Perhaps you’re a high-flying franchisor with plenty of industry experience. Or maybe you’re a new franchisee, having signed the contract, furnished a business premises and completed the training scheme. But whether you’re investing in a franchise or looking for new ways to reach out to even more customers across your existing network, you’ll need to develop an effective marketing plan.
Here are our top tips to develop one:
1. Make your plan SMART
Adhere to the SMART criteria: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed.
The SMART approach should be used for every franchise business plan; it’ll help you set specific goals that can be easily evaluated and revised if necessary.
To start with, clarify the objectives of your marketing campaign so you understand what goal you want to reach, why you want to achieve it, who’ll be responsible for overseeing it and what resources you'll need. Then, you'll need to assess your planned marketing campaign to determine how much everything will cost and what return on investment you want to make.
Next, work out what you can achieve with the people, resources and budget available. For example, if your goal is to improve your website’s conversion rate by a certain percentage, you could identify how many people and how much money will be required to manage your online communications to achieve this. Carefully consider whether the campaign will work well in the current climate, as the economy can have a huge impact on business objectives. Then, make a deadline by working out how long it will realistically take to reach each milestone in the plan.
2. Create a digital marketing strategy
Having an effective digital marketing strategy is essential for attracting customers online, whatever your franchise model. Therefore, you need to make sure all your online marketing communications, from your website content to your social media postings, achieve the best response rates.
A strong social media presence can help you boost your visibility in your local area and get more people talking about you. For example, a fitness franchise could use its own dedicated hashtag on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to increase its brand awareness, attract followers and build an online community.
3. Distribute flyers or leaflets
Depending on your brand, going out and meeting local people may be just as lucrative as having a robust online presence. If that’s the case, start distributing flyers or leaflets in your territory so local people can find out who you are and what your franchise model is. For example, if your franchise is in a busy suburb largely populated by commuters, find a busy spot like the entrance to a railway station or a supermarket. Tell people who you are, what you’re offering and how they can benefit from your brand.
Research from the UK's Direct Marketing Association has revealed that 45 percent of consumers it surveyed keep leaflets in their kitchen drawer or on a pinboard. Although the response rate was only about one percent, it could still make a big difference when you do the maths. Distributing 100 flyers a week, for example, could gain you one new customer a week, which would rise to over 100 new customers over two years.
Flyers are very cheap to produce, so they could help you achieve a higher return on your franchise investment over time. However, it’s important to bear in mind that they’re not the most environmentally friendly marketing method. Distributing 99 flyers that lead to nothing just to gain one new customer is viewed by some as a shameful waste of paper, so be judicious when it comes to handing out flyers and don’t go overboard.
4. Encourage your customers to recommend you to others
Never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth marketing. If your customers are happy with your services, they may recommend it to their friends, family and colleagues.
However, sometimes people need a gentle push, so try to think of something that will motivate them to recommend you to others. For example, a fitness franchise with a monthly membership fee could offer its members a small discount each time a friend or family member joins the brand as a result of their recommendation.
Even if you don’t manage to encourage customers to recommend your business, you can make sure they make others aware of it. You can do this by giving away branded freebies, like stationery, keyrings, mugs, bags or clothing. If they use or wear your merchandise when out and about, it’s bound to catch the attention of people they pass or interact with, giving your brand extra publicity. Make sure that you include your contact details, such as your website or email address, as well as your brand name and logo. This will help potential customers find out more about your brand and give them the option of buying your products or services.
5. Give your customers valuable information
Posting high-quality, insightful content that people can relate to will help you position your brand as an authoritative source of information in your industry. Regularly write blogs and talk about relevant topics that your customers are likely to engage with.
For example, a franchise specialising in home cleaning services could write about the benefits of a clean home and how it can improve your quality of life. An accountancy franchise could offer advice on how businesses can calculate their expenses or save time by hiring an accountant. This will help you build trust and establish long-term customer relationships as you attract more traffic to your website.
Just remember your target audience. Keep information relevant and tailor it to your readers. If you own a beauty business aimed at teenagers, for example, make sure your tone isn’t too formal. You could even incorporate popular culture references or current slang words to make potential customers feel you are on their level and understand them. If you offer accountancy services, on the other hand, you’ll want to appear professional, so make sure you think about this when you’re writing.
6. Maximise your budget
Delivering a successful marketing campaign and business plan is not just about staying within your budget; it’s also about making your money go further and putting your resources to the best use. For example, consider a gym or restaurant paying a professional videographer to create a 4K video showcasing their new business. It might seem worthwhile to post the video on their website and impresses visitors. However, if they don't also post it on social media to get many more views, they’re missing a trick. The return on investment may be much lower, as fewer people will be engaging with the content and then visiting the website.
7. Improve your SEO
To enable more people to find you online, your business needs to achieve a good search engine ranking for key search terms. Improving the ranking is a process known as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), and it is prioritised by many businesses.
To explain a little further, a home refurbishment franchise in London might want to rank highly for search terms like ‘London home refurbishment’ or ‘refurbishing in London’, as well as more specific search terms like ‘kitchen refurbishment in London’ or ‘London bathroom refurbishment’. By incorporating these words and phrases into their online content, they can boost their chances of ranking highly on search engines like Google and Bing.
When improving your SEO, pick keywords that have a high volume of search requests – and look at how many other brands are using the same keywords to determine how much competition there is. Make sure you scatter your keywords or key phrases throughout your content in a way that seems natural.
Also, add internal hyperlinks to encourage your readers to stay on your website for as long as possible, as Google rewards this. Finally, it’s important you make sure your text is formatted correctly and includes an appropriate title and sub-headings, which makes it easier for Google to identify what your content is.
Whether you’re considering a new franchise investment or looking for new ways to improve your current marketing campaign, hopefully, you'll find all the above advice useful.
Marketing techniques are always changing, and there’s no shame in wanting to learn about the latest tips and tricks. If you’ve been a business owner for a long time, the chances are that blogging, social media and SEO practices weren’t as important when you started out as they are now – if they were around at all, of course! Just make sure you’re always familiar with the most popular marketing techniques to make sure you’re promoting your franchise to the best of your ability and getting your name out to as many potential customers as possible.
Of course, not all of the methods above will be useful or achievable for every business. Depending on your target market, budget, resources and objectives, you’ll find that some are more appropriate than others. Mix and match to your heart’s content to create the most effective marketing plan for your franchise or unit.
Alice Tuffery, Point Franchise ©