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National or Local Pay-Per-Click for Your Brand – How to Choose?

Supplementing your national PPC ad budget with a comprehensive local strategy is no longer something to simply consider, it’s essential.

In talking with a few high-octane brands at recent industry conferences and events, I’ve been alarmed at how their national pay-per-click programs are structured.  Actually, let me rephrase the concern: it’s alarming that so many have their heads in the sand when it comes to the local PPC programs their franchisees are running.

Embracing the Opportunity

Before I offend any top-tier corporate franchise digital marketing teams, let me be perfectly clear: some of you get it, and I applaud you. But many have yet to embrace the opportunity local PPC presents and are more concerned with buzzwords and new trends than getting this essential piece of the puzzle right. Supplementing your national PPC ad budget with a comprehensive local strategy is no longer something to simply consider, it’s essential to the online marketing success of your franchise system.

If you consider nothing else, seriously consider how you are structuring your PPC campaigns.

Let me also clarify that I realize doing local-store PPC correctly and in cooperation with national programs is the Holy Grail for franchise systems, and developing a cohesive strategy is not always an easy task. Franchisees are generally only concerned with driving more foot traffic into their store locations and making more money in their unit(s) in the process. Corporate franchise marketing teams can only do so much to fight the battle of consistent brand messaging while allowing the franchisees they represent a level of autonomy and control of their individual store marketing efforts. The franchise advisory councils within most systems are the voice of the franchisees, but even they can disagree on how a comprehensive online marketing plan should be executed for maximum return on investment.

176221579-webIf a national ad fund exists and is controlled by the FAC, it is generally used as a means to promote and build brand equity for the entire system which, in theory, should benefit everyone from the top down and vice versa. The problem that exists with this approach occurs when franchisees don’t necessarily see local PPC marketing programs benefit them immediately at the store level and instead seek out their own self-funded programs and individual vendors as a result. After all, they are business owners, and they have their own bottom lines to worry about. Thus, if there are no corporate-approved suppliers for local store PPC programs, franchisees will inevitably start competing with corporate when bidding on brand terms that are also central to the national PPC campaigns, and this does nothing more than waste budgets on both sides. There is no better way to cannibalize budgets than to use this approach. Unfortunately, it occurs frequently across a variety of verticals and precious dollars are easily lost before anyone in the franchise system realizes what’s happened.

Fluid Rather Than Linear

“Today’s path to purchase is fluid rather than linear, it is consumer directed versus brand directed and it requires guidance from multiple sources,” said Location3 Account Dir. Anne Baum. “Managing the path to purchase for franchise systems requires a combined effort between franchisors and franchisees.” 

Preventing issues like those that involve individual locations competing with the national budget on the same brand terms with their own local PPC campaigns is a key to success. By understanding the individual consumer’s path to purchase for all those in the franchise system, corporate teams can do a better job of developing integrated digital marketing programs for the entire system while providing the franchisees with the guidance they need to market their store locations successfully.

PPC programs are typically the first place a franchise brand would start spending marketing dollars in the digital space due to their ease of use and the ROI that strategically developed campaigns can produce. Some brands only have a budget for a national campaign, but corporate may discover that bottom line increases attributed directly to PPC campaigns allow them to include local budgets as well.

Even if there isn’t funding for campaigns on a location-by-location basis, encouraging franchisees to use the same PPC partner that corporate employs ensures that the campaigns complement each other rather than compete against one another to their respective long-term detriment.

If you consider nothing else, seriously consider how you are structuring your PPC campaigns.  Allocate a national budget, but provide options for the local stores as well. Ideally, find a PPC partner who can manage campaigns at both levels. Otherwise you will find yourself competing with franchisees or field marketing teams bidding on similar terms. This results in wasted effort and money in the long run.

Tim Miller, CFE, is director of sales & business development for Location3 Media, a digital marketing partner built to increase the online “findability” and performance of national and local brands.  Find him at fransocial.franchise.org via the directory.

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Sam Higginbotham is assistant, government relations for the International Franchise Association.
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