While franchisees are generally required to follow an overall marketing plan devised and handed down from the franchisor, there is still some wiggle room for how a unit owner can advertise their franchise opportunity to his or her local community.

Now, it may be tempting to implement the same old tired marketing strategies you've been using for years, there are a number of new or evolving trends that could help franchise owners set themselves apart from the crowd in 2011, including content, FTC rulings, customer engagement and question-and-answer Web sites.

What exactly does content mean in terms of marketing? According to the Web site AllBusiness, content can be anything from e-newsletters to podcasts, white papers and videos. By becoming their own PR agency or media company, franchisees can ensure that whatever information they are providing to news sources is consistent with the overall brand and of value to consumers.

In terms of the Federal Trade Commission, being a part of a franchise that is also its own media company is growing increasingly important. Currently, the FTC is considering how to begin regulating PR and marketing, and it already requires blogs and paid reviews to provide full disclosure, AllBusiness writes. Next, the federal commission will begin examining ethics and how businesses approach journalists and bloggers.

"That's why becoming a media company will be even more important - by doing so, you'll be able to reach your customers and prospects without relying solely on these influences. But hire an attorney, because you'll need to really understand what you can and cannot do and say through your content," explains the Web site.

The next tactic available to franchisees is one that can be accomplished on a much more unit-to-unit level. According to AllBusiness, there is a difference between customer-centric and customer-focused operations. Customer-centric businesses revolve around the customer, rather than just keeping them in their line of sight. This can mean anything from harnessing Facebook, Twitter and blogs to asking consumers questions to speaking to them outright and in person.

Additionally, franchisees can consider a customer engagement tactic such as question-and-answer sites. These sites allow consumers to ask a question and get a quick and accurate answer. Furthermore, these sites and other marketing tactics such as surveys and polls allow owners to collect customer data that can be used for future marketing campaigns.

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