We were already living in a digital economy before COVID-19, but the global pandemic has emphasized the need for companies of all types to improve their online presence and prioritize digital marketing.
Studies show that in 2021, nearly 50 percent of consumers are avoiding leaving their homes and also predict that 2.14 billion people will buy goods and services online this year. After a year of lockdown, many companies have discovered innovative ways to market and offer their products and services online—and some are making the switch to virtual operations permanent.
While COVID-19 cases are decreasing and businesses in some states are reopening their doors, marketing will never be the same. It is time for brands to upgrade their digital presence or risk becoming irrelevant.
Franchises in particular can benefit from investing in their online branding. Franchises face a unique marketing challenge. To succeed, franchisors need to support the independence of individual franchisees while maintaining a brand continuity. Online marketing efforts need to be both creative and consistent.
Here are five ways franchises can upgrade their online presence to stay competitive and thrive in 2021.
- Create a style guide. If your franchise doesn’t already have a style guide, then creating one will be essential to improving your digital marketing and branding. Cohesive branding is crucial when it comes to franchise marketing. Even if local branches have a lot of diversity, brand messages and brand personality should be consistent across local franchises and should match the corporate vision. In your style guide, you’ll want to determine the feeling or emotional experience you want to create through your brand, select a content tone, identify your key phrases and hashtags, and determine the unique visual components of your brand (colors, logos, etc.).
- Conduct audience research. Consumers are looking for different things in 2021 than they were in previous years. The world has experienced widespread trauma and loss and has gone through social and structural changes that affect consumer priorities and behavior. Even if you think you understand your target demographic, it is time to conduct a new round of research to better understand your audience’s pain points and priorities. By understanding your audience more thoroughly and holistically, your franchise will be able to develop digital marketing strategies that are efficient and effective.
- Utilize SEO. It is important for brand uniformity and visibility that each franchise location appears on the first page of search engine results. Many individuals do not scroll past the first page of Google results. While franchisee landing pages should be consistent and contain keywords that pertain to the target demographic, it is crucial that landing pages do not duplicate content. This could cause your company to be penalized by Google or other search engines. Also note that franchisee websites under independent domain names may take longer to be ranked by search engines than sites housed under a corporate domain.
- Develop a comprehensive social media strategy. Social media can be a challenge for franchises. Since the medium is more personal than websites or traditional marketing materials, each account will inevitably vary in voice, tone, aesthetic, and frequency of posting. Franchises should develop a cohesive and comprehensive social media strategy that is controlled at the corporate level or develop a social-media-specific brand and style guide for franchisees. This style guide can be developed in-house or with the help of a marketing and branding agency.
- Integrate domain names. It is essential for franchises to present a united front and remain consistent across platforms. The landing pages for local franchise branches should either all be hosted under the main corporate website or they should have parallel, independent domain names. If a franchise decides on independent franchisee domain names, it is critical for each site to reflect the same brand personality. Franchises should decide on a domain name strategy and make it consistent for all franchisees. It may be helpful to host group trainings with franchisees to explain the strategy and reinforce consistent brand messaging.
As a franchise, it isn’t enough to have a polished corporate website. It is also vital that franchisee sites and social media accounts are consistent, are optimized for search engines, and reflect your corporate brand. Remember that a better digital structure will create more brand value, visibility and credibility, and will ultimately help your franchisees increase sales and retain customers.
ATX Web Designs offers branding strategy and digital brand development services. For more information, drop us a line!