If General Patton were here to helm the pay-per-click battlefield

Published by Franchise Times
SEPTEMBER 21, 2017

You’ll find two types of soldiers on the front lines of battle: those who stand paralyzed by fear and those who are emboldened by pure grit and sound strategy. Likewise, the pay-per-click (PPC) battlefield is peppered with franchise players that are either fighting blind or frozen in place, with only a select few who charge forward with a winning strategy.

So if you’re not sure where your pay-per-click campaigns stand, it may be time to map out a new approach.

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Know your enemy

Equal parts bold and brilliant, General George Patton earned his place in the history books for his artful leadership of U.S. troops in World War II. In the 1970s biopic “Patton,” the general exclaims, “Rommel, you magnificent bastard! I read your book!” after outsmarting German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in battle. Referring to the field marshal’s published book of military tactics, Patton basks in the glow of his well-researched victory.

Similarly, before entering the PPC fray, franchisors should spend some time sizing up the enemy. Start by assessing all of your competitors’ PPC campaigns, from keywords to the value proposition of their ad copy to the composition of their landing pages. Your franchise marketing agency should be able to perform a very granular competitive analysis that will indicate which of your competitors are getting results.

The first step should be to identify which keywords your competitors are bidding on and which of these keywords are generating the most interest. And since a Google search of the word “franchise” will generate 195 million results, you should specifically focus on keyword phrases and long-tailed keywords (typically keyword phrases of three or more words).

These keywords will have fewer people bidding on them and thus will likely be less expensive. More importantly, using your competitor’s plan will be sure to put you in front of the same prospective buyer with your message.

As part of your research, make sure you assess the way in which your competitors are positioning themselves with their ads and their landing pages. And in doing this analysis, make sure to click through on multiple ads, as those more skilled in PPC will have multiple landing pages with different messages based on different ads targeting different audiences.

Develop a battle plan

Before developing your plan of attack first understand your resources. If you are like most franchisors, you do not have an unlimited franchise marketing budget and probably cannot afford to get into a bidding war for your keywords.

Set your bids too high and you may run out of resources before each day is done, leaving some of your prospects unmessaged. Set them too low and you will show up lower in the ad rankings—leaving you with a budget surplus, but too few leads to generate the desired franchise sales result.

But these problems can be largely overcome with the right strategy. Search engines will allow you to set daily budgets for each campaign you run. So instead of running a single campaign with a single budget, develop multiple campaigns that have budgets based on the importance of the keywords served in each campaign. Your most important campaigns should have the largest budgets and the fewest keywords.

But strategy alone will not win the war. Patton once said, “Good tactics can save even the worst strategy. Bad tactics will destroy even the best strategy.”

The PPC battlefield is constantly changing, as should your tactics. Remember, your competitors are changing their keywords and their bids on a daily basis, so if you are not monitoring and updating your bids on all of your campaigns on a regular (weekly at least) basis, chances are that you are being constantly outflanked by your more nimble competitors.

Use the entire arsenal

While your position in search engines is largely based on how your bids compare to those of your competitors, it is important to understand that other factors will influence your ranking as well. Google will, at least in part, consider the relevance of your ad copy, your landing page copy, and use an estimate of your ads’ click-through rates (based on historical keyword performance) in deciding where to serve your ad.

So you will want to zero in on the quality and construction of your landing pages to start, ensuring they contain relevant content, are unique to each campaign and feature a form to capture lead data. You’ll also want to offer something of value on your landing pages that entices readers to provide their contact information in exchange—perhaps a white paper, webinar or video. After all, great click-through rates with low capture rates ultimately will sap your resources without providing results.

Another important tool on Google is the use of “Ad Extensions,” which will improve your click-through rates by providing additional information (which Google will show at its discretion based on several factors). All too many advertisers neglect this important tool that costs nothing to implement.

Likewise, don’t forget about adding negative keywords to your campaign. This tactic involves regular analysis of the clicks you receive based on the keywords entered in the search—and asking Google not to serve your ads to the specific search terms that were clearly not entered by your target franchisee.

By preventing your ad from displaying on a search that was clearly entered by a non-prospect, you will avoid paying for inadvertent clicks while improving your click-through rates (thereby improving positioning).

According to Patton, “A leader is a man who adapts principles to circumstances.” If there’s anything we should have learned from him, it’s that there are no bystanders in battle. You must constantly adapt if you want to achieve victory in the franchise sales marketplace.

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For American Franchisors to Succeed Overseas, They Have to Be Open to Change

Published by Entrepreneur | Middle East
JULY 12, 2017

While international franchising opportunities are booming, franchisors must make adjustments.

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How Local Franchises Are Becoming International Brands

In heading overseas, however, Knowlton is following one of the hottest playbooks in franchising. “Thirty-eight percent of the unit growth of the 200 largest U.S. franchisors is now overseas,” says Josh Merin, a director at the International Franchise Association. “And over the past three years, 80 percent of the collective unit growth of these companies has been outside U.S. borders.” That growth is expected to continue, Merin says, as a number of large players consider going global for the first time. Among them in the restaurant sector alone: Sonic Drive-In, the Oklahoma City-based drive-through chain, and Chick-fil-A, the Atlanta-based chicken sandwich purveyor.

What’s more, the current economic landscape offers two distinct opportunities for franchising. “Developed markets have better infrastructure to support all the real estate, banking and supply chain requirements, but competition may be tough,” says Mark Siebert, the CEO of consultancy iFranchise Group. Plus the dollar goes further now than in the recent past. Meanwhile, “emerging markets have sketchier business frameworks, but often they will have fewer direct rivals and lots of new shopping malls and offices to fill.”

And yet, much like massages in Thailand, introducing an American concept to a different culture isn’t always easy. Beyond the usual pressures and challenges of franchising, franchisors and franchisees working in foreign markets have to wrestle with idiosyncratic business environments, unstable political climates and unfamiliar cultural norms. These hurdles can be surprising and significant, requiring hard work, good money and careful attention on the part of both corporate and individual franchisees to adapt the product to the local tastes and customs, all without sacrificing hard-earned brand identity. As Siebert puts it, “International franchising is not for sissies.”

Knowlton, for one, isn’t discouraged. He’s a seasoned enough operator to know that cross-cultural expansion does not happen overnight. A decade ago, as president of Cold Stone Creamery, he went through a similarly challenging (though less risqué) culture clash when trying to take the U.S. ice cream chain to Japan. The shop’s employees are famously theatrical; every time a customer puts something in the tip jar, they’re supposed to break out into song. Knowlton figured Japanese franchisees would love the idea.

“This was the land of karaoke, after all,” he says. “Unfortunately, it was also the land where nobody tips.” When singing did happen, he remembers, “people looked at us as if we were insane.” So he changed the tactic: Customers were encouraged to donate to a local hospital via the tip jar. Now, 10 years on, there are more than 50 Cold Stone outlets in Japan, and both singing and tip jars have become part of the experience.

One thing is clear: If any concept is to succeed at all in a new market, franchisors and franchisees alike may have to make some adjustments to the original business plan. For instance, every concept taken to Japan — where 127 million people live on a landmass smaller than California — has to be shrunk to work in a much smaller space, from the size of premises to the packaging of consumer goods for people’s apartments. Other tweaks may be down to local whimsy. Yankee Candle releases specific scents for its different territories. Honey Lavender Gelato, “inspired by the artisanal honey trend,” is available only in U.S. outlets. Europe gets scents such as Pain Au Raisin.

Yet there are often wider cultural chasms to cross. “There are countless examples that show that just because a system performs well domestically, it doesn’t mean consumers abroad will respond to it in a similar way,” says Siebert. U.S. food franchisors have invested heavily in studying local customs and taste profiles, and sourcing new ingredients. McDonald’s uses paneer, a cheese commonly served in curry dishes, as a substitute for beef in India, where cattle cannot be slaughtered. Pizza Hut uses squid, mayonnaise and seaweed as pie toppings in Japan. Starbucks redesigned its original seminude-siren logo for conservative parts of the Middle East.

How are these changes decided? Often, they don’t come from the franchisors themselves; they come from the local franchisees, who know their market better than executives in America. “IP holders will always want to maintain control of their brands, but they will understand that local tweaks are often necessary,” says Martin Hancock, COO of North America at World Franchise Associates, which hooks up U.S. companies with international partners. The level of customization of goods or services is often built into individual deals and contracts, but he says there will always be some room to negotiate. “Sometimes changes are suggested and implemented by the franchisee before the initial launch; sometimes they are ongoing.”

Take Wingstop. The fast-growing restaurant chain offers as many as a dozen wing flavors on every foreign menu, and up to four of them are adapted specially to local tastes. The company also works with its franchisees to develop locally focused sides, drinks and desserts, including fried churros with multiple dipping sauces, flavored bubble teas and fried seasoned street corn — which was developed for the Mexican market and now appears across three international markets.

The same goes for Dale Carnegie Training, which runs workplace courses on strategic skills and leadership in 120 franchises in North Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. The company is built on the work of Dale Carnegie, the 20th-century sales guru and author of How to Win Friends and Influence People. According to Maguid Barakat, vice president of franchise development, the translation of the courses is a particular challenge, as it has to capture Carnegie’s “language” but also be compatible with the local culture. Often it falls to franchisees to find the ideal middle ground. “Partners need to be resourceful,” says Barakat.

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ASICS opens Dubai subsidiary to expand brand in GCC region

Published by Saudi Gazette
May 2016

ASICS opens Dubai subsidiary to expand brand in GCC region

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ASICS has announced that it will open a subsidiary in Dubai, the first fully owned sales and marketing organization of the true sport performance brand in the Middle East.

ASICS Middle East LLC will launch as part of the brand’s strategy to further expand its footprint in emerging markets whilst reinforcing its premium positioning. ASICS also plans to strongly increase marketing investment in the region as well as developing direct relationships with key retailers. The Middle East subsidiary will replace current distributor Falaknaz, which has successfully represented the ASICS brand in the Gulf-region since 2003.

ASICS will be based in Dubai and will be setting up efficient logistic operations to allow for fast deliveries to retailers in the region. The operation will be led by General Manager Cengiz Kiray, bringing with him a wealth of sports industry experience.

Kiray and his team aim to optimize existing partnerships with retailers in the region, as well as developing new direct relationships with key accounts. ASICS Middle East LLC will build on the brand’s positioning and growth in the region to date.

ASICS Middle East LLC will start selling for the spring-summer 2017 collection as of May, which will hit shelves in the region in December 2016.

The brand is confident the new organizational structure will deliver accelerated growth in the Middle East region, replicating its success in Europe. ASICS is currently in the top three sports footwear brands in Europe and is a market leader in both performance running and in tennis.
Triple digit growth of ‘ASICS Tiger’, the lifestyle expression of the brand, has also shown success with the sports-fashion consumer.

Alistair Cameron, CEO of ASICS EMEA, said: “The ASICS subsidiary in Dubai will allow us to grow the ASICS brand to the next level in Dubai and the Middle East, whilst ensuring we maintain a premium level of service for key accounts and consumers in the region. We would like to thank Falaknaz for their hard work and expertise to date. Going forward we are excited about replicating the success we have had in Europe, where we have more than doubled our business in the last five years, increasing our footprint in the Middle East, and building on existing relationships with key retail partners.”

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NMC Health acquires ProVita to reinforce long-term care business

Published by The National
June 2015

NMC Health acquires ProVita to reinforce long-term care business

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NMC Health is expanding its footprint in the long-term care segment with a US$160.6 million acquisition.

In an all-cash transaction, the Abu Dhabi company has bought ProVita International Medical Center, which has facilities in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, from the Dubai private equity firm TVM Capital Healthcare Partners, the Saudi conglomerate Olayan Group, Al Zarooni Emirates Investment in Dubai and other minority shareholders.

This is the first acquisition using the $475m loan NMC Health raised this year.

“[NMC] is reaching the end of a three-year organic growth strategy and is now pursuing an acquisition strategy, not only to add earnings but also to have a strategic benefit – expanding the service offering or strengthening a particular regional presence,” said Charles Weston, the director of healthcare equity research at Numis Securities. “All of NMC’s four acquisitions announced this year meet these criteria, including ProVita.”

NMC shares were at £7.89 each in midafternoon trading in London, up 1.15 per cent from Friday’s close on the London Stock Exchange.

ProVita, which has 90 long-term care beds, expects to add 30 more in Abu Dhabi by the third quarter.

The acquisition will plug “the service gap between acute short-term care provided by NMC’s existing facilities and home-care service provided by the recently acquired Americare Group”, said BR Shetty, the executive vice chairman and chief executive of NMC Health.

ProVita also expects to expand into Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

In April, NMC said it would acquire 90 per cent of Americare for $33m. Americare provides home-based services such as IV infusion therapy in Abu Dhabi.

ProVita, which is expected to retain its management team, generated an adjusted net income of $10.7m for the 12-month period to March 31, and had a net cash position of $1.3m during the same period. It employs 383 people.

With the acquisition, NMC expects to free up beds at its intensive care units in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain occupied by long-term acute and subacute care patients. Long-term care, such as post-surgery or post-trauma rehabilitation and respiratory diseases, is primarily taken care of using public hospitals’ critical care beds, while some private hospitals also chip in.

In the private sector, there are few long-term care providers apart from ProVita.

The long-term care segment is expected to grow in line with the elderly population, which is expected to represent 8 per cent of the overall population by 2050, said Ahmed Faiyaz, the transaction advisory services health care leader for EY in the Middle East and North Africa.

Expatriates investing in property and retiring in the UAE will contribute to that situation. With the ageing will come increases in injuries, elevated incidences of genetic disorders and saturation of ICUs, he said.

About 58 per cent of ProVita’s patients are referred from Seha hospitals in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, 21 per cent are repatriated from abroad and the rest of the patients are referred through other UAE hospitals.

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