Franchise Websites: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

Posted by Keith Gutierrez on Feb 11, 2014
Keith Gutierrez

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Consumer buying behavior has changed, which means having your brand properly positioned on the web is a requirement today. Companies that are leveraging the internet and digital technology are growing like crazy, and companies that are not leaning into these changes are going to struggle.

For this reason, trying to manage your corporate brand and local franchise websites can quickly become a daunting task.  I'm often asked by franchise brand owners: "What is the best strategy for managing franchise websites?"

To break this question down, let's take a closer look at some of the good things, the bad things and what's ugly about franchise websites. Then, we'll take a look at a franchise brand that has a great approach to the web.

The Good

There are many benefits to being a part of a franchise brand family. In fact, there are several inbound marketing advantages that are often overlooked by most franchises. I've put together a list of a few ways franchise owners can work together to gain an advantage in the web marketplace.

  1. Utilize Subject Matter Experts (SMEs): Franchise brands should be leveraging the knowledge of all their subject matter experts. These are franchisee owners that should all be contributing to provide helpful information to prospective buyers. The helpful information can include how-to guides, whitepapers, checklists, blog posts, educational videos and webinars.
  2. Share Investment Costs: Sharing costs can be a huge advantage for franchise owners. Making marketing investments as a community enables proper investment in a stellar marketing program that will boost all sales, if coordinated properly.
  3. Develop Networking Opportunities: Franchise owners can work together to develop online training programs, as well as to provide help, support and referrals for other franchise owners.

The Bad

Although there are clear benefits to being part a franchise family, the lack of a clear marketing focus can work against business goals. Here's a list of some examples that franchise brands should be working to improve upon.

  1. Lack of Marketing and Sales Support: The corporate brand doesn't provide enough marketing and sales support to local franchises. In addition, they're not adapting to the shift in the economy. Instead, they're focused on old hat traditional marketing approaches of promoting rather than informing. These approaches no longer match consumer buying habits and are not as effective as they once were.
  2. Inability To Accurately Measure Results: The corporate brand lacks the ability to accurately measure, analyze and attribute the success of their marketing activities and, consequently, show how those activities work within the sales process. This leads to a failure in establishing closed-loop reporting of marketing and sales activities for both the corporate brand and all franchisee web interactions.
  3. Not Sharing Helpful Information: Even with all the subject matter experts, franchises often fail to capitalize on the opportunity to consistently create content to help inform prospective buyers. The website may lack a blog and other helpful content offers designed to inform rather than promote, as described above in section 1.1.

The Ugly

Franchise websites can easily become a mess, mainly as a result of not having a unified marketing strategy. Below is a list of a few things that can go wrong without a strategy.

  1. Not Working as a Team: The corporate brand and franchisees lose sight of working as a team and instead focus only on their individual success. This leads to individual franchise locations taking to the web with their own "local websites," which often lack important information and consistent brand messaging. However, the ugly part of this approach is that it results in the corporate brand and the individual franchise owners competing against each other, essentially causing lower search engine ranking position by form of self-cannibalization.
  2. Outdated Brochure Website: The franchise isn't providing a website that meets today's mobile consumer demand. The website doesn't offer a responsive design that is easy to view and navigate on any device type, whether it be a desktop computer, tablet or smart phone. The website isn't providing an easy-to-use content management system (CMS) to enable non-technical representatives to easily make changes and updates to the website.
  3. Trying To "Game The System": No matter what type of business you have, black hat SEO tactics are not going to provide your business with a long-term solution for establishing growth on the web. However, many franchises still think it's a good strategy to have multiple domains that have their location in the domain while providing near-duplicate content on each site. It's best to keep things simple and, in most cases, all the information should live on the main franchise brand domain.

Example of a Great Franchise Brand Website

Anytime Fitness

It's no surprise that Anytime Fitness is Entrepreneur's top ranked franchise brand in 2014. They have a great website as well. Here's what I love about the Anytime Fitness website:

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  • Although they have 1,935 fitness clubs in North America and 471 more locations across the globle, navigating their website and finding the nearest fitness location is easy.
  • The website features inspirational customer videos that share amazing life success stories.
  • The site offers simplified design and navigation. It's easy to find the information you're looking for.
  • Anytime Fitness certified personal trainers are "subject matter experts" and they do a great job sharing helpful information on their blog.
  • Local franchise location information is part of the main site and it is easy to find and use. Franchise information includes photos of the local staff, gym facility and the local community.

Many franchise brands are challenged with properly positioning their website. It's often difficult to organize information so it's easy to find and use. The Anytime Fitness website is a perfect example of how a site with simplified design and navigation provides an enjoyable user experience. This approach makes it easy for their prospective buyers and customers to find the information they're looking for.

What are some of your favorite franchise websites? Is there anything else you would add to the list?  - Chime in on the comments section below.

Image Credit: Anytime Fitness

Author
Keith Gutierrez

Keith Gutierrez

Vice President of Inbound at Modgility
He's a Certified Inbound Marketing Professional and HubSpot Partner. He loves helping marketers develop and implement inbound solutions that drive positive business relationships.

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