According to Google (and they should know), as many as 96% of consumers look online before visiting your local business. Some industries have a higher proportion than others, but it’s fair to say that the great majority of consumers use the internet as part of their path to purchase. They check your hours on their phones as they drive around town, they look at your menu at their desks before they decide where to go for lunch, they compare prices at your store with your competitors as they plan their shopping trips.
Franchisors approach online marketing in many different ways. Some provide proprietary software that lets you create your own website within the corporate style and usage parameters. Some provide pages for your franchise location at their corporate website, and some of these are managed by the franchisees. Some don’t allow franchisees to have their own websites at all, either because they worry that these rogue sites may compete with the national site or because they worry that a franchisee’s website might not fit with the corporate message.
How can a franchisee get the most from online marketing?
- Find out the rules ahead of time. If the franchisor has an outdated website and forbids franchisees to have their own websites or social media, you’ll be at a disadvantage compares with savvier competitors. Take this into account before you choose a franchise business opportunity.
- Follow the rules. While franchisees sometimes feel that their right to free speech means that they can overlook franchisor’s rules about internet use, that’s not the case. Franchisors are entirely free to set rules about how and whether franchisees can use digital marketing.
- Take advantage of what’s offered. Some franchisors offer lots of great tools — and their franchisees often don’t take advantage of them. If you can create a page for your location at the corporate site or a custom website with corporate branding, put in the effort to do a good job with your web presence. If you’re on your own with online marketing, use the national marketing assets to best effect in your own website or social media.
- Use social media to work around restrictions. If a franchisor doesn’t allow franchisees to build websites, they may still be able to set up a blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, or other social media platform that will provide a web presence.
- Use social media anyway. If franchisees have a page at the corporate site, it’s smart to use social media to drive traffic to that page. While some franchisors restrict franchisees’ use of social media, many allow franchisees to create their own pages on social media platforms. This allows franchisees to do focused local marketing.
- Consider pay per click. PPC or CPC (cost per click) ads can drive traffic to a franchisee’s page on the corporate site, or to a sales page which may be permitted even if the franchisor doesn’t allow independent websites.
Effective online marketing can make all the difference for local businesses. Make sure, when you choose your franchise business opportunity, that you have a plan for online marketing — and that the franchise you choose works with that plan.