There are many factors to consider when deciding what franchise is right for you as a new franchisee, and it’s important not to leave any stone unturned.
A franchise’s online presence can be a good indication of the current support a franchisor gives its franchisees and the level of brand exposure the franchise already has. It can also indicate how hard or easy it will be to gain significant online presence in your local market. This is crucial because 89% of local business comes from online search and 91% of consumers make purchases because of online experiences. You don’t want to miss out on that potential business.
Once you’ve narrowed down your potential franchise choices, take some time to do the following and consider what you find:
Do a Google search for the products or services the franchise offers in a market where it currently has a franchise. For example, if you are considering buying a frozen yogurt franchise, search frozen yogurt either while you are physically in one of the cities that has that franchise established or by adding the city word in your search. Then duplicate this search in several other locations where the franchise is established.
You’re specifically looking for three potential results:
- Does the local franchise website appear on page 1 of organic search results?
If so, this is a great indication that the brand is well-established online. It also indicates that the corporate team likely supports online initiatives in order to achieve consistent rankings in local markets.
- Does the local franchise website appear in map listings that show its location?
If so, fantastic. More and more people are relying on Google map results to help them find what they are looking for, and if your franchise does not appear there, your potential customers could choose your competitor instead. If the franchise does appear in map listings, it is also an indication that the corporate team likely supports local online initiatives.
- Does the local franchise website appear on page 1 of paid search results?
If so, this means that either the corporate team or the local franchise is paying to ensure that the website appears on page 1. If the franchise is new, this shows that whoever is paying understands the value of page 1 rankings and wants to make sure they are there. Paying for ads is a way to ensure page 1 ranking at the beginning, whereas it may take longer for organic rankings to be achieved. However, this often requires a large investment.
The fourth potential result is that none of the above occur, in which case you need to go past page 1 to see how far back the website is ranked. If you have to scroll past the top 5 or even 10 pages and still do not find the website listed, this should be an indicator that up to this point the franchise has not put an emphasis on online marketing. In order to tap into the 89% of local business that comes from online search, there will need to be some significant work done to increase online exposure.
Whatever you find, it is important then to use that information as a starting point for discussions with potential franchisors. Tell them what you found in your searches, and ask them the following questions:
- Who ensures that local franchises appear in organic search results and local map listings? Franchisor or franchisee?
- If paid ads are used, who manages those?
- If franchisees are responsible for online initiatives, are they solely responsible for the funding of those initiatives or are they supported by corporate dollars?
- If franchisees are responsible, what training and support is provided by the franchisor?
If these discussions lead you to believe that little support for online branding is provided by the franchisor, consider strongly whether other brand exposure is strong enough to compensate for the lack of online presence.
There are many franchises that have a great handle on their online brand, and many that are in the process of getting there. Those are the franchises to look for.
Frances Leary, President Wired Flare
Wired Flare, Inc., is a Canadian online marketing firm that develops and implements Internet marketing campaigns for franchises and organizations worldwide. She is also a published author and professional speaker, whose MA in folklore led to the development of a unique marketing approach that serves as the foundation of Wired Flare’s methodology.