Emerging Franchisors' Guide to Earned, Owned and Paid Marketing Channels

Moving to a franchise model, for many brands, means revisiting their marketing plan. Franchise brands typically divide their marketing budgets along two lines: consumer and franchise development. Regardless of the audience, the channels emerging franchisors use to achieve their marketing goals will be defined by the following categories: earned, owned and paid media.

The right balance between these marketing channels is paramount to a brand's marketing success. It should consist of driving brand awareness, generating in-store traffic on a national and local level and cultivating interest among prospective owners to invest in the franchise opportunity, among numerous objectives.

The Era of Multi-Channel Marketing

Earned, owned and paid media help emerging franchise brands achieve their marketing goals in distinct ways. Here’s a quick rundown of each category:

  • Earned Media

This brand of marketing is generated by third-parties. Examples include print, broadcast and online news. These types of media outlets are beneficial for emerging franchisors for a few reasons:

  • Being featured gives your brand a jolt of awareness, whether it’s through a local news segment or in a national print publication. Both consumers and potential franchisees get a better understanding of who you are, your history and values, and why they should give you their business – or join your business.
  • Through bylines and other types of thought leadership articles in business and franchise trade publications, you can demonstrate your knowledge of your specific industry, product or service, or unique franchise concept.
  • Local media highlighting the inspiring backstory of franchisees or owners who give back to the community motivates customers to visit the business and inspires loyalty.

Line of photographers with their cameras at the ready

In addition to traditional media, a significant source of earned media that has developed over the past several years is customer reviews and influencers – though these individuals tend to blend the line between earned and paid media.

Customer reviews through Facebook, Google My Business, Yelp, Amazon, Angie’s List and many other sites are critical to an emerging franchisor’s earned media strategy. Customers seek out validation from each other when deciding to use your products or services, and potential franchise owners want to know they’re joining a system with strong consumer demand. Today’s franchise brands need to be proactive about encouraging customer reviews and be fastidious about monitoring them to resolve any issues that may arise.

Influencers are individuals that customers turn to for the latest details about everything from fashion to food and almost everything in between. They generally will provide free publicity if they’re truly fans of your brand, but many influencers monetize their influence by asking for freebies or paid social posts.

The upside of earned media is that it is generally free – although you’ll need either an in-house team or agency with the right skill sets and contacts to generate publicity. The downside, though, is that it’s never a guarantee. It’s also difficult to measure the specific impact of earned media, and there’s the potential for negative coverage to gain visibility.

  • Owned Media

As the name suggests, this channel consists of all the content you’re able to control. This includes your consumer and franchise development websites, social media and company blog.

Owned media may come in the form of blog content, case studies, eBooks, white papers, infographics, videos and other pieces of collateral that work to engage your audience and motivate them to take the next step, whether that’s filling out a form to learn more about your franchise opportunity or downloading your customer loyalty app.

Owned media has a specific strategic role to play in your overall marketing mix: earned media helps get your brand exposure and ideally drives traffic to your website, and owned media helps keep them there and increases online conversions. Of course, any owned media published to your website or social channels should be optimized to perform well in search to drive organic traffic. In fact, organic traffic generally yields the most qualified franchise candidates for many brands.

Checking your social media on a desktop computer and mobile phone

Meanwhile, social media is another key tool in the owned media toolbox. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and other platforms are useful resources for customers looking for deals, promotions and product information. However, there’s an aspect of social media that’s out of a brand’s control and blends into earned media to an extent. As more social media sites develop customer review capabilities, they act as places for like-minded consumers to give each other a straight answer about your products and services. Yet, emerging franchisors can often take control of the conversation more easily than through other channels.

One of the biggest advantages for this type of media is the level of control afforded to emerging brands. You create the blog posts that feature customer or franchisee success stories. You distribute this content through your own social media channels. And you create email campaigns that include these and other types of content that capture the imagination of your audience and inspire them to take action. The most glaring downside to owned media is that it’s often perceived as a “corporate voice,” which people know is not an objective insight. They would rather hear from customers or other business owners on a truly objective platform, as they tend to trust that source more than owned media.

  • Paid Media

In addition to earned and owned media, paid media gives emerging franchisors yet another means to help reach their target audience. Traditionally, brands have used advertisements to get their message in front of consumers or prospective franchisees by paying the media company – whether it be a print and online publication, broadcast network or a search engine like Google or Yahoo.

For the most part, these are interruptive forms of marketing that are meant to jar the recipient and cause the message to stand out from whatever other content they’re consuming. Pop-up ads during the first internet boom are an iconic – if not more annoying – form of paid media that resulted from an increased reliance on digital communication. Still today, many brands use banner ads, remarketing ads and similar tactics to appear on websites their target audience is likely visiting.

 Graph of digital paid ad campaign

Pay-per-click campaigns are one of the most widely known and implemented techniques. Google’s AdWords platform lets you bid in an effort to show up at the top of the search results for a specific keyword or key term, giving you a first shot at attracting an internet user’s attention.

Nowadays, new forms of paid media are populating the landscape. These include social advertising through Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. In many cases, brands sponsor a piece of content that is designed to drive leads or a specific action, like downloading a mobile app. Instead of purely pushing the sell, these ads amplify owned media using a variety of filters so that only a specific segment of the total online population sees it – ideally those who are most likely to respond.

Paid media is a great tool to give an emerging franchise brand’s organic SEO campaign a shot in the arm and promote specific pieces of content. But, as the name demonstrates, this is an added expense for your marketing budget, and it requires some sophistication to ensure you’re spending your money effectively.

Look to Winmark Franchise Partners to help you identify the right mix of earned, owned and paid media that will help your emerging concept achieve your marketing objectives. With 30 years of franchise experience and more than 800 franchise owners representing more than 1,200 locations for five brands, Winmark Franchise Partners can help grow your brand through sound strategy and expert franchise advice.

For more information, contact us here or at (844) 452-4600.

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