When it comes to developing a marketing strategy for your local business franchise, you have more hurdles to work around than most local business owners. You need to consider how your marketing efforts will affect other franchisees, as well as restrictions placed on you at the corporate level. Before you initiate any type of marketing strategy, it’s important to ascertain the types of marketing practices that are permitted and/or preferred by the franchisor. They may also be able to supply you with plenty of artwork and banners to use in your franchise marketing efforts.
1. Conduct a Visibility Check
Before starting a marketing campaign, you need to define your starting point; otherwise you’ll never be able to accurately gauge your level of success. Think like a customer, and search for your type of business in your local area. How would you look for a business like yours? Is there a free phone book or business directory delivered to homes in your area? What kind of newspapers do people read? Conduct some investigative research and find out what kind of resources your neighbors are using to find local businesses. Do a Google local search for your particular type of enterprise. Is your business on the first page? The second page? If not, you’ll need to remedy the situation immediately.
2. Strengthen Your Online Presence
Building a web presence is about more than just using tricky SEO techniques to drive more traffic to your website. Leave the brand building to the franchisor and concentrate on strengthening your local business presence online. This involves leveraging local business directories, customer review sites, and social media pages to create a virtual web of citations spread through the Internet that will make the Google-bots sit up and take notice. Claim or create your business listings on:
- Google Plus, Yahoo Local, Bing Local and other local business directories
- Yelp, Angie’s List and other customer review sites
- Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites
- Google Maps, Apple Maps, Waze and other mapping apps
When creating your business listings, be sure to use a consistent NAP – name, address, phone number on each and every listing. You might want to create a template and copy and paste it so that you don’t have variations, such as Bl., Blvd., and Boulevard, or Suite, Ste., No. and #. This will ensure that Google recognizes each and every listing as being connected to you.
3. Strengthen Your Community Presence
As a local business, your neighbors are also your customers, so what concerns your neighbors should concern you. There are many ways to get involved in your local community, such as sponsoring a youth sports team, contributing to a local charity, hosting or participating in charity events, having a booth in a local fair or festival, holding well-publicized contests and participating in community organizations. You’ll need to spend some time out in your community to see what’s important to your neighbors.
4. Email and SMS Marketing
Incentivize your customers to sign up for your text and/or email marketing programs by offering electronic or printable coupons, preferred customer specials and discounts, and notices of this-day-only deals they can only receive by signing up. This will allow you to gather more information about your customer base and facilitate remarketing through thank-you emails and texts, building customer loyalty and repeat business. SMS and email marketing programs are also a great way to manage your loyalty rewards program, which is a powerful tool for building brand loyalty. But used incorrectly, the results can be disastrous – learn to avoid 5 common mistakes local business owners make in email remarketing.
5. Leverage All Local Media Sources
Remember that exercise you did to see where customers are searching for your business? Every community has different newspapers, classifieds, business directories and even local bulletin boards where people are browsing for deals and offers. Try out different methods of advertising, including mail-out postcards to see which ones are most effective. Offer new customers a nominal discount on their initial purchase if they will answer a short survey relating to how they found you and their preferred methods of search.
When it comes to franchise marketing, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution that will work for every franchise. The key is to get to know your local community — which are your customers, after all, and build your marketing strategy around it. Every community is different, but luckily, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You just have to find out what’s already in place that’s effective and use it to your best advantage.