Franchise territory names - your customers don't care!
April 11, 2016
Most franchises are ‘local’ and as such need to manage their local online search presence.
We’ve spoken before about the drivers of local search (See Local Search & Online Brand Control) and the fact that local search is dependent on consistent Name, Address and Phone numbers (NAP) being listed in local listing sites and search engines. Importantly, the way you list your brand name can influence where you appear in search results AND whether people call you.
You’re probably thinking, surely your brand name is your brand name and that’s what you should list in your business listings? Yet a question we often get from franchises is “Can the franchisee territory be included in the business name title?” For example, 'Joe’s Plumber Milton Keynes' or 'Joe’s Plumber Northampton'.
My simple answer is “Don’t!” Don’t include your territory name in your business listings.
A territory name in a business listing is more likely to lose you business than win you business.
Here’s why: territory names limit your search relevance and can deter customers.
If you include a territory in your business listings name, you are potentially being skipped over by thousands of customers who believe you don’t service their location.
A territory or location name is only relevant to the customers in the territory or near your location. You cannot specify who will see your listings and as such, your listing will be seen by people outside of your territory.
If someone is searching for your services in a town or county that borders your town or county, it may be that the ‘wrong’ franchise appears in the search results. If the customer sees a different town or county name in the business name title to where they are located, they may think that you do not serve their location and therefore not call. The customer won’t necessarily look for the franchisee that does serve their location.
Not only that, using a town in your business name can also deter people who do not live in that town yet are within your territory. For example, Worthing is 10 miles from Brighton, yet someone in Worthing seeing a listing for Joe’s Plumber Brighton will probably think: “They’re not going to come to Worthing.”
A territory name can deter customers the further they are from the franchisee’s base.
The illustration below shows how using a territory name can result in lost opportunities in and on the border of two adjoining franchise territories.
What can be done about this?
To make your search results relevant to a wider customer audience, you need to remove the territory name from your business listings and only list your brand!
By only listing your brand name, your search results will have greater relevancy to a bigger customer audience as you will no longer be dismissed on the basis of geography.
What objections might franchisees have to this approach?
An objection to removing the territory name from the listing is that franchisees may take business from each other as they will get more enquiries along the borders of their adjoining territories.
However, the franchise will be stronger as a whole as you will pick up more business as a brand than if you operate as individual territories.
A location is a strategic asset in local search. If you have franchisee locations ‘dotted’ around the country, it is better for the franchise network as a whole to leverage those addresses for the brand, rather than the sub-optimal approach of listing by territory. For example, a franchisee may live in a town that is not actually their territory. Their address can be used to increase the local search footprint and brand awareness of the franchise as a whole. It does not mean that they need to deliver the service in that area.
To address the issue of customers calling form out of territory, you must have the internal processes and controls to ensure that the customer is served by the appropriate franchisee.
In other words – the customers don’t care about your territories.
The further away a customer is from the franchisee, the less likely they are to call. Franchisees need to trade on the brand, not the location.
A territory name in local search can deter potential customers rather than attract them. By removing the territory name from your local listings, you can increase the relevancy of your search results to a wider audience, however, you are also increasing the chance that customer will call from outside of your specific territory.
Four tips to improve local search performance:
- List franchisee locations with consistent Name, Address and Phone number in Google My Business and multiple local listing sites.
- Don’t use the territory name in a business listing.
- Extend your local brand footprint by using addresses ‘strategically’.
- Have an internal process to re-assign customer enquiries to the correct territory.
David Whatley is the founder and managing director of MiShop.local, which specialises in local presence management and local reputation management for brands. Contact him for more information on improving online presence.