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Geo-Targeting Your Digital Assets for Franchise Development

Geo-targeting technologies allow franchisors to attract and engage the best prospects with a customized online experience.

By Michael Alston


All franchising is local. Both mature and early-stage franchises share the need to find qualified prospects for targeted geographic markets. For the mature franchise, prospects outside available territories can be wasted effort. On the other hand, early stage franchises may desire to target only nearby or specific states.

Geo-targeting technologies make it possible to achieve a higher return on advertising spending while lowering franchise sales costs by bringing you more targeted prospects. Here are five suggestions about how to get it done.

1.Geo-targeting Your Advertising Dollars

If you are engaged in search engine marketing, you have the option to limit your paid clicks to specific countries, cities or ZIP codes in Google, Yahoo and Bing. You may pay higher or lower overall prices for clicks based on demand in the territories you seek. Keywords and phrases and even ads may include city names for your geographic targets. You may achieve better results, however, with state targeting, since prospects may desire or be willing to relocate nearby for the right opportunity.

Conversely, the search engines allow you to exclude specific geographies. For example, you can select to target Tennessee, but exclude Nashville if there is no territory available in that city.

Similarly, Facebook and LinkedIn offer geo-targeting options for ads placed on their networks, in addition to the behavioral and demographic targeting options they offer. Facebook permits targeting a city or radius from a specific location worldwide. LinkedIn offers targeting by city and state in the United States.

The major franchise recruitment portals will assist you with tailored geo-targeting options based on state (inclusions and exclusions) or city-level targeting (Designated Market Areas referred to as DMAs). While the distribution of traffic to franchise portals roughly mirrors population density, there are inquiries from every ZIP code in the United States over a period of time (see nearby illustration of traffic distribution). Given the scarcity of leads in a limited geography, these leads are offered at premium prices, though at an overall savings when compared to an untargeted campaign.

2.Know the Origin of Visitors to Your Website as They Arrive

The location of website visitors may be determined from data providers like Digital Element ( which provide country, state, city, and zip code for web visitors in real time as the pages are built. The classic application of this data is to present store locations nearby with no input from the web visitor. Using this data, you can present special offerings (for example, franchises available near me) with no input from the user.

These data providers track the more than two billion active Internet Protocol addresses and associate geographic and other attributes to each IP location. This knowledge, along with the travel path through devices and networks from the user location to your site, is employed to derive numerous data elements useful for targeting web visitors including country, state, city, ZIP code, business or consumer, bandwidth and SIC code of a business visitor. Franchises such as Ace Hardware and Batteries Plus Bulbs have been using this technology for years to show the nearest retail store location without input from the web visitor.

3.Geo-targeting Your Franchise Development Site

This same geo-location data may be used to tailor the content of your franchise development site to visitors, offering the option to present a highly tailored geo-centric experience to visitors based on proximity to targeted development markets.

Imagine a banner seen only by visitors from a specific country you have selected for franchise development presented in their native language. The same technology permits identifying visitors from a specific state or city where franchises are available. Further, the offer can be suppressed for visitors from states where franchises are not legally available or territories are sold out.

While it may be obvious, be sure to collect the information on any lead forms that will allow you to confirm that the prospect is in a targeted territory. So while ZIP codes will describe the geographic location of a prospect, a city name in text will help your sales team spot and follow up promptly with candidates in desired target areas. Many site developers will “pre-fill” the city and state with IP geo-data for the convenience of the user so that mobile users may not need to type them in except to express interest in a different city.

While it may seem unnecessary, including “state” and “country” fields will avoid confusion around city names that are common (Norfolk, Va., Norfolk, Neb. and Norfolk, England).

On consumer-facing sites, consider referral promos or interstitial ads to intercept visitors in target locations and make them aware of franchise locations available.

4.Using Website Analytics for Tuning

Google Analytics allows you to segment your website traffic metrics down to state and city levels to see what content visitors in target areas are viewing, and to measure the results of your geo-targeted campaigns. Further, Google allows the linking of Analytics and Adwords accounts so you can track Adwords paid traffic down to city level and show the conversion metrics down to the city or ZIP code targeting level. A marketer can set up metrics to track conversion rates in targeted geographies from geo-targeted search engine advertising buys.

5.Pitfalls of Geo-targeting Techniques

Prospects may not be visiting or searching from the geography that they are interested in.  Perhaps they are travelling on business or are looking for an opportunity to relocate.

The techniques above work well for desktop traffic and mobile devices that are on the public Internet or on Wi-Fi networks (about 80 percent of all traffic). For the small portion of mobile web traffic that flows over carrier networks (approximately 20 percent of mobile traffic), these techniques do not work as effectively.

Let’s Get Started

Franchise recruitment marketing has always been about connecting the dots locally in targeted development markets and territories. Prospective franchisees envision operating in their known local marketplace and today geo-targeting technologies allow franchisors to attract and engage the best prospects with a customized online experience. How are you using this shiny new tool in the toolbox to reach and captivate your most prized prospects and avoid spending precious ad dollars where they might be wasted?

In the old world of marketing, we learned early that location matters. Some things never change and, even in our digital world, that still holds true. Your ability to tailor appropriate online messages by location dramatically increases relevance to the user and thus their receptivity to what you are offering.

Michael Alston is president of Landmark Interactive, a unit of Dominion Enterprises, a digital marketing company. Find him at





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