When your dream of becoming a successful business owner becomes a reality, the next step is usually expansion. Many entrepreneurs choose franchising as a method of expansion, joining over 750,000 franchise establishments as of 2021. These businesses began with effective franchise marketing, an essential piece to growing your business partners as well as your customer base.
Franchise Marketing Basics
Whether you’re thinking of developing a new business with future franchise opportunities or have a business and are considering franchising, it’s ideal to create a model that can be easily replicated with branding that is easy to maintain. Because the goal of expansion is not only through customers, but business partners, franchise marketing should be approached in two ways:
Franchise development marketing is the marketing to attract franchisees to become partners of your businesses.
Operational franchise marketing is the marketing to the end consumer for franchisee growth.
Both methods are equally important to both the franchisor and franchisee. In either case, the path to franchise success is brand development. The formula is simple: brand development = franchise development = franchise growth.
Creating a company brand is a challenge in and of itself. When building a brand with the intention of franchising, other factors need to be considered. Brand positioning is a crucial step to developing a brand that will resonate with, not only end customers, but the franchisees that will become partners by investing in your business. An effective primary strategy is to imagine how people will view the brand. A brand demonstrating uniqueness and profitability will be desirable to new franchisees, and finding potential investors becomes easier when they can envision the opportunity clearly and without much explanation.
Another important component is a compelling brand story. It must be easily understood by both the end consumer and potential franchisees, as well as be smoothly coordinated across franchisee businesses.
Once a baseline for the brand has been completed, the next step is a simple SWOT analysis, an exercise that helps you view your brand in a diplomatic way. The SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) brainstorming session should be conducted by a diverse group of key stakeholders, including sales, customer service, marketing, and product development, and can offer insight on how to turn weaknesses into strengths.
Additional research should include the following:
- Demographics – Know your customer as well as your franchisee. What do they value? Quality? Value? Emotion? Approach the brand identity with that in mind, keeping the essence of the messaging the same.
- Competitors – What’s working for them? What isn’t?
- Target Audience – Create buyer and franchisee personas to formulate the best approach to each of these audiences. Building personas for various locations can often produce different wants or pain points. Approach your marketing in the ways your audience consumes information.
Once the initial franchise marketing research is complete, the next items to consider are your goals and your budget. Your initial goals should be measurable and attainable. Prioritize the budget for the initiatives that will reach the goals first, because what can be spared won’t affect those goals directly.
Next, put a priority on the measurement and reporting of project outcomes. Be sure to track each project, taking special note on what works and why, as well as what doesn’t work and notating thoughts on what can be done differently. Different approaches for the same initiatives are a worthwhile effort, as trends change over time. One of the most important statistics to track is the leads per franchise location. Track users as they browse through your website and evaluate their typical behaviors when abandoning the site. This gives insight into where changes are needed within your marketing funnel. Performance measurement between franchise locations can also be useful in finding ways to improve sales.
Making a franchise opportunity attractive is the objective of franchise development. With a blueprint for franchise growth, clear ROIs, and franchise financing plans, you’ll gain more interest from qualified prospects. It pays to create a partnership demonstrating your willingness to work with them to build their business and customer base while building each business to appear unique across different markets. Networking events and associations are great places to find leads and make contacts, including trade shows and groups such as the International Franchise Association and Franchise Broker Association. Other franchise marketing tactics that may prove successful are sponsorships, online portals, earned media, and direct mail (when it’s executed properly). It’s a good idea to build your SEO strategy for solid lead development. Pay-per-click, Google AdWords, and Google Business Profile are basic and useful resources in developing leads for franchise development as well.
When it comes to social media, it’s evident that content is king. Because it can be difficult to manage and monitor each franchise’s activity on social media, a best practice is to have guidelines and brand standards for all social media, marketing, and customer service. Franchisees are self-starters by nature, so it’s in your best interest to make it easy to follow the rules, preventing any rogue marketing efforts. The reputation of an entire brand can be tarnished with one bad viral tweet from a sour customer in one location. Thus, educating your partners about the potential damage to the brand (and their individual investment) when guidelines aren’t followed is crucial.
Growing the business from the franchise level presents its own challenges. Each location may have a unique demographic, different budgets, and require a different approach, but messaging should be unifying from a brand perspective, with a similar look and feel. As mentioned, buyer personas for each franchise location can narrow the path between franchise and customer. Keeping tabs on your franchisees by conducting spot checks, mystery shopping, and customer service audits are also great ways to establish benchmarks and ensure an ideal customer experience.
Franchisees can also strengthen the brand with social media when it’s executed properly. Common hashtags build engagement, so a coordinated social media plan is recommended across all franchises. Customer service issues can also be monitored and attended to via social media, maintaining quality control for each leg of the business. Using a customer service issue as an opportunity to turn a problem into a positive social experience proves beneficial, with 71% of users more likely to purchase from a brand after a positive experience on social media.
The decision for your franchisees to manage their location’s social media accounts is a personal one. You may even want to consider it as a gradual responsibility, knowing how high the stakes can be for the brand. On the upside, individual franchisee social media accounts can create more customer engagement, by knowing their local market on a more intimate level. Facebook location pages and the creation of social media communities are also good resources for building franchise growth.
Strategic Marketing has partnered with local and national businesses to develop their franchises. Our experience over the past three decades has resulted in the most cutting-edge marketing strategies to keep your business growing. Contact us at 561-688-8155 for our franchise development expertise and you’ll see what Strategic Marketing is all about.