3 reasons why even great franchises fail online

Oct 31, 2015

As we’ve pointed out in our recent blog post  The elephant in the franchise digital marketing room, the gap between franchisees expectations and franchisors capabilities often results in conflicting interests, uncoordinated communication, inefficient online marketing and missed onboarding opportunities.

More and more, potential franchisees thoroughly research franchisors’ online reputation and marketing strategies, and who could blame them as they get ready when investing five-digit amounts for their foreseeable professional future.

There are many reasons why even the most seemingly successful franchise networks don’t quite get it right on the internet. Here we are listing those that struck us as the most important ones, and while we’ve been hiding their names these are real live examples that come from top franchisors who should know better.

As franchise marketing expert Joe Matthews puts it, “the franchise industry is divided into two distinct camps when it comes to franchise lead generation: those that cling to yesterday’s winning formula from the past which is no longer producing acceptable results today, and those who reinvented their franchise sales lead generation tactics to reflect changes in buying behavior.”

1. Sending franchisees down the rogue website road

One of the most common flaw observed in franchise onboarding is also a very blatant one and it usually strikes potential franchisees as a huge mark of disdain for those who are the lifeblood of the entire operation. We’re talking of course of local franchisees’ online presence.

We’re intentionally not saying “franchisee website” as this is not even an option for roughly 10% of all franchises in the United States, while franchisors in their vast majority still seem to think that a single page on their corporate website does qualify as a bona fide “local franchisee online presence”.

Worse, some of those franchises can’t even get the “one webpage deal” right. See what happens when when trying to reach a local franchisee’s online presence from the website of an acclaimed custom window coverings franchise operating over 1,500 local stores across North America.

First, once you found the location you’re interested, you will get a bland single page with contact information and some links to find out more. In just a few clicks, trying to see what the reviews say about the local North Phoenix (AZ) store, you will reach an idle Google+ profile leading to a very official yet very dead website address who might make you think the store is simply gone out of business.

While this doesn’t mean that this franchise is not a solid one by a long shot, you still have to admit that in terms of social marketing excellence for such a big business, this kind of recurrent incident makes quite a dent in “setting the standard for franchisee-franchisor relationships” as their website claims, wouldn’t you say?

2. Understaffed marketing departments working with small budgets

When you consider franchisors running up to 500 franchise locations, you’d think they made sure to be on top of their marketing game. This may come a shock, but according to FranConnect’s 2015 Local Marketing Survey, nearly 50% of franchisors with between 101-499 units s are running with only three marketing staff members or less.

Three persons to manage the global marketing strategy of a 100+ unit franchise seem a little understaffed but the report points out that for sure “they have technology and support in place to help them manage every aspect of their marketing programs”.

If that was indeed the case, there should therefore be quite a few extra expenses dealing with technology running costs and/or outsourcing to web marketing specialists to run the show. But other numbers contradict that assumption.

63.7% of surveyed franchisors allocate 2% or less of their budget to marketing and advertising funds, which is consistent with numbers from the IFA (International Franchise Association) who indicate a range from 1 to 4%. Yet, it is lower for brands that really want to push on the marketing pedal to fuel their growth, the CMO Council recommends to spend in average 5% of the budget.

Indeed, close to half of the franchisors in the Franchise Local Marketing Trends survey “do not feel that their franchisees’ marketing budget is adequate to compete effectively”, almost twice as many as a year before.

As an ambitious franchisor willing to beat the competition, you should not skimp on marketing and advertising budgets or staffing.

Make sure to evaluate the return on investment for your franchise marketing fund though, and do not hesitate to talk to your franchisees about your current marketing spending requirements, and of course if you have neither make sure you implement both.

It’s quite astounding that only 21.2% of franchisors actually monitor local marketing spending through a software solution, contradicting the idea that understaffing is justified by the use of technology.

That technology is out there though. With a solid global marketing plan, the adequate staff to implement it, the right budget and the software to make all it happen, you are just sure to accomplish what an overwhelming majority of franchisors don’t.

3. Deficient website management and online marketing software

Even when franchise networks manage to establish sound online marketing strategies at both global and local levels, take great care in creating the tools to implement such strategies, and allocate the resources needed to support them over time, they often fail over time simply by not adapting to constant change.

No matter how hard they try, they often are just not properly setup to respond to major search engines updates, lack the flexibility to adapt to new mobile platforms and the scalability to deploy rapidly enough on fast-evolving social networks.

For instance, recently and after much warning signs, Google Search decided to change its ranking algorithm to favor mobile-friendly websites, a move that hurt many website owners and operators oblivious to the fact that mobile searches have taken over desktop searches following a trend that will not stop anytime soon (if ever).

While the consequences of the updates weren’t immediately as dramatic as some expected, the change is increasingly hurting ill-prepared franchise networks, as being ‘mobile-friendly’ is not just a matter of looking good on the latest iphone.

Issues such as speed, URL formatting or smartphone-only redirects are detrimental to being “mobile-friendly” as defined by Google and other search engines.

Another year-old Google algorithm update called ‘Pigeon’ smashed local brands in the teeth by redefining local search parameters, interpreting localized searches as exact brand names, and narrowing radii of local queries in SERPs.

At the time, “many large, multi-location brands found that their traffic dropped after Google released its Pigeon algorithm” observed columnist Andrew Shotland, noting that the Pigeon update had some big brands instantly lose anywhere between 5 and 10% of their organic traffic according to many reports.

Another symptom of poor technological response to change is the inability of many franchisors to grasp the implications of the mobile revolution in online marketing. Mobile platforms are now officially the number one device group for search engine requests.

According to the Pew Research Center, 39 out of 50 major news sites now get more traffic from mobile than desktop PCs. As the number of mobiles will continue to outweigh the number of computers for the foreseeable future, this trend will not reverse anytime soon, if ever.

Let’s take for instance a well-known 30-years old ice parlour franchise with close to 600 locations in the U.S. and ranked #84 in Entrepreneur.com Franchise Top 500 list.

The local franchisee’s websites are located under a different domain with badly crafted URLs, which ideally should be as short as possible, and possibly look something like http://www.franchisenetwork.com/franchiselocation...

Take a look at how mobile-friendly their franchisee website is:

Imagine how happy franchisees can be with this state of things, not mentioning prospecting franchisees who would first check out this franchise opportunity from their mobile. Would this make you confident enough in the brand’s online marketing support to shell out a $30,000 franchise fee and justify the 6.5% ongoing royalty fee? Us neither.

These are just a few of the many issues that franchise and franchisees routinely face, and though they’re obviously hurting both sides of the business, neither know how to fix it other than going their own way, networks with their overblown global websites and franchisees with their cheap rogue website.

As we’ve stated before, there is specialized software that can alleviate any and all of these problems, but apparently not all franchisors are aware of it. Among others, SeoSamba’s franchise marketing software can help you stand out from competition and learn from their mistakes by doing what’s right to succeed online.

Regardless of your technological choice, we sincerely hope this eye-opening tidbit will help you build an even greater franchised future!

SeoSamba, intelligent software for smart franchisors

To avoid joining the throng of otherwise great franchises that still fail online with outdated marketing strategies, shrunk budgets and staff, or underperforming software, SeoSamba has the perfect solution for you.

Build upon its patent-pending “hub & spokes” technology, SeoSamba’s open source and out-of-the-box software can help you build, manage and market entire franchise networks.

SeoSamba let franchisors manage any number of franchisee's local websites through a centralized, cloud-based and white-label all-in-one franchise marketing platform that lets franchise networks deploy franchisees’ websites out of the box.

SeoSamba gives you much more bang for your buck than other comparable solutions, helping you sell more franchises and generate more local leads for your franchisees with our website builder, powered by all-in-one SEO, mobile, PR, call tracking, SMS & social marketing software.

Just because you hadn’t heard of them yet does not mean that the right franchise marketing tools don’t exist, nor that it is too late to make the right choice. For more information, please read more on the benefits of our online marketing solutions for franchise networks.

As a franchisor, you will get all the control, fast deployment and global marketing you need to get more franchisees on board with a minimal cost.

As a franchisee, you will be able to market your custom online presence on all fronts on top of all the marketing power a global franchise holds, allowing to beat the most competitive local brands without either selling your soul or having to ever go down the rogue franchise website road.

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About the author

Michel Leconte
Michel Leconte

Omnivorous mammal & SEO Samba CEO, I'm a regular speaker at search engine marketing conferences around the world, including Search Engine Strategies London & New York, and a contributor to a number of publications, including Website Magazine, and Feedfront Magazine. I enjoy strategy, coaching, and motivating both customers & staff.

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