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Multiple channels make digital dollars go further, in Living Large


Living Large

Digital marketing isn’t a fad, but not every associated platform or product has truly impactful staying power—Google+ anyone? For emerging brands with limited marketing dollars, sifting through all the shiny objects to identify valuable channels and tools is paramount, and as these Living Large bosses attest, vetting marketing partners is worth the effort.

The successful marketing of your brand, be it to consumers or potential franchisees (and aren’t they sometimes the same?), requires a coherent strategy, an understanding of the target audience and using each platform to its fullest capabilities. Given the crush of messaging that inundates people on a daily basis, repetition is a crucial part of any digital media strategy, as the best campaigns are deployed on multiple platforms working in tandem. Encourage franchisees to layer on local ads that complement the branding that comes from the national marketing fund to reinforce the message.

The ability to target specific demographics is especially powerful on digital channels and franchisors should push for that precision, keeping in mind heightened consumer awareness surrounding data privacy.

Avoid the temptation of the latest fad; instead, spend wisely on what works for your brand and invest in understanding what exactly that is.

Dan Henry

“With small brands you can feel intimidated and pushed around. Remember it’s your brand and you’re the expert in it.” — Dan Henry, Tough Mudder Bootcamp

Blended approach

Marketing strategies are never one-size-fits-all, and in the fitness space in particular, notes Dan Henry, it’s important not to get enticed by the allure of an all-digital approach.

Henry, VP of franchise sales and operations at studio fitness concept Tough Mudder Bootcamp, says he recognizes that with only six open locations it takes more than a social media ad to get people interested in the brand.

“We can’t deny the importance of the kind of boots on the ground, local marketing, table events that are introducing people to the brand,” says Henry. “And we blend that with the digital side.”

Franchisees can be quick to go all-in on digital campaigns and sometimes need reminding that they “can’t live an die by digital marketing,” says Henry. “It’s not a cure-all. We have to be honest with franchisees that their local efforts are hugely important.”

Franchisees contribute 2 percent of weekly gross sales to a marketing fund used for brand promotion, which Henry stresses does of course have a digital component. TMB works with LFM Marketing for its digital advertising and content, bringing the firm on in June to collaborate with its head of marketing, Valerie Seid. Tough Mudder Bootcamp interviewed “probably six or seven groups,” recalls Henry, as it sought one with fitness brand experience and that would take a “thoughtful approach.”

“We didn’t want the massive, major group where we’d be at the bottom of the barrel,” he says. “And we didn’t want a cookie cutter approach of doing the same thing across any vertical.” Franchisors should take their time to find a company that aligns with their approach and not be lured by big claims.

“With small brands you can feel intimidated and pushed around,” says Henry. “Remember, it’s your brand and you’re the expert in it.”

LFM provides TMB and its franchisees with a dashboard that tracks the various marketing campaigns so they can see what’s most effective. The firm also gives social media guidance to franchisees and, while web pages and profiles are set up by the franchisor, owners are encouraged to be active and share local happenings.

“As we’re evaluating the growth we pay attention to how many people are following them on social media,” says Henry of franchisees’ online presence, which can translate into membership leads and ultimately help promote the brand.

Dan Tarantin

“You’ve gotta manage your message through multiple channels.”  — Dan Tarantin, Delta Restoration Services

Compatibility is key

For a brand with a couple dozen commercial and residential restoration locations spread across several states, targeted advertising based on geography is central to the marketing strategy.

“We’re working to hyper target more effectively,” says Dan Tarantin, CEO of Delta Restoration Services parent HRI Holdings. “That for us as a growing franchise is key because using a broad brush would be a waste of money.”

When HRI acquired Delta in spring 2018 the franchise had the beginnings of a digital plan, and now with a full web marketing team behind it they’ve been able to apply more resources and fine-tune the approach, starting with responsive design.

“One of the biggest challenges you have as a company is making sure your strategy is compatible across platforms,” says Tarantin. “Delta had the start of this but we’ve fully built it out.”

More than 50 percent of the web traffic coming to Delta is from mobile devices, notes Tarantin, “so all platforms have to be mobile friendly.” “It’s important that we keep on top of that trend of them going on their phone and searching versus calling their insurance company,” he said.

Franchisees pay a national marketing fee of up to 3 percent of monthly gross revenue and Delta provides metrics on the effectiveness of campaigns, which all have the ultimate goal of “driving jobs to franchisees,” says Tarantin, who also emphasizes transparency on how marketing dollars are spent.

“Be clear on here’s what we’re going to do and what the brand fund is going to pay for—and what it’s not going to pay for. And if we’re not going to pay for it, here are the vendors, here’s the pricing,” says Tarantin.

Delta recently evaluated the response rate to its service review campaign and found, surprisingly according to Tarantin, that “the response rate is much higher on text” versus requesting a review via email, prompting the company to change its approach. It’s also rolling out a service aimed at making it easier for franchisees to manage those reviews.

Video is proving itself another useful tool and one especially effective at conveying what Tarantin says is Delta’s “emotional message around building trust.”

“We help people in a time of great need,” he says. “Video is really effective and we’re following that trend,” keeping in mind the necessary reinforcement of any message across platforms. “You’ve gotta manage your message through multiple channels.”

Rob Flanagan

“Before you ever go to an agency, you have to be 100 percent dialed in to what’s your messaging, what’s your brand promise.”  — Rob Flanagan, Wag N’ Wash

Emphasis on local

While building brand awareness at the national level is of course important to growing a franchise brand, the execution of digital marketing campaigns at the local store level is what can really bring results, notes Rob Flanagan, president of retail pet store and grooming concept Wag N’ Wash. That’s one reason Wag N’ Wash works with social media marketing group Rallio to help franchisees engage with their communities and manage their social presence, and why Flanagan isn’t caught up on only driving traffic to that brand’s national web pages.

“I know my national brand will be taken care of if my franchisees are taken care of,” says Flanagan, which is also why the brand emphasizes ease of use with its marketing tools. “You have to make it easy for your franchisee,” he continues. “They’re so busy running their stores, you can’t make it complicated or it won’t work.”

Along with the rollout of any new campaign or marketing effort comes the setting of expectations, something Flanagan says is crucial to prevent disillusionment. “It’s very, very important that when you do your training” on marketing initiatives, “have key performance indicators and what defines success,” he stresses.

Marketing is not always a direct ROI, so getting them to understand the cumulative effect and the benefits of creating awareness.”

In addition to Rallio, Wag N’ Wash works with another firm, NinthRoot, on its website development, Google Ad Words and pay-per-click programs, but Flanagan notes bringing in outside providers requires careful research and assessment.

“Before you ever go to an agency, you have to be 100 percent dialed in to what’s your messaging, what’s your brand promise,” he says. “People go to an agency but they’re not clear on who they are as a company. So put together your brand guidelines that present your unique selling attributes.”

Working with an agency that understands “the unique positives and nuances of franchising” is beneficial especially if that agency is dealing directly with franchisees, says Flanagan, which is the case with Wag N’ Wash as it pushes local consumer marketing to grow the brand. “One of the main reasons that a new brand in an emerging market fails is their brand messaging isn’t focused on customer acquisition in those markets,” he says.

What the experts say

Localized social marketing. Seventy-eight percent of purchase decisions are influenced by social content, notes SoCi, a social marketing agency, and 75 percent of brand engagement happens on local social media pages. While Crunch Fitness posts branded content for its franchisees, Aminta Iriarte, social media manager, says, “We also give local club owners the reins to post, since we do realize how important localized content is.” There are challenges with consistency, she notes in a SoCi blog post, so the company focuses on best practices and works to “empower franchisees with tools to create and manage the content.”

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