Referral Marketing for Franchises

By Emma Toth posted 01-03-2018 14:44

Buying into a franchise is a great way to launch a business with success the day you open. An established brand often comes with a fan base, credibility and reputation, making for what's often referred to as a 'turnkey operation'. 

But this doesn't excuse you from marketing your business or franchise. While a brand (or franchise) represents certain expectations, it does not guarantee consistency or customers.

Someone once said at least half of advertising works, but they weren't sure which half. In other words, being able to track and measure what is effective and where your marketing budget is providing the best return has been a challenge. But that's when we relied on relics like yellow pages or bus benches. There was no way to know. With digital marketing the insights and metrics are much better, allowing business owners to see what works and scale accordingly.

When a consumer is looking for a certain restaurant or other local business, they often find it one of a few ways. It usually starts with a search engine, and they either searched the brand name, or a phrase that might be related to their category, from 'restaurant near me' to similar queries.

What they find next is your marketing opportunity.

Most local search (in Google) will display the 3-pack, which are maps, ratings and reviews. While one aspect beyond control is the proximity between the person doing the search and the businesses nearby, there are a few areas to focus on. The overall number of reviews, along with the rating average, have a big influence in whether you appear in those local search results. 

Before getting into this, keep in mind that those reviews are earned, which means the business has delighted the customer. The customer experience plays a significant part towards earning reviews and referrals. But as you begin to acquire reviews, they can become part of a franchise social media strategy to create further awareness.

There has been debate one whether a franchise should be allowed to manage their own social media, but since it serves a local market which a franchisee is working in, then they should be permitted to do so, along with pursuing referrals and get business reviews. When you're accepted as a franchise operator, you're a brand representative. That should mean you are allowed to act (with the best interests) on behalf of the brand and franchise for local markets, because growing your business with referrals, reviews and social media are some of the most important options for marketing a franchise.

But the value of online reviews is not only the influence they can have, but your ability to be able to scale them. When you've provided an exceptional customer experience, consumers take note. Not just good, but to truly stand out. In a study by Gartner it's said that this will be the key differentiator in the near future. When you've exceed expectations, it puts you in a position to ask for online reviews, which most consumers say they're happy to provide. As your reviews increase, more referrals and customers are earned, creating a cycle that's manageable and one that should be managed to continue turning consumers into customers.