Since feedback helps us personalize the Inkbench platform to better meet the needs of the franchise community, we interviewed franchisees from the QSR, Real Estate, Fitness, and Home Services industries, among others. Surprisingly, every one of the franchisees was struggling with similar marketing challenges. Here’s what they told us:
- “We can’t access our brand assets and marketing materials easily or at all.”
- “We can’t customize marketing materials for our local market and often are caught up in a marketing production pipeline at the home office.”
- “We spend entirely too much time producing our own marketing and reinventing the wheel, instead of running our businesses.”
We know that franchisors want what’s best for their franchisees, so why do so many miss the mark when it comes to marketing? Well, it’s partly because of the increasingly fast-paced technology era. With it, has come an onslaught of digital marketing—including social media, email, blogs, websites, Google ads, and much more. And with this shift to digital, comes the increasing need to provide weekly (or even daily) social posts and ads, email and web banners, infographics and much more. Multiply these requirements across 25, 75, 500 or more franchisees, often from NYC to San Francisco and across the borders, and you can quickly see how challenging it can be to fulfill so many requirements.
Franchise marketing veteran and Inkbench’s Director of Marketing, Mary DeBonis, knows this terrain all too well. Being in the industry for decades, Mary has experienced the evolution from strictly print-based media and communications to an explosion of digital MarCom. Starting out at Cendant (now Realogy and Wyndham Worldwide), Mary was marketing director for Ramada Worldwide and Howard Johnson Franchise Systems, creating award-winning hospitality promotions for the hotel franchisees including printed FunPacks and collateral featuring Sega, Little Rascals, and other family programs. Then, as marketing director, Preferred Alliances, at Coldwell Banker, she developed and printed recruiting and sales materials for the brokers and sales associates. By the time she was hired by franchisors like Huntington Learning Center and Happinest (Lawn Doctor and Mosquito Hunters), the shift to digital was easily apparent.
“When I first began my marketing career, I remember spending time with my team monitoring the printing and fulfillment of our promotions and now we spend that time strategizing our messaging in social, blogs, email, and ad campaigns,” said DeBonis. There is still a very important place for print, but it’s truly amazing how quickly marketing has evolved to digital over time.”
Now, as the Marketing Director at Inkbench, Mary helps franchisors and franchisees bridge the brand gap so they can market productively together. Here are some important hacks she shares:
- A Digital Asset Manager (DAM) is critical for storing, managing, and sharing brand assets and marketing materials, especially in a franchise system. When I was supporting dozens, and then hundreds of franchisees, our brand assets (logos, fonts, brand images) were stored on our hard drives, share drives or Google Drive and franchisees would often need us to send files or they would be searching the drives to find them. Often the attachments were large and, if we emailed them, they bounced back so we then had to use Dropbox or WeTransfer. There was a great deal of frustration and wasted productivity on both sides. Storing all assets in one centralized, cloud-based location gives everyone easy, brand-safe access 24/7.
- A design platform (cloud-based), is necessary for customizing marketing materials. Franchisees are business-owners, and understand the importance of local marketing, but don’t want to be graphic designers. It was painful, as marketing director, to launch new campaigns, knowing customization would be needed for the franchisees. It was like a tennis match! They would lob the ball (marketing request) to our team, we would work with designers to customize the social media ad, post, or flyer with a local image, address, price, etc., and lob it back over the net. They would request their changes and lob it back. Then, when the project met their requirements and our brand guidelines, we sent the final lob. Match over! Then it was time to start a new match with a different franchisee or often multiple matches at the same time. That’s where a centralized, cloud-based platform comes in handy and allows the home office to upload the brand assets and marketing campaigns and the franchisee can “localize” them to fit their markets.
- Providing marketing support to franchisees is critical, so they don’t have to go rogue! A brand management platform that allows franchisors and franchisees to produce materials centrally, while complying to brand standards with the correct colors, fonts, and images is key. A cloud-based platform that offers a DAM, design tools and brand controls ensures brand integrity because it avoids the need to search and download images and logos from the internet or other sources. The brand is the franchise’s most valuable asset, so it’s important to make sure it’s marketed widely and carefully guarded.
Inkbench is a patented brand management platform, built from the ground up for franchisors and enterprise clients by our founder, Steve Goodman. Steve saw the unmet needs of franchisors who care deeply about their brands and created a solution. Inkbench is comprised of three levels: first is the integrated DAM (library); the second layer is a sophisticated, yet simple to use Design Canvas; and the third layer is the brand approval system to keep your brand looking good and fully protected.
When Mary was hired as the Director of Marketing for Inkbench, she asked them, “Where have you been my entire career?” This resource didn’t exist when she was at the home office, but she is excited to see the impact Inkbench is having on franchise systems, including building a brand bridge between the home office and the franchisees. It’s truly a win-win!