The importance of Local Area Marketing
One of the greatest advantages you have being part of a franchise is the support of a recognisable brand. Successful franchisees understand marketing and know how to leverage off the brand awareness that comes with the franchise, and are able to turn this into successful marketing, at least at a local level.
Local Area Marketing (LAM) involves identifying and implementing marketing opportunities in local communities by engaging positively with individuals, groups, organisations, businesses and local media. A pro-active and sustained LAM program will increase the individual franchisee’s own profile as a dynamic member of their community and will increase overall brand awareness of the franchise system and its role in the community.
Far too often, franchisees believe their marketing finishes when they contribute to the national fund. The national fund is certainly utilised to promote the brand, however, there are many marketing costs that are taken from that marketing fund, including creative design, website, online media, national sponsorships, print and electronic media, etc.
How far can a franchisee go?
The large majority of Franchise Agreements stipulate that no local area marketing can be conducted by franchisees without the approval of the franchisor.
This should be standard across all agreements. A lot of money is invested by the franchisor to develop, promote and maintain the integrity of their brand. Your franchisor may provide you with some guidelines and recommendations for conducting your own local area marketing.
A lot of the good franchises have local area marketing portals, which allow all franchisees to utilise artwork, ideas and campaigns that have been created and have worked successfully for other franchisees. If rogue franchisees want to alter logos, create different themes and colours, change tag lines and USPs, then they should ask themselves whether they want to be part of a franchise or create their own business. The success of a franchise is the brand, how that brand is promoted, how that brand engages and how that brand drives sales.
The LAM program must complement the system’s national marketing plan and all LAM activities should be consistent with the system’s over-riding marketing plan. However, it is also vital that the individual franchisee forms a distinct relationship with their local community and local media to help generate local loyalty to their business. By actively and consistently engaging in your local community and with your local media outlets, you will help drive the success of your own business, but will also contribute to the overall success of the brand.
Build a clear picture of your customer
When developing a local area marketing plan, your first step is to get to know your community. If you’re lucky, you will already know the local area quite well, you may even live nearby. If this is the case you will be well prepared to develop your local area marketing plan.
However, if your franchise is located in an unfamiliar area, it’s important that you do your research and find out more about the community your business serves.
You will need to consider the nature of your business. Do you need to target your marketing towards businesses, or does your business service customers walking in off the street? What are the traits of your customers? Are they tradies? Are they mothers? Are they home-owners? Are they familiar with new technology? Do they play sport?
Importantly, you will need to consider the age group of your core target market. The answers to all of these questions will allow you to build a profile of your customer base. There may be one or two, or more, distinct groups to which you need to target your local area marketing. Once you have clearly established your customer profile you will be able to more easily recognise the best locations and methods through which to communicate with your customers.
There are many ways you can communicate with your target audience; here are just a few ideas which could be applied to most business types.
Build a customer database. Communicating directly with your existing customer base is a fantastic way to encourage repeat business; encourages word of mouth; and ensures your business remains in the minds of your target audience.
Do you collect your customer’s email addresses? If so, you may like to consider developing a regular e-newsletter to your customers. An example of this may be a handyman business, which produces a newsletter for each season reminding customers about the appropriate household maintenance required for the season (cleaning gutters, checking smoke alarm batteries etc.). It’s a great way to provide customers with added value from your services, and may even serve as a call to action to customers to re-employ your services.
Newsletters are a great way to communicate special offers, new products or services, and are also a fantastic way to encourage click through visitation to your website.
Support your local community by saying ‘Yes’ to offers of sponsorship, or donations of prizes. Most organisations will reward your contribution by displaying your business name in promotional activities for their event or club, and your business is likely to gain a better reputation as one that cares about the local community.
Look out for opportunities in your community where you can donate goods or services to those less fortunate than you. The local paper is a good source of potential opportunities. Word will soon get around about your community mindedness.
Offer to present a talk to your local community group/chamber of commerce/local radio – you can talk about small business, your particular industry, the challenges you’ve overcome to get where you are – by doing so you will be engaging with your local community and informing people about yourself and your business whilst building the franchise brand.
Does your business provide goods or services which go hand-in-hand with other businesses in your area? These businesses are likely to share a similar customer base with yours. There may be an opportunity to create a joint venture with these businesses, which aims to provide a benefit to both parties. For example a tanning salon may have an opportunity to partner with a gym, as these customers are likely to share the similar trait of taking care of and enhancing their appearance.
Don’t forget about PR !
If your business is doing great things in your community then don’t forget to tell them about it! Get to know your local newspapers and media outlets; they are always looking for great stories to tell. Have you had any interesting customers lately? Done any unusual jobs? Does your business support any major events currently happening in your area or beyond? Do you have a heartfelt story of success or have you overcome a battle to get where you are?
The possibilities are endless. Try to capitalise on any opportunity to positively promote your business, to support your local community and communicate with your customers, and you are more likely to be rewarded with a community that will support your business in return.
Samantha Roach is General Manager - Marketing, Communications and PR at FC Business Solutions.
FC Business Solutions is the only integrated consultancy focussing on executive recruitment, coaching and support, manuals, training, distribution and public relations-communications, exclusively for the franchise community and other industry sectors.
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