“Buy Local” is for quite understandable reasons a buzz phrase at the minute – a significant and highly valuable proportion of consumers are looking to spend their hard earned cash with small businesses in their own neighborhood and support their local economy. This isn’t just limited to individuals either – many local government bodies and businesses also recognize the benefits of shopping locally and are actively encouraging this behavior through different initiatives.
To quote the 2017 BIA/Kelsey study “The Win of Going Local”, “Consumers have a growing sense of localism, and marketers need to key into this in their campaigns to achieve a level of genuineness. They fail to do so at their peril.”
A franchise branch is generally a small to medium sized business run by a local person or persons, making a valuable contribution to the local business ecosystem and community. However when they have the name of a big brand above their door, on their vehicle or website, this fact can often be overlooked by customers who may actively choose to bypass a franchise branch in favor of an independent business.
The shift in consumer trends and the drive to purchase items locally has certainly not gone unnoticed by some of the bigger brands. Not only are some national supermarket chains starting to stock local produce, some companies such as Starbucks have even taken steps to ‘unbrand’ some of their stores, making them appear more like locally run cafes and using them to carry out market research on customer trends and desires.
Whilst it’s vital therefore, in light of the above and in a competitive marketplace, that a franchisee establishes a strong and personal presence in their community, the challenge is ensuring that this is done in such a way that meets the needs and demands of both franchisor and franchisee. There is an obvious need for the franchise brand to ensure that marketing material is uniform, on brand and sends out the right brand messages, but this must be balanced with allowing the franchisee to inject their own personality into their marketing too. Not only will that help local sales to soar, but empowering the franchisee with a degree control over their own marketing will help them to remain engaged and motivated.
The starting point should always be good communication – a clear set of brand guidelines created by the franchisor for all franchisees to follow and to help them to create their own on-brand marketing materials quickly and easily. Continued communication is also vital – the franchisor should make sure that the franchisees are aware of centralized marketing strategies and campaigns to avoid customer confusion and duplication.
Franchisees should then be armed with local marketing strategies – any new franchisee joining the network will of course benefit from the shared experiences of other franchisees, bearing in mind that sometimes an initiative that could be a huge hit in one locality could sometimes bomb in another!
Some simple starting points for effective localized franchisee marketing are :
Allowing the franchisee to become the public face of their own franchise branch and giving them the opportunity to tell their story is one obvious way to engage local consumers – as simple as each franchise branch having their own website or webpage and social media accounts on which their name and photograph are displayed together with a few of their own words. Customers aren’t just looking for value and quality, they also want to buy from “people” – making purchasing decisions based on an emotional connection to the product or service. Franchisees very often have joined the franchise brand after falling in love themselves with the brand product/service and giving them the opportunity to communicate their passion to customers can be the most powerful marketing tool.
Local content creation
Creating relevant, local content on social media and through blogging will help the franchisee to build trust with local customers and will also help the franchise branch to achieve a high ranking in local search results. Promoting events, commenting on regional news stories and even just the weather helps to effectively communicate to the local audience that the franchisee is part of the community and is a local business owner.
Being where your customers are
It goes without saying that however brilliant a brand message and advertising material might be, it’s worthless if it’s not getting in front of the business’s target audience. A franchisee should be finding out where their ideal consumer hangs out locally and putting themselves there – whether that be local online community groups or forums, at events and festivals or in local press.
Local Grassroots marketing
Digital marketing makes reaching out to customers so easy these days, however for the franchisee looking to build strong local relationships then back-to-basics marketing initiatives should not be ignored. Consider strategies such as sponsorship of local teams (a great way not just of getting a name out there but also showing that a franchisee is invested in the community), participation in community and charity events, taking part in local networking opportunities and collaboration with other local businesses.
The big advantage that any franchisee will have over an independent business is the brand name and reputation – being part of a network that customers already are familiar with and associate with quality and value. Add to that an effective local and personalized franchise marketing strategy to engage the community and create a loyal customer base and that really should be a recipe for success!