How to Build a Franchise on a Limited Marketing Budget

Your dream is finally coming true. You own a franchised business and are ready to go all out and bring in as many customers as possible. Maybe your dream is to grow to multiple stores or even across several states. However, you have to market your business within a small budget and while sticking to rules set forth by the corporation.

The United States Small Business Administration recommends businesses making under $5 million a year should spend about 7 to 8% of their revenue on marketing. Make sure all your expenses are covered before setting your promotional dollars aside.

You also fall under the rules of your franchise. Some are more lenient than others, but almost nearly every franchise model requires you to use their logo. One of the benefits of buying into a franchise is that some of the marketing work is already completed for you. You can add your own touch while profiting from the reputation of the main company.

To maintain a positive image, corporate often has some pretty strict rules about what you can and can’t do in the name of advertising.

1. Read the Rules

Before you create a single piece of marketing material, take the time to fully understand what you can and can’t do under your franchise label. Do you have to use their logo? Are there rules around the placement of the emblem?

Some companies don’t allow you to advertise online and others do. Find out if you can set up a unique website or need to use the corporation’s site and simply list your location. Can you have your own FB page or is it tightly controlled?

If you haven’t yet purchased a franchise, knowing how strict the company is about marketing may help you decide which is a good match for you. There are pros and cons to a stricter model. You’ll be limited, but so will your competitors that fall under the same label.

2. Map Your Competition

Spend time creating some maps showing where your competitors are and which demographics they reach. If you bought into a franchise with sales territories, map out exactly where yours are. Going into another owner’s territory can cost you penalties, money and may even get you booted from the franchise agreement.

You may also notice some holes in the area that other franchisees aren’t covering. Approach the company about seeking out these areas so you can be the brand on record for them.

Find out how online sales get handled. Are you allowed to go after international sales? What are the limitations?

3. Plan Your Marketing Calendar

When you’re on a tight budget, the last thing you want is to waste a penny of your effort. Create a marketing calendar so you know exactly what you’ll promote when.

A marketing calendar also keeps you accountable. You have to throw up content, send off that finished ad or start and stop sales at appropriate times.

Your marketing plan needs to account for any major holidays, the release of new products and figure out how to keep money rolling in during the slowest months. If you’ve been in business for a while, you’ll see patterns. If your company is new, you may need to make educated guesses and tweak as you go along. You may utilize a bona-fide marketing calendar tool for this purpose, that will help you be on track.

4. Promote Offline

Most franchises allow you to promote offline. Although online advertising can be cheaper, there are many ways to drive local clients into your store.

Put an ad in your local newspaper offering a discount if the user brings in the ad. Set up a booth at a local art fair and pass out samples of your product. Host an in-person event to drive people into your store. A local musician is a big draw for restaurant venues, for example.

If your money is extremely tight, you can leave door hangers in nearby neighborhoods, hang flyers up on public bulletin boards and ask your regulars to share what you’re doing via word-of-mouth marketing.

5. Get Social

In the Digital 2021: Global Overview Report, researchers found 53.6% of the population uses social media frequently, or about 4.2 billion people. There are many advantages to small businesses using social platforms to reach new leads.

You have the ability to create both organic and paid traffic to your website. With paid ads, you can boost them to reach a very narrow audience parameter. Choose people based on location, age, gender, and many other factors.

With organic reach, you put great content out and get people to share it. You cast a wider net, but you are likely to still reach local people based on your current customers.

Talk to your franchise company and see what you’re allowed to do. Social media is a vital part of marketing your brand, but some companies have strict rules about how you can use their name and represent them online. You also can’t interfere with the sales territory of other owners.

6. Pay for Clicks

Is pay per click (PPP) advertising right for your business? If you need to drive targeted leads to your site, it just might be. You can narrow the parameters to specific demographics. However, your franchise company may not allow PPP. Make sure you know the rules.

If they do allow PPP, follow their guidelines and try different groups to see which responds best to your offers. You may want separate landing pages for different ads and even positions to see what works best. Not only do you need to drive traffic to your page, but they must convert when they get there.

Make sure you do an analysis of return on investment (ROI). If you pay too much for clicks without enough conversions, it may not be a cost-effective marketing option for you. Luckily, you can easily track the ROI and make adjustments along the way.

7. Add Your Location to Google My Business

Love the or hate them, Google far outweighs other search engines in popularity. Google’s My Business page allows you to add your location without spending money. It’s a free tool and lets your company pop up anytime someone does a search in your area.

You may even rank higher than other websites on search engines results pages. You can also tie reviews to your page, showing people you offer great customer service and value.

8. Tap Into Brand Marketing

Part of being a franchise means you have access to slick, expensive marketing campaigns. Yes, they’ll look like what others are doing, but only you own the local shop. Go ahead and take advantage of those promotional specials.

You can also send out an email to your mailing list, letting them know you’re participating in the national promotion and giving them all the details. People who already frequent your store often need a reminder to come in and visit.

9. Improve CRM

One of your top marketing tools is training your employees and managers to have excellent customer relationship management (CRM). They are the ones who interact with your clients every day. They should remember regulars, go the extra mile to meet customer needs and do it all with a smile.

Implement CRM software and remember patrons’ birthdays as well as favorite types of merchandise. Reach out when you get something new they might like. Take the time to make sure they’re happy with their last purchase.

The closer bonds you build with locals, the more likely they’ll tell others and help your business expand.

10. Revamp Your Sales Funnel

In the early days of your franchise, you likely followed the corporate model pretty closely. Perhaps your advertising, voice and other factors all tie into what the original stores did.

As you grow and begin to take on a local personality, though, you may find the sales funnel you initially used no longer works. Look at every step of the buyer’s journey. Is there anything that isn’t working? Where are you losing people before they make that final purchase?

Survey those who abandon a shopping cart or leave your store. See if you can figure out what isn’t working and take steps to improve. While every person encountering your brand won’t buy, you can improve your conversions and ultimately your bottom line.

11. Network with Other Businesses

One way to stand out from other franchisees under the same umbrella is by seeking partnerships with like-minded business owners. Most companies give you some leeway on management.

You can do a couple of things with this opportunity. You can offer discounts to another business’s employees and they to yours. You can also do the same with customer lists.

One example might be a pizza restaurant giving $2.00 off a large pizza if you bring in your movie stub, while the theater offers $2.00 off the movie ticket if you bring in your pizza receipt.

The key is working within your franchise agreement while finding unique solutions to reach new clients.

Network With Other Owners

When you buy into a franchise, you’ll likely gain access to a network of other franchise owners across the country and maybe even around the world. Take advantage of the connections to find out what kinds of promotions they offer to customers.

You can learn a lot by studying the successful trials of other franchisees. Take notes on the ideas you think would work for your area and give them a try. With a little creativity and a lot of work, you’ll find ways to promote your business inexpensively and grow your customer base.