Franchise Digital Marketing: Complete Guide to The Best-Performing Channels

franchise digital marketing
Irina Baranovskaya
Irina Baranovskaya
Content Marketing Manager
≈ 16 min read
Upd. on: 8 Apr 2022

With more and more people vaccinated, US business is returning to normal. Most states have dropped Covid-related restrictions for fully vaccinated individuals, letting them eat inside restaurants and do yoga in gyms. As franchising also approaches pre-pandemic levels of economic output, local investors are open to new deals in 2022

The pool of investors may become wider this year. Some people have spent the pandemic building up savings which they can now invest in their own businesses. Additionally,  millions of Americans are quitting jobs and looking for alternative careers to create a lifestyle that fits them better. Franchising can be a pivotal opportunity for former employees to create a better work-life balance. 

Remember those businesses which closed their locations? They opened up spaces in very good properties that had until now been unavailable. That’s another driver of the upcoming franchising boom. Is your franchise ready for it?

To prosper, franchisors should take a vigorous approach to growth by investing more in marketing to make their brands more attractive to investors, franchisees, and customers. The first step to take is to prepare a clear franchise marketing strategy and a roadmap for its smooth execution.


1. We live in a “near me” world

Consumers today live in a “near me” search world, where almost anything they want is available from a nearby business. That’s why “near me” searches are up 900% in recent years. For a multi-location business, understanding “near me” search behavior is critical for providing locally relevant content and campaigns that drive greater engagement and sales.

Moreover, the “near me” search is no longer just about finding a place. It’s now about finding a specific thing, in a specific area, and in a specific period of time. If people are searching for something near them, that’s a pretty strong signal of intent and a not-to-miss opportunity for a brand to win a customer.

near me search top results

2. Franchise digital marketing effectiveness increased in 2021

New consumer behaviors such as online shopping booms, shifts in brand loyalty, and in-home consumption mean that media options that worked in the past are no longer as effective as in previous years. So where have marketers been investing? 

With so many people working from home or being laid off, out-of-home advertising such as billboards and radio ads dropped suddenly; print advertising also fell.

Meanwhile, in-home media usage went up. TV viewership has climbed, but digital consumption has increased even more: use of social platforms and streaming services has risen almost everywhere. Seeing that, marketers have adapted to consumers, which means prioritizing digital activities. 

In general, marketers have been reducing their budgets for traditional advertising while increasing expenditures on digital marketing. In 2021, CMOs said that their digital budgets grew by 14.3%, relative to the past 12 months.

advertising marketing budgets

3. Location-based ads are blooming 

Just about 2 years ago, the majority of franchise-focused marketing utilized a top-down approach: brands sprayed TV, radio, and outdoor advertising into the market and waited for the strength of the brand’s campaign to reach the local level and impact sales onsite. However, the reality is 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions. But there isn’t an easy way to personalize offers at scale. And this is where location-based campaigns on paid social can change the game.

franchise personalization

Location-based advertising or geofencing is a must for small locations that are focused on a precise region or district. This tactic allows you to create a “fence” based on coordinates. You can choose its radius and determine the distance around your store where users would get your messages. For instance, you could target people who are walking near a restaurant during lunch hours.

digital marketing geofencing

Geofencing is an effective way to direct consumers to the location.

Contextual targeting can also be connected to a specific location. A good example would be sports-related offers around a football stadium during a game. Taxi services could display their ads, pubs could promote their after-game activities, or nearby fan shops could send push notifications on discounts. 

The Three Pillars of Franchise Marketing

Franchise marketing may sound easy, but it’s actually difficult in practice, both at the corporate level and for individual franchisees. It’s a complex, three-fold game with multiple interconnected levels needed to succeed: brand marketing, franchise development, and local marketing. 

The day-to-day challenge of multi-location marketing is maintaining brand consistency while providing flexibility to reach individual local goals. Let’s zoom in on each area and outline the tactics that will impact your bottom line.

Brand Marketing

Goal: Promote franchise nationally to drive more brand awareness

When it comes to a franchise’s assets, brand recognition is one of the most important in its arsenal. It is crucial not only to develop a great recognizable brand but also to enforce all of your franchisees’ adherence to it. 

Once developed, it’s good to keep brand assets in one place and share them with all franchisees and your corporate team. 

Franchise Development

Goal: Attract and engage franchisee prospects to convert them into buying new franchise units

Before franchisees get customers, the franchise must attract franchisees. Even though everything has changed since Covid struck, the motivations for buying a franchise haven’t changed. 

People who buy franchises want to make money. That means you need to assure them your franchise concept will provide them the return they’re looking for. They want to lower the risk of owning a business. So the next step is to convince them that owning your franchise carries a low chance of fiasco. 

They don’t want to be failures. To prevent their feeling isolated, develop a positive and supportive company culture – an environment that potential franchisees will want to be a part of. 

Local Marketing

Goal: Market to end-consumers to get them to buy products/services from franchisees 

The near-total shutdown of travel and other pandemic restrictions has made local neighborhoods much more important. Many community social-media pages and forums have been created to connect people with local volunteers and mutual-aid groups. As McKinsey’s ethnographic research shows, supporting familiar, local businesses has become vital to many Americans, driven in part by greater confidence in their quality and safety.

As a result, franchises have a chance to benefit from a growing sense of localism by providing a more granular presence at scale. However, franchise local marketing can be tough because it requires ongoing collaboration between franchisees and franchisors. It’s a delicate balancing act of preserving a brand’s reputation while allowing franchisees to customize their strategies. 

To reap the benefits, franchisors need to build out a local marketing strategy that includes branding guidelines, a clear infrastructure, training and support programs, and an effective roadmap for working with marketing channels.

franchise marketing pillars

Brand Marketing: 3 Channels To Skyrocket Your Brand Awareness

  • Video Marketing

While digital marketing reigns supreme, video provides the perfect platform to help humanize franchise brands. Indeed, video is the top channel in the marketing budget mix.

To keep prospects and consumers aware of their franchise, successful brands focus on showing concern for the wellbeing of their audiences by creating video campaigns of solidarity and compassion. More interestingly, they’re not focusing on creating their content with high-end production equipment but with smartphones, including live streaming.  

As always, the brand mission, vision, and values should be ingrained in a company’s overall video marketing strategy. Create content reflecting your brand’s reactions to social or political issues to remind your audience of where your company stands, and you’ll be the perfect mix of a modern and empathetic brand.

franchise video marketing

  • Influencer Marketing

After the video, the second-fastest-growing type of content is one created by influencers, with 71% of marketers increasing their budget for this medium. Indeed, for every $1 that brands spend on influencers, they get an ROI of $5.78. That’s one of the reasons why influencer marketing is considered so beneficial for businesses. But some research is needed here.

To get favorable results, look for influencers with proven track records and stellar recommendations. As you’re researching, find out who they’ve worked with before, evaluate their previous content and even ask for case studies. The more information that you can gather, the easier it will be to determine if a particular influencer is worth investing in.

In addition, don’t expect a one-time collaboration to drive outstanding results. It’s wiser to work with an influencer on a series of campaigns to get sustainable success. 

  • Public Relations

Global reputations can be boosted or blasted with just a few keystrokes. So to get a competitive edge and remain a desired brand, your reputation needs to be intact. Did you know that global executives relate 63% of their company’s market value to their company’s reputation? This means that how people perceive your franchise brand directly affects your revenue. 

Notably, early in the pandemic, Smoothie King launched a new smoothie designed to support their guests’ immunity. They also collaborated with Under Armour to expand their reach during the height of home workouts and to reinforce their position as a healthy brand. Additionally, Smoothie King donated more than $1 million to healthcare professionals to show how their products can serve many purposes.

Now people know that Smoothie King is a recognized (by big sport) brand that helps its customers live a healthier life while giving back to its communities.

franchise local marketing

Smoothie King and its franchisees are donating $1 million in smoothies to local heroes

Franchise Development: Sell More Units With These 5 Marketing Channels

  • Content Marketing

Content marketing is born from a documented, goal-focused content marketing strategy. Though it’s shaped by a multitude of content creators and requires a remarkable effort, it’s worth it. The journey begins with understanding that content is not about sales but about helping readers overcome specific challenges.

Prospects may ask Google about available territories or startup costs. They may search for testimonials or success stories. If you direct them to a newly designed franchise development website and provide answers optimized to answer their questions, you’ll create a more relevant experience for them. 

High-quality content not only builds trust with readers but enhances your online visibility. That’s why you should tell your story through clear, helpful content enriched with catchy graphics and videos.

content marketing trends

Relevant content marketing along with rent deferral helped Sola Salon Studios retain their clients despite forced closures of 500+ locations. Since the launch of their #SolaStrong campaign and free Covid-19 Resource Center, its national newsletter for potential beauty professionals and industry media distribution list has increased 53%. 

The franchise hosted 12 Facebook Live events with brand partners and 20 virtual webinars (11,803 registrations), launched a podcast and 41 episodes were published in 2020 with 18,857 total downloads. #SolaStrong was featured in 132 publications, equating to almost 450 million impressions.

digital marketing podcast sola

Independent beauty professionals and industry leaders discuss salon suite ownership at Sola Stories podcast.

  • Pay-Per-Click Advertising (PPC)

To expand, your brand has to stand out, and paid advertising is one of the ways to get the attention of your ideal franchisee. But pretty ads don’t necessarily convert until the marketing team does its research. Sometimes, a specific color, word, or video gets the most engagement. The best practice is to laser-target your franchise development campaigns and track which creatives perform best.

PPC franchise social media

PPC spending went up from 14% to 22% in 2021 helping brands call their customers to action.

Determining where to spend your marketing budget means keeping a sharp eye on the effectiveness of each chosen channel. For example, in 2021 the overwhelming choice was Facebook with both spending and effectiveness at 83%

  • Outbound Email Marketing

By nature, forming new relationships is harder than supporting existing ones. The same is true with outbound emails which are unsolicited and can be considered disruptive. It’s more likely your audience will unsubscribe from something they did not ask for compared to something they’ve shown interest in.

With this in mind,  the first goal is to avoid spam folders. The second goal is to keep your potential customers reading until they get to your CTA. How can you do this?

First, when building a list of prospects, don’t just look for people that work in the same field. Have a specific set of criteria an entrepreneur must meet. For instance, search for a USA weight-loss clinic. Don’t look for something vague, such as “USA clinics.”

Second, remember that personalization affects deliverability and shows that you care about getting a reply. Try to include customized snippets with some unique information about your prospects that you’ve researched. Third, opt for a few smaller campaigns addressed to people who are certain to benefit from your solution. Don’t place prospects in the same campaign just because you found their email addresses.

cold emailing tips

  • Cold Calling

This channel might seem a bit outdated in the digital age, but this channel can still prove to be successful. Cold calls usually work better than cold emails because if the prospect picks up, you’re speaking with a real person directly — not competing for attention in their inbox.

The first thing to remember is that cold call lists are all about quality over quantity. Do your research and choose only contacts who truly need your products or services. Next, focus on the conversation. The seeds of a valuable relationship will grow only in a meaningful engaging dialogue, not in a pitch.

A bit of trial and error will help you develop a call schedule that works. You may find that early morning or late afternoon is a sweet spot for your prospects.  To polish your sales, make notes, and learn from every rejection.

Local Marketing: 6 Channels To Boost Your Foot Traffic And Local Sales

  • Local SEO

“Ok, Google, show me a Mexican restaurant near me.” Normally a hungry customer will see a Google map, 3-pack results with snippets, and search engine results with paid going first. Few people search any further. 

On the whole, a customer decision will depend on star rating, quantity and quality of reviews, and location proximity. You, as a marketer, can impact all the above except geography. How? To improve local search results, optimize listings, manage reviews, use local keywords, and ensure consistency across locations. 

  • Social Media Marketing  

Social media is ideal for word of mouth franchise advertising, creating a strong bond with local communities, and putting your brand in front of a new audience.

consumers follow brands on social

Moreover, with Covid, social media has transformed into a digital mall with 78% of consumers preferring to buy from brands only after a positive experience on social media. 

However, the common problem for franchisors is providing their local partners with the right level of support. A reactive social media environment adds even more risks to executing this strategy accurately. A few gaps in guidelines – you lose brand authority. Too much pressure – you won’t attract customers specific to your locations and branches.

For example, Camp Bow Wow (185 pet care locations) has done a lot of research to understand their customers’ lifestyle. The brand has a vibrant corporate presence on all major social networks, while franchisees at each location actively manage their own local “Camp” page. The franchisor offers plenty of support with social media and a content library to supplement their local posts.

With central support, small stores can overcome the initial complexities of setting up their franchise social media marketing and focus instead on local content creation. To battle limited resources, consider using PromoRepublic for a joint asset library, content approvals, scheduling, and insights.

Camp Bow Wow social

Camp Bow Wow has a vibrant presence on social media.

  • Online Reviews

Every time people search for “best” or “top,” Google will show them businesses with review ratings of 4.0 and higher first. By giving users the power to select the best businesses in a given neighborhood, reviews have become a major ranking factor in local searches. Moreover, reviews inspire consumer confidence in uncertain times.

88% of all reviews that come from Google, Yelp, Facebook, and Tripadvisor can be incredibly powerful in shaping consumer behavior.

consumers check review sites

This is especially true in Covid times, which have changed the way consumers discover and choose businesses online. Negative reviews aren’t critical to your reputation, as long as their quantity remains minimal. 

It’s true that brands typically don’t have control over user-generated content found in reviews. When evaluating businesses, consumers aren’t only influenced by the reviews that others leave but also by how companies manage them. That’s where the response time comes into play. 

  • Local Listings

When consumers search for specific products or services in their area, showing up at the top of the local search results page is the № 1 task. One of the easiest ways to do this is to keep location data consistent across the online platforms and directories that consumers rely on to find local businesses.

If customers show up to closed doors due to incorrect opening hours, this will impact both your clients’ sales and the customer experience. But when all data across your locations is correct, consistent, and up-to-date you’ll rank higher. For an emerging franchise with few locations, it doesn’t seem like a big deal to fill in holiday hours manually. But if you’re scaling or are an already established brand, automation may save you significant resources.

local data accuracy

  • Location-based ads

PPC promises a high ROI and boosts a brand’s recognition. Adding a paid social media budget will definitely accelerate your reach, helping you get the impressions and clicks to meet your goals. What’s most important here is that it generates leads locally by landing you the top spot in the local pack. 

In fact, Facebook and Instagram algorithms have significantly cut down the organic reach for business posts. That means all those fans who are following your accounts currently may not see your posts unless you pay to amplify them. Without a “boost,” only 1-3% of your audience may see your message. 

If you are a franchise brand with local brick-and-mortar locations, it’s imperative to drive traffic to specific locations. Don’t send customers to your central site where they’ll spend time figuring out where to get your product/service or how to find the location nearby – or just leave.

The ideal scenario is executing local store PPC in cooperation with national programs. Strategic guidance for keywords, targeting, and approved brand creative/messaging is owned by corporate. Franchisees are then empowered to invest their additional local marketing budget and given access to customization options they can choose based on community preferences. They’ll also get full visibility into their local campaign performance reporting. As a result, franchisees will know exactly how their local ad dollars or national ad fund contributions are benefitting their location.

  • Community Building

“Within a 3- to 5-mile radius of every clinic or restaurant there are dozens of other businesses, hundreds of homes, and thousands of potential new customers. One American in every ten tells the other nine where to eat, what to buy, and how to vote,” said Jim Sullivan in his book Multi-Unit Leadership.

Connecting with the movers and shakers of your community, whether they are in local government, businesses, schools, or theaters, can make a huge difference. To start, think of people who talk to others regularly: bartenders, receptionists, concierges, religious leaders.

Your own team can also impact revenue. Say 20 team members have 200 Facebook friends. If each person refers just five, that can have a meaningful impact on your business.

franchise focused marketing strategy

One Platform To Cover All Your Marketing Needs 

As a franchisor, your job is to create a strong marketing strategy that will help every branch maximize its marketing potential while ensuring brand consistency every step of the way. You should trust your franchisees to manage their branches only if you have done your part of the job beforehand. Here is what belongs to you:

Create customizable content

One of the problems in franchisor-franchisee relationships is that individual locations don’t have time for marketing. The first step here is to distribute branded assets and templates. Let regions and locations customize certain elements with others locked, thus empowering franchisees to be active online while keeping your branding intact.

Solidify your position on social media

To align, provide social media guidelines for location pages and clearly define appropriate and inappropriate online behavior, including compliance information. Use Facebook Location Pages to help customers find local businesses faster.

Laser-target local audiences to generate more sales

Allow franchisees to boost posts and expand their reach when needed.

Optimize listings to grow foot traffic and website visits

Ensure that all data across all your locations are up to date, correct, and consistent.

Listen to your customers and collect critical business insights

Monitor what’s being said about your brand, services/products, or competitors in real-time and respond right away.

Collect feedback from customers to improve their experience

Understand your customers and turn unhappy moments into opportunities for repeat sales.

Train franchisees so they adopt tools and feel supported

As franchisees go to market, they need more support and training from the central office. The learning curve encompasses franchise identity, marketing initiatives, special programs, lead nurturing, etc.

Oversee franchise performance to correct flaws

Get a bird’s-eye view of the entire franchise as well as an overview of the latest activities and their outcomes. Identify the teams that are doing well and those that need some assistance.

Managing all your franchise marketing systems may be daunting, but it’s attainable with resources in place. Today more and more emerging franchises are turning to market platforms for digital marketing automation and campaign result measurements. If you’re looking for a solution to tackle the above-mentioned challenges, PromoRepublic can be your growth accelerator.  

Why PromoRepublic?

PromoRepublic is an all-in-one platform that helps easily manage digital marketing across all locations. Our Dashboards aggregate location performance data so you have insight into which steps to take next.

local franchise marketing


The franchising boom is on the horizon, so now is the best time to invest in digital marketing to make your franchise more attractive to investors, franchisees, and customers. The first step on your roadmap should be crafting a clear marketing strategy and a plan for its smooth execution. 

Franchise marketing stands on three pillars, which are brand marketing, franchise development, and local marketing. Each pillar aims for different results and can be executed through distinct channels. Corporate tactics can be executed within HQ, while local marketing implies contributions from both franchisors and franchisees. In short, the best franchise marketing combo is brand-directed, locally perfected. 

To easily manage your digital marketing across your locations, look for an all-in-one platform that can save you tons of time and effort. You can look for PromoRepublic to manage digital marketing for franchises at scale and in one place. Watch a demo and set up a call with our sales to learn how your special needs can be covered.

online reputation management ebook

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