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How Franchisors Can Turn Content Creation Into Lead Generation, Part 2

What did you write today?

If your franchise doesn't have a good answer to that question, you may have missed our last post in this marketing series. No hard feelings.

Previously, we discussed how franchisors can turn content creation into lead generation by understanding how content fits into the current business landscape, and also how your franchise can use content to fuel your marketplace position.

Building off of that, today we’re going to delve further into the content generation process. We’ll look at the relationship between brand and content, strategies for populating your calendar, along with tools and case studies of franchises who are already executing on this effectively.

Understand how brand and content integrate

Franchising isn’t an industry, it’s a business model. A distribution strategy that affects almost every industry. A franchise occurs when a franchisor licenses its brand to someone who agrees to operate in accordance with those standards. And so, in any given franchise system, whether it’s fast food, fitness, nail salons, auto repair, tax prep or coffee as a service, the brand is the most valuable asset. New franchisees aren’t only buying it, they’re buying into it. If your business reaches the point where it’s franchisable, then you’ve probably done a stellar job with branding.

But here’s the thing. Since your brand is an asset you build that grows in value daily, small enhancements matter. Franchises that consistently execute content that includes bite sized, concrete expressions of their brand through slow and deliberate means are the ones that accrue the most leverage. Doing so enables them to make sure their brand is exactly what they want it to be, creating maximum value for customers.

Now, most small and medium sized franchises can’t afford to generate content like some of the larger players in the space. Subway’s annual marketing budget is $800 million dollars, according to a recent study. SuperBowl commercials are a drop in the ocean for them. Probably a little more than you have right?

Don’t worry. Content marketing takes imagination, not millions. In fact, most franchises are better off building their most valuable asset a few bites here, a few crumbs here, a few slices there. Slowly and deliberately. It takes time, patience, commitment and resilience. And we discussed in our first post, it’s probably the most difficult thing to quantify at your company. But in the franchising world, consistency is far better than rare moments of greatness. Don’t get discouraged when you see the big boys breaking the bank.

Two slogans to guide content generation

As you decide what topics to publish content on, remember the term consultants use to describe an optimum way of organizing information. It’s called mece:

Mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive. 

Every branch on the tree is independent of the other, but together, they’re all part of the same family, contributing to the overall life of the same organism.

This concept has profound applications for the franchise space. After all, franchising is all about consistent, sustainable replication. Not only from an operational standpoint, but also from a branding standpoint. Every time you publish anything, you’re growing the brand. Whether you create content about costs, FDD’s, franchisor support, contracts, operational best practices, mutuality between franchisee and franchisor or case studies of career changing decisions to own a location, each of these bricks strengthens your brand’s foundation.

You have to trust that if your franchise keeps coming up with new ideas, everything else will fall into place. It’s this fascinating law of creative probability. The more content you publish, the more context prospective franchisees have, the more patterns they recognize, and the more they understand which opportunities are a good fit for their career. Not to mention, the better seo juice you will have.

SportClips comes to mind as a powerful content marketing case study. They’re the perfect place for a guy to get great service and a great haircut. Their mission is to create a championship haircut experience for men and boys in an exciting sports themed environment. They’ve grown to 1,500 locations in the past few years. And no surprise, they’ve done a brilliant job expanding their reach via content.

Their marketing team has a powerful system for uncovering compelling stories from their franchisees and embed that into their content efforts. Take a look at their franchise site, where you can read numerous pieces of content about entrepreneurial success stories. It’s visual, simple, consistent with their brand, and most all, voluminous. Mutual exclusive, collectively exhaustive. There are dozens if not hundreds of pieces available. And each one isn’t about how great SportsClips is, it’s about how great the franchisee’s life is because they bought into the system.

Are your franchisees saying that about your brand? Even if you only have a few locations in one state, there’s no reason you couldn't get that kind of microsite up within a few weeks. Hubspot’s Case Study Templates should help you get started. Remember, mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive.

This brings us to our second content slogan:

Imperfectly done now is better than perfectly done never.

My first boss many years ago was always complaining about how our company didn't publish enough content. Fair enough. But the moment we started writing, he red penned every word within an inch of its life. And it took weeks just to ship a single article. Great had become the enemy of done. Has your franchise ever struggled with this content problem before?

If so, understand this. Your bias should be on output. Volume over accuracy. Quantity over perfection. In the early days of your content efforts, just get something up on your blog, socials, etc. Put the wheels in motion. Keep moving the brand story forward. Of course, make sure not to have sloppy mistakes that make rejecting you easy. But keep that engine churning.

Bespeak is a cool content case study relating to this mantra. They’re very different from SportClips, since they’re a low investment ($50,000) franchise. They are a text messaging and loyalty software platform that merchants (restaurants, bars, salons, etc) use to engage customers and increase sales. Their licensing partners sell the software along with marketing support, building a recurring revenue portfolio for long term income.

What’s smart about their blog strategy is, they help customers send better text messages. It’s so simple. They teach them how to use their product better. With a strong dependence on data, they use their pool of users to educate franchisees what works in the marketplace. They literally write down the script for people to copy for their restaurants, and encourage them to use them for greater guest conversion. Check out this post about holiday campaigns, or how to steal customers’ hearts all month long.

What kind of proprietary data asset could you be leveraging for your content? Get it out there. Imperfectly done now is better than perfectly done never.

Teach a franchise to fish

Finally, there are no shortage of tools and resources to help you build the framework to organize and execute all of this content we’ve been brainstorming. Now that you’ve got lots of material to work with, here are key resources we recommend to franchisors looking to use content marketing to generate new leads:

  • Organization: For many franchisors with busy schedules and a lot of moving parts to manage, using a content calendar might be a lifesaver. There are as many resources as there are people to use them, but my personal favorite is Coschedule’s Template.
  • Optimization: You’ll want to optimize your website and other content for search engines. Rather than reinventing the wheel here, check out Hubspot’s knowledge base for a comprehensive guide. We also suggest SproutSocial’s Franchise Marketing Guide.
  • Promotion: Creating is just the beginning. Distribution is how you give your content legs to reach the highest number of potential franchisees. Kissmetrics writes about this quite a bit, including posts like skyrocketing blog traffic and advanced methods for promoting content.

Remember friends, technology makes a significant impact on the way people research and buy franchises. Content marketing can and should be a powerful strategy for generating new leads.

Stay tuned for part three of this series!

Scott Ginsberg is Head of Content for Metric Collective, the parent company of Franchise Help. He makes things all day long, yet has illegible handwriting.

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