Mastering content marketing is a challenge for many businesses, but it can become particularly cumbersome when there are multiple locations, divisions or branches involved. And this is often the case for franchises.

When it comes to content marketing for franchise businesses, the natural question is often, "Who should own it?" How do you balance creating tailored content that meets the needs of your various communities served while also providing support to franchisees? After all, one of the most appealing elements of becoming a franchise owner is that the business has a proven method for revenue generation, along with baked-in resources to help follow that prescription.

An effective content marketing program can fulfill both needs --providing the resources franchisees needs to market within their individual locations while delivering the right content to the right customers at the right time. There are just a few things to consider before developing the model that's right for your organization.

The benefit to franchises

Content marketing can prove a valuable tactic for any business. For franchises in particular, however, it can help build a sense of local community despite having a national brand, give individual franchise owners a voice, and support local search efforts.

When done right, content marketing can provide an avenue for engaging with customers and the community in a meaningful way, as well as build credibility and establish trust. In fact, the Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as, "a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience with the objective of driving profitable customer action."

Content marketing also supports SEO (search engine optimization) efforts, which we now know can't be decoupled from one another. And on the subject of search, content marketing lends itself particularly well to franchises, which are often reliant on local foot traffic. By leveraging reviews and content tailored to the specific community and customer base, it increases the likelihood that your franchise location will display in the search engine results page when a potential customer conducts a local or mobile search.

With the vast majority of consumers starting their search for answers and information online, content marketing can be the thing that puts your franchisees at the right place at the right time. That said, content does require an investment of time, talent and commitment so there are a few things to consider before diving in.

Know your why and who

Content marketing is all about mastering the art of storytelling and doing it in a way that delivers some sort of benefit to your audience. That could be in the form of information or education, humor, inspiration, aspiration or motivation, and the list goes on.

The key is to first identify where your expertise and core values intersect with what your core audience wants, needs and desires. Also, what is your goal, or your why, for implementing a content marketing program?

Is it to establish your brand's expertise or leadership in a particular arena, build relationships with partners and customers, or generate more inbound leads? Don't put content out for content's sake --always have a why or efforts will can easily derail.

From this intersection,? you will be able to pinpoint several key elements of your content marketing program:

  • Where content should originate from -- headquarters or individual franchises
  • The type of content that will most resonate with your audience (i.e. blogs, videos, podcast, photos, etc.)
  • Who will maintain the content marketing program

Determine the structure

Depending on the size of your franchise operation, it often works best to provide the high-level strategy, process, and tools and empower franchisees to execute on the content development. This will provide them the aforementioned structure they seek, enable you to better maintain brand consistency, and still afford them the ability to tailor it to their region and customer.

Before you start creating content, make sure you have a clear and realistic brand management approach. You'll want to be sure messaging adheres to the overarching franchise brand standards.

From there, you'll want to determine site structure. Will each franchisee have their own website or will there be one central site with a series of microsites?

How will you manage the content? Often, content marketing platforms (CMPs) can help when there are multiple hands involved as they provide visibility into what's being published, and when and where.

Content marketing is a process that yields compounding results, which means consistency is key. So take the time to build the right processes and systems for gathering the necessary resources to create the content, and everyone involved will realize dividends.