Local Listings: Corporate vs Franchisee Management

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With most of America’s established franchise systems having been in existence long before the Information Age, many are just now coming to terms with just how important internet marketing is.

With more than $70 billion spent in digital marketing in 2016, and mobile “I want it now, near me” searches and corresponding paid media ad spend growing year after year (Mobile overtook Desktop ad spend for the first time in 2016), there is growing need for large brands to provide relevant, localized results to their potential and current customers while keeping competitors at bay through paid channels.

Unfortunately, there is an inherent difficulty in the creation, let alone execution, of a successful digital marketing plan for Franchise Businesses: Group vs Individual wants and needs – an underlying issue that has existed long before internet marketing was ever a factor.

The balancing act between the national/corporate entity vs. the individual franchise owner often presents the largest barrier in creating an effective digital marketing plan for the whole brand.

In this post, we will cover the first step in bridging the gap between the two parties – unifying the brand through Local Listings Management to then pave the way for a comprehensive Franchise Paid Media program to take root, regardless of platform.

Don’t Build Skyscrapers on Shaky Ground

The second law of thermodynamics states that the total entropy (chaos) of an isolated system can only increase over time. What holds true for physics holds true in this case for franchise businesses: without effort against it, it is inevitable that chaos takes over any system.

In the case of digital marketing, this means that the overarching brand must deal with rogue owners who have created their own Google My Business and Bing Places listings as well as Facebook pages – all touch points where potential customers can encounter bad information, off-brand responses to reviews, and non-approved ads pointing to those pages. Trying to create a comprehensive Paid Search/Social plan in these conditions would be akin to building a house on a sandy beach… during high tide.

What is a multi-unit franchise business to do?

Laying the Local Listing Groundwork

The process of getting everything ready for a nationwide online marketing campaign starts with solid LLM, or Local Listings Management. Imagine spending the advertising dollars to get a customer to engage with a local branch of your brand only to have them find an outdated listing with the wrong address and hours of operation when Googling the nearest location.

Frustrating? Yes. Wasteful? Absolutely. Scalable? Only your potential losses.

The process of laying a proper local listing foundation to build your online paid campaign on can be summarized in four steps:

  1. Make the Case for Unification
  2. Take the Power Back
  3. Tidy Up
  4. Re-empower the Franchisee (Optional, but Recommended)

Make the Case for Unification

The first step is compiling the information and creating the necessary arguments in favor of a unified front online to present. This doesn’t necessarily mean making your intentions known to all owners beforehand to get them ready, as not all may be in favor of this plan.

This means finding examples of listings with bad NAP (name, address, phone number) information, unflattering/irrelevant photos, issues with ignored reviews due to ownership issues, poor rankings for key local search terms, and others.

Next, taking the individual owners into account. The benefits on their end must be considered. Examples include:

  1. Less day-to-day management
  2. Consistent information across the web
  3. Corporate assistance in being alerted and responding to reviews
  4. Most importantly, a national scale rollout of a local-focused advertising campaign to help drive nearby customers to their store would be impossible without this step!

If possible, finding out which owners have made listings for their store and are currently running their own advertising campaigns will make the next steps significantly easier.

Take the Power Back

The next step requires the build-out of centralized listings accounts, focusing first on Google My Business, Bing Places, and Facebook Pages. Claim unverified Google listings, remove rogue listings, and create a verified parent Facebook page and respective child location pages. Work with the listing owners to setup shared listing ownership or take local listing management over for them.

Tidy Up

With all business data now housed in the same accounts, your digital marketing agency or in-house team can now be tasked with updating all the locations’ listing data: matching NAP (Name, Address, Phone) info with what is on the brand website’s localized pages, correct hours of operation, consistent logo/profile images, prioritized categorization, and more.

A time intensive process, sure,  but it will pay dividends, especially once core data is corrected and adjustments take hold across local directories, slowly but surely.

Re-empower the Franchisee

Now that everything is ready, the owners can be trained on guidelines and processes of requesting information updates and responding to reviews. Each owner can now be given the option to interact with their audience directly, while owners who do not wish to do so can relegate the responsibility back to corporate.

It is important to note that the full admin/ownership access to each listing should be held in corporate hands, so that updates can happen seamlessly and the likelihood of any issues are lowered. This also allows corporate to seamlessly step in and troubleshoot as needed.

Congratulations!

Your brand now has a solid foundation on which to launch your locally-focused, nationally-unified advertising campaign by linking your GMB account to an Adwords account to enable Location Extensions on your ads, or a Facebook campaign pointing customers to the correct, properly managed, location page!

To learn more about the actual buildout and planning of a holistic, scalable digital strategy for your brand, watch the following webinar by Location3’s Director of Marketing Josh Allen and Head of Local Search Nick Neels: “Converting More Customers: How to Effectively Scale Digital Marketing for Multi-Location Brands.”

To learn more about how Location3 can become a technology partner for your brand, read about LOCALACT, our platform unifying local listings, paid media, and local pages for all levels of your multi-location business.

 

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