Improve Online Marketing Results by Centralizing Your Digital Strategy

Marketing

Centralized marketing solutions allow you and your franchisees to more effectively and more efficiently tell their stories, engage with their audiences.

By Jeremy Laduque, CFE

Marketing professionals at some of the biggest brands don’t envy their counterparts within a franchise organization. Why? They face all of the challenges that come with the job — struggles with economic lead generation, digging in and really utilizing big data, building and executing the customer experience journey and much more. But in a franchise organization, you add a team of dozens, or hundreds of entrepreneurs, all with their own ideas on marketing, lead generation and branding. For many organizations, the result is either a tightly controlled marketing effort that limits the individual owners from capitalizing on their own efforts or a hodge-podge set of tactics that differ from one location to the next. Neither outcome is ideal:  In one case, brand preservation undermines your brand’s power; in another, the only consistency is inconsistency, which leaves customers confused. Thus, a distinct trend in franchise marketing has emerged: Distributed organizations are aiming to centralize all of their online marketing efforts starting with the underlying marketing software that supports functionality such as local websites, email marketing and social media management. And some have gone one step further, recognizing that control over suppliers that franchisees use also fosters consistency, and maintains best practices in digital marketing tactics on the national and local levels. More often than not, anything worth doing is difficult, and the journey toward centralization is not easy, although it comes with its rewards.

Three Key Steps to Online Marketing Centralization

1. The platform. A single, unified platform powering the websites for each local franchisee has become a requirement for any multi-unit organization. Franchisors need a simple, easy-to-use web management platform that can be distributed to each franchisee. The goal of this platform is to provide corporate-approved templates and copy, but still allow franchisees to add local, community information and execute micro-local campaigns. However, simply setting up a centralized web management platform only gets you halfway there. The risk of having too many platforms to manage is still high as new technologies and digital strategies emerge. Consequently, platforms that can integrate key marketing efforts like email marketing, social media, analytics and even commerce bring further centralization to your marketing goals. Why is this better? Digital management suites allow you and your franchisees to have a single repository for content, videos and images for use within social promotions, email communication and on individual local websites. This single dashboard makes everything easier, from onboarding new franchisees to gaining adoption from existing franchisees. Beyond a repository, a centralized suite of tools reduces overhead and eliminates the risk of creating “silo” technologies that operate separately from everything else. But the ultimate benefit of a single suite comes in one key area: your data.

2. The Data. According to research by audit, tax and advisory firm KPMG, seven out of 10 chief information officers and other top executives identify data analytics as a “crucial” or “very important” business driver. Understanding, and more importantly, using the macro-level data gained from your customers in a micro-level way is the foundation of personalized customer experience. And it’s not slowing down. Baseline magazine recently reported that 90 percent of the world’s data has been created in the last two years. Focusing and utilizing your data to make global decisions and deliver individual experiences is no longer a thing of the future. Centralizing your customer data in a single system means you can quickly identify trends related to customer engagement, conversion rates and campaign success. This will allow you to focus your efforts more effectively, engage deeper with your customers and gain better conversion rates across all your campaigns, whether they be website, paid advertising, social media or email marketing. New technologies are going to rely on data as a fundamental driver. An example of this is persuasive content, or targeting content to a specific user’s attributes. Sophisticated platforms can leverage data from several sources — ranging from keywords someone typed into a search engine to the user behavior on your website or email — to drive more targeted, and more relevant content to each user interacting with your brand. This is true of all aspects of online marketing, from website content to paid advertising.

3. Advertising. The third key toward centralizing your online marketing is advertising. Local marketing spending is up: 66 percent of small businesses are maintaining or increasing expenditures on digital marketing, according to the AT&T Small Business Technology Poll. And with a strong focus on return on investment, spending efficiently has become critical.Unfortunately, in a distributed marketing environment, those crucial efficiencies are often lost. Individual paid search campaigns and display advertising mean lost insight and poor spending. The story is a common one: individual franchisees work with local agencies to run their advertising campaigns. The issue? They work in a silo, writing their own ad copy, researching their own keywords, designing their own ads and constructing their own campaign. They see results, tweak the campaign and hope they improve their ROI. And while that approach gives franchisees control over whom they partner with, it means there is literally no shared learnings or efficiencies with shared assets. Rather than using existing campaign assets, these franchisees end up paying for a PPC shop in Dallas to put together fundamentally the same campaign as another shop has done in Denver. A centralized advertising approach means individual franchisees can benefit from the shared knowledge of dozens of campaigns. Converting ad copy, top performing keywords and best ad group structures can generally be applied across all locations, with a local twist. The result? Advertising tests become insightful more quickly and valuable budgets are spent with greater efficacy. Additionally, individual franchisees can benefit further from a centralized strategy as it relates to shared history. Though Google’s paid ranking algorithm is a secret system few know intimately, it’s readily understood that your ad’s click-through rate, landing-page quality, keyword and ad relevancy, and your historical AdWords account performance are the primary factors. What does this mean for franchisees? Historical knowledge on ad performance will accelerate your click-through rates from the beginning. And, you can benefit from the historical performance of other franchisees to further boost your rankings and lower your cost per click. Technology moves fast. But digital marketing solutions that are built to handle the unique challenges of multi-unit organizations can keep you ahead of the ever-changing digital landscape. These solutions alleviate administrative headaches, control brand-handling best practices and enable franchisees to engage with their respective communities, as well as highlight services for their specific locations. Ultimately, centralized marketing solutions allow you and your franchisees to more effectively and more efficiently tell their stories and engage with their audiences.

Jeremy LaDuque, CFE, is senior vice president of multi-unit marketing for Bridgeline Digital, a digital engagement company. He is a member of IFA’s Marketing and Communications Committee.  Find him at fransocial.franchise.org.