I have been speaking to several owners of local franchises recently about Internet marketing and it has opened my eyes considerably. Purchasing a franchise has long been a way for people to get away from having a “regular” job and live the American Dream of owning a business. In this day and age with people having the worst job security in generations there are more an more of these small shops opening up.
My fear is that in short order they will be closing down as well and here’s why. These smaller franchisers appear to have built a model that is focused on them. They sell the franchise rights and collect fees from the franchisee but have little skin in the game moving forward.
This is most evident in the Internet marketing efforts or support that is provided to the franchisees which in most cases appears to be little or none. This leaves these fledgling franchisees / entrepreneurs to their own devices with regard to promoting their business on the Internet. As a result there is a lot of disillusionment and confusion because Internet marketing is not something that everyone knows or has the time to learn.
What these franchisees get instead are “referrals” to search marketing companies who then put them in poor performing paid search campaigns that produce little or no business. No skin off the franchisers nose here because it’s the little guy, the franchisee, that is shelling out for these services without even considering if this is the best thing for them to do as a part of an overall marketing campaign.
If you are considering buying a franchise make sure that you have the following as a bare minimum relating to Internet marketing and your ability to use it.
- Your own web site – It seems that most franchisers are loathe to let the local franchisee have any local web site that they can control and build for their market. Having a landing page on the corporate site IS NOT the same as having a web site. I see this time and time again and it always ends up with the franchisee wondering because they thought they would have their own web site.
- Internet marketing strategy – If the franchiser does not take the time and invest the money in the overall Internet marketing strategy of their franchisees then there will be trouble. Most SMB’s don’t know much about Internet marketing so when they are pushed out of the nest and told to go do business they end up struggling to find new business, especially online, due to ignorance.
- More than a referral – If a franchiser is just handing out names of search marketing service providers then stepping back and putting their hands up saying “Hey, we gave you a resource, it’s not our fault!” then that will end badly for the franchisee. Most of these search marketing shops are just putting together cookie cutter campaigns that are not addressing the true local needs of each market. They also collect fees on the monthly spend that many of these franchisees think is being spent on clicks. Not good.
- Internet marketing continuing education – If the franchise you are considering is not actively working to make you better by providing educational resources about search and social media then you may not want to buy in to the system. I am shocked at how little support is given to most franchisees I come in contact with.
I guess that there are few performance payments to franchisers because they certainly don’t seem to really want to help the franchisee succeed online from what I have seen (if there is a franchise doing this well out there please tell me about it!)
So the net / net here is that if you are already in a franchise that is not helping with your Internet marketing efforts then you need to go it alone. Take your chances by “breaking the rules” by putting together your own web site or running with social media because your business life may depend on these efforts. if there is no support from the franchiser than it’s up to the franchisee. To wait around for promises from franchisers is business suicide as well because there will always be reasons to hold off on something that may end up being an expense to the franchiser.
If you are considering buying into a franchise and the franchiser cannot provide adequate answers to your Internet marketing questions then you need to seriously consider whether this is the right business partner for you. Right now the environment seems almost adversarial but for what reason (other than cost) I don’t know. Do your homework and hopefully you will avoid some of the pain I have seen recently.