Focusing on local marketing can often help you reduce your spend and get better results for your franchise network, says Jordan Fleming
Let’s be honest, marketing is one area of business that everyone knows they need, but few really understand how to get the best from.
Recent data from our friends at Smith & Henderson found that marketing support was the third lowest area of franchisee satisfaction in its zon Franchise Satisfaction Benchmark programme. As someone who spends every day developing and implementing marketing strategies for clients, I can tell you it really doesn’t need to be that way.
Among franchisees there is clearly an appetite for better marketing support. We have worked with some who were desperate for marketing support, yet they felt their franchisor was providing only a general solution, rather than addressing what they saw as territory specific issues. They wanted to see initiatives that supported their business and helped their sales to grow - they just didn’t see that promoting national brand awareness was enough on its own.
The truth, of course, is that marketing has to address both national and local objectives. One feeds the other, but unless the marketing you provide actually works for your franchisees, then it often ceases to be seen as support. Marketing isn’t abstract and it’s not something that can be generalised - it’s about positioning yourself correctly within the context of the market you operate in. That’s how I look at it in my business and I know that’s how most of the franchisees who we have worked with have looked at it.
I’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news is there is no single right answer. Every business is different and every business needs to find the right marketing mix that will work for them. The good news is there are some simple things every network can do to help their franchisees. The first is to think locally.
Local marketing isn’t a new concept, but it’s been one that many people only think is relevant when they move into new countries with new languages and new cultures. Not so. Marketing is always about local, because it’s always about the individual customer. It’s about what the customer wants, how the customer sees your brand and what the customer needs at any given time.
There is no reason for franchising to be any different. The franchisor creates a strong brand and a strong system, which in order for the network to grow requires marketing on a national level. The franchisee, however, needs to understand how to fit that brand into their local territory, and yes, this requires specialist marketing at a local level.
Cut the waste
How many times have you looked at the costs of a marketing campaign and cringed, wondering if it was all going to be worth it? You’re not alone. Everyone does it. Many franchises adopt a one size fits all approach to marketing. Single campaigns are developed and then distributed to every territory to use. Everyone gets the leaflets, everyone gets the posters and everyone gets the same deal. It’s quick, it’s simple and it can be fairly low cost -but it’s just not effective. That means no matter how much or how little you spend, most of it will inevitably be wasted.
There is local competition and there are local tastes, local traditions and local demographics. The challenge that local marketing poses is to get you to understand how your brand and values can fit, not how you can get the territory to fit your brand and values.
A couple of years ago we started to work with a large national retail franchise. Our first step was to visit all of its franchisees, to explore their local area and evaluate their local market. The first thing we found out though was that only about 25 per cent of the franchisees thought the national campaigns were even remotely relevant to their territories. Worse still, a large proportion of the other 75 per cent didn’t even bother to implement the campaign, such was their belief that it wouldn’t work for them. The actual amount of money being wasted here was frightening and almost no one saw any benefit.
By talking to the franchisees and understanding their individual circumstances, we were able to create new initiatives that were flexible enough to be tailored to each territory. The best thing about it for the franchisor was, because no spend was wasted, they got effective campaigns that didn’t cost any more to produce than the ineffective ones did.
Talk to your network
You put a huge amount of time and effort into attracting and selecting the very best franchisees for your network. Talk to them. They are your secret weapon in understanding how to bring your brand into their home turf. They know the people and the area, they know the competition and the local tastes, so let them guide your marketing. You trust them with your brand, so trust them to help you sell it.
Your franchisees are your biggest asset for local marketing and you need to use them. We certainly do. I consider myself to be an expert in marketing, but I don’t know more about franchising than my franchisor clients and I don’t know more about the territories than their franchisees. We use their knowledge because it’s the best source there is.
Support leads to goodwill
I know I started a bit ‘doom and gloom’ by leading with the fact that franchisees ranked marketing support as one of the bottom three areas of satisfaction. Sorry about that. The good news is that thinking locally can have a big impact on your network - both financially and in your relationships.
A welcome, if unexpected, piece of positive feedback we received from a client once concerned the level of increased goodwill he was receiving from his network, thanks to the work we were doing on his behalf. Franchisees felt more valued and in more control than ever before and they were really grateful for that.
If you support your network on a local level, if you focus your marketing so that it is effective for your network within their own territories, you are showing your network how much you are doing to help them grow. That’s good for everyone, and it makes a compelling reason to buy one of your franchises. If everyone wins, everyone wins.