Content marketing is integral to the communications quiver. White papers, one-sheets, videos, testimonials, and blog posts enable B2Cs and B2Bs to nurture leads, retain customers, engage audiences, and enhance PR and communications.
Though content marketing holds such promise, many franchisors and franchisees find success fleeting – if they ever find success at all. I apologize for the harsh truth. Instead of shooting the messenger, you can blame franchising’s nuanced landscape that features a multitude of content creators with disparate goals.
Despite these challenges, know that franchise content marketing is well worth the effort. Keep reading to better understand content marketing’s benefits, its best practices, and unique opportunities for franchisors and franchisees.
What Content Marketing Isn’t…and What It Is
Many well-intentioned marketers dabble in content marketing never fully committing to the craft. Inconsistency or an ad-libbed content marketing strategy will never drive success.
Unless you’re win-the-lottery lucky, one piece of content or even one year of content won’t produce the desired business outcomes. Content marketing isn’t a short-term solution; it’s a long-term strategy.
Even with consistent production, many brands struggle. Too often, brands produce content that is no more than blatant promotion or a sales pitch. Nobody wants that. Jay Baer titled his book “Youtility” to succinctly and eloquently illustrate that successful content benevolently provides some service to the brand’s reader. Often that involves helping them overcome a specific challenge.
So what does content marketing look like? I’m glad you asked.
Content marketing is a concerted and sustained effort that is born from a documented, goal-focused content marketing strategy. The importance of a documented content marketing strategy cannot be overstated.
Having a formalized written content strategy enables you to stay on course, target content to particular audiences, fit your organization’s overall communication strategy, and set realistic expectations with leadership. Despite these advantages, the Content Marketing Institute’s 2019 white paper found that only one-third of B2Cs document their content strategy.
Another perk of content marketing is its ability to enhance search engine visibility. A strategic mix of high-quality content will enable your brand to rank for valuable search terms. When you rank high in search, your brand becomes a trusted source that is there for a prospect in their moment of need.
However, your rank is everything. The first five search results receive two-thirds of clicks, and each lower position receives less than 4 percent. So if you don’t rank near the top, your brand is invisible.
Because of all these strengths, content marketing is also a perfect and essential complement to your social media, public relations, and other communications. Just as siloes damage brands, communications siloes inhibit your overall effectiveness. By integrating content marketing into a holistic strategy, you will take your communications to the next level.
Franchise Content Marketing Approaches
In the world of franchising, content marketing takes different forms depending on available resources, audience, and of course, the desired outcome. And whether a franchisor or franchisee creates the content will also influence its implementation and execution, says David Chapman, founder and CEO of 919 Marketing.
“In terms of content marketing, if franchisors and franchisees were in the same boat, they’d be rowing in different directions,” says Chapman. “Just because the businesses share a brand, doesn’t mean that they should share content. Sure, they’re part of one happy family, but their unique goals necessitate that they produce content differently.”
Marketing to franchisees
Franchisors are always looking out for capable entrepreneurs in hot markets. To attract them, they should house content on the franchise development section of their website. This content often takes the form of helpful content like educational blog posts that focus on answering a specific question potential franchisees may have about franchising or business in general.
This helpful content focuses on solving the audience’s pain point without blatantly marketing the franchise brand, as something more promotional would dissolve the trust and goodwill you have developed with a prospect in the discovery stage. Once the prospect engages, additional content can show the benefits of purchasing a franchise and may even discuss differentiators between competitors.
Scooter’s Coffee deployed this content strategy amid a push to rapidly increase its number of franchises nationwide. Instead of focusing on how great the brand is, the content addresses questions potential business owners have every day, such as what coffee shop supplies are needed to start a coffee shop and what coffee shop startup costs are.
Answering these questions directly helps Scooter’s Coffee build rapport and trust with their audiences while also giving a next step for the audience to take if they want to learn more about a Scooter’s Coffee franchise.
Consumer-targeted content marketing
Franchises utilize consumer-targeted content marketing in two ways.
Corporate-generated Content Marketing
Corporate franchises typically have greater resources than their franchisees. So to support their franchisees, a corporate team will create content that builds trust and brand awareness among a national or international audience. This content is typically published on a corporate-level blog or company publication.
In addition to having dedicated PR and social media teams who can amplify content, the corporate office’s website tends to have a high domain score that allows its content to rank higher in search.
Corporate-generated content has the benefit of reaching larger numbers of people for each post, and making marketing dollars stretch further.
Franchisee-generated Content Marketing
Though the franchisor approach has significant reach, it’s usually unable to create localized content for a specific region that could benefit an individual franchisee’s business.This is when franchisees can step in and create their own content to promote to their local audiences.
Franchisee content, either on a franchisee section of the corporate site, or on a separate local franchisee site, may not be able to compete on a national stage for attention, but they could make a splash locally. Content created around local events or common problems in a region can help a brand build trust with a local audience.
For example, a pest control franchisee in Florida could write about how to get identify common insects in Florida, or what a “Palmetto bug” really is (it’s a cockroach.)
When you create content that addresses your customers’ pain points, you move beyond brand awareness to trust – a key next step before they can turn into customers. Depending on your franchise, a corporate-generated content strategy, or a franchisee-generated strategy may be best.
In some cases, it could be a combination of both.
Content Marketing’s Most Common Challenge
Regardless of what kind of content marketing your franchise is about to start, the challenges are often the same.
A recent survey showed that nearly three-quarters of companies listed insufficient staff, budget, and time as a daily hindrance to content marketing. And companies of all sizes can feel this pinch, not just entrepreneurs operating small businesses.
Being resource-restrained makes corporate support all the more important to franchisees, but it does not excuse individual franchisees from creating targeted content.
In the face of this content marketing conundrum, franchisees often feel tempted to repurpose corporate content on their franchise’s site. That is a huge no-no. Search engines penalize content scraping by pushing both sites down or entirely out of search results. That doesn’t mean corporate can’t serve as a foundation or source of inspiration, however. Many resource-limited franchises have successfully localized corporate content.
In some cases, corporations have the ability to support franchisees by creating content on their behalf. In these scenarios, it is vital that the corporate content team understands the franchise’s goals and their customers’ pain points.
Once you identify what resources are available, you don’t want to just start writing and promoting content – though many franchises do…and fail. You need to develop a solid content strategy that will guide your content marketing efforts for the year(s) to come.
How to Develop a Franchise Content Marketing Strategy
Step 1: Develop goals
The first step to developing a franchise content marketing strategy may seem obvious, but it is often skipped by overzealous brands hoping to start benefiting from content. Ask the question: “What am I hoping to achieve?” Common goals include driving leads for franchisees, building trust with prospects, re-engaging previous customers, and improving brand awareness.
Step 2: Choose metrics of success
Setting the metrics that define your content marketing’s success not only creates transparency, but it also allows you to refine your strategy on the fly. For example, a campaign to measure brand awareness may use page views and social shares as barometers of success. By digging into your Google Analytics data, you can identify the specific content types that have resonated and focus your efforts on replicating them.
Step 3: Define the audience
One-size-fits-all never works in content marketing. No matter your product or service, you have unique customers with unique pain points. Your content needs to reflect this. You need to define your audience before you create each piece of content. Doing this will inform what you create, how you create it, and where the content is hosted.
The “where” may be the final piece, but it is just as important. Even a brilliant piece of content won’t produce if it doesn’t reach the right audience. For instance, a blog post targeted to customers in a particular geographic location will be more effective on a franchisee’s site. Content that has broader appeal will produce better results on the corporate site.
Franchise marketing analytics tools like 919 Insights help franchisors and franchisees identify the topics that truly resonate with their audiences across all channels and takes the guesswork out of what their audiences want to read.
Step 4: Audit existing content
You are undoubtedly familiar with the three Rs of recycling (reduce, reuse, recycle), but this philosophy also fits content marketing. As you refine your content strategy, your past work, especially high-performing content, can inform your strategy and serve as a foundation for future work.
Often, the content brands produce is evergreen, meaning that it continues to be relevant to audiences despite being months or years old. You can save yourself significant work by simply freshening your successful content with new data, updating calls to action, and amplifying on social media.
Don’t just audit your own content. Use the crowded content marketing landscape as an opportunity to get competitive intelligence. Look at some of their most successful content and see how you can do it better. How do you know what’s successful? Social shares are a good indicator of how effectively it has been for brand awareness. Also, backing a piece of content, especially an older one, with paid promotion is proof that that content is a moneymaker. Again, 919 Insights can help you understand what’s working for you and your competitors right now.
Content intelligence platforms like 919 Insights help brands uncover what’s working for them and their competition.
Step 5: Create a content calendar
Now that you know your goals, metrics, audience, and existing resources, you are ready to create a content calendar. These essential pieces of content marketing define what content you need to create, when you need to create, and what medium (blog post, infographic, video, podcast, webinar, white paper, etc.) you should use.
Stick to realistic plans, perhaps even edging on the side of producing less than you think you can. It is easy for aspirations to evaporate in the middle of a crisis. Once you have a realistic plan, identify the stakeholders. Who will be responsible for creating the content? Who needs to sign off on content before it’s published? Who will promote the content once it’s live?
Don’t forget to engage other departments around your organization. They may have insights about shifting customer interests, industry trends, evolving goals, or even a cyclical sales cycle that will inform your content strategy.
Moving Forward with Your Franchise Content Marketing Efforts
By reading this article, you have shown a keen interest in improving your franchise content marketing. You may even feel inspired to pen a blog post. That’s great! But to have sustained success, you must coordinate, strategize, and prepare. As the old adage says, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”