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How to Create a Social Franchise Business: In Head Office or at the Coal Face?

Here's the deal. Businesses large and small need to re-invent themselves these days into what we call 'social businesses'.
In other words they need to engage 24/7 with their customers on terms and through devices that their customers want. Long gone are the days of 'push marketing' when it was all about the company, their products and their services. Today the customers call the shots and only the most fleet of foot, observant and engaging companies are making it.
So to be a highly effective social business the de facto standard is you have to be good at social networking. There is no choice. That's where your customers are and where they are expecting you to be. This could be Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter or others, and in fact it's most likely to be a combination of a number of these fast growing digital places.
On average we spend more time in social media than doing any other leisure pursuit and in work, combine this with email, and social networking takes up more time than all other business activities combined.
So if this is where we find our customers, how best do we engage with them? In the head office or at the coal face?
It's a matter of balance.
Franchisors typically like to keep control. They like to know what's being said, how it's being said and what images, words and colours are being used to talk about their products and services. They like clear boundaries so that they can protect their key business asset, their brand.
Franchisees know the local marketplace and their customers. They like to build their businesses by developing relationships, providing great  value and ensuring everyone is happy each step of the way along the customer journey.
But what about the customers? Typically they will want fast access to information and service and this generally comes from those at the coal face, able and willing to provide quick response on the customers' terms and in a language they understand.
So where is the social business created? The answer is by both franchisor and by franchisee working closely together:
- The franchisor must provide clear training in the style, tone, boundaries and best practice for the most effective social networking for their business
- The franchisee must interpret these guidelines locally to ensure they are meaningful, engaging and relevant for their customers
Creating a social business in partnership leads to the customer advocacy and recommendations that both franchisor and franchisee need to grow and maintain sustainable profits.
Neil Wilkins
This guest blog was written by Neil Wilkins, MD of new franchisors Viper Marketing & Communication Group. Neil has over twenty years experience in marketing of small businesses through to household names such as Orange, NatWest and Ordnance Survey. Neil also trains marketers taking their professional Chartered Institute of Marketing qualifications.
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