Your franchise business is booming. After all, 2022 has been a solid year of growth for franchises as another 257,000 jobs were added and the number of franchised businesses grew by 17,000 with more predicted before the end of the year, according to the International Franchise Association. So you may be asking yourself, “Now, what?” When business is good, financial experts say it’s the ideal time to invest in your business with marketing initiatives that will support continuing your “hot streak” and build loyalty during this phase to prepare for potential future downturns, and most importantly drive sales upwards.

Diving a little deeper: Investing in marketing improves your chances of success. You never know when hard times may hit, so when business is good it’s an opportunity to protect your business from increased competition or changes in the marketplace by utilizing marketing to build customer relationships, loyalty and awareness. This not only drives more revenue, but sets your business up for increased, ongoing future revenue. Building the strength of your business during the good times can help you weather the lows. However, with the numerous marketing campaign options and tactics like social media, SMS, email, web, digital displays, Google Ads or in traditional forms of advertising like billboards and print ads, it’s challenging to pinpoint the best use of marketing dollars to specifically support the above initiatives.

Pursue Integrated Messaging/or Marketing as opposed to operating in marketing silos

Focusing on one tactic alone is rarely enough to see a timely, positive return on your marketing investment. Instead, consider integration. Integrated marketing campaigns are three times more effective than non-integrated campaigns according to the Heinz Multichannel Marketing Effectiveness Report. Integration across channels provides a seamless customer experience with increased touch points. Here’s an example of a pub to demonstrate how it works:

A pub franchise relies on events to acquire new customers and to engage their existing customers. For their Oktoberfest event, they could create an event on Facebook and place advertising dollars behind it. We’ve written several articles about the pitfalls of relying on this type of single channel marketing, but think how much more effective it would be with even the simplest integration. For example, to dramatically increase Social Gravity, and boost the popularity and exposure of the event, simply try this: Create an SMS with a  link to the event on Facebook that is sent to 2,000 loyal followers;   also email a summary of the event to customers with a direct link; and, finally, place a QR code your digital signage that also links to the Facebook Event. Instead of seeing the event in one place, customers see it on their phone, in their email inbox and on digital signage which all link back to one place: the Facebook event where they can RSVP and engage with communication, updates and reminders and most importantly SHARE the event to their timeline and friends. Frequency equates to successful marketing, according to the “rule of seven”: A message must be seen seven times before taking action.

Utilize technology to your benefit

While frequency is important, the effectiveness also lies in customers receiving the message at the right place and the right time. Technology makes this possible. Let’s take the example of the pub hosting an Oktoberfest a step further and incorporate technology. If the pub offers a WiFi hotspot that customers can access for free in return for inputting their contact information, it opens the door to a myriad of integrated marketing possibilities. Now, not only can the pub send a text message with a link to the Oktoberfest event, but the WiFi hotspot will identify a customer when he or she walks in the door and the customer will automatically receive a highly targeted  message while physically at the pub. Known as WiFi marketing, this provides even more effective messaging since it’s customers at the pub, who clearly enjoy visiting and have the pub at the top of their mind, who are receiving it. It’s a win-win. Ninety-six percent of customers prefer a business with free WiFi and 74 percent of people are happy for businesses to send email or text promotions while using free WiFi, according to Cisco.

Technological innovation, like WiFi hotspots, enables franchises to own their customer data instead of relying on third parties. Owned data is extremely valuable since it provides the opportunity for hyper-segmentation and a more personalized experience. A survey from Epsilon found that 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a brand that uses personalization techniques which demonstrates the importance of highly-targeted, more personalized messaging. Through the owned data, the pub can even break down their Oktoberfest messaging and send out a special Oktoberfest VIP offer to their most loyal, repeat customers—or offer an attractive Oktoberfest discount to “lost” customers to encourage them to return.

Automate for ease and time savings

Integrating your marketing and leveraging technology enables you to automate your messaging. Via WiFi marketing technology, your customer list can be filtered with customized messaging applied that is scheduled to automatically be distributed. Instead of having to manually input and plan SMS messages, social posts and emails, it’s all scheduled in one platform with criteria applied. Event reminders can automatically be sent a week prior or any new customers can automatically receive a link to the Oktoberfest event. Automation saves time, and time is money.

For franchises, the technological innovation behind WiFi marketing is especially valuable. Not only can it operate on autopilot across locations and also captures customer behaviors across an entire brand. Plus, it operates in real-time and can be integrated within existing CRMs and POS systems.

What about when business isn’t booming?

Although it’s helpful to invest in new marketing technologies when business is good, there are often critical times when intervening with new and innovative marketing programs is crucial. During post-pandemic recovery, a Mellow Mushroom pizza franchise in Central Florida needed to raise awareness and generate revenue during the gradual reopening of their businesses. They utilized customer data gleaned through their WiFi marketing to send out SMS blasts encouraging people to order takeout and alerting subscribers of their business hours. Their automated greetings for each location were updated to send customers a link to their digital menu as soon as they connected to the WiFi. This customer convenience was an outstanding success with over 90% of their customers opting to connect to the WiFi over scanning a QR code to view the menu. The initiative enabled the franchise to pivot and navigate a challenging time.

In summary, an integrated marketing technology campaign can accomplish many different goals from increased awareness, to improved efficiency, to enhanced loyalty to cohesive and streamlined messaging. When considering ROI, pursue an all-encompassing strategy especially since it’s backed by research, but more importantly, since customers prefer it. In fact, 72 percent of consumers want an integrated marketing approach, according to the E-tailing group’s Consumer Insights Survey. After all, multiple channels vs one channel reaches customers where they best relate.

Stephen Gould, CEO of CogoBuzz, is an entrepreneur with a successful history providing guest-engagement software solutions for the hospitality industry and he is the founder and CEO of NConnections. He holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Central Florida. Before transitioning to technologies within the hospitality industry, Steve worked in government contracting and internet security for 18 years. He led research programs, authored development methodologies, and built and delivered software products across the globe. In 2014, Steve returned to his software development roots to build and launched the CogoBuzz and MyConcierge initiatives.

Marketing & Promotions, Outside Insights, Restaurant Operations, Story, Technology