Franchisors, fret not! While the casual usage of data-orientated terminology may appear daunting at first, it can be quickly and easily understood, and utilizing your learnings properly can score your brand some major marketing home runs. Here, Justin Mink from Scorpion, gives us the marketing lowdown.
In today’s digital world, buzzwords like “machine learning”, “artificial intelligence”, and “Big Data” get tossed around willy-nilly, often without any real substance behind them. Marketers engaging in conversation (with industry peers, team members and leadership, suppliers, etc.) about these topics may nod their heads in knowing agreement, while secretly being unsure about their meaning or how to apply them in the context of their business.
Given the buzz factor, the lack of clarity here is almost inevitable. Take heart, “Big Data” can be not only easily understood, but also mined and leveraged to materially improve marketing results for your franchise.
Franchise organizations implicitly sit on top of mountains of existing marketing data, just waiting to be analyzed and distilled for business insights and intelligence. Savvy marketers who look for “the girl in the red dress” amidst a sea of numbers can help position their franchisees to move faster and smarter than their competition.
Before we dive into several tips for success, let’s explore the nature of how Big Data uniquely applies to franchising:
● Franchisees are proactively marketing their business and your brand within their local communities. Market-by-market, this represents a gold mine of data that can provide insights into what consistently works and what fails. The aggregate outcome of these often siloed and one-off efforts are a marketer’s dream.
● Franchisors can directly coordinate market-level tests designed to inform system-wide rollouts. For example, corporate can oversee a video marketing pilot in collaboration with a new supplier and a small set of marketing-minded franchisees. On the other side of this same coin…
● Brand campaigns (often funded by the national ad/marketing fund) can help corporate provide confident marketing recommendations to franchisees — along with proof to support those suggestions.
At this point, you may be thinking: “This all sounds like a fantasy. If they are spending at all, my franchisees are marketing locally in ways that I can’t see and are all using different measurements of success.” While that may currently be the case, there are several ways that you can tap into all that juicy marketing data, and then use it to steer your partners in the right direction and align local franchisee campaigns with your branding efforts:
Define a common set of key performance indicators (KPIs)
Educate and engage your franchisees on the value of marketing, along with the metrics they should use to evaluate ROI. Once everyone is singing from the same song sheet, you can establish benchmarks and goals, then seamlessly weave local marketing data into flexible system-wide reports.
Aggregate and consolidate
Technology integrations help tie marketing outcomes to operational platforms (CRM, POS, booking and scheduling, etc.) When accompanied by a set of approved marketing suppliers who can leverage these integrations as a standard mechanism for measuring performance, the entire system will have a single place to view marketing data, with reporting that centers around your shared set of the commonly understood KPIs.
Segment the system
The nature of growth necessitates material differences in local marketing strategies. From pre- to grand opening to mature units, differences in existing local brand recognition, seasonal disparities (for example, HVAC in Fargo vs. HVAC in South Beach), and more, not all markets are created equal. Create system segments based upon the unique characteristics that apply to your industry and your brand, and then analyze and strategize accordingly.
Remember: Marketing does not exist in a vacuum
Franchisees have a tendency to focus on bottom-of-funnel marketing performance (usually lead volume and efficiency). But, today’s customer journey is non-linear and takes place across multiple channels, at every stage of a customer’s buying cycle.
Look for correlations; for example, a relatively low-cost local social awareness campaign may not drive direct conversions, but that targeted exposure may drive an increase in branded search and click-through rates (CTR) in that market. Once the data set has reached critical mass, you can confidently recommend the right media mix as part of a cohesive local strategy. Franchisees typically don’t care about the multiple levers that drive performance; they just want to see the proof in the pudding.
Get creative with the marketing fund
Your “ad fund” doesn’t necessarily need to be spent on national brand advertising (especially when your system isn’t nationally ubiquitous). There are plenty of ways to allocate these dollars toward marketing channels that drive local results and, as a bonus, ensure brand consistency at every level. Examples include websites, local listings management, customer review platforms, remarketing, social media publishing, and more.
Do it for them
Countless franchisors have spent untold dollars deploying state-of-the-art marketing tools, only to see them grow moldy. Franchisees who don’t see the value or who can’t be bothered to do yet another “thing” won’t consistently use even the best of tools. If you see proof that a marketing strategy consistently works, make it easier for a franchisee to participate than to not participate. As long as the results are there and easy to understand, your franchisees will appreciate the brand taking the marketing chores off their plates.
Test, measure, evaluate, refine, repeat
In today’s digital world, new marketing channels — and how your target audiences engage with them — are evolving at a dizzying pace. This represents both a challenge as well as an enormous opportunity to be the first in your category to meaningfully leverage new platforms. Never stop testing, evaluating and tweaking in an effort to create the “playbook” for the brand that gives your system a marketing and customer acquisition/experience advantage. As the system grows, every successive new franchisee will start off with a greater likelihood of marketing success, deploying campaigns that are informed by the stacks of data from all the campaigns that have preceded their own.
Don’t be shy; a franchise system affords you the freedom to fail small and the opportunity to win big! And the next time someone casually tosses “Big Data” into a conversation, you’ll be able to nod your head and smile, secure in the fact that this term is more than just a buzzword and is helping to position your brand for a bright future in a fast-changing world.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Justin Mink is a senior vice president of sales at Scorpion, focusing on developing and growing the company’s enterprise franchise business. Prior to joining Scorpion, Justin was the chief marketing officer at New Frontier Data, a startup technology company that provides responsible operators and investors in the legal cannabis industry with real-time data and analytics.