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Lessons for Franchises: 2013 IFA Conference

With well over 3,000 attendees, this year’s IFA convention was the largest yet, providing a vital forum for the exchange of ideas and information as well as a platform for the discussion of important issues relating to the franchising industry. Over the course of its duration, the conference saw a myriad of critical topics brought to the fore, with Franchise Direct speaking to many renowned franchising experts. Below are some of the most crucial points pertaining to franchising at present.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="460" caption="Dina-Dwyer Owens, CEO of the Dwyer Group, at the IFA Convention in Las Vegas"][/caption]

All in attendance were in agreement that operational excellence was tantamount to success in today’s tight market. In order to remain competitive, franchises – like most other businesses – have to cut waste were possible and try as much as they can to operate at a minimum of expense.

More specific to the industry was the importance of digital marketing for lead generation, now widely accepted as the main medium by which franchisors acquire franchisees. The last few years have seen digital content overtake print as the most read medium worldwide, and franchises the world over would do well to take heed, as a strong, up-to-date and innovative online presence in today’s market can make the difference between success and failure. Critical to this is the use of content to engage with online users, many of whom now seek a far more holistic experience rather than a mere platform through which to buy and sell. We find ourselves in the “engagement age” where the buying decision of the franchisee is increasingly contingent upon the content supplied by the franchisor. So for franchisors, features such as online storytelling (particularly brand storytelling), social media optimisation and the use of franchise opportunity websites such as Franchise Direct are crucial to any success that they hope to have going forward.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="460" caption="Bill Edwards, CEO of Edwards Global Services"][/caption]

Another result of this paradigm shift is that the old technique of selling franchise units has become antiquated and effectively obsolete, with the buyer now having a far greater degree of control over the purchasing process. The sooner franchises realise this, the better; instead, franchise salespeople should think of themselves as facilitators of this process. To this end, a further trend that will rise to increasing prominence over the coming years is the fact that potential franchisees can be acquired through past customer experience – in other words, customers who have had a pleasant experience with a franchise are all the more likely to become future prospective franchisees and should be treated accordingly. As such, a burgeoning opportunity begging to be targeted is the possibility of targeting these potential franchisees – for instance, by directing them to a franchise opportunities website where they can gather more information.

To ensure continuous success into the future, it is vital for franchises to possess a collaborative corporate culture, ensuring that the opinions of franchisees are heard and valued and the entire organisation is motivated by an overriding vision of what the company does and what its purpose is; without this, attracting talented franchisees will become increasingly difficult.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="460" caption="Ralph Yarusso, Vice President of Operations and Business Development at Grease Monkey"][/caption]

Despite dubious signs of recovery, the world jobs market remains weak, especially for young people who are finding it difficult to get a foothold in the face of intense competition. Ergo, many aspiring entrepreneurs are turning to franchising as a means to start their own business, and this has seen the ranks of young franchisees swell in recent years. To capitalise on this market, franchises should actively take steps to make themselves attractive propositions to such franchisees without precluding their existing, more senior market.

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