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A Strategic Approach to Franchise Marketing & Media Budgeting

Originally published in Franchise Times magazine
First Serial Rights
September 2013

When Your Only Tool is a Hammer…  A Strategic Approach to Media Budgeting

If you are like most franchisors, you have probably noticed that you are hearing a lot of different sales pitches these days.

You speak with a Public Relations practitioner, and the solution to more effective franchise lead generation is, predictably, Public Relations. After all, they will rightly proclaim, good publicity will provide you with third-party credibility which can translate into increased franchise sales.

Speak to an ad agency, it is likely that they will tell you that you cannot count on Public Relations. The press is fickle, placements unpredictable, and stories have no call-to-action. Stick with advertising – pay-per-click, portals, and maybe some print media. Lead flow. That’s the ticket.

Social media firms, of course, are telling you that today’s buyers will rely on the recommendations of their friends and their networks when making a buying decision. If you are not engaged with these folks, you are lost. Social media is the key to growth.

Search engine optimizers and web designers have a different spin. If your site is not on the first three pages of a Google search, it is no more useful than a store located in the middle of the desert. And of course, in today’s world, you also have to have a mobile website! Optimizing both sites is the key to achieving your goals.

Know a videographer? They will likely tell you that YouTube alone now accounts for some 28% of Google search results. So good videos will certainly help you to increase your reach by 25% or more, right? And if just one video goes viral…

In truth, all of these practitioners are right. And, to the extent they preach an exclusive focus, all of them are wrong. To paraphrase Abraham Maslow, if your only tool is a hammer, then every problem is a nail. And there are a lot of media folks swinging hammers these days.

Measure Twice, Cut Once

The reality is that if you are like 99% of all franchise companies, you do not have an unlimited media budget. So if you want to achieve your goals, you have to choose wisely and allocate your resources across media based on their potential returns. And for most franchisors, that means allocating scarce resources across numerous media.

In order to start your planning process, start by setting specific goals. Do your goals extend beyond new franchisee acquisition? Are you looking for new customer acquisition? Customer retention? Building a brand? Be specific. If your primary goal is to generate franchise leads, how many are you looking to obtain? In what markets are you seeking to drive results?

Then ask yourself about the profile of your buyer. Is your candidate technologically savvy? How old are they? How well-educated? What do they read? What drives their buying decisions? Which of your competitors will they be comparing to you? And how are you going to differentiate yourself?

Next, spend some time assessing your current situation. How good are your marketing materials? Your website? What in-house resources can you devote to promotional efforts and what are their capabilities? What budgetary restrictions do you have?

The bottom line: in order to prioritize the use of your resources, you need to start with a plan.

A Web-Centric Approach

For almost all franchisors, your first priority should be your website. Ultimately, almost all of your marketing efforts will be centered on your website. Your online advertising will send folks there. Your public relations efforts will create links that lead them there. SEO, social media, and video – they all have tentacles to your website. Yet, for many, their website continues to be one of their most underdeveloped marketing assets.

So if you do not have a great website, start there. Just because you have a 15-year-old niece who can develop your website does not mean that she should develop your website.

A good website should have an overarching content strategy that communicates your unique selling proposition. At the same time, it should not provide so much content that it allows the reader to avoid interaction with the franchisor entirely. It should have multiple, easily-accessed capture mechanisms to obtain your leads and should provide a value proposition for providing their contact information. But its goal should not be to maximize the number of leads, but to maximize the number of qualified leads. It should have landing pages that are optimized around your various keywords and keyword phrases to drive specific traffic to your site. But it should never incur the wrath of Google by creating keyword densities in excess of 5%.

The bottom line: your website needs to be built with a purpose and a strategy.

Perhaps one of the easiest things companies can do to increase lead flow is to develop a mobile website. As counter-intuitive as it might seem (at least to me), a large number of searches actually take place over mobile devices or tablets. By some estimates, 45% of all searches now take place over mobile devices. And while this number is lower for franchise searches, some of our clients are seeing 14% or more of their leads coming from mobile. So if you have not looked at your site on your phone or iPad lately, perhaps it is time that you did.

If you neglect these basics before you start your inbound franchise marketing efforts, you will only be driving potential leads to a site that does not deliver results – and wasting your money in the process.

From there, every franchisor’s path should be different.

If you have the budget to spend your way to the top, perhaps you will focus on Pay-Per-Click. But if you cannot compete with the larger pay-per-click budgets of your competitors, perhaps you will focus on ongoing Search Engine Optimization, as savvy marketers understand that SEO requires an ongoing effort of publishing fresh content, populating blogs, and creating inbound links.

If credibility is a key to setting yourself apart from your competitors, perhaps Public Relations should be the focus. In years past, Public Relations meant print media and an occasional radio or television appearance and its lack of consistency rightly relegated it to a supplemental lead generation role. But with the advent of online newswires and thousands of websites starving for content, publicity can now be added to your media mix with some degree of predictability.

If you are targeting a younger demographic, perhaps you will devote more of your resources to social media publishing. But even within the social media sphere, there are often more choices than there is budget. Should you be focusing on LinkedIn’s more business-oriented prospect, on Facebook’s larger and younger audience, or on YouTube’s more visually-attuned buyer? To tweet or not to tweet? That is the question.

But regardless of your media mix, two things will ultimately be true. A consistent and integrated approach to messaging must be used across a variety of strategically-important media. And your media should point the prospect inward, where the story is being told.

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Mark Siebert is the Chief Executive Officer of the iFranchise Group. Their consultants have over 500 years of experience in franchising and have worked with 98 of the nation’s top 200 franchisors. He can be reached at 708-957-2300 or at [email protected].


Posted in Franchise How-Tos and Trends.