What Are The Challenges of Marketing for Franchises?

It can be frustrating to market for franchisees and franchisors, here’s why.

Video Transcript:

David: Why don’t you give us an overview, without mentioning any client names, or things like that. 

Tricia: Basically, it’s working with the Google Business Profile, formerly Google My Business, where franchises are concerned. You have the franchisor, which is the main business that owns the right to the business names, and all that. Then you’ve got the franchisee, who buys the franchise and has the location. This works fine for the brick and mortar. You think of Starbucks (I don’t know if those are franchises), like McDonald’s. McDonald’s are franchises. They have the brick and mortar, so they would have the specific location on the map where they are. But there are more and more businesses that have service areas instead of a location with an office.  Typically, the way Google works is not like a franchise model, but it’s more individual businesses, for which they don’t want you to have duplicate profiles. So you can’t have multiple service area locations in the same area. For example, let’s say I’m in Marietta. You can’t have the same service area, Marietta, because Google says they’re duplicates. But they all service the same kind of area. 

So, it came up that a client who is a franchisee with a service area business, and a franchisor who has an actual pin on the map because they have an office, are in the same geographic area when they verify their addresses. So, Google thinks it’s a duplicate and suspends it. 

My thing is that for these service area businesses that will be an issue. If they’re franchises like that, with multiple service areas in the same kind of large city, let’s say like metro Atlanta, but they only service certain areas, like specific area codes and they’re not overlapping, because that’s the whole point of the franchise – they don’t overlap. Franchisees buy in and franchisors say, “this is your territory.”

The main thing is making sure that they’ve got the franchise agreement because this is a new franchise that I’m working with. I’m waiting to hear back about the official filing of the franchise documents. I’ve gotten some documents from them, but I don’t believe it’s the official filing. So that’s my main thing right now, is to get that information and then move on from there.

But as far as franchises go, I talked about this with people, I think at the Recurring Revenue Retreat in November, franchisees pay a lot of money to the franchisor, and that’s basically because the franchisor did everything before, they have all their processes in place – this is how you do it, follow this and you’re successful. Well, I’ve dealt with numerous franchisees that have not been given adequate information when it comes to their Google Business Profile.

So, that’s one thing that I’m going to talk with this client about. It’s like, you’re expanding this franchise, you need to give your franchisees quality information and you need to have that part for Google Business Profile, or they’re going to have problems. 

David: So, it sounds like there’s a couple of issues. The first issue is the first franchisee has a location that overlaps with the franchisor.

Tricia: That’s part of it. The service area and where they verified the business isn’t the same, but the area they service is next door to it. But Google is not understanding that they’re actually a franchise, and that’s where the issue is coming into play. Google is saying they’re the same business. 

David: Ok. Let’s just exaggerate this. The franchisor is on one side of the street, covering the west side of that street. The franchisee is on that same street, covering the east side of the street. So, centrally they overlap. 

Tricia: Yeah, but the main thing is that Google hasn’t been sent the correct information so that they understand that. I’m waiting for them to send me all the documents. So, Google hasn’t been given that information yet. 

David: How are you going to send that to Google? 

Tricia: The account is suspended, so when I ask for reinstatement. 

David: Oh, okay. 

Tricia: When I ask for reinstatement, I get all the documents together and get it to Google and explain to them. 

David: Alright. There’s a Ruby Crown King outside the window. It’s a rare bird.

Tim: I was hoping it wasn’t a comet. Have you seen that movie, Don’t Look Up? 

Tricia: No, not yet. 

David: So, back to the question about franchises. Did you have a question that we needed to discuss? 

Tricia: Yesterday, I had a question. And today, I have the answer.  

David: Oh, okay. 

Tricia: It is to get the franchise agreement, to talk to them a little bit more. Then the next step is talking to the franchisor, because I’m talking with a franchisee. The next step with the franchisor is to say, if you’re going to add more franchisees, you need to have your ducks in a row so they don’t have problems and get frustrated. They’re paying you for this – to be the franchisee. That’s what they’re paying you for. Because I’ve dealt with franchisees for other well-known franchises and I was surprised at their lack of help when it came to dealing with their Google Business Profile. The franchise actually has people coming into their location saying well I couldn’t find you on Google, you need to get that resolved. And their franchisor was no help at all. To me, that is a part of what the franchisor should be doing for payment from the franchisee. 

David: Yeah. I’ve worked on projects hired by the franchisor to help the franchisees. And it’s really tough because the budget for each franchisee is low. And they sold the franchisee zones and locations. And some of them are frankly more lucrative than others. 

Tricia: Yeah. 

David: And so it’s really tough because one was in Charlotte, North Carolina and one was in Orlando, Florida. And for what they needed, Orlando was huge and Charlotte was small. 

And so, we had to give everybody the same amount of effort, but it had different results. The Charlotte office was so disappointed and angry all the time because it wasn’t working. But we couldn’t give them extra time and attention, because that’s not fair because everybody’s paying the same rate. So what we did for Orlando helped a lot, what we did for Charlotte didn’t help because the demand wasn’t there yet. 

Tricia: Yeah. 

David: I’ve worked with others where the franchisor solves that problem by giving everybody the same products, but it’s not one-size-fits-all. It just ends up that there are so many restrictions like one was like you can’t own your own website. You can’t blog on your own. You can only reuse the content we blogged on. So, we tried to work out a kind of arrangement, but I would love to see someone figure out how to do franchises. 

Tricia: Yeah. 

David: In a way that helps them, but works with the franchisor. In these arrangements, I’ve noticed the franchisor kind of doesn’t care about the franchisee. Yeah, they got their money then they’re moving on to get more franchisees. And then that’s a kind of conflict with what the franchisee needs to to get. And so, the franchisor that is paying me to market the franchisee really doesn’t care if the franchisees succeed. They just want more franchisees.  

Tricia: Yeah. 

David: So there’s this real struggle and challenge. It’s almost like the franchisor should hire someone to manage all the franchisees. 

Tricia: Yeah, there are some franchises that do it that way. Especially for the ones just starting out, I think that the franchisor needs to have more of a process written down – this is how you do it. And it needs to be better than what I’ve seen. And that to me is almost like, for the franchisor, is like a one-time upfront thing for them to do, get it written down and then it’s like, if you have questions maybe you can separately go out, and here are some people that we believe could help you.

The one that had the issue was a franchisee, and I looked at the instructions that they gave her they were awful. And I’m like, no wonder you had so many problems. 

David: Yeah. It’s a struggle. I would love to be able to crack that nut. If you can crack that nut, you’ll be a millionaire. What were you going to say, Tim? 

Tim: Just that providing some sort of service like that, to provide unlimited (to a certain amount) consultation for franchisees. That maybe that is what’s included in their franchise package, in their fees. Just like the marketing, all the content creation that they’re supposed to use and it’s so regulated, right? Like all those things, you know control over their business profile and all those aspects really need to be controlled from a top-level, too. So that they’re getting the proper care. I think if you could sell that and say look, per franchise every single one that you had, it’s just a number game, you know? You’re breaking everything down to a percentage, so let me be a percentage of that. This is what it’s going to cost you and then you’re just worry-free, and, you know that you’re providing the best possible outcome for your franchisees. 

Tricia: Yeah. I even know of one from a couple of years ago. The franchisor had their website and locations. But when you search for one there are probably well over fifteen or more in the metro Atlanta area. When I went to their website and found the one I’m looking at, it didn’t have a separate page. It was all fifteen right there but I think each franchisee needs their own location page, and they weren’t even doing that. I’m like, no wonder this franchisee is so frustrated. They had nothing – no separate page. There was nothing you could link to, all you could do was link to the businesses’ main page. And then half of the franchisees were going out making their own websites that were different than everybody else’s. I’m asking how are you allowing this? And the reason is because they didn’t decide what they wanted, and didn’t set things up properly. So, the franchisees were kind of all going crazy. I haven’t looked at it recently because it was such a mess. I actually need to look it up and see if they’ve done anything differently because it’s you know, for all the franchisees to have different-looking websites. That’s not what you want. 

David: Right. Yeah. Because I was just thinking about the idea that franchises have a real burr in their saddle – can I say that? It was not the first phrase I thought of. Yeah. Burr in their saddle about brand. 

Tricia: Yes, they have to protect their brand. 

David: Yeah. And it’s to the point where they will micromanage the brand in a way that doesn’t allow the franchisees to even make any content. I’ve seen franchisor websites with lots of franchises and they do create a page for franchisees. And it’s literally the same content. And when I say, yeah google is going to ignore all that, they say, but we can’t write unique stuff. Well then, why bother to have it? Yeah. Because it’s just going to be ignored. So, I would love your thoughts, Tim, as a brand expert, how would a franchise solve this riddle?

Tim: Oh, I don’t. I don’t know. No, my thoughts are all over the place. Plus, I have this Covid brain fog I don’t know. I’m just really spacy. So got that going on. And now that’s on record. 

Tricia: I do think that having their main website have a lot of good content, and then the location pages are like, this is all the content, now where is your closest one? I think that really kind of helps, because you know, if you’ve got the same stuff and then just having the one website with all the information and then a Finding Your Location. But each location actually having a separate page so that they could link to their location page from their Google Business Profile from their Facebook page, etc. I do think that, and maybe even having on that location page, their social media links that are specific to their location, a link to specific reviews for their location, and then maybe even something that’s approved by the franchisor. Maybe a few paragraphs about their specific store, photos of their specific store, what makes it different? Maybe the franchisee submits and the franchisor approves it and puts it up. 

David: Or maybe the franchisee writes up a little bit like we’ve talked about location pages because this is a different strategy. Right? The ability to write a little bit about what you bring as a franchisee to this location That’s unique – being able to see in a paragraph, you’re passionate about this business. Why you wanted to do this? What’s different about doing it in Alpharetta versus Peach Tree? Right? Take a couple of paragraphs to tell us. First of all, that gives me more confidence in you because you’re local. It feels more like I work with a local business even though it’s franchised. Yeah. Because I feel like oh, he went to my high school. That was the same high school my kids are going to. Right? 

It’s the best of both worlds. That is what we’ve tried to argue for, but this kind comes up so often. And when I speak at work, it’s often about the conflict between SEOs and developers, and how developers hate SEOs because they always break their websites, but it’s really the developers’ problem because it was a crappy website in the first place. 

Tricia: Yeah. 

David: That’s my perspective. There’s also a huge conflict between brand and SEO.  Sometimes brand is so powerful that we end up not saying. Like I have conflicts all the time like where we are high-performance sports undergarments, we are not underwear. But no one knows what a high-performance sports undergarment is. So we have to say underwear. More, you know, this isn’t a practice test, this is an assessment. What? No one looks for that. But the brand guidelines say we cannot call it practice. So there’s a conflict between brand and SEO and yeah, it goes to franchises. 

Tim: Yeah. So, you mentioned McDonald’s in the beginning. I started looking at Mcdonald’s to see what they do. They don’t have a page for every location, and they’re not all franchises to begin with. Some are corporate, some are franchises. But there are no individual pages. There are just listings. 

David: That might be one that’s so well known, that they don’t need it. 

Tim: Oh, so then down below. Yeah. They do have some page-specific content. I see that now. It doesn’t look like it’s very unique though. Interesting. But if you start to do incognito searches, for, like, fast food near me or fast burger near me or something like that. I mean, I could get more creative with the search, but, just initially, those are two that I did, and they’re not on the first page from a website perspective. They’re in the map pack, but not in the organic in the first ten 

David: Right. So as the SEO strategist, I would be fine with that. Because if you’re searching for a burger near me, I want the map pack. I do not want to read a website. But if it’s a different kind, like it’s a service-oriented franchise, say a nonconventional service like, I got some guy when I moved into this house to clean out the dryer lint. It was a service that my realtor recommended because it probably didn’t get cleaned out, but every ten years. And it’s worth it. Like that’s a fire hazard, this is the time to do it. He has a service franchise. Because it’s not a common franchise, and he didn’t have a lot of competitors I would like to know a little about what he does? What is this thing? You know, what makes this guy someone I want in my house? Right? And so I would want a little bit more. With McDonald’s, because I really don’t care, I’m not really competing on that level. But if it’s service area, I want more information about who this person is, coming into my house, or maybe it’s even not service area versus McDonald’s. We all say McDonald’s because we think of burgers, but I bet that we all don’t go to McDonald’s very much. Right? We’d probably go, if we want a burger, I’m going to Shake Shack.

Tim: I wish I had one. 

David: So maybe for Shake Shack you need to have your website because you’re not a brand name like McDonald’s or Coca-Cola or Starbucks. Maybe strategically, you’ve got more to overcome because fewer people know about who you are. I mean if you tell me Mcdonald’s, I know exactly what I’m gonna get, right? But if it’s another franchise, I don’t know what I’m going to get yet. 

Youssef: Maybe that’s why McDonald’s isn’t working too much on their Internet presence because they’re already known and they don’t need to spend time trying. I mean, if I want my McDonald’s, I won’t bother to go to the internet. I either just go to my app or just go to check the local place. So maybe they’re just not putting that much effort into it. 

David: Yeah. If you’re Coca-Cola, do you need a local presence? Do you need to have local inventory to show where you could buy Coca-Cola locally? No, because guaranteed every store, everywhere has it. Lowe’s, the hardware store has it. But if I am a niche uniquely hand-brewed cola drink, that’s much more important because I’ve got a lot to overcome the power of Coca-Cola. This is an interesting strategic question. That’s why I wanted to talk about it a little bit today.

Tim: That’s one that always intrigues me – multiple locations.  

Tricia: It’s really tricky, especially when they’ve got a brick and mortar, they’ve actually got to do it right so that the franchisees don’t get their locations suspended and people can find them. 

I went back and looked up the one from a couple of years ago that I was working with. It was actually the beginning of Covid. And I see where they are all over the place as far as, like, what they allow. They probably aren’t even keeping up with what their franchisees are doing. Because when you look at them, they’ve got the business name, and then they’ve actually changed their logo to add more text to it. That’s like a major big no-no for branding. But I think it’s because the franchisor hasn’t given them the help they need to get their brand up so they’re having this to do that. One of them actually does have a whole separate website, and there are some things that they’re not doing properly with it, and they could get themselves into some trouble. But I’m not gonna mention any names. 

David: Yeah. Don’t. 

David: Have you read the definitive book about this? 

Tricia: Are you talking to Tim or me? 

David: Either of you. 

Tricia: No, what is that? 

Tim: Oh, I started to read that a while ago. I never finished it.

David: Great business book. It’s a classic. It’s the idea of creating your business to be a business. It starts with the story that all three of us can empathize with. It’s like I’m working at an agency, and I don’t like where the agency is going, so I start my own thing so I can do what I think is best. And I’m good at what I do, but I’m a terrible business owner. And so that struggle is where he gets, work on your business, not for your business.

Tricia: On your business, not in your business? 

David: Yes, that comes from this book. It really is how to create your business to be a franchise. But the argument is, whether or not you franchise your business, you need to process things out. So, for example, Curious Ants is the process that is Reliable Acorn, right? Youssef is not my first link building assistant. He’s the first link building assistant that received process documents. Everyone else didn’t, therefore Youssef is the most successful of them, because I knew how to teach someone to do it, but I never wrote it down. So, it didn’t work out. They didn’t do a good job, they got frustrated, I was just disappointed with them. Then we had to part ways. I wasn’t ready to hire someone like Youssef until I had the things written down. 

Tricia: I did mine a little differently than that. Some of the processes I gave to them to do and then had them write out the process and then I reviewed it. 

David: Right, but the point is they definitely have to be written out. That’s what the e-Myth book is about. So if you want to understand the franchise model, read e-Myth. It will help you understand that process a lot better, understand that it is give and take, the perspective of the franchise or the franchisee. Right? And It’s a good business book for business owners anyway – interesting perspective. 


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