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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.
How to Franchise - Marketing a Franchise Successfully
ou know there are "right" customers and "wrong" customers and while you may not (yet) know how to tell them apart before they become your customer, you know that the "wrong" customers deliver the least value and create the majority of problems in your business.
Who is a customer?
Customers (or clients), by the way, are not just the people who buy your products and services. They also include your employees, and if you're a franchisor, they include your franchisees.
Be careful of expert advice!
So I read a passage on a blog that provided "some helpful hints on how you can spot a great franchise marketing system" and the first hint was this:
Customers are brought in the doors. This is what every business boils down to in the end, whether or not the marketing system brings in the customers. After all, that is where you make your profits.
Taking the express train to bankruptcy
And I thought to myself: Or that is where you lose your profits, your money and ultimately your business!
It's not enough to drive customers through the doors of a franchise, or any business. You've got to drive the "right" customers through the doors! Most businesses, and most marketing systems, do not fulfill that objective. And that's one reason why franchises struggle and fail.
So don't be fooled into thinking that a good franchise is one where "the marketing system" drives customers to the door!
Happy franchisees make the most money
To wit: Some years ago the new CEO of a major retail franchisor asked me to help his franchisees attract more customers and ultimately generate higher revenues so that (a) the franchisees would earn (and keep) more money, and (b) the franchisees would pay higher royalties. Since the beginning of franchising, franchisors have known that franchisees who make and keep the most money are the happiest franchisees!
So I spent several weeks working with a few franchisees to find out more about their customers. Here's what we discovered:
- It cost the "average" franchisee $100 to get a new customer to come through the door (that included marketing costs and the required fee for the franchise advertising fund).
- The "average" customer spent about $10.
- No one knew if the customer would return - ever.
- If the customer did return - no one could predict when or how often.
- The "average" franchisee did little to nothing to bring the customer back again repeatedly (and you may be surprised to find out why).
Busy, busy, busy going out of business!
So while it appeared "the marketing system" was doing its job, e.g. the franchisees were busy serving customers throughout the day, in reality "the marketing system" was slowly running the franchisees out of business (and perhaps into an early grave)!
That and the fact that the franchisees were so busy, busy, busy taking care of all the customers "the marketing system" provided that they had no time to do the things that would have insured getting the maximum benefit out of their customers, i.e. increasing sales, increasing frequency, building rapport with key customers, gathering referrals, etc.
Who caused that fire?
As one franchisee told me, "From the time I open the door in the morning until I close it at the end of a long day, I don't have time to do anything but put out fires."
Upon examination, most of the "fires" were caused by customers and employees. Occasionally, even though they didn't know it, the franchisee caused some of the fires!
Blame it on the franchisor, of course
You can be sure the franchisor got blamed for the majority of the challenges the franchisees faced. Frankly, I would take the side of the franchisees on that issue (though it does no good to blame anyone, but rather to accept responsibility). The franchisor could have done a better job sooner! In other words, the CEO that hired me had only recently arrived at the company. To his credit, he quickly assessed "the marketing system" and knew that it was broken. However, this company had been operating for many years prior to hiring this CEO. Where were the marketing folks all those years? Where was the company's leadership?
Why doesn't this system work?
So what was wrong with "the marketing system" at this company?
Simply, it was producing the "wrong" customers for the franchisees!
Even among customers there are stars
Through our continued research we further discovered that not all customers were created equal! Some spent more money than others and never, ever complained or started a "fire"! Of course, those were "the right" customers.
Problem was, "the marketing system" produced too few "right" customers.
Revealing more about "right" customers
Without giving away too much information (and revealing the company), here's more of what we discovered about the "right" retail customers for this franchise business. They:
- spent about twice as much as the average customer
- returned 3 to 4 times a week
- owned a business, which existed within 3.5 miles of the franchise location
- were males (64%) and females (36%)
- had partners in their business (46%); most often, a spouse
- were between the ages of 32 and 62
Franchise Marketing - What Does the Franchisor Do?
Franchise Marketing Systems Implementation
In order to go anywhere as a franchisee, the franchisor needs to have a sturdy and effective marketing plan in place. Here are some guidelines when it comes to researching a franchisor's marketing plan:
1) Know the Basics: You should take the time to learn the basics about how franchise marketing plans work. In general, a marketing plan is a map laid out by the franchisor that dictates how business will be brought in. As a franchisee, you will contribute a set amount of money / a percentage from sales into a collective marketing plan pool controlled by the franchisor (note that other franchisees will contribute to the pool as well). Depending on your needs as a franchisee, the franchisor will dole out money from the pool that will cover such expenses as TV commercials, direct mailings to potential and existing customers, print advertisements, in-house marketing expenses and fees paid to advertising agencies for their services.
2) Know the Right Questions to Ask: To get a good idea about the durability and success of a franchise's marketing plan, ask these simple questions: Do you understand the needs and tastes of your customers? Do you know the strengths of your competitors? (If you're an active customer of the franchise you're considering buying into, these questions can be answered pretty easily).
3) Get More Information: If you are one of those potential franchisees who doesn't know much about the franchise you're thinking of buying into, you should contact the franchise and request all available public information about the marketing plan. Franchises will usually comply with this request, if only
because they see you as a prospective source of income.
4) See the TOC: You should definitely try to get a peek at the marketing support guide that existing franchisees use. Whereas a lot of this content might be too sensitive to hand out to prospective franchisees, the franchisor should be able to give you at least the table of contents, which will give you a solid overview of the blueprint used to market the brand and product.
5) Seek Out Other Franchisees: Be sure to ask other franchisees specific questions about sales, the best avenues of advertising, and what the franchisor might change about the marketing plan (if any). As you've undoubtedly deduced, you can determine a lot about your franchising potential by gauging current franchisees' levels of satisfaction with the marketing strategies dictated by the franchisor.
6) Learn whether the Franchise is Receptive to Franchisee Input: For the most part, franchisors grant their franchisees some leverage in the creation of their marketing plans. Find out how much say franchisees generally have regarding marketing plan improvements. Also, find out whether or not strategies and/or ideas they've suggested have been recognized and utilized by the franchisor - this will give you a good idea about the amount of creative breathing room you'd have in marketing plan development.
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