In this day and age, 95% of customers turn to the Internet to quickly find products and services -- and that includes finding a local business provides them. The importance of having a website for your brand franchise is a no-brainer, but should local franchisees have a website, too?

One of the great things about franchises is they have national brand recognition and local identities, so they can connect with their individual communities while also staying at the forefront of customers' thoughts. However, the challenge becomes defining the local identity of each franchisees location all within the established brand.

When local franchisees plan to market themselves online, they may turn to practices that the franchisor needs to oversee so there are no mixed brand messages in the market. What I'm referring to is franchisees having their own website, separate from the established franchise website. Not only will this cause customer confusion over which site is the main one, but it will cause customers to lose trust in the franchise as a whole. After all, 73% of customers lose trust in a brand when there is incorrect listing information on the Internet.

The danger zone

While it may seem like a good idea for franchisees to have their own website -- a place for local customers to quickly find them -- it will spread the overall brand thinly across the web and franchisors will lose control of managing their online reputation.

If each franchisee maintains their own website, each will both look different and present different messages vs. what the franchise as a brand is promoting. Let's use Planet Fitness as an example. They promote their gyms as "judgement-free" zones, a selling point to those who are intimidated by the avid gym-goer. If every Planet Fitness location put out their own website, the core message would get lost. Even simple typos such as, "judgement-free zoo," has the possibility to damage the brand, franchisor and franchisee across the web.

In addition to inconsistent and incorrect messaging, individually-maintained franchisee sites will cause the main franchise website to get lost in the crowd and confuse the customer. For example, there may be a franchisee that is killing it with their SEO, so much so that they overshadow other franchisees (and possibly locations closer to a searcher). The situation becomes more complicated franchisees run Ad Word campaigns because they will entering into a bidding-war for the same keyword -- a waste of valuable marketing dollars.

The easiest and simplest plan is to eliminate local websites and focus on the main website with a local approach.

Out of danger + into the community

Keeping your brand message consistent can be as easy as 1-2-3 when it comes to local marketing.

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1. Provide an online marketing strategy

Whether you want to give your franchisees some freedom in their marketing, or lay out the entire strategy for them, it all starts with a structure. Share the marketing guidelines, clearly delegate responsibilities and provide them with the materials and information they need to be successful.

A great place to start is with individual location listing pages on the main franchise website. By providing each franchisee with a place to house their NAP (name, address, phone), you will help establish SEO that each location can contribute to.

2. Distribute brand guidelines

In addition to providing a marketing strategy, distribute brand guidelines that each franchisee should follow in order to eliminate confusion about the ultimate franchise goal (like the one mentioned with Planet Fitness).

A consistent message across the franchisees creates a strong base for each location to build their local marketing on.

The brand guidelines should cover how the slogan and logo can be used and establish the voice and tone for the franchise as a whole.

3. Maintain consistent support

To keep the brand strong across all locations, you should consistently share the brand message and always provide answers to franchisees who have questions. By providing support, you will be able to track the who may not be complying with the guidelines -- and reach out to them and provide alternatives in order to maintain the brand and prevent damage.

A small thing, such as a separate franchisee website, can start brand damage and lead to bigger issues across the franchise. By evaluating your own franchise website (and the local location pages you provide to your franchisees), you can present a consistent brand message nationally and locally, all while growing your online customer base.

Many franchisors don't have systems in place that enable their franchisees to control their own local online marketing activities.

LocalVox provides franchises from all industries -- from furniture retailers to grocery stores -- with software that lets franchisees contribute to their local online marketing and still allows the franchisor to monitor franchisee activities and control larger brand-building campaigns.

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The post Prevent Brand Damage With a Complete Franchise Website appeared first on LocalVox.

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