When it comes to franchise marketing, the best CMOs find ways to strike a balance between protecting, growing and enhancing the brand at the national and global levels while still allowing for customization at the local level.
“It’s our responsibility as a franchisor to provide tools, resources and support for our franchisees that allow them to stay within our overarching strategy but also exercise freedom in their local marketing, understanding what resonates best in their market (using the tools and guidelines set),” says Ashley Mitchell, senior vice president of marketing at Streamline Brands.
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If you’re an aspiring franchise CMO or looking for new strategies to elevate your franchise’s marketing and branding, this one’s for you. We spoke with franchise marketing executives across industries to explore what it takes to succeed.
Step one? Recognize that franchise marketing is unlike any other type of marketing. From there, it’s all about taking a hybrid approach, adapting to market conditions and creating strong personal connections.
“Working in franchising, you also have to check your ego at the door and realize that some of the best ideas are going to come from your community — lean into that and truly partner with your franchisees to ensure you are able to hear those great ideas, polish and elevate them to the next level and share widely,” Mitchell adds.
1. Don’t compare franchise marketing to other types of marketing
“Your stakeholders, strategies, objectives, KPIs — they all are highly dependent on your business model, the markets you’re working in and the goals of both the franchisor and franchisee. A lot of franchise marketers learn quickly that what might have been successful in a previous, non-franchise role won’t work or will need to be heavily modified. This is what excites most of us, but also, at times, can be physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting!” — Will Fraker, vice president of marketing at FranNet
2. Take a hybrid approach
“Your franchisees didn’t get into business to be full-time marketers. You need to be their strength wherever their weakness lies, and for many of your franchisees, it is likely to be in marketing. At MassageLuXe, we ask ourselves ‘Does this need to be localized to their market?’ If the answer is no, we do the marketing for them. If it does need localization, we provide easy-to-use guides and templates so that they can activate easily. Take a hybrid approach to brand and local marketing in the franchisees’ favor to ensure you are taking into account the unique needs and characteristics of each local market while maintaining a consistent brand image and messaging.” — Kristen Pechacek, chief growth officer at Massage Luxe International
3. Adapt to unique market conditions
“To succeed in franchise marketing, it’s essential to navigate the tension between centralized brand control and adapting to the unique market conditions of each franchise location. Juggling these competing priorities requires a deep understanding of both franchisor objectives and franchisee requirements, as well as the ability to effectively leverage a range of marketing channels to reach and engage customers. That balance requires a combination of art and science to pull it off effectively.” — Mike Millett,vice president of marketing at Stratus Building Solutions
4. Create a strong personal connection with customers
“Franchise marketing is about creating a strong emotional bond between your brand and the people within your local communities — and that relationship is most effectively established at the local level, with support from national brand marketing. The franchisor should have proven local marketing programs in place for the franchisee, making it easy for them to execute (or executing it on their behalf where possible), but allowing the franchisee to customize the program so that messaging is authentic and targeting is optimized. If the franchisee is not a ‘people person,’ they should hire someone to be the face of their business in the community. The closest thing to the mythical silver bullet in marketing is having a strong personal connection with customers and prospective customers.” — Angela Z. Paules, chief marketing officer at Buzz Franchise Brands
5. When in doubt, embrace simplicity
“Focus on establishing a strong national foundation where you as the franchisor can ensure there is a consistency of message and augment with a keen insight driven by localization of elements and tactics. In essence, you use local to showcase your media expertise and connection to the community while using national to drive overall system-wide performance.” — Doug Zarkin, vice president and chief marketing officer at Pearle Vision
6. Anticipate your customers’ needs.
“For successful franchise marketing, it’s crucial to conduct both primary and secondary research on your customers. By becoming an expert on their preferences, you can anticipate their needs and tailor your strategy and messaging accordingly. This approach builds trust and loyalty, as customers feel heard and understood. I learned early in my career, ‘If you ask the customer, they will tell you what to do.'” — Brooke Janousek, Fractional CMO
7. Protect and grow the brand
“Franchise marketing is all about protecting and growing a brand at the same time. This is done most successfully by providing franchisees with an easy-to-follow system (plan or program) that they understand and believe will help them grow their business, provide a return on their investment and deliver the brand experience. Franchisees are not inherently marketers, so they need to believe in the brand promise and the marketing behind the brand so they can execute their local marketing effectively. Happy and profitable franchisees sell franchises, and ultimately, marketing programs for both growing the brand and the franchise rely on this every day.” — Marci Kleinsasser, vice president of marketing at Home Franchise Concepts
8. Lean into the community
“Franchising is the only industry I’ve worked in that has such open and genuine people who truly want to help each other. I have an amazing network of franchise friends that I know I can reach out to at any time with any question or challenge I’m having and they will be happy to share and provide guidance. It’s truly an amazing support system to have.” — Ashley Mitchell, senior vice president of marketing at Streamline Brands