Franchise brands have many goals in common: enter a new market; attract new franchisees, employees and loyal customers; increase average unit volume (AUV); and accelerate franchise expansion strategies. Yet, there is nothing common about your specific brand.
Every brand has a story, and that’s what makes customers, employees and franchisees take notice, choose you and keep coming back. Let’s talk about how to tell your story.
Understand Your Audiences
As a franchise restaurant brand, you have multiple audiences, and they are all looking for very different information. Before you can start crafting your content, you need to understand exactly who you’re trying to reach.
Customers are interested in learning about the experience they can expect when visiting your restaurant. As you think about this audience, break it down further into the demographics of your customer base, recognizing there might be different audiences depending on the day of the week or time of day, as well as the ideal locations for your restaurants (i.e. business park or neighborhood shopping plaza). Are you trying to reach the after-work dinner crowd, leisurely weekend brunch groups, or families looking to celebrate a special occasion? Think about each of your customer audiences and what they’re seeking in their dining experience.
Consider prospective employees and their interest in learning what it’s like to work for your company and what opportunities are available for their growth and advancement.
Potential franchisees are interested in your track record and the expected return on their investment, as well as the expertise of your team in growing the business and how you partner with franchisees and support their success.
Depending on the size and stage of your company, you may have other audiences to consider, such as investors.
Build Your Brand Story
Once you’ve considered all of your audiences, now think about how to build and tailor your brand messaging. When the offering is perishable and consumers have seemingly infinite alternatives, why should they choose your restaurant versus another one down the street? Why should an entrepreneur consider franchising your concept over others? Why should employees choose to work at your company?
It all comes down to what makes your brand unique – and how you tell that story. You may have heard the saying that it’s hard to read the label from inside the jar. Sometimes you need some outside perspective to better understand your own brand narrative. If you find yourself struggling to read your own label, consider partnering with a branding or PR professional who can help you uncover and amplify your unique story.
Here’s a recipe for good brand stories:
- Authentic: Tell the story of why your brand exists. What does your brand stand for and what are your values? Do you have a unique founding story or inspiration for your concept?
- Relatable: Good stories are also relatable, where your audiences recognize themselves in your team and customers.
- Relevant: For a story to be effective, it must convey timely information your audience wants and needs.
- Consistent: Franchises are built on brand recognition, and your brand name must have the same meaning across franchise locations and markets, with a voice that matches your offering. Is your concept a fun dessert spot, do you provide an upscale dining experience, or do you specialize in authentic international cuisine? Just as you honor your brand guidelines, from logo usage to fonts and colors, identify your unique voice and use it consistently throughout your messaging.
- Memorable: Good stories elicit a reaction from your audience. What do you want your audience to know, feel or do? With a well-crafted story, you can make a lasting first impression and keep your brand top of mind. Include calls to action that encourage your audience to walk through your door or click on your website now, and then keep coming back.
Uncover a Variety of Storylines
With that recipe in mind, now it’s time to uncover the subject of each story. Consider a variety of different topics, including:
- Products: Highlight unique offerings, such as seasonal menu items or special ingredients, that can entice audiences to experience your brand for the first time or encourage customers to return and try something new.
- Team members: Profiles your leaders, chefs and staff members who create the experience for your customers. Humanize your brand by talking about who you are and sharing behind-the-scenes stories about your team.
- Customers: Celebrate loyal patrons and consider sharing user-generated content (UGC), which is original content created by your customers to share their experience with your brand.
- Community: Focus on who you serve and how you are woven into the community fabric. Perhaps you sponsor the little league team, partner with a community organization, or host special events. Sharing stories about your community involvement drives loyalty to your brand and a desire to invest in your success.
- Expertise: Craft stories that feature the experience of your leadership team and their expertise in franchise development and expansion.
Amplify Your Story
Now it’s time to craft content that tells the right story, to the right audience, at the right time. Consider how you can tell your story through words, images and videos across owned and earned platforms.
A good story, or a mouth-watering photo or video of a signature dish, makes audiences stop scrolling and take action. Among many other types of content, behind-the-scenes coverage of your team and UGC from your customers provide authentic, relatable and memorable content for social media. As you share more of your customers’ content, they become advocates for your brand and continue sharing on your behalf. Consider partnering with local influencers, inviting them to visit your restaurant, share their experience and introduce their audience to your brand. Develop an overarching strategy for your social media content to maintain consistency and relevancy with timely information woven in, such as special events or the launch of new menu items.
Digital content can take several forms, from your website to search ads and email marketing. For your website, ensure you have a SEO strategy to capture people who are searching for restaurants in your market, a particular type of cuisine or perhaps features such as outdoor dining. As you’re sharing those enticing food and beverage photos, don’t underestimate the value of alt text on those images to make them searchable too.
Carry your story into email marketing, with special offers, loyalty rewards and timely information about your product, people, or community involvement. Segment your email audiences as needed, such as customers versus potential franchisees or by geographic market, to keep the content relevant and actionable for each audience.
Media coverage can help you raise awareness among people who aren’t already browsing your website or following your brand on social media. The key is to match the right storyline with the right media outlet.
Local media can help you reach customers and prospective employees, with newsworthy storylines such as event information, special offers for customers or new employment opportunities. Identify the media outlets in your local market that reach your target audiences, and then research the right journalists to tell your story, looking for those who cover a relevant beat such as food and beverage and those who have published recent stories on similar topics. Depending on your restaurant locations and the geographic reach of your brand, national consumer interest media may also be appropriate to generate awareness and interest among potential customers around the country.
Industry trade and national business media can help you reach business audiences beyond your local market, such as potential franchisees or investors. Thought leadership content that features your team’s expertise in franchise development and expansion helps to establish trust and elevate credibility with these audiences.
Measure and Optimize
A good story becomes great when people see it and share it. Measure everything you do with content marketing to understand what resonates with your audiences and drives business results. Before you dive headfirst into creating content, establish KPIs, such as an AUV target or number of new franchise locations, and then identify PR and marketing metrics that support those business goals. What content drives the most traffic to your website? What are the demographics of your social media audience, how do they engage across platforms, and what content is shared most frequently? Don’t be afraid to test a variety of content, repurpose it on different platforms, and learn how to create your perfect content recipe.
When executed thoughtfully and consistently, content marketing helps your brand stand out with customers, employees and franchisees alike. With so many restaurant brands from which to choose, uncovering and sharing your unique story will attract your target audiences and keep them coming back.