Dear Home Care Franchisor: A Lesson from Applebee’s in Internet Marketing for Local Franchisees

Having executed online marketing campaigns for local businesses in the elder care market hundreds of times over the last few years, I can honestly say that independent elder care business owners have it the easiest from a decision making standpoint (regarding internet marketing). 

Franchisors (the corporate offices) have it the hardest. Or maybe they make it hard on themselves related to a lack of knowledge about internet marketing for the Main Street, USA small business owner. It's tough out there, tougher than ever. And for fear of losing control of branding and content provisioning, sometimes the corporate office makes it harder than it needs to be.

Most franchisors have spend hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last few years building and re-building websites that become outdated in a matter of months. New technology comes along and they are back to the drawing board for their franchisees. Usually it is the franchisee that makes the demand, and rightfully so, after all, the franchisee is the one trying to make a buck and stay alive.

So the SEO expert (who is not really an expert at all and by the way does not specialize in elder care, but is in fact someone's uncle, brother, neighbor, in-law, out-law, slick talker, moon promiser or whatever) comes knocking on the door of the franchisor (corporate office)- and sells them a huge package of junk that won't make a lick of difference to the franchisee who is after all, the end user.  The franchisee prays that the franchisor is right, and goes with the program only to find in 6 months that this glorious program hasn't made them a nickel, but cost them plenty. 

Even better, the franchisor asks a panel or committee of franchisees who also know little or nothing about internet marketing to evaluate several proposals and pick one to try. The blind leading the blind in most cases.

We see it happen over and over and over again.

And here's what we've learned….

1. Internet marketing, done correctly, increases the re-sale value of a home care agency.

2. Internet marketing, done correctly, does not solely rely on the business owner to provide content, because guess what, they are busy people. 

3. Internet marketing, done correctly does in fact generate leads, but only with training, tracking, and monitoring at the grandest scale. Winging it doesn't do jack.

4. Facebook alone doesn't help. Twitter alone doesn't help. Facebook and Twitter together won't help either. There are about 20 pieces of media and accounts at a minimum that need to come together for a dominating force in a local area, add to that CONTENT, and you have a winning formula.

5. Blogging about elder care, home care, or assisted living at a national level without using local content (ie local keywords like Dallas, TX or St. Louis, MO) doesn't help the franchisee's phone ring. It might help make the corporate office's phone ring, but that doesn't impress the franchisee at the local level.

6. There are a handful of franchisors in the elder care market who really do get this whole concept and have the attitude of live and let live. And it works!

It all boils down to MAKE MY PHONE RING for the franchisee. 

My recommendation? Learn from Applebee's. They have a solid brand and a smart technique for driving local consumers to their local stores. It's all about local content that does NOT ONLY come from the corporate office.

Peter Heffring recently said this in the best way possible. He is president and CEO of Expion, a social software company that empowers retailers, brands and agencies to localize and manage their social marketing efforts. Founded in 2009, the company is privately held and headquartered in Raleigh, N.C.

Here are his observations about Applebee's from a recent post on

Local Marketing for Big Brands

So how can bigger brands use these [Facebook] updates to their advantage? The key is to think like a local marketer. In my company’s work with franchises like Applebee’s, we’ve learned that the most engaging Facebook content doesn’t typically come from the corporate marketing team — it comes from individual store locations. Corporate marketing is no match against the thousands of employees physically interacting with customers on a daily basis.

Tapping local employees’ collective wisdom is like being able to run hundreds or thousands of multivariate tests. Particularly savvy corporate teams have learned to track their local teams’ content, to analyze the best strategies for when, why and what to post, and then to integrate that knowledge into a broader strategy.

Not every brand has the ability or the need to implement a fully localized Facebook content strategy. However, bigger brands can learn from smaller, local companies as they market across the new Facebook.

The lesson here? It's ok to lead and let go. Local search marketing does not work from the corporate level. Let your franchisees provide their own content. Encourage them to partner a team that understands the elder care market and local search marketing. It's the right thing to do!

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN
Owner/ Managing Partner
LTC Expert Publications
Phone: 888-404-1513
Email: [email protected]

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Valerie VanBooven RN BSN

Co-Owner, Author at LTC Expert Publications
Valerie VanBooven, Managing Partner/ Co-Owner of LTC Expert Publications
Valerie’s motto and favorite saying is: “Impact is not created by big budgets, impact is created by innovative marketing ideas!”
Valerie is a Registered Nurse and the author of three books, Aging Answers (2003), The Senior Solution (2007) and Priceless Caregiving (2009). Her adventure in internet marketing began as a self-promotion experiment and ended up becoming a full time marketing consulting business for the elder care market.

Valerie has appeared on national television (Today Show), has hosted her own local radio show, and has been interviewed for dozens of publications and radio shows across the country regarding her business and the business of elder care.
She fast became the foremost authority in driving sales via the internet, seminars, and e-mail for senior service providers and elder care entrepreneurs.While Valerie’s best known for her expertise in marketing, her students share that her biggest impact comes from her ability to make things happen quickly, even on a small budget.
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