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Digital strategy is crucial to reach consumers


Opportunities to capitalize on social media are abundant, but simply creating a Facebook page or launching a YouTube channel isn’t going to get the job done. As our Living Large subjects continue to learn, marketing success in the digital age comes from having a coherent strategy, understanding the target customer audience and using each platform to its fullest capabilities.

When Carmelo Marsala first began franchising his Quebec-based Spray-Net exterior painting service in 2014, he noticed franchisees weren’t doing social media marketing “at all,” so the next year he folded everything back into an in-house team that executes a comprehensive marketing and lead generation plan in each owner’s local territory.

Spray-Net maintains active Facebook and Twitter accounts, “and we have full-time staff answering messages, responding to comments,” says Marsala, founder and CEO.

Timeliness in responding directly impacts lead generation and conversion, he explains, yet another reason to have the corporate office handle this part of the business.

When it comes to boosting engagement with current and potential customers, Marsala says it quickly became evident that “people love videos but they won’t read anything.”

Carmelo Marsala

“Our service is all about the wow factor, people seeing that curb appeal and imagining the possibilities.” — Carmelo Marsala, Spray-Net

“Our service is all about the wow factor, people seeing that curb appeal and imagining the possibilities,” he says. That’s why much of Spray-Net’s marketing involves before and after shots, and highlight videos showing the transformation. Franchisees submit content, which then gets the corporate polish before it’s pushed out on various platforms. The company tracks likes and shares, retweets and other analytics, always with an eye to turning each interaction with the brand into a lead.

Just as important as engaging with potential customers is responding to critical comments or negative reviews, says Marsala, and while he emphasizes the need for a quick reply, there’s no knee-jerk reaction.

“First we say, whose customer is this and let’s get the full story before we answer,” says Marsala. “Then, be up front and real. If it’s our mistake we’ll come out and fix it, and if it’s not we’ll be up front about that, too. We try to set the expectation and stick to it.”

Streamlined approach

Like Spray-Net, marketing of the Watermill Express brand originates with the corporate team, which in turn draws from franchisees who submit news and event involvement, such as providing water at community festivals.

“We do it all through corporate; we just want one voice, one brand, so everything is funneled through corporate and that way we keep it pretty streamlined,” says CEO Lani Dolifka, who founded the drive-up drinking water and ice franchise with husband Don in 1984 and has since grown it to nearly 1,000 company and 310 franchise locations.

Kiosk location information and access is a key function of Watermill’s marketing and that’s what drove the development of the mobile location app Dolifka says was launched a few years ago. Recognizing that in order to encourage downloads the app needed to be more than a location finder, so developers gave it additional functions.

Lani Dolifka

“We just want one voice, one brand, so everything is funneled through corporate and that way we keep it pretty streamlined.” — Lani Dolifka, Watermill Express

“It’s also a hydration tracker, so people can track how much water they consume,” says Dolifka, and, by way of positive reinforcement, “it also equates it to how many water bottles you’ve saved by refilling at Watermill Express.”

Watermill’s had mixed results with social media and other digital marketing, which is why Dolifka says traditional efforts such as direct mail are still incorporated into the overall marketing strategy.

“The cost savings is very attractive,” says Dolifka of going the digital route, “but results aren’t always as strong.”

Digital magic

Because gym membership and use is so neighborhood-driven, marketing of the Blink Fitness brand is all about geography. And with the high sophistication level of today’s digital and mobile marketing tools, “we can actually target people walking by a Blink with an offer or promotion,” says Todd Magazine, president of the lower-priced
fitness concept that’s under the Equinox umbrella.

“There’s many, many different ways to go after and target consumers—geography is obviously most important to us.”

Blink Fitness works with an outside media agency to develop and execute its marketing campaigns, which also include direct mail, billboards and transit advertising. The company, which runs 57 corporate gym locations in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, has several franchises sold whose marketing will come from the same media agency.

On the social media front, Blink mixes in promotions with posts showcasing the brand and its members, such as those who are part of its “Every Body Happy” campaign featuring members of varying shapes and sizes and a common thread of Blink’s positioning as a self-confidence builder.

“Today people are really looking for constant information and news about your brand, so you’ve gotta constantly be updating and keeping it fresh,” says Magazine.

“We manage everything very actively,” he says, negative and positive post alike.

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