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Running a successful franchise in multiple locations and optimizing each one for maximum engagement and recognition in their local markets is definitely one of the most difficult tasks for a business leaders. Yes, you should trust your franchisees to do a stellar job and manage their branches in an efficient and effective way, but only if you have done your part of the job beforehand.
So, what is your job? As a franchisor, your job is to create a strong overarching marketing strategy that will help every branch maximize its marketing potential while ensuring brand consistency every step of the way. To that end, here are the most effective ways you can create a winning franchise marketing strategy.
Social Media Can Be a Powerful Tool for Local Franchise Marketing
The perpetual question on every franchisor's mind today is how do I keep generating good quality leads for franchise sales in this economy? When the going gets tough, the franchisor needs to get creative. The great thing about franchise marketing is that it is very targeted and specific. When was the last time you saw a Super Bowl Ad marketing for new franchisees? It's just not that likely. The reason is simple, the consumer advertising we see every day is expensive because of the reach and coverage. It is worthwhile for a company to advertise for car insurance when almost anyone who sees the TV commercial could be a potential client. That is not the case when advertising for a franchisee, the franchisee is a clearly defined candidate. The demographics have hopefully been defined ahead of time, the areas of interest are predetermined, the capital requirements and all other attributes are clearly defined. Thus, the advertising is much more focused and generally speaking less expensive.
The different avenues that franchisors use for franchise marketing run the gambit. The Internet of course is the most widely used medium, about 74% of all franchise leads today come from the web. Print Media can be effective based on the readership and specificity of a publication. Direct Mailings can work in some instances as well as Email Marketing Campaigns. Tradeshows are the most showy and grand of the marketing mediums for franchise lead generation and can also be a wonderful way to market a franchise. When it comes down to it there are a lot of avenues...but how does a franchisor know where to spend their ad budget? How do they determine where they will get the most "bang for their buck"? There are several keys that my firm has lived by when it comes to franchise marketing, if these key issues are clearly and completely defined and addressed, the franchise marketing process can be a lot of fun and generate great leads. If these key points are ignored or only briefly addressed, the franchise marketing process can drive a franchisor mad!
1. Define your Buyer. Have you ever heard the phrase, "Ready, Fire, Aim!" It sounds funny, that's because it doesn't make sense! The first goal of the franchise marketing effort should be to clearly define the buyer. I don't mean "salesperson with a desire to succeed".....I mean, "Female, ages 28-37, Midwest and Southeastern US, Household income between $75k-100k, work experience with kitchen products, married, preferably with children." We want specifics, down to every last detail. Once we completely figure out who this franchisee is, then we can more effectively plan our marketing.
2. Establish franchise sales goals. Clearly identify the marketing approach. Start first with how many franchises you plan on selling into the system within the next 6 months and year. Don't plan much further than that, because beyond that point you will most likely have to redo this plan based on then current circumstances. Once we have the goals set, we then can back out of that equation. Typically we are looking at around 1000 qualified leads for every 50-100 meetings with prospective franchisees. From those meetings the closing percentage is typically around 5%. So if we determine that we would like 5 franchises to open during the first 12 months of rolling out the franchise, we need to plan on generating 1000 leads during those first 12 months. The beauty of franchise marketing is that it is very measurable and much easier to track then consumer marketing...we can actually tell how effective it is!
3. Determine the advertising mediums. Different buyers can be reached via different advertising avenues. In some franchises all of the marketing can be done over the Internet, in others the marketing has to be done through direct mailers to specified candidates....like doctors in the case of a rapid care facility. Outline the pros and cons of each medium and establish the most effective based on the cost. This is where the importance of the defined franchise buyer comes through.
4. Establish the Budget. The average cost per lead on the Internet is around $30, the average cost from a tradeshow can be as much as $200 when factoring in travel, time, booth set up and other costs. So take into account some kind of an average cost based on the advertising venues you have determined will be most effective at reaching the target audience. For those thousand leads you may need $10,000 in advertising dollars for that first year to hit the 5 franchises sold.
5. Create the Collateral materials. A Franchise is a big investment for most franchisees, in fact for many of the buyers it is literally everything they have. The franchise offering should look extremely professional and really has to be buttoned up. This means that the brochure should be top quality, there should be a sales video to present to the buyer what the business entails and helps create excitement in the franchise. Pamphlets and handouts should be put together. All of this built around creating value in the business offering, not the product or service that the business offers. The overall theme should be "Mr. or Mrs. Franchisee, you can make a great living doing this, and have fun while you're at it." Franchise buyers fall in love with franchise concepts because they envision themselves running a business doing what the franchisor does. The collateral materials should be the vehicle that sparks that interest in the franchisee's mind.
6. Put together a comprehensive application form. There should be two forms in the end...one that the franchisee fills out initially to give the franchisor initial information from which the franchisor can make a decision if they want to follow up with the prospect any further. This should be basic information that the franchisor should know up front as soon as possible in the sales process, like how much capital do you have to invest! The second form will go into much more detail and would be sent with the brochure and information packet. This form should go into work history and personal background, so that the franchisor can really get to know who this prospect is and what they are all about.
7. Execution. Franchise marketing is like all advertising and marketing, it isn't a science, although it is much closer to one than consumer marketing, it still varies a great deal in its effectiveness and results. Some times, just when things are getting to the point where a franchisor is thinking they should throw in the towel and call it quits is when they really should do some MORE advertising! It takes consistency. The franchise buyers can be fickle, lots of time it has nothing to do with the franchise offering or the marketing, but rather with the franchisees life and circumstances. They do come back and look again, we want to be there when that prospect makes the buying decision.
8. Excellent Follow Up. Great franchisors have wonderful salesmanship in the sales process. Leads should be followed up with immediately upon contact. Phone calls are important and there should be high frequency between calls until a contact is made. The franchise sales process isn't rocket science, it just takes hard work and good planning.
Franchise Marketing - Step it Up a Notch!
Social Media Can Be a Powerful Tool for Local Franchise Marketing
When making your decision as to which franchise will work best for you, it is vital that you explore the trends impacting the investments you are considering. Shifts in consumerism both nationally and regionally can have a heavy impact on the market in general and on your franchisor specifically. No matter how solid you feel your plan for you business may be, if your intended product is falling out of public favor you have little chance of success. If you don't have a clear concept of what trends will impact your business, then you may want to begin your research there.
Once you have developed an overall perspective of the market aspects that most impact your franchise, take a look at the big picture. Investigate how your business, and those similar, have fared in the recent political and economic climate (and in the past). Review back issues of national business journals for articles related to both your specific franchisor and your potential competitors to develop a clear perspective of how the market has fluctuated and why. Dig deep. Consult statistics from census data and the Bureau of Labor Statistics and try to determine which demographic groups have most impacted the market for your product.
Brining it Home
Now that you have at least a general concept of what factors have made the greatest difference in your market, it is time to examine what factors are impacting the local market in your area. It is necessary to determine how those factors that have played a role nationally are represented in the area you intend to do business. If at all possible enlist the aid of a private research firm. This will ensure that the data you base your decision on is factual and up to date. Your franchisor may also be able to assist you in your search, as can your network of franchising peers.
Compare the Competition
Once you have a firm concept of the market and how it will most likely impact your new business, it is time to see if your franchisor has what it takes to overcome the competition in your area. Even if you are the only franchise representing your brand in the area, chances are good that you've got competing brands offering similar products or services in your intended sphere of influence. Compare your franchising organizations growth with that of these competitors and try to gauge whether or not your franchisor's growth plans are sufficient to give you an edge against competitors who already have established presences in your area.
Taking the time to research the viability of your intended franchise in the area you wish to do business is a critical step in the development of your business. Overestimating the marketability of your product of the growth potential of your franchise in your specific location could have disastrous consequences. An ill-informed decision could prevent you from seeing the returns you anticipate on your investment and severely cripple your business goals. It pays to take the time to make a smart and fact-based decision that will allow you to make the wisest financial decision in selecting a winning franchise.
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