Five Steps to Build Your Franchise Marketing Playbook for 2015

Marketing a national franchise at the local level brings a unique set of complexities. National franchise marketing managers want to maintain a consistent brand experience across their franchise network while empowering local franchise owners to optimize marketing efforts for local audiences.

5 steps Franchise playbook 2015

But balancing brand consistency while still allowing local businesses to play to their strengths in a given community can be tricky. Software tools and support from marketing experts are solutions available to franchise marketers. In addition, centralized franchise funds can be a great strength if wielded properly.

The following five tips showcase best practices for franchise marketing managers to ensure a consistent brand across their franchise network in a way that fosters growth for each local franchisee.

  1. Align Marketing With Local Sales – Make sure that the outreach you and your franchisees are doing is bringing customers through the door. Review 2014 efforts to see when and where sales spiked. What marketing efforts led to the increase? Replicating success and supporting sales at the local level is the best way to get franchisees to buy into the program you’re coordinating.

  2. Embrace Franchisee Feedback – Through formal and informal processes, gather feedback from your franchise owners about what’s working and what isn’t for their local marketing programs. A virtual suggestion box, hotline and regularly scheduled input sessions are all ways that a franchisor can keep his/her ear to the ground. Your marketing programs will be better and your franchisees will appreciate being heard.

  3. Manage Centralized Funds Fairly – Use of franchise funds are a hot-button issue for franchisees with good reason: shared marketing funds directly impact a franchisee’s top and bottom lines. Make sure money is offered in a way that supports both the creation and placement of advertisements. Creative concepts should do more than just promote the franchise brand, so include options for franchisees that will resonate locally and bring customers into the store. Lastly, be clear about what percentage of revenue you’re collecting so there is never confusion.

  4. Let Franchisees Use Their Own Messages – Brand consistency is important for a franchise, but that doesn’t mean every franchisee’s marketing plan needs to be a carbon copy. Use template creative materials so franchise owners can market to their specific local audience more personally. Build flexibility into media plans as well, since each franchisee has his/her own audience to reach, and the same media platforms won’t always be successful across the board.

  5. Educate Your Franchise Owners – This tip cannot be overstated. Especially in today’s shifting media landscape, local franchise owners need help understanding how to effectively spend their marketing dollars. Specifically, education about digital channels can help franchise owners reach audiences online. In addition, social media tools can give local business owners the ability to use preapproved content with a local spin, helping franchise owners extend the sense of community they build in real life on to popular social networks.

Are you planning franchise marketing for 2015? What step would you add?


Franchise brands need digital marketing that scales: observations from #IFA2015

Brandmuscle’s Marketing Director Lori Alba sits at the crossroads of technology and marketing, so she understands how complicated digital marketing can be for franchise owners and operators.

After a few days in Las Vegas for the International Franchise Association Convention, Alba has one main takeaway: there is rampant opportunity for franchise brands to better support their local franchisees with integrated digital marketing resources.

“There are pockets of franchise brands doing digital right, and I saw some cool case studies at IFA 2015, but, for the most part, franchisors’ digital marketing programs aren’t integrated or scaleable,” said Alba.

Alba said that what she learned from #IFA2015 mirrored what Brandmuscle learned in its 2014 State of Local Marketing Report: franchisees want help with online marketing — in the form of tools, funding, resources and education — so they can attract more local customers online. These new media methods often come at a lower cost than traditional methods, but franchisees struggle to understand how (or if) they should take advantage of them.

“Suppliers are trying to help both sides of the franchise equation — franchisors and franchisees — so it’s clear a solution exists,” said Alba. “From my experience, though, it’s franchisors that need to step up and invest in integrated local marketing automation tools and support systems for their franchisees. A franchisor that helps its franchisee base with not only traditional media but paid search, microsites, local directories, social media and other digital marketing tactics — and makes it easy — not only gets to set strategy that drives more local sales and ensures brand consistency, but they get access to the data from their entire franchisee network.”

One session confirmed Alba’s thoughts about the role franchisors should play. Scott Klososky of Future Point of View highlighted the marketing transformation brought on by digital media and told IFA 2015 attendees about how he sees “franchiZees” and franchisors working together to scale digital successfully at the local level:

Franchise and Franchisor digital marketing responsibilities

For a full copy of Klososky’s presentation, visit Future Point of View’s website here.

“Today, many franchisees are left to their own devices when it comes to digital,” said Alba. “Moving forward, I think we’ll see more integration – between digital marketing technology suppliers who specialize in distributed local marketing brought in at the franchisor level so they have more control over their brand on the local level and have access to local marketing data.”

Alba also acknowledged a that digital full-court press may not be the right move for every franchise out there.

“Some franchise marketers may not have the budget for every aspect of an integrated digital program, but those with aggressive growth projections or location expansion plans  need to think about the scalability of the solutions they put into place,” said Alba.

“Franchise marketers know they need to improve their digital marketing efforts, it’s just a matter of finding a partner who can support them at the franchisee level and has the ability to grow as the franchise does.”

Do you agree with Alba’s perspective? Did you attend #IFA2015 and have thoughts to share? Let us know in the comment s below.

For case studies about how Brandmuscle serves the franchise market, select “Franchise” from the drop down menu here, or contact us to learn more.

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How to make national advertising templates that work best in local markets

A guide for building the best advertising templates.

Distributed Marketing Management, Local Marketing Automation, Channel Marketing or Local Advertising Optimization – whatever you call it, one factor determines success more than any other: Providing local affiliates effective templates for creative materials.

For those who are unfamiliar, templates are dynamic pieces of advertising creative that allow marketers in specific locations to adapt national materials for their local audiences. Here’s the definition we stuff into our PowerPoint decks:

A template is the client’s creative broken into standard square or rectangular pieces that can be layered and interchanged programmatically.  This functionality gives the user numerous creative possibilities within one template.

Using templates, an automotive company can use the same corporate-approved framework to create ads that work for all dealer locations; this would allow a Florida car dealer to advertise a red convertible and Minnesota dealer to advertise a four-wheel drive truck, each with different promotional offers and legal disclaimers set by the corporate marketing team.

No matter the complexity or industry, all templates have the same basic parts: static and variable regions, which allow different creative possibilities and functionality within a single template.

Basic layout for a creative template

Templates let your local dealers, agents and franchisees without design skills create custom marketing materials that adhere to your national brand standards.

Determining which parts of your advertising creative are static and which parts can be adjusted to speak specifically to your local audiences will guide the essence of your distributed marketing program. As the pioneer of this space nearly fifteen years ago, Brandmuscle has created thousands of templates for our clients across all industry types and provides coaching to national brand managers about how their designs can be best adapted for their distributed local audiences.

Here’s the start of our template guide, which provides high-level tips for both designers and marketing managers. We’ll dive into details for each category in future posts. If there’s a question or case study you’d like us to explore, sound off in the comments and we’ll try to fit in an answer in a future post.

1. Consider both “customers” when designing – Templates should take both consumers and your local affiliates into account. View both as customers. Make the templates you offer appealing to your local affiliates and make sure that whichever option they choose, the result is a powerful marketing message that drives customer behavior.Remember that your local affiliates are often not marketers by trade. Templates should serve as a best practices guide, and the options available serve as suggestions local affiliates will use to communicate with their customers. National brand managers should provide options that drive marketing best practices and steer their local affiliates to the right types of messaging.

2. Design with templates in mind: give effective options – The entire premise of a template is often missed because national brand managers offer too many or too few options for local marketers to use. Striking the balance between offering a static template with only one variable field or offering  a blank template with lots of variable fields but no clear direction comes down to selecting the right number of options.


Providing options for templates will help your local affiliates diversify their marketing programs, reaching more customers through different channels.

Templates should promote corporate standards and messaging, but also allow local affiliates to feel they have control too. This is their business, their livelihood and often they want to be included in their messaging.

3. Offer a variety of media types and sizes – The best way to guide local marketers to creating an effective, customized ad is to be clear about the utility and effectiveness of your templates. One creative layout may work great as a flyer or handout but not as a direct mail piece. Similarly, landing pages suited for a consumer audience might not attract the attention of a B2B buyer. It’s important to give local affiliates choices within each template so they can build an ad that will best resonate with their local audience. Equally important, you should offer local affiliates multiple templates to choose from so they can select the media channel that works best reaches this audience and matches the promotion – whether it’s a media placement, direct piece or online ad.

4. Keep it simple: avoid “super templates” – While robust templates with many options give local marketers the ability to customize their messages to their local audiences, sometimes too many options make for unclear direction. Oftentimes, we see clients combine too many options into one template causing the piece to become considerably less useful than if it had been separated into two templates that could be used for two different purposes.For simplistic ad placements – like seasonal offers made through small online ads or postcard mailers – limiting variables to just a few messages and contact information may suffice. Remember that many local marketers are simply looking for grab-and-go marketing materials and providing them this option means they’ll carry your national branding on the local level. Lastly, consider limiting options on materials that have a proven track record; making templates easy to create will amplify their usage.

5. Embrace “Other”: don’t be afraid of user entry fields – A blank page can overwhelm local affiliates who aren’t marketers by trade. But templates with fully customizable sections can help affiliates leverage your national branding to support their specific needs.


Leaving variable spaces open for your local affiliates will allow them to tie into community topics, like sports teams.

User-entered text and images allow local affiliates to specifically target their community to promote local events or appeal to distinct demographics – think of a headline directed at “Springfield Home Owners” or a mention of the local high school football team. Allowing the use of ultra-local components in your creative templates helps establish your affiliates – and your own national brand – within their communities by reinforcing the common ground they share.

Lastly, don’t worry about rogue local dealers and agents. Most distributed marketing management systems will have additional review processes built in for open field options to ensure brand standards are in compliance; and in our experience, affiliates using the system are much more apt to create approved ads than those who are doing so using their own devices.

Giving local affiliates templates they will actually use is the first step to creating an effective distributed marketing program. Balancing the customization is an ongoing task, but one that will create a two-way dialogue about which marketing tactics work well on the local level and which tactics do not.  A strong distributed marketing partner offers the technology to support a variety of template types as well as effective reporting on what options are being used across your distributed marketing base. Brandmuscle offers on-demand support from our own marketing experts (real people!), who can guide your local dealers, agents and franchisees through the available templates and choose the options that best suits their marketing programs.

Are you on your way to building better templates? Want to learn more or talk about how this process could help your business? Contact us here or let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Distributed Marketing Management, Franchise Marketing, Local Marketing, Local Marketing Automation, Local Marketing Best Practices, Marketing, Templates , , , , , , , , ,