When it comes to marketing, be it online or off, it’s all about reaching the right people at the right time.
It’s about taking advantage of trends, whether it’s a global trend, or one you’re seeing locally.
And it’s about connecting with people, and doing so in a way in which your message resonates with their particular situation at that particular time.
From this standpoint, one of the biggest advantages that a local business has is that its people know their community. They know their customers and the challenges they face. They know the competition, both the big guys and the mom and pops. And they know the opportunities that exist for both customer acquisition and retention.
When it comes to local franchises, it’s no different – they know their community. What is different, however, is that local franchises often face limitations when it comes to their marketing efforts and their ability to speak directly to that community.
Some franchisees enjoy more flexibility than others with respect to promotional activities, and some of the limitations they face are understandable. Franchisors want consistency. They also want a level of control over their brand image.
But that’s not the way to thrive in this day and age. Franchises need the ability to connect with their community, to hear what they’re saying and take advantage of it.
This has never been more possible than it is now. The Internet has opened doors for businesses of all sizes to engage with their customers and fans, and to garner insight they can use to make key business decisions moving forward.
This is the trend we’re seeing, but for franchisors, there is still a tendency to maintain a certain level of control. While, again, the underlying rationale can be understandable from a brand image perspective, to truly leverage online social media from a business perspective, franchisors should be encouraging their franchisees to join the conversation online.
To take it a step further, not only should they be persuaded to join the conversation and engage with their customers, they should be supported with the tools and know how to do so.
More and more, it’s not just the big boys creating the Facebook Pages and the Twitter accounts, it’s the mom and pop shops as well. They’re out there conversing with the local community, gathering feedback and building trust, relationships and customers.
For some time we’ve seen how small businesses have been able to establish a presence in online yellow pages and local search listings to leverage the Internet as a promotional vehicle. Now they have a new way to reach and connect with their audience, tell their story, and give their business an authentic face and voice.
Franchisors take notice. Embrace these communities on a local level. Online social outlets serve as an opportunity to let your franchisees tell their stories, to listen, to develop long-standing relationships and customers, and to build a loyal fan base of brand evangelists – a fan base that will be even bigger and stronger when built from the bottom up.