How franchises can use content to grow local engagement

Franchises are often rightly obsessed with how their brand looks through visual marketing assets like shopfronts, brand colours and use of their logo. With social media now a predominant marketing device, the mistake franchises are making is not extending the definition of their brand to include the way it is communicated in articles, videos and across social media.

The result is a messy, misrepresented identity which dilutes the overall message and confusing the marketplace. The poor results discourage franchisees to pursue content marketing as a viable tool.

More than ever, franchised businesses need to be as prescriptive and supportive of their franchisees’ use of the brand’s voice in articles, video and social media as they are of their visual identity. Here’s why.

The challenge franchise brands face today

The proliferation of digital channels from individual and local websites to personal social media accounts makes marketing everyone’s responsibility. This environment creates as many opportunities as it poses risks for franchise brands.

While many franchises and multi-office businesses are trusted brands on the global, national or statewide scale, local offices have the responsibility to uphold and promote the brand via their own marketing, community engagement and customer service. Franchisees – who are likely experts in the franchise’s service provision whether its real estate, consultancy, law, accounting or finance – are seldom also marketing experts. 

For the franchise brand this presents a challenge in a) delivering a consistent message and experience across multiple locations, and b) engaging audiences with topics and material specifically relevant to individuals and locations. Most chief marketing officers at franchises have an ambition to deliver a consistent brand marketing experience effectively localised across their network, but achieving this across a network of offices and individuals is akin to herding cats.

It’s also dangerous. Without a clear strategy and guidelines, having local branches represent a franchise brand can result in brand damage when misguided content is produced, or wasteful, for instance, where effort is put into building audiences online when engaging with the community could be a better use of franchisee time and resources. One poorly designed or inappropriate social media interaction can shatter the public’s trust in a business or brand. Afterall, a local issue can become global in a matter of clicks. Building brand recognition and participation can take years, while only one negative experience can destroy it. 

The solution for franchise brands is this strategy 

When local marketing is executed by those who haven’t been upskilled, the cost for a business can be astronomical. There is plenty of evidence the local business can lose sales and, oftentimes, because the brand is tied to others, it can result in brand damage to the entire franchise. Similarly, a good reputation, cohesive marketing and buy-in with the local community is proven to result in boosted revenue and an all-round positive brand experience – this can then extend to overall brand positivity. 

With a bit of forward thinking, the challenge of executing a globally consistent and locally relevant marketing message can be easily solved. Developing a brand content strategy and empowering franchisees with training and guidelines allows the successful marketing message of the corporate franchises to carry over to the local and digital space. 

Under an umbrella of visual and communication consistency, with latitude for each office or franchise to develop specifically local communications which position them as the local authority with community connections, is the vision.

International hotel brand Holiday Inn has empowered its individual locations to produce written communications to position its team as a local expert. They have the agency to produce content on the places to see and things to do in a local area, along with insider knowledge of events and not-to-miss activities. The result of concierge-style content produced within the parameters of a global content system builds trust and positions the company as an authority figure in the community. 

How local and global authority is established in tandem

The purchasing cycle of any service-based business experiences peaks and troughs, but the key is to engage customers during the downtime as much as the peak. It means when potential customers get to the point of executing a purchase, the heavy lifting will have already taken place and the customer won’t look elsewhere. 

If marketing is consistent, well presented and clearly communicated, customers will look to the brand as an authority in what they do. By excelling in one consistent area – like Holiday Inns franchises do – you get credibility and awareness which results in the coveted intangible attribute of authority.  The brand integrity is maintained, or even elevated, and local community engagement increases and brand awareness is secured. 

A home loan franchise with offices in regional areas across Australia sought  to empower their franchisees to be  perceived as the local experts: accessible and knowledgeable in the same way a stock and station agent in a rural community is the ‘local bloke’ with deep trust in the district. They achieved this through pinpointing community activities to create a pipeline to future business; for example, sponsoring the local primary school netball team to get in front of parents, and providing an opportunity to build trust and brand visibility without actively selling a product. The result is a solid contacts book and an authentic commitment to the community. Using  hyperlocal communications such as EDMs, it’s possible to foster the success of the netball team whilst simultaneously promoting the business. By the time those same parents are ready to lock in a new home loan, the authority has already been built. 

 Through strategies like this, Franchisees can tap into the specific local interests in their area to create the connections that will pull business to them. 

What makes a successful global and local franchise marketing strategy 

Creating a top level or core strategy for content marketing allows each office the flexibility to leverage their local area for deeper community engagement. There are numerous ways to foster successful local content marketing. They include building communications and visual style guides with a brand dictionary, prefered reference sites, tone of voice and an outline of negative usage (the list of things the brand would never do).  

Similarly, global marketing templates for franchisees to use will empower them to produce and customise their own local marketing without the risk of brand damage or head-office bottlenecks. Along with this, providing franchisees training, support and regular reviews to make sure they are implementing their core strategy. It provides examples of great content and upskills branches to succeed within clear parameters. 

There is also scope for creating micro strategies for local areas to trial and test new ideas. It’s important to measure the success of each area thereby blending innovation and successes back into the process. This way, each franchisee can benefit from the ongoing learning and are evolving the local strategy alongside the global strategy. 

Success in local marketing initiatives should be celebrated and shared across the network; inspiring others to replicate those activities in their own market.

Properly setting up a clear content strategy for local franchisees will guarantee consistency across multiple locations while positioning individual franchisees as a voice of authority in their community. With the help of global content marketing experts, various tools can help foster this strategy. The brilliant thing about this, is when it comes time for a customer to make a purchase, they won’t need to look elsewhere. All the hard ground work would have already taken place, giving a solid base to the franchise.

Talk to us about a global/local strategy for your franchise business.