Blog, Franchise Development

The Lifecycle Approach

Maximize Local Franchise Marketing Success at Every Stage

Fixated on growth, international franchise brands understandably focus on the big picture—quickly attracting franchisees, expanding into new markets, and improving profitability. While these benchmarks are essential indicators of brand health, this global success is critically dependent on local achievement. A multi-unit brand is as strong as its individual units.

Ensuring franchisee success requires local marketing support tailored not only to each individual market—but also to the lifecycle of each unit: pre-open, grand opening, and mature/established. Marketing strategy should also evolve as a franchisee begins opening additional locations or joins a co-op that requires a regional approach.

Driving a unit’s success involves digital marketing tactics that establish and cultivate trust among local qualified prospects throughout every stage of the franchise unit’s lifecycle. Building long-standing trust within a local community starts before the first brick is laid and continues well after the grand opening ribbon has been cut.

How do we maximize success locally at every stage in a way that helps elevate a brand globally?

Pre-Open: Start Strong

Up to 4 months before opening.
The challenge:
Franchisees need to quickly generate local awareness and interest, educate consumers about the brand, and create a sense of urgency to sign up now (for a membership or emailing list).
The solution:
Through paid and organic marketing channels, a franchisee can grow throughout their pre-open phase and set the stage for a successful opening.

Strategy and tactics:

  1. Create a local microsite. An offshoot of your corporate website, microsites drive additional local internet traffic to a specific franchise location. In addition to providing location details, promoting brand messaging and offers, and capturing leads through strategic forms and calls to action, microsites can house local blogs. This added content promotes excitement during the pre-open stage while maximizing SEO through both industry-targeted and location-specific keywords.
  2. Set up a lead-capture landing page and call tracking number. While websites and microsites can provide ample brand-differentiating information, a landing page focuses on collecting sign-ups for membership or an email newsletter. Upon lead form submission, the landing page can also include a referral tab inviting prospects to share an offer with friends or family.
  3. Launch paid teaser ads and messaging. From Facebook ads to search, display, and remarketing, quality leads can be targeted before a business opens. Teaser messaging may change throughout the pre-open phase, from “Coming Soon” to pre-sale pricing tier changes, VIP events, and more. These ads can link to a franchise location’s individual landing page to maximize lead generation and build a customer base before Day 1.
  4. Build an engaged social following. Less than 100 followers? Franchisees can use a Facebook “Likes” campaign to quickly grow a dedicated audience who will help spread the brand message and excitement about the new location. Franchisees can create buzz through organic social media marketing by counting down to key events, sharing positive reviews from other locations in their region, and posting interactive branded content designed to get people talking.
  5. Plan for and market key events or milestones. Are your franchisees hosting an event to kick off membership pre-sales? Do they have an open house to show off their newly constructed location? Are there other sneak peek events, pricing milestones, or product sample giveaways? Will there be a grand opening party? Strategic event marketing, including setting up a Facebook event page, dedicated ads, and countdown social media posts, can help boost franchisee success at the pre-open stage.
  6. Be active and present in the community. Encourage franchisees to attend local events where they’ll be seen by their target demographics. They can purchase a table or simply show support by posting social media content while at community events like a 5K, school spirit days, and nonprofit fundraisers. Another way to be seen in the community, eye-catching direct mailers and branded car wraps drive local awareness of a new business even before there’s a physical location.
  7. Use email marketing to keep prospects in the loop. Consistent email marketing newsletters and e-blasts help businesses stay connected with potential customers, helping them stay excited while counting down to opening day. Email marketing is an exceptional platform to cross-promote all pre-opening events and activities while driving traffic to all channels, including a franchise’s microsite, blog, landing page, and social media channels.

Newly Open: Expand Exponentially

Opening day through the first year.
The challenge:
Still new to the community, franchisees need to capitalize on the excitement and buzz to quickly get prospects in the door, grow their customer base and online presence, and reduce fear of trial for hesitant prospects who don’t yet know what to expect from the brand.
The solution:
Franchisees should leverage digital marketing to build a positive reputation and facilitate a steady flow of new clients.

Strategy and tactics:

  1. Leverage “Now Open” and brand-differentiating ad messaging while continuing to test and optimize targeting. As their business grows, franchisees can gain profound insights about their market’s target audience, and this information can help them better speak to and reach local consumers who are likely to become customers. Ads can be evolved to achieve better cost per lead (CPL) and cost per acquisition (CPA).
  2. Encourage positive customer reviews. Encouraging a review through a link to Yelp in an email can help initially build a healthy positive online reputation. Especially in the fitness and beauty franchise industries, prospects who aren’t familiar with the brand may simply be afraid to try it. Across all industries, prospects are more easily persuaded by a customer saying good things about a business than by a business saying good things about itself. Promoting positive reviews and testimonials on social media, blogs, email blasts, and lead-capture landing pages can reduce fear of trial and get new customers in the door.
  3. Use organic social media, blog content, and email marketing to showcase the customer experience. Once a franchise location is open, taking pictures of customers, staff, products, services, and facilities help show how great it is to be a customer there. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, as well as email marketing through a platform like MailChimp or Emma, present ideal distribution methods to directly share this engaging content with customer and prospects.

Mature: Maintain and Multiply

Open for more than 1 year.
The challenge:
As initial lead volume declines, franchisees must increase retention and referrals while continuing to locate new local customers in a crowded market.
The solution:
Franchises should use the tools of the digital marketing landscape to forge an unbreakable connection with members and turn them into brand ambassadors.

Strategy and tactics:

  1. Refresh messaging to overcome consumers tuning out ads as “white noise.” Local consumers have seen the ads more than a dozen times are constantly being targeted by competitors in the same market. Creative ad messaging and eye-catching graphics or animations that connect with an audience segment at a deep emotional level can help a franchisee stand out and stay top of mind.
  2. Use event marketing to encourage participation, engagement, and sales. Businesses can offer charity challenges, annual celebrations, contests, and other special events to stay relevant and exciting. Promoting these activities through Facebook event pages, social media marketing, email newsletters, and paid advertising helps franchisees maximize event attendance and success. Sharing rich content leading up to, during, and after an event helps franchisees get the most growth out of their event.
  3. Engage customers online to strengthen sense of community. The best franchise units don’t just post content and advertise; they engage. “Like” and respond to comments on Facebook. Interact with tagged Instagram posts. Respond to all reviews, good and bad. This shows both customers and leads that a brand cares, ultimately increasing both new clientele and current customer retention.
  4. Encourage social sharing. Every time a customer “checks in” on Facebook or posts about a business, all their friends see it. Strategic hashtag strategies, contests, and Snapchat geofilters make it fun for customers to spread the word about your brand.
  5. Use a referral landing page with referral incentives. Every customer who enters a friend or family member’s information into a referral landing page can be entered into a drawing or receive a free gift if their referral becomes a customer. Referral landing pages make it easy for a customer to share a brand or a promotional offer. When they enter their contact information, email automation can trigger a series of emails to connect with and convert the referred lead.

Integrated Digital Marketing Across All Stages

Throughout every stage in a franchise unit’s lifespan, community engagement bolstered by a strong online presence is critical to success. From building excitement during the pre-open stage to hosting a successful grand opening event and then retaining customers in a mature, competitive landscape, integrated digital marketing across platforms maximizes growth at every stage.

At the brand level, ensuring franchisee utilization of these tactics properly and efficiently–while preaching innovation within brand guidelines—can be difficult, if not impossible. Using a preferred agency partner can minimize marketing friction between a corporation and its franchisees.

A Franchise-Focused Agency Who Knows Global, Thinks Local

Our experienced digital agency guides franchisees and local business owners through best practices at each stage of growth. In addition to offering a turnkey, fully managed marketing program, our dedicated staff offers training and support so franchisees can understand how to maximize their efforts locally as they grow and mature. By working in lockstep with corporate to apply an intimate brand knowledge at the local level, the results we produce drive growth on a local and global scale. To learn more, please contact us or book a free brand health consultation today.