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I find this a little too creepy.

Who wants to find out that your local QSR has been hacked and everyone knows what you have ordered for the last 3 years?

Franchise organizations face many challenges in the digital age. Chief among them is how to effectively market their national brand at a local and hyper-local level.

And, selecting a tool to power that evolving digital strategy is no easy task. Corporate marketing teams are forced to wade through dozens of systems--all claiming to support their needs, but many lacking the unique functionality required in the franchise space.

The following list summarizes 5 key features that should be present in your digital marketing platform:

1. Integration

Integrated software streamlines your digital ecosystem, helping organizations connect the dots between each of its channels to track trends, performance, and opportunities.

So ask yourself, does your website builder integrate with a variety of 3rd-party applications to support your needs for email marketing, social media, data consolidation and even eCommerce? Or, is it a single tool that has all of this necessary functionality, thereby sharing the underlying user data, content and administration features?

The difference can mean a lot--from unknown 3rd-party license costs to painful and ever-changing "integrations" with tools you don't control.

2. Ease of use

We're not exactly breaking news here, but even the best tools and features are essentially rendered useless if users, at every level of the organization, are unaware of how to properly put it to use.

The key to a great web platform starts with superior usability. Understanding how your franchisees and your marketing team will administer your site is a critical step in your decision making. Make

sure you get a preview of your most common use cases--from setting up a local email campaign to posting on franchisee's Facebook page or updating their homepage content.

3. Distributed-model best practices

Any solid franchise web marketing system will have a distributed model that offers easy-to-deploy microsites to each location. This means everything from a seamless setup process, a franchise dashboard and--most importantly--ongoing support for your franchisees.

Beyond that, a shared repository for marketing campaigns that give each location the ability to opt in, participate and localize the messaging for them is critical. All with a permissions-based environment to make sure brand consistency and messaging are never lost.

4. Local (and Mobile) Marketing

It goes without saying, any platform a franchise might consider has to put local marketing at its forefront. But what does that mean? Step one is a clear focus on search engine optimization to allow franchise organizations to meaningfully localize content and SEO meta data. Step two is a deeper understanding of the online directory space, to make sure local information is accurate, maintained, and follows the established best practices defined by the schema.org protocol.

Beyond that, delivering that local experience within a mobile device is imperative as mobile usage continues to skyrocket. Consider things like the franchisees' ability to preview content in various devices, how website content changes from one device to the other and even how a franchisee can update their site on their own mobile device.

5. Multi-Location Management

Well over half of franchisees own at least two units in an organization. And these Multi-Unit owners tend to have a great deal of influence on the organization.

A good digital marketing platform will cater to Multi-Unit owners through a single-login that allows them to manage each of their locations on one dashboard. Specific Multi-Unit owner management capabilities need to be there--giving a user the option edit and publish content to specific locations or make bulk changes.

Here is our free checklist--->>

The Top 6 Most Effective Methods of Online Marketing for Multi-unit Organizations to help you implement your own franchise's online marketing.

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My oldest child recently started high school, and I've been amazed by the use of social media techniques in the classroom. The teachers have really embraced some aspects of this and incorporate it nicely into the classroom. However, she has one teacher in particular that has impressed me in this area.

I knew I would like him when I attended the open house night. As parents took their seats, we were handed an informational sheet about his classroom, along with his contact information and other pertinent "need to know" items.

What I immediately noticed was that, next to his email address and the parent access site's URL, he provided a QR code that links to the information.

While many parents weren't familiar with QR codes, he took a moment to explain how they work and went on to say that he did this because he knows parents are busy and he thought that scanning a QR code to send an email would be more efficient.

As he explained how his classroom was run, I was intrigued by his methodology, which I later learned was referred to as 'flipping' the classroom.

Traditionally, teachers spend class time lecturing and then assigning homework to be turned in the following day.

This teacher does it quite the opposite. He has a YouTube channel dedicated to his class, and students are assigned to listen to a lecture (or screen cast, as he calls it), and then the following day in class he will give the "homework", allowing students to do it during class.

He also gives pop quizzes on the screen cast from the night before to ensure students are watching. He uses class time to answer questions, offer clarification on points students are having difficulty with, and so forth.

At first I wasn't so sure about this "new" methodology, but as the quarter has progressed both me and my daughter have come to love it.

First, it gives her time to pause the lecture to take notes more efficiently, rewind parts she doesn't understand, and make a list of questions to ask the teacher the following day. She also saw the value in this right before the first big exam - she was able to re-listen to any of the screen casts that she needed to, at her convenience and pace.

Second, they're also dedicated an area of the website where a chat session opens up the night before a big exam so students can ask questions, help each other, and offer support if they choose to. When I peeked in the chat session the night before my daughter's first exam, I noted that it was quite active, with many students involved.

I love all things social media, and now I am seeing the effects of it in the school environment.

Teachers are finding new and unique ways to incorporate social media elements into the learning process, and for children who have grown up with technology, I think it is largely beneficial. My youngest is nine years old - I will be interested to see what his high school experience will look like.

Even though it's only five years away, I think it will look quite different from my oldest child's.

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There are some common myths that inbound marketing and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising like Google AdWords' paid search are mutually exclusive. You do one or the other and if you are a proponent of one you are against the other.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

They each play a specific role and can even support each other. Many of the concepts and techniques are the same but the reasons to use one strategy over the other may be different and the results may be different.

Let's take a look at some of the differences.

Getting Found on Search Results

Both will get your website found on searches but the way they do it will be different.

    • Inbound: Working with keywords you build content such as blogs and optimize your on-page SEO to help your website turn up on search results. Where you turn up in the results depends upon your content and the competition for the keywords.
    • Google AdWords: Working with keywords you bid to have an ad placed on Google's search results page. This is also competitive and exactly where your ad shows up depends on a number of factors including the competition for the keyword and your budget. With a properly setup campaign your ad will show up on the first page of search results. Remember, you only pay when someone clicks on your ad, not for it to show up in a search.

Time vs. Money

There are no silver bullets in marketing and there is a cost no matter what you do.

    • Inbound: Getting on the first page of search results is not an overnight process. It could take months of blogging and promotion before your website ranks in the top 10 results for a particular keyword in a Google search. The good thing is once your page ranks high on Google Search it will stay there a long time. Success tends to last with inbound marketing.
    • Google AdWords: Success is an overnight process. As soon as you start a successful campaign you ads will turn up on searches and you will start to get clicks. As soon as you stop the ads the clicks will stop. There is no long lasting benefit to doing a PPC campaign.

Similarities

This is an area where there are a lot of similarities between Google AdWords PPC campaigns and inbound marketing. For both you need:

    • Keywords: Both PPC and inbound marketing are based on your keyword strategy. These are the words your potential customers will search to find your website. It is important to understand what those words are, how often people search for the words and how competitive the words are. For inbound marketing you build content around the keywords and for PPC you bid on the keywords.
    • Clear Call-to-Action: Whether it is in an ad, in your blog or in a tweet you need to have a call-to-action that induces your potential customer to visit your website.
    • Landing Page: If someone clicks a PPC ad or a link in a search result they need to land on a page that makes sense. If the ad says "Buy Red Tennis Shoes" the landing page better have red tennis shoes you can buy. If the link says "15 Little-Known Internet Marketing Facts You Need to Know" there better be 15 facts there.

Deciding on whether you do an inbound marketing campaign or a PPC AdWords Campaign depends on your website, customers, budget and time. For information on setting up a Google AdWords campaign check out HubSpot's A Simple Guide for Setting Up Your First Google AdWords Campaign or my blog on 10 Google AdWords Mistakes

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Using QR Codes for the Local Franchise Business

Two years ago, there was lot of buzz about Taco Bell's QR Code promotion with MTV. This is often pointed out as a great example of a fast food or franchise business using QR Codes but my impression is that most franchise owners are local business people and the Taco Bell-MTV promotion is a better example of two national brands teaming up on a national campaign.

I thought that their use of QR Codes was inspired and this campaign will do a lot to help make the general public familiar with QR Codes but it doesn't do much to show franchise owners what they can do on the local level. If at this point you are not familiar with QR Codes please read some of my blogs on QR Codes.

Even though many franchise owners may own more than one franchise location in reality they are local business people who depend upon local customers and repeat customers for their business. There may be many marketing mistakes franchise owners make because they do not think of themselves as local business owners. QR Codes is a tool to help correct that. In fact almost anything a local business can do with a QR Code a franchise business can do

In spite of examples of large companies such as Taco Bell using QR Codes they really are custom made for small businesses. The biggest advantage is that they are very inexpensive to generate. There are a number of free and low cost QR Code Generators for marketing as well as platforms where you can build a QR Code campaign and a mobile website such as Linkblots.com. Of course there are plenty of agencies, such as Image Media Partners, that offer low cost solutions for QR Code campaigns.

3 Basic Uses for QR Codes

1. Bridge to the online world: Since a QR Code can be printed on anything that can be printed on it is the perfect tool to bring your customer from the physical world to the online world. If your business already has any type of online presence, a website that you control, a Facebook page or even a Google Places or Yelp listing you can use a QR Code to connect to it. This may be something as simple as scanning the code to "Like" your Facebook page or connecting to a more robust mobile micro-website.

2. Promotions: Unlike printed coupons QR Codes, if used properly, don't expire because the code brings the user to a mobile website that can be updated with new information. For example if Monday's coupon is a free coke and Tuesday's coupon is an early bird special you can update the coupon and continue to use the same QR Code. La Croissanterie, a French fast-food outlet, is using QR Codes as part of their loyalty program. A Mexican restaurant chain owner in Michigan used QR Codes to promote his third outlet opening in Ann Arbor. He included the QR Codes in ads on posters and newspapers around the University of Michigan and got about four thousand scans.

3. Information: QR Codes would be too limiting if the only thing they did was make it easier to "Like" your Facebook page or pass as a fancy high-tech coupon. Even though in a recent study by MGH Modern Marketing 87% of the respondents who were interested in QR Codes said they would scan a code to get a coupon, 63% said they would scan the code to get more information, 53% said they would sign up to a mailing list to receive more information and 60% said they would scan the code to make a purchase. People are looking for information as well as deals. One cool thing Taco Bell is doing with their QR Codes is linking to a Taco Bell mobile site that not only has specials but a store locator, menus and nutritional and allergy information. What information would be helpful to your customers? Do you have a mailing list? Use the QR Code to sign them up.

Basic QR Code Guidelines

There are only a few rules, or rather, best practices you should pay attention to.

  1. Specific Destination: Any time you have a link it should be to a specific page for a specific action. Don't send people to Facebook send them to your Facebook page. Don't send people to your home page send them to a specific landing page optimized for a mobile phone.
  2. Optimize for Mobile: 99% of all users will scan your QR Code with a mobile phone (OK I made up that number but who carries their desktop to a restaurant?) Your destination page needs to be set up for mobile phones. Facebook already is but if you send them someplace else make sure they can read your page on a smart phone.
  3. Keep the URL Short: The longer the URL the more complex the code will become. Keep things simple and use a URL shortener. If you make a unique code on a site like bit.ly.com you can keep track of the traffic. An added plus for bit.ly is that when you ad .qr to the end of any bit.ly URL it will generate a QR Code.

More QR Code Ideas

If you have not already come up with a list of uses for QR Codes here are a few suggests.

Where to send people who scan your QR Code:

· Mobile website

· Google Places or Yelp listing

· Menu

· Store Locator

· Facebook

· Coupon

· Sign up mail list

· Helpful information:

o Nutritional info

o Tax Tips

o Corporate site

o vacation destinations

· Slide show of home, cars, pizzas, shoes or whatever you are selling

· Video of your business or product

· Micro-payments

· E-commerce site

· Your phone number

· Contact information

· Information about product

· Charity you support

Where to print QR Codes:

· Business card

· Poster

· Front door (link to Foursqure)

· Google Places

· Menu

· Billboard

· Real Estate signs

· Newspaper or Magazine Ad

· T-shirt

· Little League Uniform

· Coupons

· On food

· Product packaging and labels

· Laptop stickers

· Table Tents

· Tattoos

· Catalogs

· Flyers

· Pizza boxes

Just about any place where you connect to your customers and would like to bring them into the online world is a good place to put a QR Code and any place on line that you can offer value to your customer is a great place to link a QR Code. The most effective way to scan a QR Code is with a smartphone. Many detractors will point out that currently only 35% of North Americans have a smartphone but market penetration will surpass 50% by the end of the year and it is expected to grow. My advice is to get a bit ahead of the curve and be ready. QR codes can easily fit into most marketing plans and it will pay dividends. A quick side note to local printing franchise owners, if your customers are not already asking you to print QR Codes they soon will be as the owners of Sir Speedy found out.

For more information about QR Codes and how to use them you can download this QR Code Check List and Fact Sheet or visit the QR Code Resourcepage on our website. I would be very interested in hearing about your experiences or questions concerning QR Codes in the comments section.

Timothy Lorang is the founder and Executive Partner for Image Media Partners, an online and social media marketing and consulting agency based in Seattle, Washington. Partner Views Blog covers many of the aspects of online, social media and QR Code marketing. Image Media Partners offers low cost solutions for those needing assistance for their QR Code Campaigns and a free QR Code Check List and Fact Sheet download.

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Most companies know that product reviews can make or break a sale, and that customers have come to rely on word of mouth reviews, feedback, and opinions when making purchasing decisions.

Amazon has taken this a step further and turned to their customers to provide that much needed information that can push customers to making a purchase.

Their "ask a question" feature allows customers browsing items to ask a question that will be answered by people who have purchased the item. When looking at products on their site, you'll see a "ask a question" or "XX number of questions answered" for each product:

amazon-question.png

Clicking on the link allows customers to ask a more detailed, "nuts and bolts" type question that might be the one factor in deciding to purchase or not, and customers who have bought the item can respond.

In the example of above, questions ranged from "Does it play DVD's that have been burned?" to "Does this DVD player remember where you left off"" to the more technical, "I have an old Panasonic TV. Will this work with it?"

Amazon realizes the importance of product information and providing enough information, in as many ways possible, to educate and encourage sales.

Of course, customer buy in to participate by answering questions is an important component - if customers don't reply, potential buyers may not get the information they need. Similarly, they could get the perception, based on the lack of activity in this area, that the product is not popular or one that many people purchase.

One way Amazon tries to prevent this is by routing these questions, as they come in, to customers who have purchased the item. Often times customers will be happy to share their feedback. As an added benefit - those customers may become more loyal to Amazon, as they company turns to them for insight and feedback on a personal level.

While not a new feature, it is one that is picking up steam, and is a great example of finding new ways to encourage sales and engage customers, as well as potential customers.

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If there's one "secret" to social media, this is it. There's no ROI without engagement.

You can post content like crazy, and it won't make a difference unless you are actually engaging with your audience.

Why? Because social media is a conversation, not a lecture. Conversations convert. Lectures do not.

While many companies throw around the word engagement, when it comes to social media it seems that many, in fact, do not understand what it is or how to do it.

Here are some tips to help you engage with your audience in order to increase your ROI.

1. Listen

Engagement begins with listening. It is impossible to participate in a conversation if you are the only one talking and you are not listening to what your audiences is saying. Watch social posts to see what your audience is talking about, especially as it relates to your brand. Listen for times when your audience speaks to or about you. Monitor notifications so you don't miss anything, and don't just listen...HEAR! Take it to heart.

2. Respond

Listening is all well and good. However, if you do not take action to respond to your audience, then the conversation stops. Listening tells the audience you are there. Responding shows the audience that you care. Address the concerns that are voiced online. Deliver prompt customer care. Answer questions when asked; say thank you when you get a pat on the back. Make sure your organization has a clear policy describing how to respond to audience comments online and who is responsible for doing so.

3. Be Proactive

Engagement is not a passive activity. Instead of waiting to respond to what your audience has to say, reach out and start conversations. Connect with clients, business associates, partners and every organization that could become an advocate for your company online. Follow them, like their pages and start monitoring what they post. Find ways to share their content and celebrate their success. Use social media to build and strengthen relationships, and your social connections will soon become a powerful marketing army.

4. Be Consistent

Engagement isn't a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing. You can't fake it. You actually have to participate in the conversation: show up and be authentic so your audience knows you are really there for them. Skip the lecture and ignite an ongoing conversation with your audience, a conversation that inspires a meaningful return.

If you liked this, you should sign up for the LinkedIn Marketing & Advertising Tips from Franchise-Info newsletter.

Or, for more information on the Franchise-Info Business Directory, call Joe at 1-443-502-2636 or email Joe direct [email protected]

(Originally published in Progress Magazine, Vol. 21, No. 8 2014, by Frances Leary)

With the number of people owning smartphones growing and the market pretty much split between Apple and Android, your website needs to look good on any smartphone.

There are five very important things you need to do to make your website accessible to mobile smartphones.

1. Mobile Web Page: Make sure your website is organized to display on a mobile web page. Your site should have Mobile CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) which is HTML code in your header section of your website. It should look similar to this:

<link rel="stylesheet" href="http://domain.tld/mobile.css" type="text/css" media="handheld" />

(Since this is not a technical "How-To" blog so if you are not familiar with CSS and HTML don't put this code in your header and expect everything to be ok! Instead, check source code of your website, by right clicking on the page and choose "view page source".)

Check with your webmaster if

<link rel="stylesheet" href="http://domain.tld/mobile.css" type="text/css" media="handheld" />

is not shown in the source code.

If you use a platform such as HubSpot (affiliate notification) then this is taken care of as a default function. Many WordPress themes now come with Mobile CSS and if yours does not there are plenty of plug-ins available. And, if you like to get under the hood and do your own coding check out Mobile CSS by Sea Breeze Computers and the The 5-Minute CSS Mobile Makeover by Perishable Press.

2. Meta Viewport Tag: This is a simple code that tells the mobile device how to orient your mobile web page. This is what makes it possible to turn your smart phone at any angle and see the page and it usually looks like this:

<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width,initial-scale=1,user-scalable=no" />

Again, this code should be in your Header HTML but check this function on your smart phone and make sure that it works.


3. Apple Icons: With nearly 45% of new smartphone buyers choosing iPhones this is a necessary step. This is an icon that allows iPhone and iPad users to add a quick link to your site on their device.

If you don't have an Apple Icon it is a pretty straightforward procedure.

First, design a 57x57 pixel icon for your web page or business.

Make it in the .png format.

Second, upload it to your website's file manager then add the following link to your Header HTML:

<link rel="apple-touch-icon" href="/filename.png" />

Be sure that "/filename.png" is the file name of your new Apple Icon. That is all there is to do.


4. E-Mail Optimized for Mobile Smart Phones: Along with the rise of mobile and smart phone use is the practice of reading e-mails on a mobile device. If you send e-mails as part of your business' marketing efforts or if you send e-mail newsletters, make sure that that they can be read on smart phones.

The easiest thing to do is to just send text e-mails. If you just need to have a bit of color or some images in your e-mails be sure they are optimized for mobile.

The Email.grader.com is a great tool that will show you how your e-mail looks on different devices.

Most e-mail programs like MailChimp and Constant Contact now give you the tools and options to optimize your e-mail for mobile devices.


5. QR Code Marketing: This really has nothing to do with how your website looks on a mobile phone but if you have gone through the work of optimizing your website for mobile phones you might as well encourage people to connect with your site buy using QR Codes.

If you are interested Image Media Partners provides a free and a professional QRCode Generator and Mobile Web Marketing Platform. You may also find the QR Code Checklist handy.


(Remember; if you are not familiar with HTML do not try to change the code without any help. It is best to work with an experienced web designer. The HubSpot platform is already optimized for mobile devices and as a Certified HubSpot partner we highly recommend this platform for any website whose inbound marketing goals are greater web traffic, higher conversions and mobile optimization. Let us know if you would be interested in a free inbound marketing and website analysis.)

When creating a social media marketing plan, one of your first and foremost goals is to increase the number of "followers" (or "fans" as they are called on Facebook) you have.

While you always want to grow the number of local prospects your business reaches, how do you know how many social media followers are enough?

We can tell you.

Rapid growth of followers should not be a long-term goal for local social media marketing because there will come a point where any new followers gained are not your target audience. You are wasting valuable resources (time and money) if your goal is to generate a large quantity of followers because they most-likely will not be your target customers.

Large national brands often use social media as a branding vehicle, growing their social media followers into the tens and hundreds of thousands. However, as a local business, you aren't using social media for the same branding purposes as your larger counterparts -- your goal is to keep current customers loyal and convert prospective customers into paying ones.

Recently, Copyblogger announced they were leaving Facebook entirely; while many people in the social media marketing world obviously think this is a mistake, the company put a lot of thought into the decision. Those critical of Copyblogger's strategy understand that a large portion of the company's content views originated from Facebook -- content views and an audience that the company clearly felt it could walk away from.

copyblogger-facebook.png

However, what those critical of Copyblogger did not realize was that the company's fans had a serious engagement problem. After Copyblogger measured the engagement (or lack of) of its fans, the company decided its Facebook efforts weren't providing enough ROI and therefore abandoned the platform.

While I don't recommend leaving a network entirely (a lot of work and trial/error went into the decision at Copyblogger), it does remind us that social media should be a vehicle you use to meet your overall marketing goals and you shouldn't use it simply because "everyone else is doing it."

Dont-be-a-sheep.png

Your business is unique and you should never be a sheep that gets lost in the crowd of what every other business is doing. Instead, your focus should be on doing what is right for your business, which might mean standing out from the flock. The three steps outlined below will help you be a pink flamingo in a sea of sheep and help you determine how many social media followers is enough for your business.

1. Determine your social media goals

Your social media goals will define how you actually use the networks and you should routinely check back on these goals to see if your efforts are aligning correctly.

Before you decide whether a network has reached its current potential, you should determine your social media mission, goals and tactics.

MissionGoalTactic.png

2. Work to increase engagement

Disclaimer: out of all three steps, this should take you the most time and effort. Please don't let this discourage you!

You should have already laid out your social media strategy based off your overall marketing plan. However, the individual tactics you use to increase engagement will often be based on trial and error (and that's normal!).

For example,one of your goals may be to understand and incorporate best practices for posting on each social network. To reach this goal, you could measure the amount of engagement you receive on multiple different types of posts. Once you determine what elements of a post made it successful (whether is was posting during a certain time, being written in a certain format or on a certain topic), you can incorporate those features into future posts in order to reach your overall goal.

Not only will you reach your goal, but you will also begin to understand the characteristics of your audience, based on what they like to see from you on social media.

3. Reassess

By working toward your goals, you will also begin to understand what resonates most with your audience -- and also what doesn't work. Going back to the Copyblogger example, this is the step where the company decided to call it quits after reassessing its efforts.

facebook2.png

Not only will you be able to determine if your followers are interacting with you, but you can determine if you are seeing too much success from your marketing efforts (yes, that exists!).

For example, if you are a chiropractor and have created a Twitter profile and Facebook page in order to raise awareness of your practice and bring new clients through your door (using the advanced search feature). You can see the impact of your social media marketing efforts because you ask when clients where they were referred from, they answer "Twitter" and "Facebook." Your once slow schedule is now booked solid for the next two months with new clients.

While it made sense to grow your social media followers initially, you are now running into problems because you are incredibly busy and your existing clients are having trouble making appointments to see you (a potential loss of business from loyal customers).

At this point, you should sit down and measure the impact social is having on your business. For Copyblogger, they determined Facebook was not worth the time; however, for you it may mean that you should ramp up your efforts to bring in new/repeat business OR scale back to focus on other business efforts that provide you with more ROI.

The key is understanding your goals and when you have reached them, surpassed them or they simply aren't feasible for your business anymore.

Everything your business does should regularly to be measured and assessed to make sure you are spending your valuable resources on the right things. Social media should be something you do because "everyone else is doing it" -- it should bring value to your business.

A good place to start with social media is learning the basics about social posts and the best practices for each network. Our eBook, 9 Ways to Crush it on Social Media, will help you create a strategy that uses the unique characteristics of each network to help you reach your goals.

If you liked this, you should sign up for the LinkedIn Marketing & Advertising Tips from Franchise-Info newsletter.

Or, for more information on the Franchise-Info Business Directory, call Joe at 1-443-502-2636 or email Joe direct [email protected]

The post How Many Social Media Followers Are Enough? appeared first on LocalVox.

In order to set your franchise system and your franchisees up for long-term online success, it's crucial to create a well-defined online marketing model that identifies how the Internet will be used in marketing and who is responsible for various components of that process.

Unfortunately, this is an element that is often overlooked.

1. Search Engine Marketing

It's important to consider the search engine marketing components as well as the social networking components.

  • How will the Internet be used to ensure the franchise website lands on Page 1 for relevant searches in all of its local markets?
  • Who will ensure that happens... franchisor or franchisee?
  • How will social networking be utilized? Only at the brand level or to help local franchises engage with their markets? How many pages and profiles are required to do this?
  • Who is responsible for setting up and maintaining those social media networks?

There are many options for creating a model that fits each franchise system's unique needs. Some franchisors prefer to control the use of online marketing and social media entirely. Some encourage their franchisees to engage online locally using social networking, search marketing or both. Some franchisors control all of the content and customer services, whereas others leave that entirely to the franchisees. Many franchise systems utilize a mix of both.

2. How to Make it Run Smoothly

While we have our opinions as to what works best based on the franchises we've worked with, what's important is to identify the system that works best for your franchise and then specify the ins and outs of how that's going to work, along with guidelines to make sure it all runs smoothly.

Elements to consider include:

  • How to maintain brand consistency.
  • How to monitoring and respond to customer feedback in a consistent and positive way.
  • How to implement a crisis media plan so everyone involves knows how to respond to serious online issues and prevent the rapid spreading of negative customer feedback.

In the event that the responsibility lies largely with franchisees, it is very important to specific y in advance the online expectations and boundaries by which those expectations should be achieved. Items to consider here include:

  • Will social media participation be mandatory, and if so what measures of success will be put in place and what level of interaction would be required?
  • How much time would franchisees be expected to spend on social media in order to accomplish necessary goals?
  • What costs would be incurred to achieve these goals? Time or money or both?
  • Would franchisors recommend outsourcing as an option, and if so how would that be funded?

These are just some of the aspects to consider when designing an Internet Marketing model that meets the needs of your franchise. Each franchise is unique, and it's important to create a tailored model that benefits both franchisor and franchisees.

Also, remember that whether your franchise is a start-up or is well-established with many franchisees, it is never too late to implement a model that will support your online success.

Each social media platform has different users that are engaged, and those users want to see and interact with different types of content.

This makes social content marketing all that more complex because company's must tailor the content they distribute in order to benefit audiences in different places and in different ways.

The only way to know for sure what content resonates with your audiences on different platforms is to test it and adapt your content strategy based on results.

However, this is a brief overview of what users on each platform are looking for:

Facebook Facebook Users like to interact, to be engaged. They want to participate in a conversation. They want to feel part of something and be related to on a more personal level. In a nutshell, this means you do not simply regurgitate news by posting articles and information. Use interactive media. Ask questions. Post conversations that inspire and motivate. Get them involved.

Twitter Twitter Users like things to be quick (which, of course they have to be when limited to 140 characters). They like links and short tips. They also like photos and videos they can click on quickly, and short quotes seem to appeal to the Twitter audience. With your Twitter posts, aim to inform, entertain, network and inspire. Then share links to sites that do the same. Make sure you use hashtags with keyword phrases, too.

LinkedIn LinkedIn Users are professionals seeking professional information. Link to relevant and informative articles. Use only highly professional and well-respected resources. This doesn't mean that posts should be stuffy or overly academic. Not at all. Just know that LinkedIn users trust what they read on LinkedIn as being accurate, so you want to provide them with beneficial information that is also bang-on. Using keyword phrases in your posts is also of benefit.

Pinterest Pinterest users like images. Go figure. Pin images that will inspire users to take action or will solve a problem they have. Use humour, entertain, make them think and above all...have fun.

Google Plus Google Plus Users are largely tech-savvy and interested in information related to technology and strategy. This may not be a fantastic resource for social engagement for many of you, however for Google rankings it is GOLD. Use keyword phrases in your posts and link back to your site often.

On all platforms, sharing your original company content (ex: blog posts) is very important. This increases your credibility, benefits your audience, and helps you build a stronger relationship with them, as well.

As time moves forward so must the technology we use, right? If you are a local business with a Flash website, you are among the walking dead.  It's time to get a modern, responsive website.

Adobe Flash is a software that, on a basic level, allows users to create animated works. With its introduction it caught on quickly for websites because it enabled stunning visuals.  Local agencies wowed customers with "flashy" websites but they were expensive to make and maintain.

Flash has already been left behind for all mainstream website purposes and here's why.

Google No Longer Shows Flash Websites

Let's start with the final nail in the coffin.  Flash was never a good option for SEO or search engine optimization. Flash content cannot be read the same way as content created using HTML. Search engines can only see your website title, meta tags and nothing else. It doesn't matter how flashy or fluid your site is if no one can find it organically.

Recently, Google announced it won't be showing Flash websites at all in search results.  So where as it hurt you before in search, now you can't be found at all.  So if you think Google is an important driver of your business, it's time to act now.

Flash Isn't Viewable on Mobile Devices

Smartphones have become a huge part of online activity, with 25% of all search queries coming from mobile devices and about half of local searches. Most mobile web browsers do not support Flash (Puffin being one of few, and not a lot of people use it). On top of not being able to be found in many searches, if someone does they most likely will not being able to view your website on their mobile phone or tablet.

24HoursofHappy is a Flash site with a 24 hour music video that cannot present on a mobile device, but does inform viewer's of the limitation.

Disneyworld's new Flash site promoting Fantasyland does not inform viewers of the mobile limitation and doesn't present the page at all.

But it's not that Flash simply isn't supported, it often takes more bandwidth and puts a higher demand on the smartphone or tablet, draining the battery faster.  That's why most devices don't support it.

Limited Page Navigation

Flash websites have one URL connected to all of their subsequent pages. Any visitor to a Flash website may navigate away from the homepage, but cannot bookmark or share that specific page with someone else because its URL is the same as the homepage.

If all your information is on one page then this wouldn't concern you, but if you have a specific product on another page then your visitor is limited to what they can share to just your homepage. This takes out simple word of mouth sharing over email, social or blogs.

And bookmarking a page would be impossible, meaning more work for your site visitors.

Flash is Dead for Local Businesses.  Now What?

Flash alienates web viewers who are trying to visit your website and see your service or find out more about your business - why make it so hard for them?  If you still have a Flash website, we recommend building a website that can be displayed on the web and mobile devices, that is highly SEOed and that is marketing-enabled to create conversion of visitors into customers.

There are many inexpensive solutions. 1and1 offers a website for $10 per month, although you get what you pay for. Our websites including professional design, SEO and updates are just $99 per month. If you have a Flash website, you certainly are losing more money than that.

Need help or a free consultation, we are happy to help!  Call us or email us and we will let you know more about your options.

The post Goodbye Google. Flash is Officially Dead for Local Businesses appeared first on LocalVox.

A couple of years ago, on the ABA Forum on Franchising Listserv, a well known Canadian franchisor attorney posed this question to the group:

"A large franchisor has asked me to obtain recommendations of software used with success by other large franchisors to electronically manage franchise agreements and other documents, and to keep track of renewal dates, notice dates, lease dates, etc...", 

My response to this questions needs to be longer and may offend the promotional rules that the ABA enforces, so I will publish it here and not as a response on the ABA Forum on Franchising Listserv.

And no offense to franchise attorneys, as some of my closest friends are attorneys who practice franchise law, however I've found few that can answer this question - as it is largely an operational one.

With over 20 years of franchise operational expertise, I have run across just about every problem a database could solve.

The secret about database software is that many franchisors who have implemented a solution aren't using what they've built.

They may be just using certain modules or features so that the franchisor CEO may proclaim the success of automating his enterprise.  

 A. What does the franchisor really need database software for?

There are two reasons a franchisor uses database software:

a) is to manage new franchise sales, and;

b) to ensure communications are delivered to franchisees.

However, the selling of franchises is the primary objective.  

There are good reasons to automate a franchisor's processes, procedures and information.

Unfortunately, most franchisors are not organized well enough.  They will have serious challenges in figuring out how to implement an database solution.

A database solution can't magically transform a franchisor's sales process, document management, operations support, ongoing training, local and national marketing programming, and social media if the franchisor doesn't already have those functions organized and working smoothly.

A database solution can't make your people smart.  You may not like what you discover about your team and how they perform their work as you implement your database solution.

The processes you think are in place and guiding your business  may be written down or in a work flow chart defining the critical path, but the reality of what actually happens may be different - in a startling way.

And if you choose to not carefully consider and inspect, you will be automating garbage.

B. So what's a franchisor to do?

·         Well first stop asking your franchise attorney for technology advice.

·         Look internally, audit and document top-down your business practices.

·         Do ask your franchise attorney about compliance and your franchising practices.

·         Determine what you want as a franchisor out of database automation.

·         Thoughtfully involve your franchisees in the process.

·         Think about what you can do now with what you have today in preparation for eventual automation.

·         Don't be fooled by the siren call of franchisor nirvana by database providers.

Here is one, of many, simple exercise: how do you document the receipts of your franchise disclosure documents?  Can you instantly find the receipts of all the franchise disclosure documents and match them up with the execution of the franchise contract? Would your franchise attorney be happy with this record?  

If the answer is no, you need to work on your internal audits before thinking about a database solution.  If you passed this simple exercise, then I might be able to assist you in picking the appropriate tasks to automate with a database solution.  

Connect with on Linkedin if you want to discuss more.

Just like email marketing, businesses are always trying to find the "magic bullet" when it comes to getting in front of your customers on social media sites. Everything has shifted over time, and the infographic below presents some interesting statistics on the "best" times to post on each of the social media sites.

Some of it is common sense....for LinkedIn, it's during the work week, when people are at their jobs and engaged in professional networking. Avoid Mondays or Fridays though? Mondays I'd have to agree with - everyone is coming back to the work world and trying to gear up for a new week.

Fridays, though, may be another story, especially later afternoon. It's the end of the week, and often times a great time to catch someone in their office, in front of their computer. They may be suffering from early stages of "weekend-itis" and find themselves surfing online, particularly LinkedIn. However, if your goal is to create relationships as part of the selling process, Friday isn't a great time after all - your interaction may be forgotten come Monday.

Facebook and Pinterest statistics are particularly interesting....weekends used to be "the" time to post on Facebook, with the thinking that that's when customers are most engaged with social media. However, it's now being deemed as the time to avoid. On the other hand, Pinterest's peak usage seems to be Saturday mornings.

In looking at this infographic, it seems like Google+ and LinkedIn are akin to the morning paper when it comes to social media - these are the sites that have high traffic during the start of a workday, whereas Facebook and Twitter seem to be most often used during that "slow time" of the day, particularly between 2-4pm when employees can tend to become less focused on work and get into the midday slump.

Just like with email marketing though, there's really no "magic bullet" - it's great to understand traffic on each of the social media sites you use for marketing and sales purposes, but tying that in to what your customers and prospects do online can hone in on your own "best time."

social-media-best-time.jpg

If you liked this, you should sign up for the LinkedIn Marketing & Advertising Tips from Franchise-Info newsletter.

Or, for more information on the Franchise-Info Business Directory, call Joe at 1-443-502-2636 or email Joe direct [email protected]

Legal Zoom - The Challenge to Franchise Attorneys

Richard Susskind has been writing for years about how technology will change the craft of lawyering from the production of specialized and unique legal consultation to scaled production.  

Some dismiss scaled production of legal products as mere "document mills".

Recently, some Franchise Attorneys, members of the American Bar Association's Forum on Franchising, made a similar complaint about Legal Zoom.

Legal Zoom charges its members $799 for a written review of the Franchise Disclosure Document, FDD.  Many attorneys in the Forum felt that such a low price was not possible, and was a signal of poor quality.

I believe that they could be wrong & they don't understand how legal skills can scale.  

This article is a short demonstration of how modern bargaining theory can help us see how we could scale legal products to benefit the consumer.

How Does Legal Zoom Work?

Can Legal Zoom offer a quality legal product at this low price?

Here is a sketch of how it could be done.  I am going to refer to the "Legal Platform" to make it clear that this article is not based on any inside knowledge of Legal Zoom's actual business model.  It is based on basic bargaining economics found in the literature on multi-sided platforms -which is just a long word for devices which match buyers and sellers by adding other elements or parts.  Legal Zoom may or may not fit what I am going to describe as the "Legal Platform".

What do you get as member of Legal Zoom?  What do you get for your $799?

Here is the description from the Legal Zoom website.

What is the Offer.png

So, you get two 1/2 hour phone consultations and a "customized" report of the FDD, if you are a Business Advantage member.  This level of membership will cost you a further $24.00/month.

Now, it is difficult to see how a lawyer who is properly retained, and therefore under threat of sanction for professional negligence or misconduct, could afford to spend 10 or more hours on reviewing an FDD, charge only $799 & make any money in the long run.

(Of course, if the lawyer is not retained and is simply giving out legal information while explicitly disclaiming any reliance upon it that would be a different story.)

But, the trick to solve this economic problem to add attorneys, or types of attorneys.  One whose retainer is with Legal Zoom and the other whose retainer is with the business advantage member.  

Let's how this might work.  First, let's look at the bargaining problem.

How the Legal Platform Works - Matching Those Seeking Legal Advice with Those Who Will Provide it at the Right Cost

Here is a simple diagram of our problem.  

The buyer of legal information only wishes to pay $800, while seller will not accept less than $5,000.  

Let's assume that the seller's product is in fact worth $5,000 -an experienced attorney's time to examine the FDD and Franchise agreement is between 10 -15 hours at an hourly rate of $500.00

 How To Sell FDDs - No Deal- No Zone of Agreement.png


If you are very qualified & expensive attorney, it is natural to wonder if you could "replicate" your work by selling it over and over again to many new franchisee prospects.

For example, if there were 7 prospective franchisees each wanting a review of the same franchisor system, then collectively they could pay $5,600 for a review.

How To Sell FDDs - Possible Deal- Complex Coordination - No Match.png


But, there are several problems here:

1.  Finding and coordinating all these prospects is a complex task - for which laywers have no special skills, experience or advantage.

2. The retainer problem is still present, and the liability for negligent advice has just been multiplied by a factor of 7.

3. It is not clear how you would deliver this legal product, and make it relevant to each of your 7 clients and still make a buck.

 

Now, here is where the multi-sided platform idea helps.  Instead of coordinating many prospects with one lawyer, we coordinate many prospects, with two types of lawyers, a non-specialist & the expert.

 

Again, let's assume that we have a collective surplus of $5,600 from the buyers, and 7 potential buyers.

How To Sell FDDs - Platform Solution -Matching & Creating ZOA.png

Here is how the transactions could work.

1. The Legal Platform buys the FDD review from a very qualified & experienced lawyer for $5,000.  This is a good deal for the specialist.

2. Attorney3 is non-specialist, and so are the other Attorney members. 

These are the Attorneys who provide the two 1/2 hour calls, take the information, and provide some customization to the very detailed FDD they purchase from the platform, let's say for $500 per FDD.  They agree to limit their billing to $200/hr for the first hour and provide a 1/2 free hour.  From their perspective, each transaction is worth $200, or 1 billable hour because they get $800 from the platform & have to spend 1 hour on the phone, billable at $100, and have to buy a FDD review for $500.  So, as long as the customization doesn't take more than 1 hour, this is good deal for a non-specialist.

3. The Legal Platform also have members at $24/month, and this legal product can be marketed to them.  The Legal Platform also has attorneys as members, who agree to certain flat fees in return for having their phones ring.

But, if the Legal Platform can only match up 7 prospects with 7 non-specialists, it loses money.  Only after matching 10, will the Legal Platform make money.  It takes on this risk and finds not 10, but 25 prospective franchisees.

And then, everyone in the Legal Platform is happy.  

The members, the attorneys, and the Legal Platform have all conducted valuable trades - trades that would not be possible if the Legal Platform did not exist.

 

If you thought this was useful or interesting, then you should sign up for my Newsletter on Bargaining. Just click here and Mail Chimp will take over.  Thanks.  

Oh, and we never give out your email.

 

Building a strong offline and online presence in local markets is of key importance to every organization that sells products and/or services to a local audience.

For franchises, this is an ever-increasing challenge because as they grow, they expand into more and more local markets. It is a challenge that, if ignored, can lead to devastating results. On the flip side, when addressed properly, it can lead to industry widespread exposure...and that's a good thing.

One important aspect of that is securing a prime spot in the increasingly important map listing results that appear in response to keyword searches on Google.

When that all-powerful map appears, you need to be there.

While Google Local Pages are still active, Google is transitioning priority to Google+ pages, so it's imperative that franchises that need a local presence setup a Google+ page. Not just any page can be setup, however.

In order to appear in local map results, you must setup a Google+ page as a "Local Business" rather than choosing an alternative such as product/brand, company/institution, arts/entertainment/sports or other.

It's also crucial that you then go through the process and complete all the steps in order to take advantage of the power that Google+ offers:

  • -Specify correct physical location
  • -Choose the correct categories
  • -Add a description with keywords
  • -Adding a website link
  • -Add a logo and cover photo
  • -Post a welcoming message

And lastly...verify the page! Without verification the page will not appear in Google results...then the efforts are wasted.

It is important for franchises to determine who is responsible for the setup and maintenance of these pages. Many pages can be setup through a single Google account, which makes it easy for the corporate franchise team to maintain.

Given that in most industries audience engagement on Google+ is not as crucial as it is on other networks such as Facebook or Twitter, corporate management of the pages may be the most practical and make the most sense.

If it is decided that independent franchises will setup their own Google+ pages, then the corporate team should provide them with instructions about how to do so properly in order to maximize results.

Regardless of who sets it up, Google+ is an essential component of establishing a solid online presence for franchises in local markets.

    WordPress is a powerful and easy-to-use content management system for financial advisors and financial firms to publish their thought leadership insights and get found by their target markets. In this post I'll cover 7 reasons why WordPress is indeed your best option.

    First, if you encounter a web design or development company that relies on a proprietary (closed) website platform or system, that is the exact point you should turn and walk away. When it comes to building a scalable and functional online content management system that will benefit your bottom line, nothing beats the open source, flexible, and powerful WordPress platform.

    Building your professional content management system on WordPress will provide you with an immediate advantage over competitors who use proprietary content management systems.

    Here's why:

    1. It's Intuitive

    WordPress has been developed as a platform for the masses -- its developers focus on the concepts of usability and intuitiveness. So although it offers a great deal of power, that power does not come packaged in an incomprehensible interface.

    The learning curve for new WordPress users is extremely gentle, and with a little guidance, you will be finding your way around with no difficulty. This means that you can spend more time on developing your content and your online presence, and less time trying to work out how to use the software.

    2. It's Open Source

    Proprietary content management systems are typically developed by a small team (or maybe even one person). The core WordPress development team can tap into the expertise, knowledge, and input of literally millions of people. This method of crowdsourcing results in a product that truly reflects the market's needs.

    Being an open source tool also makes WordPress a more cost effective solution for both the design and development of your site. This is due to the enormous size and collective knowledge of the community, as well as the tremendous repository of support and resources that exist online for WordPress.

    3. It's Built for Content Marketing

    Creating irresistible content for your ideal clients is critical to attracting leads into your business and building a successful digital presence. WordPress was primarily developed as a blogging platform to make it easy for anyone to be a publisher. Almost all of the established bloggers use WordPress as their engine for publishing and showcasing their thought leadership content.

    The concept of content marketing -- of reaching new prospective clients through online media -- is built into WordPress' DNA. The core functionality of WordPress is aligned with the goal of establishing yourself as the visible expert with existing and new clients. The same cannot be said of many proprietary systems.

    4. Endless Design Options

    When it comes to designing a great-looking site, WordPress has no barriers. You can either have a custom blog and website design created for your site, or, if you don't have the budget for a custom design there are thousands of pre-designed themes that have already been developed for WordPress.

    For example, at Wired Advisor we've developed our own WordPress Theme for financial advisors and financial firms that integrates highly relevant WordPress features and functionality for increasing visibility and cultivating trusted relationships with your target audience.

    Developing a unique "marketing theme" that your blog can be designed around is also critical. Your marketing theme encompasses your brand messaging and positioning, and it will help drive the design and content strategy of your WordPress platform.

    5. Extensibility

    Continuing along the same lines, if you have a specific functionality requirement, I can almost guarantee that WordPress has a solution. The WordPress.org Free Plugins Repository contains over 21,000 plugins alone, each of which can bring extra functionality to your site.

    With so many developers building extended features and functionality for WordPress, any proprietary website software offering is going to have a difficult time keeping up. If there is a feature or functionality you are looking to integrate into your WordPress site, chances are it's available!

    It's important to note that with the hosted version of WordPress (WordPress.com) you are unable to install and take advantage of plugins. You will want to make sure you are using the self-hosted version of WordPress (WordPress.org) for your site.

    With thousands of developers creating tens of thousands of plugins, proprietary systems simply do not have a hope of keeping up.

    6. Great SEO

    WordPress is built with SEO in mind. When you hit publish, you can rest assured in knowing that out of the box your post or page is optimized for rankings in the major search engines.

    There are also very powerful paid SEO plugins such as Scribe SEO (this is an affiliate link) that will allow you to optimize each and every post on your site. You can conduct keyword research and customize your meta titles and descriptions for every page and post you have created. You can also research link building opportunities from within and outside of your site.

    7. Social Media & Email Integration

    You probably recognize by now that social media has become a very powerful force for building relationships and impacting your business! With that in mind, you know that you should do all that is possible to ensure full integration between your content management system, and the major social media platforms you rely on for building your community.

    Fortunately, WordPress has you covered from every single angle. You can automatically share your blog posts with your community on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. You can also add customized social sharing buttons to your content, and showcase your own social media profiles throughout your site.

    Are you using an email platform such as MailChimp or Constant Contact to send email newsletters to your contacts? If not, you should seriously consider doing so. Both of these email platforms integrate beautifully with WordPress allowing you to capture leads on your site and send automated updates of every new post you publish to your list!

    The tight and seamless integration between WordPress, popular social networks, and email platforms can expand your reach exponentially like no proprietary solution can.

    If you're a financial advisor or member of a financial firm and haven't considered WordPress as the core option for building your online foundation, I highly recommend that you consider doing so. These 7 reasons should help you in understanding the value of how this powerful software can help you grow your digital presence! Questions or comments?

    Published at Stephanie Sammon's Wired Advisor originally. You can find Stephanie on Google+

     

    The internet age demands that we all have full service websites to stay competitive, especially for most small businesses.  And most do, but that leaves the question as to how to get customers to know and remember your website.

    Quick Response Codes (QR Codes) are quickly becoming a low-cost solution for many businesses – big and small.  QR Codes utilize smartphones, an ever increasing share of the mobile phone market, to drive consumers directly to a specified page on your website. 

    If your company has information that changes often, QR Codes on your promotional items allow you to change your website information without the need to change imprints – allowing you to buy in bulk and save money per piece – because once the QR Code is created to link to your site it stays linked. 


    Promotional items with QR Codes are excellent for multiple trade show give-aways because it integrates your piece with your website which can then be updated and individualized for each show.  

    Imagine the hits to your website that your QR Code on a golf bag tag will generate on the course or the sticky note will allow a curious third party to visit without remembering your web address.

    Technology has been taken to the next level... with flavor. You now have the ability to emboss any QR code directly on chocolate! It’s easy, scan the code to access all the information clients need. You now have a Sweet way to direct current and potential clients to your website.
    Text QR to 313131 to get a free QR Reader for your smartphone

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