When it comes to franchise marketing there are some telltale signs that things have gone off the rails. And they aren’t limited to any one category. From pool cleaning franchises, to accounting services and travel agents, these franchise marketing problems can rear their ugly heads in any industry.
All these red flags stem from the unique relationship between head office and franchisees. Both parties have good intent and are ultimately striving for long term profitability. The ultimate win-win. But too often they pull in different directions on the way.
This is what it looks like when your franchise marketing is completely broken.
1. No trust in franchisees
Make no mistake. If your franchisees aren’t empowered to do their own local area marketing, you’re leaving a lot of revenue on the table.
By only marketing at the head office/national level, you run the risk of running ubiquitous, soulless marketing campaigns that fail to connect. Remember, franchises are unique in that franchisees hold all the customer relationships. To exclude them from your marketing activities is to omit the real-world customer connection. Without this, your marketing can only be so effective.
To be fair, this lack of trust is sometimes justified by…
2. Crappy marketing execution from rogue franchisees
The big fear of many franchises is brand damage from franchisees going rogue with unprofessional marketing. Because, well, it does happen.
We’re talking hacky promotions, hand-drawn posters, social media posts of questionable taste.
Crappy marketing execution is the reason some franchises flat out ban their franchisees from doing their own local area marketing.
The solution lies in having the right tools and processes.
Firstly, tools. Franchisees should have the ability to produce professional marketing communications for digital and print. This is where Digital Stack comes in. It enforces brand guidelines while giving franchisees the ability to localise their stories and offers.
Processes are important, too. There will always be a need to monitor and police local area marketing. Diligence here in the early days will pay off. A simple 3 strikes policy and the usual legal protections in the franchise agreement should be more than adequate.
Importantly, franchisees should be shown great examples of local area marketing (not just wrapped over the knuckles when they get it wrong).
3. No communication of head office marketing
Far too often head offices forget to communicate their campaign activity effectively to franchisees.
This might be no or late communication of new offers. Or it could be ‘brand’ activity that they think franchisees don’t need to know about.
Either way, the impacts are ugly. Customers walk in expecting offers they can’t find in store. Franchisees don’t have time to train all their casual staff. And the in-store experience doesn’t deliver on the marketing campaigns’ promise.
Besides the customer impacts, poor communication also leaves franchisees feeling they’re not getting value from their monthly marketing fees (or ‘corporate dues’).
4. Large variability in marketing performance between locations
Franchises that are running like a well-oiled machine bring their poorer performing locations up to standard with their best. This is true for all facets of the business including marketing.
Franchises should be benchmarking marketing performance, especially for digital channels where it’s easy with readily available data.
Think Adwords cost-per-conversion, organic search traffic, social media engagement.
Wide variability in performance across locations shows that learnings across the franchise aren’t being shared. Make sure there is a tight action plan for the bottom 25% of performers to get up to average.
It might be as simple as 3 customer success stories a month being shared on Facebook and Instagram. It might be extending local Adwords campaigns out 2 or 3 postcodes. These are the sorts of specific, actionable directives that will get everyone back on pace.
5. Not testing new ideas at select locations
What did McDonalds do before rolling out all day breakfast on a national level? They trialled it in select cities. What did Subway UK do before they gave franchisees the keys to their own Subway location facebook accounts? They tested it with a handful of franchisees.
Yes, the power of a franchise brand is the uniformity of the product or service. But don’t take that to mean new ways of doing things can’t be trialled in some locations.
The world’s most successful franchises ALWAYS test new things, including their marketing, at select locations first.
Franchises actually have a huge structural advantage in running marketing trials – one that you should take advantage of.