Digital Marketing

Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is a must for today’s franchise.  

Here are five steps to make it work even better.

By Jay Friedman


It’s 2018. “Doing digital” is no longer an option. The question is now how much of our budgets to dedicate to digital. I’m now in my 20th year of helping franchisors and franchisees with marketing, and there are some clear best practices that both parties can follow to get the most out of their digital marketing.


Why is “doing digital” not an option? Because 48.9 percent of time spent with media is now in digital format, and this will continue to grow until it is upward of 90 percent with connected TV and digital audio slowly taking over their offline, linear counterparts. If good advertising gets our message in front of ears and eyeballs, we clearly can’t afford to ignore more than 50 percent of the time ears and eyeballs spend with media. Here’s how to make your digital work harder for you and put you ahead of your peer set.


1. The most valuable digital strategies are free – or very inexpensive.

Having a physical location or territory means the single most important thing a franchisee can do for its business is to make sure it ranks high in directories, especially Google, when a local search is performed. Search “[your category] near me” in Google and see what comes up. For instance, “flower shop near me,” or “BMW dealer near me” needs to show your business at or near the very top of results. Restaurants need to pay special attention to Yelp, medical providers to Healthgrades and so on. Claiming and making these profiles robust doesn’t cost a thing. Franchisors should provide an easy means for their franchisees to get this right.


Additionally, making sure an individual franchisee’s website is SEO-friendly and mobile-ready doesn’t cost anything. When franchisees have individual websites, it’s best if they’re on a corporate platform so that analytics can be harvested together and benchmarking can be done. I know, I know … there is always a lot to dislike about the corporate website provider(s), but the benefits almost always outweigh the frustrations.


2. Your first dollar should be spent on paid search.

People are actively searching for your product or brand every day. When they’re performing that search, the budget allocated to appear in front of people searching for our brands is up to us. Why would we NOT want to appear in front of those users? Yes, people are on Facebook, listening to Pandora and in 100 other places. But every search performed without your brand appearing in front of that user is an active consumer given to your competitor.


3. It takes a village.

“Corporate” and franchisees/dealers/operators don’t have the best collaboration track record. In digital, there are times it’s the only way to accomplish best practices, though.


People-based marketing (PBM) is currently and arguably the most sophisticated form of targeting in digital marketing. Being able to laser-target people across their devices with specific messages that match up to specific audience criteria delivers measurably better results than even the most targeted panel/model-based marketing. 


But PBM isn’t easy and requires significant intelligence, effort and coordination to do right. The cost of labor alone to create great PBM will exceed the entire media budgets of an individual franchisee. When spread across hundreds or thousands of local franchisees or operators, though, it’s not only affordable but generates a tremendous ROI. 


4. Measure sales, not clicks, views or anything else.

For a long time, we used the fact that digital media is immensely measurable incorrectly. We measured clicks or click-through rate, views and website visits, none of which have a meaningful statistical correlation to actual sales. What’s more, even sales alone aren’t good enough as a metric. It’s about the lift in sales of those consumers exposed to an advertising message over a control group of the exact same audience makeup. 


I can almost guarantee that your specific business can be measured this way. Whether your industry has a specific sales reporting mechanism (like packaged goods or automotive) or uses a solution like credit card swipe data, almost every franchised or multi-location business can measure the value its advertising derives by comparing sales in a control vs. exposed fashion.


5. There’s still more value to extract out of the data we already own.

Which customers visit multiple times a week instead of less than weekly? Which customers have the highest average transaction spend? Which customers buy across dayparts or across divisions/sub-brands within our portfolio? This information all exists within our own data. If this data isn’t easily accessible, there’s never been a better time than now to build easier access. This data is actionable, too. It can be segmented, “onboarded” and targeted at the household, individual, or even device level. Now the fun starts!


We talk to thousands of franchisees each year along with their corporate counterparts. In every conversation we find there is a quick win for one or both parties that can help lift results immediately. Starting with these five steps will get you way ahead of your peers and keep your digital marketing best in class.


Jay Friedman is COO of Goodway Group.


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