – the customer can choose the best time for them to look at it.

Use email marketing to follow up after a sale with helpful tips and information as well as upsell product offers. In addition to providing additional information, email can be used as an effective tool for driving reviews and receiving feedback. In the same follow-up email after a sale, simply ask for feedback (more consumers are likely to give feedback directly following an interaction than days or weeks down the line). If the feedback is great, take it a step further and ask them to share their experiences on Yelp or Facebook (more on this later). If the feedback wasn’t great, you now have the incredible opportunity to rectify the situation before the customer voices their complaints online.

Never spam your customers with irrelevant or purely promotional emails (this seems to be a recurring theme doesn’t it). Instead, keep them interested with personalized, engaging content, and of course, a call-to-action.

9) Go Mobile with SMS Marketing

With the rate at how mobile usage is soaring, it should come as no surprise that SMS Marketing is going to be huge. SMS Marketing is similar to email in the sense that it can be used to follow up after a sale. However, texts need to be much shorter and to the point.

On average, according to research by Frost & Sullivan, text messages are read on average within 5 seconds so it’s also a great way to notify customers of imminent sales and promotions. Franchisees can use SMS Marketing to fill vacant seats by offering discounts during slow periods or to clear out slow-moving inventory. As always with any type of marketing, make sure your texts are relevant and include a call-to-action.

10) Word of Mouth is Still the Best Advertising

Old fashioned word-of-mouth advertising isn’t so old fashioned anymore. Now it takes place on customer review sites like Yelp and Google+, as well as on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Instead of simply telling friends and family about their new discoveries like a hole-in-the-wall food establishment or a new salon on the corner, customers are now sharing photos and videos. Can you say free advertising?

Nowadays, instead of encouraging referrals (and offering a customer rewards program), savvy marketers are posting signs and reminders to “find us on Yelp” and “like us on Facebook.” Unfortunately, consumers are more likely to voice negative experiences than positive ones, so happy customers may need a gentle reminder once in a while. Of course, to ensure good word-of-mouth advertising, the first and most important thing is to provide great value and exemplary customer service!