Facebook’s geographic, demographic and interest-based targeting presents a fantastic local marketing opportunity for franchises. In this three-part series we outline both the challenges and the opportunity.
Franchise brands are unique, principally because the people running local stores or services are owners, not managers on the company payroll. They have bought into the franchise concept to benefit from the franchise brand and business system.
Having these entrepreneurs “on the ground” is fantastic because their drive to succeed is high. However they often have very different ideas, and what works for one location from an advertising perspective may not work in another in terms of products, offers, creative and terminology.
The financials are unique too. Franchise brands tend to have smaller central marketing budgets because the franchise model is inherently local in its approach. This means a significant amount of the marketing activity (and budget) is often managed independently by the local franchisees.
The downside is this often leads to inconsistency across a franchise network, poor or no effective measurement of results, and very little best practise digital marketing because local franchises simply don’t have the skills and experience to execute.
Facebook provides both answers and challenges when it comes to dealing with these issues.
The problem for franchise brands advertising on Facebook
When Brand Machine enters discovery talks with franchise brands, we commonly identify frustrations on both sides.
Where the franchisees ‘go-it-alone’:
- Franchisees usually don’t have a background in digital marketing and don’t find Facebook’s tools to be particularly user-friendly therefore execution is generally below standard
- Creative is often ‘off-brand’
- The franchisor has limited visibility into local ad campaigns, which makes consistency of creative, analysis of results and sharing of best practices difficult
Where the franchisor is managing a social campaign we often hear the following complaints:
- Generic campaigns don’t necessarily suit the needs of individual locations
- Set-up is time is massively time-consuming if done in a fashion that works for their franchisees (catering to individual needs)
- Non-local ads are less effective at driving results
As you can see there is clear tension between the need for efficiency and consistency across all brand touch points versus the ability for location-level customisation. In our experience, the real power of franchising comes from balancing these seemingly conflicting objectives. Nirvana looks like this:
- Use the overall size and footprint of the business to achieve economies of scale.
- Leverage the franchisor’s knowledge of the business, specialist marketing skills and ability to provide cross-company support and resources.
- Capitalise on franchisees’ local knowledge of their markets and empower them to make decisions on local execution.
So is this ‘best of worlds’ approach possible? Yes it is…
National digital ad strategy with local flexibility
In our experience, a hybrid approach works best for franchise brands to get the best results from Facebook advertising. Central marketing develops the campaign strategy, creative imagery and copy. However, instead of developing just one set of generic ads for all locations, the marketing team develops several options that franchisees can choose from. The ad copy itself has some degree of flexibility to allow for variation by location. The more local the copy and relevant the advertisement the more effective the ads will generally be.
With this approach, you can enjoy the advantages of scale, and the greater expertise that will generally be held at head office, yet franchisees feel they have a degree of control and influence. Everyone is happy.
You may be thinking it sounds like a lot of work and difficult to co-ordinate. Without the right tools, yes it is, and we’ll discuss the sorts of tools that can help you in the next blog post in this series. Technology can be a major enabler to implementing this hybrid approach.
From a strategy perspective, the objective must be to provide your local teams with the tools to be creative and innovative, yet at the same time ensure dollars are spent effectively and advertising quality is maintained.
This means implementing clear roles and processes within the company to ensure everyone knows who is responsible for what activities. Each franchise organisation is different, but in our experience most franchise organisations’ Facebook programs operate optimally with some version of this hybrid approach.
Although social media advertising in a franchise system can be more complex than in a traditional business model, when done well the results can be tremendous. Tapping into the local knowledge of franchisees and enabling localised advertising through process, budgeting and technology are the key elements of success.
Andrew Mitchell is CEO and founder of Brand Machine, a technology company that helps multi-location brands achieve great efficiency and effectiveness with their local marketing. He has over 20 years of strategic marketing experience as a multi-award winning agency creative director and strategist. In recent years his focus has been on supporting and advising multi-location and franchise brands with smart technology solutions to streamline and optimise their marketing efforts.