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.

post_img_marksiebert

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.

READ MORE…

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.

post_img_entrepreneur

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.

READ MORE…

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

asics-500x321

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.”

—  ## —

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

provita-article

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.

—  ## —

Fresh Content Drives Website SEO Traffic

Originally published in Franchise Times magazine
First Serial Rights
January 2014

Yesterday’s News Tomorrow

Fresh Content Drives SEO Traffic

If you have not updated your website in the last several months, I have some bad news for you.  Your website is out of date.

For those among us who are not Google fanatics, it is often surprising to hear how often Google updates its search algorithm.  Last year alone, there were over 500 updates to the Google search algorithm – most of them of the minor variety.  Relatively few of Google’s changes, like those Google has dubbed the Penguin, Panda, and the Caffeine Updates are more major – and occur every year or so.

In late September, however, a major overhaul was announced – called Hummingbird – that essentially replaced the entire engine driving Google search.   According to some folks at Google, Hummingbird is the biggest overhaul of the algorithm since 2001.  And while many of the factors used in determining search position remain the same, the way in which a page needs to be optimized (and the priority given to the various components) has undergone some significant change – altering 90% of search results in the process.

Hummingbird has done a number of things to change the focus of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts.  At the top of the list is the decreased priority that is now being given to specific keywords in favor of “semantic” searches.  In other words, using the same keyword over and over again on a page is no longer necessary – and can often harm your search results.  Google now better understands both your content and your prospect’s more conversational search queries, so the use of synonyms in place of keyword stuffing will now rule the day.

Still, some things remain constant.  Approximately 85% of clicks go to non-paid search results.  And since 90% of searchers go no further than three pages when searching, a high search rank is vital.  And with Google returning more than 33 million results for franchise opportunities, finding your way to the top on any given search remains about freshness and integration.

They Don’t Call it the Web for Nothing

In today’s SEO world, there are four broad factors that influence your position in search results: content, coding, backlinks, and social media.  All too often, people focus on one or two of these elements without consideration of the bigger picture.

Their rationale is simple.  Franchise marketers generally measure their Social Media, Public Relations, and SEO efforts based on the number of leads generated and their related franchise sales.  And often, when franchise sales are not rapidly forthcoming, they will pull the plug.  But just as print ad readers may eventually be captured as an internet lead, these integrated marketing tools may have other benefits that are more difficult to measure.

If you are reading an article in a print publication, for example, chances are that you have seen some ads that have motivated you to act.  But what action did you take?  If you are like most people, your first step was to go to the company’s website to learn more.

As a marketer, that poses two problems.  First, from a tracking perspective, how do you capture that lead source?  Unless you have a pull-down that mentions Franchise Times (and their readers are particularly scrupulous about filling it out correctly), chances are that you will categorize that lead as a “direct traffic” internet lead.  But Franchise Times got none of the credit, when in fact they compelled the action.

But the more important problem to consider is if the ad did compel a visit, but the website itself did not compel the desired additional action (filling out your lead sheet).  Not only might the franchise marketer be misled into believing that the print ad failed, but unless they have a firm grasp on their direct traffic “bounce rates,” they might not even understand that a poorly-designed website was the culprit for their overall marketing inefficiency across all media.

Indoor Plumbing

Today, more than at any time in the past, everything you do to generate franchise sales leads is interrelated.

Take the increased importance of Social Media in SEO, for example.  According to a study by Searchmetrics, which correlates many of the 200+ factors that Google uses in its search algorithm, social media factors now account for seven of the top ten drivers of an optimized website.    And since social media needs to be current if it is to be relevant to Google, regular posting of unique content will significantly improve your search outcomes.

Likewise, that same Searchmetrics study found that three of the top ten correlating factors involved backlinks (links to your site from credible, sites).  In their study, Searchmetrics found that the number one search result had, on average, 13,358 backlinks.  But by the time the study got to the 30th result (the last listing on page three), the average site had only 103 backlinks.

The good news is that the narrower the search parameters, the fewer backlinks are needed to rise to the top of a search.  So while you may not be able to create enough backlinks to get to the top of a “franchise opportunities” search, you may well be able to achieve that result when more specific search terms are used.

So how do you get these backlinks?  Blogs with fresh and unique content provide one home-made solution.  Any public relations efforts that generate online stories (or are carried on the wire services) will generate them as well.  But again, the freshness and newsworthiness of your story will weighed heavily by Google.

More important, PR, which was once entirely focused on telling a great story, has also evolved with the internet.  Creativity is simply not enough anymore.  Today’s PR practitioner needs to be able to tell an SEO optimized story.  No matter “who they know” or how creative they are, if they do not understand website optimization, their stories will not be read by the right people and will not drive people to your site.

On the Third Day, Google Yawned

These SEO related factors all serve to illustrate an important point.  In order to optimize your marketing efforts, it is important to remember that franchise marketing is a process.  In today’s world, SEO is a race that has no finish line.

In order to float to the top of search results in today’s world, you now need to focus on original content.  According to Matt Cutts, who is charged with quality control for Google search, re-posting the content found elsewhere on the web can actually reduce the overall ranking of your page.  If a searcher can find the exact same content elsewhere from an original source, Google will likely penalize your site at the expense of the original.

Equally important is the freshness of the content.  Google has a strong bias toward content that is fresh and websites that are continually updated.  But it gets tricky.  For example, while reposting unaltered content to your website will be a detriment to your SEO efforts, posting a link to that same content and adding editorial that expresses your unique opinion will help – especially to the extent that your editorial content is again optimized.

Remember, today’s news story is yesterday’s news tomorrow.  Post unique content today, and it is new.  A week from now, its news value is reduced.  And a year from now, it is largely irrelevant – at least where Google is concerned.  And if you want to maximize your franchise sales and marketing efforts, keeping Google’s interest should be at the top of your list.

– ## –

Mark Siebert is the Chief Executive Officer of the iFranchise Group (www.ifranchisemenat.com) and is on the Board of Directors of Franchise Dynamics (www.franchisedynamics.net) and TopFire Media (www.topfiremedia.com).  Their combined consultants have over 800 years of experience in franchising and have worked with 98 of the nation’s top 200 franchisors.  He can be reached at 708-957-2300 or at info@ifranchise.net.


 

 

Beware of Internet Deficit Disorder

Originally published in Franchise Times magazine
First Serial Rights
October 2013

 

Beware of Internet Deficit Disorder When Telling Your Message

Today, there are 3.52 billion web pages competing for your attention and that of your targeted franchise buyer.  While a Google search on the right keyword will narrow the resulting field of competing pages, you certainly need to develop a strategy if you want to be found on the 105 million pages that Google indexes for the word “franchise.”

So it is little wonder that so many of us focus on getting people to visit our websites.  We spend countless dollars on Search Engine Optimization (SEO), portals, social media publishing, and pay-per-click advertising – all to obtain unique visitors.  But for many of us, we still manage to generate only marginal results.  So here is something to chew on:

Some of the exact same things we do to optimize a website have just the opposite effect when it comes to optimizing our site for franchise sales!

Optimizing a site is, of course, extremely important.  Some 85% of clicks go to non-paid results – so being on the first page (90% of searchers go no more than three pages into a search) is vital.  But SEO involves numerous factors – most notably inbound links, keyword density, and the presence of new and original content.  And while the algorithms that Google uses in ranking sites are not published, increasingly, those who optimize pages for a living are relying on more content per page to try to drive traffic.

Today, many SEO professionals will recommend that you have a minimum of 450 words per page (and some will recommend 1,000+) to optimize your site.  But 1,000 words (for those of you who have not yet abandoned this author) is about the length of this article – and that’s a lot of reading for anyone looking for a fast answer on your web page.  The longer something is, the more likely the reader is to abandon it before finishing.

Lost in all of the SEO hoopla is one simple fact: your goal is not to have people visit your site.  It is to have them take action as a result of that visit.  But for many websites, the average visit is less than 20 seconds and results in a “bounce” (where your viewer leaves your site without visiting additional pages).  That is an epic fail.

Abandonment Issues

With all the time spent thinking about adding visitors, we all too often forget to look at SEO from the standpoint of our prospect.  They have hundreds of options – so if they do not see precisely what they are looking for in those first ten seconds, they know from experience that they are more likely to find it by returning to their search results than through the further exploration of your site.

Moreover, as franchise sales people, we realize that in the early stages of a franchise search, most prospective buyers are not looking for reasons to buy.  They are looking for ways to quickly eliminate franchisors from consideration.  They have a list of maybe a dozen franchises that they are considering – and they are looking to narrow the list to three.

So either way, more content can work against you.

According to Microsoft Research’s Chao Lui, who studied more than 2 billion “dwell times” to conduct time-to-failure correlation for webpages, visitors to 99% of all websites will leave in droves during the first ten seconds, and during the second ten seconds, the rate of departure slows only slightly .  It is not until after the visitor has been on your page for 30 seconds that the rate of departure becomes relatively flat.  After those first 30 seconds, people continue to leave (of course), but at a much slower rate – often staying on the webpage for two minutes or more – a lifetime in the internet world.

For a while, people thought that video was the answer to visitor abandonment.  After all, people reasoned, video was more passive – so people would watch videos as an alternative to reading.  And while videos have changed the way that many people consume information on the web (and, in fact, some 70% of Google searches now return videos in their search results), many of these videos are not optimized for search and most are just plain bad.  And, just like those of us who grew up with the TV Remote in hand, the channel gets changed.

In fact, one study by researchers at the University of Massachusetts  found that 20% of videos had been abandoned after the same 10 seconds allotted to a website.  A typical marketing video has an abandonment rate of 35% – 50% after only two minutes.  And the longer the video, the less likely it will be watched.  Half way through a 10 minute video, for example, the number of viewers remaining will likely be in the range of 30%.

Pay Attention!

The implications of the research referenced above are clear.  The first key to holding the attention of your prospects is to grab them by the throat in the first 10 to 30 seconds.  Often, the key to this approach is to target your page for a specific reader and focusing on the content and the value proposition that will have the most relevance to that reader.  The use of specific landing pages can be tremendously helpful in this regard – but exercise caution – too much duplication of content between landing pages can create penalties with search engines.

With the explosion of content on the web, patience is no longer a virtue our prospects can afford.  So unless you can cram your entire message into a brilliant 20-second elevator pitch (and which of us can?), you have to find a way to engage your audience and draw them into your story.  The best authors compel us to read further by making us care, by painting us into the picture, and by leaving us wanting more.  If you cannot do that in 20 seconds, find a writer who can.

Professionalism is no longer an option.  Today’s prospects will not waste their precious time on a website designed by your 16-year-old niece or a head-and-shoulders video shot on your camcorder.  While budget may be an issue, remember that each incremental franchise sale that results from more professional communications will equate to franchise fees and royalties that may be realized over decades to come.

Calls to action – along with a well-defined value proposition – are essential both in your web and your video communications.  Providing your prospect something of value – whether it is a white paper, a video, or an e-book – will improve your lead capture rates and increase the effectiveness of your advertising, social media, and your franchise SEO activities.

In the end, attention is the new currency of the internet.  Fail to capture and hold your prospect’s attention, and you will become a victim to the ruthless internet triage that has become the order of the day.  But hold their attention for 30 seconds, and you may just get rewarded with a relationship that lasts decades.

—  ## —

Mark Siebert is the Chief Executive Officer of the iFranchise Group and is on the Board of Directors of TopFire Media (www.topfiremedia.com).  Their combined consultants have over 500 years of experience in franchising and have worked with 98 of the nation’s top 200 franchisors.  He can be reached at 708-957-2300 or at info@ifranchisemenat.com

A Strategic Approach to Franchise Marketing & Media Budgeting

Originally published in Franchise Times magazine
First Serial Rights
September 2013


When Your Only Tool is a Hammer…  A Strategic Approach to Media Budgeting

If you are like most franchisors, you have probably noticed that you are hearing a lot of different sales pitches these days.

You speak with a Public Relations practitioner, and the solution to more effective franchise lead generation is, predictably, Public Relations. After all, they will rightly proclaim, good publicity will provide you with third-party credibility which can translate into increased franchise sales.

Speak to an ad agency, it is likely that they will tell you that you cannot count on Public Relations. The press is fickle, placements unpredictable, and stories have no call-to-action. Stick with advertising – pay-per-click, portals, and maybe some print media. Lead flow. That’s the ticket.

Social media firms, of course, are telling you that today’s buyers will rely on the recommendations of their friends and their networks when making a buying decision. If you are not engaged with these folks, you are lost. Social media is the key to growth.

Search engine optimizers and web designers have a different spin. If your site is not on the first three pages of a Google search, it is no more useful than a store located in the middle of the desert. And of course, in today’s world, you also have to have a mobile website! Optimizing both sites is the key to achieving your goals.

Know a videographer? They will likely tell you that YouTube alone now accounts for some 28% of Google search results. So good videos will certainly help you to increase your reach by 25% or more, right? And if just one video goes viral…

In truth, all of these practitioners are right. And, to the extent they preach an exclusive focus, all of them are wrong. To paraphrase Abraham Maslow, if your only tool is a hammer, then every problem is a nail. And there are a lot of media folks swinging hammers these days.

Measure Twice, Cut Once

The reality is that if you are like 99% of all franchise companies, you do not have an unlimited media budget. So if you want to achieve your goals, you have to choose wisely and allocate your resources across media based on their potential returns. And for most franchisors, that means allocating scarce resources across numerous media.

In order to start your planning process, start by setting specific goals. Do your goals extend beyond new franchisee acquisition? Are you looking for new customer acquisition? Customer retention? Building a brand? Be specific. If your primary goal is to generate franchise leads, how many are you looking to obtain? In what markets are you seeking to drive results?

Then ask yourself about the profile of your buyer. Is your candidate technologically savvy? How old are they? How well-educated? What do they read? What drives their buying decisions? Which of your competitors will they be comparing to you? And how are you going to differentiate yourself?

Next, spend some time assessing your current situation. How good are your marketing materials? Your website? What in-house resources can you devote to promotional efforts and what are their capabilities? What budgetary restrictions do you have?

The bottom line: in order to prioritize the use of your resources, you need to start with a plan.

A Web-Centric Approach

For almost all franchisors, your first priority should be your website. Ultimately, almost all of your marketing efforts will be centered on your website. Your online advertising will send folks there. Your public relations efforts will create links that lead them there. SEO, social media, and video – they all have tentacles to your website. Yet, for many, their website continues to be one of their most underdeveloped marketing assets.

So if you do not have a great website, start there. Just because you have a 15-year-old niece who can develop your website does not mean that she should develop your website.

A good website should have an overarching content strategy that communicates your unique selling proposition. At the same time, it should not provide so much content that it allows the reader to avoid interaction with the franchisor entirely. It should have multiple, easily-accessed capture mechanisms to obtain your leads and should provide a value proposition for providing their contact information. But its goal should not be to maximize the number of leads, but to maximize the number of qualified leads. It should have landing pages that are optimized around your various keywords and keyword phrases to drive specific traffic to your site. But it should never incur the wrath of Google by creating keyword densities in excess of 5%.

The bottom line: your website needs to be built with a purpose and a strategy.

Perhaps one of the easiest things companies can do to increase lead flow is to develop a mobile website. As counter-intuitive as it might seem (at least to me), a large number of searches actually take place over mobile devices or tablets. By some estimates, 45% of all searches now take place over mobile devices. And while this number is lower for franchise searches, some of our clients are seeing 14% or more of their leads coming from mobile. So if you have not looked at your site on your phone or iPad lately, perhaps it is time that you did.

If you neglect these basics before you start your inbound franchise marketing efforts, you will only be driving potential leads to a site that does not deliver results – and wasting your money in the process.

From there, every franchisor’s path should be different.

If you have the budget to spend your way to the top, perhaps you will focus on Pay-Per-Click. But if you cannot compete with the larger pay-per-click budgets of your competitors, perhaps you will focus on ongoing Search Engine Optimization, as savvy marketers understand that SEO requires an ongoing effort of publishing fresh content, populating blogs, and creating inbound links.

If credibility is a key to setting yourself apart from your competitors, perhaps Public Relations should be the focus. In years past, Public Relations meant print media and an occasional radio or television appearance and its lack of consistency rightly relegated it to a supplemental lead generation role. But with the advent of online newswires and thousands of websites starving for content, publicity can now be added to your media mix with some degree of predictability.

If you are targeting a younger demographic, perhaps you will devote more of your resources to social media publishing. But even within the social media sphere, there are often more choices than there is budget. Should you be focusing on LinkedIn’s more business-oriented prospect, on Facebook’s larger and younger audience, or on YouTube’s more visually-attuned buyer? To tweet or not to tweet? That is the question.

But regardless of your media mix, two things will ultimately be true. A consistent and integrated approach to messaging must be used across a variety of strategically-important media. And your media should point the prospect inward, where the story is being told.

— *** —

Mark Siebert is the Chief Executive Officer of the iFranchise Group. Their consultants have over 500 years of experience in franchising and have worked with 98 of the nation’s top 200 franchisors. He can be reached at 708-957-2300 or at info@ifranchise.net.

 

Experts Predict Franchise Boom in the Healthcare Industry

iFranchise Group Authors Whitepaper
on Franchising in the Healthcare Profession
 

Franchise consulting firm iFranchise Group, in a recently released whitepaper, predicts that current and ongoing changes in the healthcare industry will lead to a boom in franchising in this dynamic market sector. iFranchise Group expects the number of franchises in the healthcare segment to double over the next five years.

Franchising experts have already noticed an increased acceptance of franchising as a growth vehicle within the medical and healthcare professions. Now, given the fast‐changing healthcare marketplace, franchising is becoming an increasingly viable solution to meet today’s and tomorrow’s industry issues, with the net effect of benefitting patients, clients, and professionals alike.

Franchising is not new to the healthcare industry, with numerous health and wellness franchises and other similar concepts already expanding nationwide. Mark Siebert, CEO of the iFranchise Group and noted franchise consultant, foresees some positive, perhaps unintended, consequences of the Affordable Care Act, in particular, within the medical field: “We are expecting to see a significant increase in the number of new franchisors entering the marketplace as businesses look to grow while managing the more complex provisions of the Act,” he said. “For example, since franchisees are independent contractors, the employees they add do not count toward the 50-employee threshold, which triggers additional provisions under the new healthcare act.”

Based on the number of calls the franchise consulting firm has been receiving from health-related companies interested in franchise development, Siebert added, “If healthcare is, indeed, available to more people under the new law, more people will presumably seek treatment, thus spurring more business through the healthcare industry. At the same time, many medical professionals are being squeezed by insurance companies – forcing them to look for alternatives to careers that often look more like assembly lines than medical practices.”

Siebert also added, “Healthcare franchisors that have developed systems to address these industry changes are going to be very attractive to medical professionals looking for a change. And best practices that improve a physician’s financial future or quality of life will be in high demand.”

This does not mean that franchising a healthcare business is a simple proposition. Given the various laws in place that affect medical and other related franchises – from those prohibiting the corporate practice of medicine, to HIPAA regulations, to franchise law in general – it is more important than ever for current and future franchisors to align themselves with both business and legal consultants who can help them make the proper decisions related to the structuring and documentation of a healthcare franchise.

To provide some initial guidance on the topic, iFranchise Group has authored a whitepaper on the subject of franchising in the healthcare industry. A copy of the whitepaper, “Franchising: A Business Expansion Solution for the Healthcare Profession” may be requested directly at the following link:

https://www.ifranchisemenat.com/franchising-in-the-health-care-profession/.

For further information, contact iFranchise Group at info@ifranchisemenat.com or 708-957-2300.

Franchise Your Business – Could Franchising be the Answer?

So your company is taking off and you’re trying to figure out how to expand. Could franchising your business be the answer?

You should keep several factors in mind when looking to franchise your business. There are the obvious questions one would ask of any business owner including: Is the business credible? And is there adequate differentiation from franchised competitors?

But there are several other factors specific to franchising that a business owner must take into account before diving head first into franchising.  A potential franchisor should be operating a business that can be taught to a franchisee in a relatively short period of time. Likewise, that system must be documented in a manner that can easily be communicated to those franchisees.

Furthermore, it’s important that the franchisor has a successful and refined prototype that demonstrates that its system is proven and it must be adaptable, so when franchisees are awarded a franchise, the franchise can be adapted from one market to the next.

Among the most important considerations are the economics of the business. It must be affordable enough so the prospective franchisees can pay for them, but also should reflect enough of a profit where those business partners can make a living while also being able to pay royalties and any other fees associated with operating your concept. If the business cannot generate between 15 percent and 20 percent return on investment after royalties are deducted, it’s going to be difficult to keep franchisees happy.  And, keeping your franchisees happy is key to your franchise success.

Franchising a business can be a tremendously advantageous – and fast – way of expanding, particularly for the entrepreneur who lacks the time, the manpower and the finances to open several company-owned locations alone. It’s a growing strategy that has remained strong even during times of economic uncertainty.

So, is franchising right for your business?  The experienced consultants at iFranchise Group can help you determine if franchising is the best expansion strategy given your personal goals.  iFranchise Group can help companies that are considering franchising for the first time with strategic planning for growth,  operations and training documentation, franchise marketing and sales, and other vital services. For further information, get in touch today at info@ifranchisemenat.com or 708-957-2300.