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Scorpion Q&A with Stephen Bess: Expert Tips for Mastering Your Franchise’s Digital Marketing


As Vice President of Client Marketing at Scorpion, Stephen helps franchises use the latest best practices in Internet marketing to increase awareness of their brands and drive more business to the franchisees. In this Q&A, Stephen covers a lot of ground, talking about the unique challenges franchises face, some of the most common myths to look out for, the changing world of digital marketing, and the best strategies for success. Enjoy!

Q: What do you think is the greatest marketing challenge franchises face today?
For established franchises, the biggest challenge seems to be whether they can adapt to the ever-changing digital marketing world; what worked last year probably doesn’t work this year anymore, and that can be a shock. For new franchises, the biggest challenge is probably the massive undertaking of expanding the brand combined with the ultra-aggressive world of online marketing. Google continues to place less emphasis on search engine optimization (SEO)—the organic ranking presence—while shifting more focus to pay-per-click advertising (PPC), which is also known as paid search. So, in order to compete in today’s digital marketing world, franchises must change their marketing expectations and strategies so they can stay relevant.

Q: What is the biggest misconception that franchisors and franchisees have about online marketing?
A: Two things. The first misconception is that everything rides on their organic rankings (how high up their website appears in the unpaid search results). For new businesses, ranking organically on page 1 is incredibly difficult in major markets because competition has never been higher. (Ranking organically in a major market can take months, if not years.) Meanwhile, Google has altered its model and is placing more and more focus on paid advertising in search results. While improving your organic ranking is important, it’s not your only ticket to visibility in search engines.

The second misconception is that their online presence beyond their website doesn’t make a difference. It does, and we see it time and again – the best performing franchises educate their franchisees on the importance of expanding their online presence through blog posts, social media content, photos, videos, online listings, and more

Q: What is a good starting point for a franchise that is just beginning to build its web presence?
A: A franchise brand just starting out should consider building out their website structure properly the first time so they don’t ever have to do it again. The foundation makes a difference. Scorpion suggests building franchise brands on a sub-directory ( system with shared content pages so that it’s easy to grow the brand and scale quickly. This type of structure is recommended by Google, and it creates an environment where traffic to one site helps the entire network, and vice versa. We’ve seen some very “interesting” website architecture when new clients arrive at our door. The difference it makes when you do it right is astounding.

Q. And how about the second step?
A: Get to know your franchise marketing team, stay in constant contact with them, and give them all the information they need to know your business inside and out. Allow the experts you hired to have the space to follow the path they know works. While growing the business, it’s much easier (not to mention less stressful) to allow the marketing experts to do the heavy lifting within their specialty area. Everyone ends up happier this way!

Q. Running a franchise network is definitely different than running a traditional business. How do these differences change the way franchises need to market themselves?
Running a “mom and pop” business means a business owner can do essentially anything they want. With a franchise, owners agree to certain terms and conditions upfront that they may not always like down the line, so franchisors should be prepared to explain the value of their current strategies and enforce their branding guidelines as needed. Brand messaging, creative, and website content are ultimately decided by the franchisor (though the level of control varies from brand to brand), and this sometimes creates a power struggle between franchisees and franchisors. Scorpion loves working with owners to find creative ways to market their business using both their national branding and their knowledge of their local service areas to create powerful local campaigns.

Q: What is your favorite part of your job?
I love the client interaction aspect of my job. It’s incredibly rewarding to get to know a franchisee and help them build their business into a success story. At Scorpion, we work with a lot of clients, but each of them represents an individual’s (or family’s) hopes and dreams and success. When I see a franchisee’s business performing well, I know it’s about more than just the revenue spreadsheets—it’s about a small business owner now being able to buy a house, or expand his/her business, or put money away into a college fund for a child. I love knowing that we can have that type of impact on small business owners and families.

Q: Do you have any success stories you can share?
Sure, we’ve had lots of clients come to us and confide in us that they were reaching the end of the rope unless things had a major positive turnaround. That’s when my team and I go into overdrive. One client told me last year that she and her husband (who run the business themselves) lost sleep at night worrying about their life savings that they had sunk into buying the franchise, and worrying that it may have been a mistake because business was slow. After only a few months of working with Scorpion, this franchisee was calling me beside herself with joy because they could see and feel the turnaround in their business. A year later, they’re looking to hire their first-ever full-time employee and purchase another service vehicle. That type of thing happens often across all of our brands, across all markets, and it motivates my team in incredible ways.

Q: Why should franchises choose Scorpion for their Internet marketing?
It may sound cliché, but I would recommend Scorpion to my closest friends because I know that our entire company is dedicated to our clients’ complete success, and we have the success stories to show that we truly are franchise Internet marketing experts. We have cutting-edge technology and custom tools that our competitors wish they had. In addition to that, we are 100% dedicated to our mission, and we have a passion for what we do. We take our clients’ losses personally, and we celebrate their successes with them. We work hard to become an extension of our clients’ businesses—not just some nameless/faceless business they’ve hired—and we honor that with hard work each and every day.

Q: What are a few things that Scorpion franchise clients have to look forward to down the road?
There’s lots to look forward to, and I know this because Scorpion surprises its own employees with amazing new technology all the time. We love to create solutions to complex problems, so I would tell any franchise client to look forward to watching Scorpion do the impossible. Making the impossible possible is part of our motto, and it’s deeply ingrained in everything we do. I would look for updated reporting, custom videos from the team, and new ways to market to customers in a hyper-local way.

As a Google AdWords Premier SMB Partner and 2016 Google Platform Innovator of the Year, Scorpion is well-qualified to take your franchise website and online presence to the next level. Contact our team to learn how we can help you and your franchisees get more business from the Internet!