The making of a specialist franchise marketing company

Peter Harris on January 02, 2018

If you look deeper you’ll see a succession of small business owners

Franchising is one of the fastest growing business models in the world. From Australia to China and all through North America, no other business vertical is moving faster to meet increasing consumer demand.

From the outside in, the growth of a franchise looks like a large single entity expanding across a region. However those familiar with successful franchise expansions know this isn't how it plays out.

If you look deeper you’ll see a succession of small business owners, all on their own individual journey. In some cases, thousands.

It’s for this reason marketing agencies don't last in this arena.

With franchising, you are not just supporting a single brand growing through its new locations. You are assisting a brand to sell to new owners. And then in turn, helping these small business owners open their doors and take their brand to new customers in their local catchments.

In franchising the agency is not just an agency, it is a complete marketing support company - if things are done right. This is born of necessity in order to succeed within the franchise model.

To be more specific, an agency might take on any number of roles depending on the business' circumstances:

  • Branding expert
  • Campaign production at national and local level
  • Data analyst
  • Advertiser - digital and traditional
  • Negotiator
  • Counselor
  • Politician
  • Educator
  • Mentor

The ability to perform many or all of these roles determines their level of success.

It’s no surprise some marketing companies actively avoid the space, opting for larger, simpler clients in government or corporate environments spending ‘other people’s money’.

In order to be successful in the franchise marketing arena, there are a stack of everyday challenges that must be overcome.

To navigate through the unique business structure of franchise in one country can be truly challenging. To do it across the globe is more complex again, but can be achieved.  This is what we have done.

New brands, new markets and new locations

Sometimes, a global company will want to take an existing franchise into new markets with a different language and culture.

How do you adapt past rollouts for these markets? What will that look like in terms of messaging and media? Will the brand play well there as is, or will it need a degree of localization?

Other times, the franchising challenge is the establishment of a new brand in its very first location, with a view to expand quickly.

And then there are the thousands of first time franchisees sold on the success of previous franchise owners. They’re understandably anxious to ensure they have customers beating down the door on day one.

All are very different challenges but ultimately come back to connecting a brand with local customers.

Communication that’s on the level (at every level)

In the world of franchise marketing you may need to talk to the global head of marketing in the morning, and a franchisee opening their first location in the afternoon. The ability to talk to clients on their wavelength becomes critical.

A true specialist franchise marketing company gets this, and makes the effort to adapt their communication for the audience.  

Masters of local targeting

In a digital world it’s common for separate locations to be victims of ‘friendly fire’.

Franchises need to be able to pinpoint their message to a neighborhood or even an exact address.  A specialist franchise marketing company can do literally that.

It’s the ability to put an <i>opening special</i> banner into a likely customer’s Gmail inbox as they turn into your street. Or a registration form in front of everyone who’s checked you out on Facebook. It requires true local area expertise and attention to detail.

As well as hyperlocal targeting, there’s the challenges of competing and overlapping catchments.  In a digital world it’s common for separate locations to be victims of ‘friendly fire’. The result is potentially confusing messaging and costlier digital traffic.

Newcomers to the franchising game likely haven’t had to deal with this before and can come unstuck dealing with the intricacies of a multi-location business.

Local content creation

Local content is the difference between echoing empty rhetoric from national marketing activity and producing authentic local stories that get traction and drive footfall. It’s critical for the modern franchise’s local area marketing.

Take a new model launch in the automotive industry for example. Product and price is fine and will get you so far. But a social media post from the dealership service bay of a smiley new owner that has just completed a lap of Australia will take you to that next level. It will also make the next ‘product and price’ advertisement all the more memorable.

Franchises need help crafting the content but also localizing it and distributing at scale across a franchise network. And that’s hard to do well.

Access to the right tools

On the topic of content creation and distribution, there just isn’t much off-the-shelf software out there to help franchises. Most self-service software like HubSpot, HootSuite and Canva lack the brand control and instruction most franchises need. Local store managers aren’t marketing managers after all.  

Really you need to be arming your location managers with a bespoke tool built with them in mind, like Digital Stack.

Built from the ground up as franchise marketing software, this software is simple to use. It covers planning and reporting, not just design. And you can use it for digital and print needs, from Instagram posts to branded email campaigns and promotional flyers.

In reality, most marketing companies won’t go to the trouble of finding a custom franchise software solution.

Working together the way you want

People attracted to franchising have an unmistakable ambition and hunger, but appreciate fixed options and working to a proven formula. Your partner franchise marketing company should work the same way.

Franchises need a range of fixed cost options covering strategy, planning and execution, with options to scale or customize if they feel the need. Too often traditional marketing companies and agencies approach a project like it’s the first time they’ve come across a challenge like it – and charge accordingly.

LT Network is built around these franchising challenges

Just as franchise concepts continually evolve, so do digital marketing capabilities and technologies.

To get where it is today, LT Network has travelled a long and winding path. From sole-location startup franchises to Subway, literally the largest franchise on the planet.

Without this journey it wouldn’t have evolved into the specialist franchise marketing company it is today. Time and time again we’ve come up against the challenges of franchise marketing and overcome them.

Our workspace has become a drop-in center for passionate business people getting into franchising and the energy is contagious. We love taking on new challenges and seeing small business owners grow (often as they open their second, third and fourth location).

Just as franchise concepts continually evolve, so do digital marketing capabilities and technologies. Working at the intersection of these forces to stay in front of the next franchise marketing challenge is all part of the fun.

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