Mark Michael Speaks About Today’s Franchise and Tech
DevHub CEO and Founder Mark Michael describes his company as the “torso” of the franchise brand ecosystem.
DevHub specializes in building front-end websites that power the entire franchisor-to-franchisee-to-consumer experience. Their technology has more than 75 integrations with other commonly used platforms, and he often speaks about the power of human relationships in solving problems and generating revenue.
In fact, we met at a Street Fight event and reconnected through the MULO (multi-location) marketing panels at Place 2023. We asked him about the current state and future of franchised MULO brands.
What do you see as some of the biggest challenges facing franchises today?
As we know, these brands are currently scaling up and scaling down. They may be closing locations and opening new ones. That’s even more reason for their sites to be 100% accurate and current. Even though consumers may perform “near me” searches, they still go to franchise brand websites for information.
And rules and tools are changing rapidly.
Regulations like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) require websites to be compliant. The ability to pivot quickly is critical. Non-compliance can result in fines.
What the consumer sees must be accurate AND information must be easily accessible to everyone.
What should corporate’s role be versus the location’s role regarding local search?
A small percentage of employees are knowledgeable and worried about their digital footprints. Corporations should still control marketing at the highest level, but leaders should listen to the perspectives of their franchisees.
The human experience is still the purview of the location, and if bad reviews come up. DevHub has structured its business to help both locations and corporate maintain the best possible reputation.
How will AI impact local search?
Technology doesn’t break down…people break down. In the years ahead, data gathering, information updates, and customer service will all be “AI-powered” but the responsibility to ensure information is accurate and that someone can still get an answer to a complicated problem is the responsibility of people.
What are some of the biggest challenges and changes you’ve seen over the years?
What we do today is the result of speaking to franchisors and franchisees and knowing what the industry really needs in terms of websites.
Tech is invented for the physical world; if customers can’t find what they’re looking for, the whole experience breaks down.
Since 2021, we have been behind the scenes with 200+ brands. We focused on building websites for multi-location franchise brands and work in partnership with other companies that specialize in search technologies. Everyone has their specialty. That’s why partnerships are so critical.
Other than location itself, what are consumers looking for today when they do local searches?
They put a lot of trust in reviews. It also depends on the category they’re looking for. If they are hungry, they may just be looking for a fast way to order. Their toilet is leaking. They need a nearby plumber who can come fast.
If, on the other hand, they just moved to a new city and are looking for a dentist or doctor, they’ll pay close attention to what they find and compare providers to each other, balancing out many factors. The size and importance of the decision override convenience alone.
How do you deal with franchise owners who don’t understand or fear technology?
We love working with companies that are open to learning about the potential expansion of their brand or business. Some people buy through emotion, and others make decisions through ROI. Frustration with traditional agencies is a common pain point. An agency may excel at creative and digital advertising but have limited knowledge of franchise website functionality and local search.
You can’t fake chemistry. Salespeople must be well-trained to deal with prospects on a human level. And although AI can help with onboarding, the human element is still key.