Most Franchises are local businesses, so having a local on-line strategy is incredibly important. However, getting franchisees to implement and manage their own local online strategy is inefficient and will result in performance issues and brand inconsistencies, which frustrates the franchisees and compromises the brand.  It also creates significant complications if franchisees leave the network.

We talk to many franchises about the benefits of local presence management. Many of them say “thanks for the advice, but we’ll get our franchisees to do this!”, but invariably the franchisees don’t do it, and as a result, the franchise loses as a whole.

It is in both the franchisor’s and franchisee’s interest to manage all local digital assets centrally.
A centrally administered local online strategy has the power to magnify the brand, whereas a locally managed strategy can dilute and compromise the brand.

This article talks about the benefits of a centrally administered local strategy and the issues faced by franchises that get their franchisees to do it alone.

The benefits of a centrally administered local online search strategy

For franchises that are built on franchisee autonomy, there is a reluctance to centralise anything, let alone local search and digital advertising, however there are significant benefits, and dare I say demand from the franchisees to centralise digital. Here are some that we’ve identified.

  • Economy of Scale
    • Enjoy the cost and efficiency benefits of pooling your resources. A centrally administered digital strategy is more cost efficient than individual franchisees trying to do it themselves.
  •  Economy of Knowledge
    • A centrally administered digital strategy is better able to benchmark the performance of franchisees and adapt a digital strategy that can benefits the franchise as a whole.
  •  Economy of Brand
    • Franchises with a significant local presence can unify their local online presence to raise brand awareness nationally.
    • Franchisees working alone will dilute the performance of the brand online, whereas a centrally administered strategy will magnify it.
  •  Franchisees Benefits
    • Franchisees benefit by appearing in more local search results whenever and wherever people search for their services. They also look professional wherever people find them, resulting in more footfall and calls.
    • Franchises can focus on what on delivering a service rather than worrying about their local digital presence.
  •  Franchisor Benefits
    • Franchisors benefit by ensuring brand continuity across the network. This strengthens brand awareness and looks impressive to prospective franchisees.

Issues faced when franchisees try to do local themselves

  • It won’t get done completely or consistently
    A franchisee’s time is best spent growing the business and serving customers, not trying to learn and manage a local digital strategy. Although managing local listings is easy in principal, it takes time and effort to get it right. It is very unlikely that the franchisee will have the time or inclination to do everything themselves. It is also unlikely that it will be done thoroughly or consistently. This will result in performance and brand inconsistencies.
  • It won’t be managed
    In our experience, even if a franchisee does a little bit of local online work to start with, they don’t manage it going forward, they forget login detail and then things start to ‘unravel’.
    Listings need to be managed for search optimisation purposes as well as brand continuity.
  • It will lack of continuity and ownership
    If a franchisee leaves the franchise, it is very unlikely that they will remove their local online presence or give their login details to the franchisor. This can be damage the brand and undermine the new franchisee as the old listings may contain dead telephone numbers and weblinks and possibly bad reviews. It then becomes the responsibility of the franchisor or new franchisee to try to fix things, which is further complicated by not having login detail.
    Conversely, the departing franchisee may have built a very strong local online reputation which may be lost, causing the new franchisee to have to start building an online presence from scratch, which takes time and effort.
  • Lack of brand consistency looks unprofessional.
    Brand consistency is particularly important at the ‘boundaries’ of franchise territories. If franchisees manage their own online presence, it is likely that it will be different to that of an adjoining franchise territory. Customers that are on the boarders of territories could see more than one franchisee listing; if the franchisees do not share the same brand identity, the power of the brand is undermined.
  • Off-line print not matching on-line search
    Franchisees that use local print campaigns, such as a door drop for example, also need to be consistent online. A potential customer may go online for more information and either not find the franchisee, or have an underwhelming brand experience.
    It is a mistake to assume that potential customers will go directly to a website for information in a flyer; they may search for “franchise name + location” for example and look for a location. If the results do not match that of the franchisee’s flyer, or worse, there are no results at all, it can confuse or undermine the confidence of the potential customer.

Top five tips for franchises to ensure brand consistency online.

  1. Have a Policy – who does what, what can and can’t be done by the franchisee.
    • Have a Naming conventions for online listings and stick to it.
    • Identify the online services that can (and can’t) be used.
    • Review periodically. Online channels are constantly evolving! What is good today, will be different tomorrow.
  1. Maintain a list of approved sites and examples of how they should be used and what they should look like. Include a mix of general listing sites, local social sites, sector specific and location specific listing sites.
  2. Maintain a brand content library including:
    • Logo
      1. Have different sizes and styles of logo to fit different sites.
    • Images
      1. Brand generic images that reflect the brand.
      2. Branch/location/franchisee specific images, e.g. shop fronts, staff
      3. Name each image with key-words. For example; plumber_brighton.jpg
      4. Review and update images periodically.
    • Business Descriptions
      1. Keyword-rich descriptions of different lengths ranging from 1500, 1200, 1000, 800, 500 and 200 characters.
      2. Ensure descriptions are engaging and can be adapted to the local market.
      3. Review and update periodically.
    • Approved social media links
  1. Maintain a list of ALL the sites that you are using and keep a record of their login details.
  2. Refresh the sites periodically
    • Sites that aren’t maintained lose their effectiveness and can look outdated.

MiShop.local can help – we are a leading authority in advising, tailoring and managing local on-line solutions for franchises.