No matter what products/services your business offers, having an online marketing strategy to engage your target audience is essential to your success.

While many franchises still use outdoor billboards, print and TV ads for national branding purposes, there has been a steady shift towards digital advertising because it is more cost-effective, allows for precise audience targeting and provides trackable analytics.

It might be easy to stick with what has worked in the past, but your franchise's marketing plan should always include a mix of digital marketing activities -- even if you just begin by dipping your toes into the water -- in order to reach new audiences and stay competitive in the marketplace.

A good starting point is to create a mobile-friendly website and make sure your directory listings are optimized so that new and existing customers can find you easily. Once you have established your online presence (your website) and ensured the listings for your locations are accurate (directory listings), you can begin building on your foundation with online marketing strategies (such as SEO, social media, email, etc.) and digital advertising.

Digital advertising + organic marketing = results

If you're like many other marketers, your opinions of digital advertising and organic marketing will range from positive to negative and most-likely conflict: if you love digital advertising, you think organic marketing doesn't get results quick enough (and vice versa).

You'll be happy to learn that you no longer need to play favorites; in fact, digital advertising and organic marketing will get your franchise the best results if you combine the two. Just as basketball was originally created to help keep baseball players in shape during the cold winter months, digital advertising will only enhance your ongoing organic marketing efforts and boost your franchise's online presence.

organic = advertising

New capabilities: target, track, convert and analyze

Digital advertising provides you with some unique benefits that other methods do not:

  • The ability to target the audience(s) you want to see your messaging
  • Track and retarget ads to people who have visited your website
  • It is in the best-interest of digital advertising publishers to convert and get results from your ads so they can get paid (pay-per-click)
  • Digital advertising provides you with detailed results that you cananalyze


One of the biggest benefits of digital advertising is being able to strategically target consumers (contextual, behavioral, audience, demographic, geographic region, keyword, time or emotional). The rise ofprogrammatic has created a science out of digital advertising; advertisers are able to determine who sees their ad and the creative served, as well as the maximum price they are willing to pay in order to reach that user (bidding).

Many franchises set their digital advertising parameters to target users in a geographic location around a business location. Now, instead of hoping they reach the right people (billboards, outdoor, TV, print) they now know exactly who they are reaching, what creative they saw, how they engaged with the ad and what actions were taken.

However, you don't have to directly target around your locations, you can also focus on an entire area. As you can see in the example below, a Starbucks location targets both their direct location and the entire area surrounding them. Starbucks strategy will ensure they reach their direct consumers, but also potential ones in the surrounding area.

geo-target advertising

As with any new franchise marketing strategy, you don't want to dive in and never get out of the water -- you should take it one lap at a time. Try testing what regions and messages work best for your franchise, so you can refine and retest (it's a never-ending cycle!).


I know that I am not the only one who has visited a website and wanted to learn more, but was interrupted and had to move on to something else quickly. Lucky for me, digital advertisers invented retargeting ads that will follow me around the web and remind me of that website I meant to spend more time on.

Retargeting ads allow potential customers the ability to check out your website and then take some time to consider their options, while your business can still be at the forefront of their mind.

For example (below), if I visit Starbucks website to find out about the different types of Tevana teas offered, but don't purchase anything, Starbucks tea ads will follow me around as I visit other websites -- such as The Huffington Post (below) -- to remind me about how delicious their chai tea latte looks.

Starbucks Chai Tea Latte

Retargeted ad for starbucks


There are a variety of ways your franchise can embrace digital advertising and build your brand online -- and all come with a different price tag, depending on how in-demand the audience you want to reach is. For example, purchasing the in-demand ad word "car insurance" is much more expensive than buying "franchise digital marketing."

While some keywords and campaigns may be out of your price range, digital advertising as a whole is extremely cost-effective because you are only paying for the users that act on your ad (PPC). In addition, you don't have to worry about any ancillary costs associated with the campaign (i.e.: printer color proofs, tests, etc.) because you set your cost limits up front. This gives your franchise the ability to dip your toes in the water and find out what works best for your business before you dive in for a whole work out.


When you launch your franchise's digital advertising campaign, you should plan (and expect) to receive a detailed analysis of your results when it is over.

Depending on the type of campaign you run, you might receive results from display ad auditors (such as comScore or DoubleClick), your retargeting/PPC ad server or ad word network (such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

In order to get the most out of these valuable insights, you need to make sure your digital advertising campaign is set up correctly (such as having tracking codes, being mobile-optimized, etc.).

Whether you embrace social media, PPC, retargeting or ad words (to name a few) for your franchise's digital advertising campaign, you should never feel pressured to spend a large amount of money to get started. Any digital advertising partner worth their weight will be confident in their ability to get you the results you want -- so you can increase your spend the next time round.


As your franchise grows and expands, you have to find new ways to reach new customers -- and digital advertising is a solid solution that will keep your brand competitive in a crowded marketplace. Moreover, your franchise's growth from direct advertising and organic search will never plateau if you correctly utilize the many different strategies and tools available to you.

If you are curious about how to blend your digital advertising strategy into your overall marketing strategy, check out our e-book Who Owns Local Marketing? You'll also learn how multi-location businesses and franchises close the gap between corporate (franchisor) and individual franchisee locations with local online marketing.

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