Successfully marketing your franchise is at the heart of developing it as a profitable long-term business.When many people think of marketing a franchise they consider advertising and promotion. It's true that shouting from the roof tops might create an initial wave of interest and enquiries but you can be sure of sustained success if you begin with some careful planning and break your marketing down into three clear steps:Awareness: creating attention and initial interest
Acquisition: converting the enquiries into franchisees
Retention: supporting franchisees so they become lifelong, loyal business partners
What you say, how and where you say it, and when you say it, is key to ensuring that you attract the right kind of franchisees in a steady stream of enquiries to whom you can provide the highest quality response. To receive 1,000 enquiries a day to whom you have to send a generic email reply is unlikely to reap the rewards you are hoping for as a franchisor. Far better to be highly targeted and seen by potential franchisees who are both very interested in your business and be talking on a one to one basis with those of interest to you.
Here are our top ten tips for creating the right level of awareness and attention to stimulate initial interest in your franchise offer:
1. Define Your Franchisee
Build a clear mental picture of your ideal franchisee. Write down their age, where they live, what car they drive, what leisure pursuits they enjoy, what career have they had before, where they go on holiday. At the end of the task give them a real name. This name will make it easier to think of them in the future and bring them to life. You would likely market differently to a 'Derek' than you would to a 'Tulisa'. This may sound like a sweeping generalisation but 'customer segmentation' to give it the formal title, works powerfully as a filter through which everything you say and do needs to pass. If your marketing isn't talking to your ideal franchisee then it's time to tune it or try something different.
2. Plot The Franchisee Journey
Draw out the step-by-step journey you are planning on taking your franchise enquirer through from where they might first see you, perhaps through an advertisement on the Franchise Direct website all the way through to your first face to face meeting. Each step of the process which might include emailing, telephone meeting, sending information, is an opportunity to market to them. Your franchisee journey will ensure you are consistent in everything you do with each enquirer and if you find that your enquirers lose interest at a certain point then you can quickly identify that point and improve upon it.
3. Duplicate the Message
Consistency in what you say helps you to save time in that you don't have to keep coming up with new information but importantly helps the enquirer because they will see the same information a number of times and this helps them along your franchisee journey. Don't worry that people might have heard it before. It's well known for example that television advertising is normally seen 5-7 times by an individual before they are likely to respond. If you have a good story, make sure you include it in your advertising, social media, emails to enquirers and everywhere else you are using for your marketing.
4. Advertise Online
The simplest and arguably most effective method of stimulating a regular stream of enquiries. A good advertisement will not create thousands of enquiries. The best advertisement will create a good number of relevant enquiries, filtering out those who aren't particularly interested and are 'just asking'. Be clear in your message, consistent with what you as a franchisor are looking for and crucially when you write, always have the mental picture of your ideal franchisee in mind. Write directly for them.
5. Search Engine Optimisation
Using what we call 'long tail search phrases' is key to being found on the internet by your target franchisees. In the old days we could just write words like 'marketing franchise' to promote a marketing franchise but now web-savvy individuals search by long term phrases to ensure they return better quality search results. Today as a franchisee we are more likely to find relevant enquirers if we use a longer phrase such as 'marketing consultancy franchise bristol'.
6. Power of Social Media
Everyone's at it. Social media takes up more leisure time than any other activity and this applies to teenagers as much as it does retired people. The key is finding where your target franchisees are socially networking. Linkedin is a good starting point if you have a business-to-business franchise. Ensure your personal profile (remember that people buy from people not companies so they need to get to know the real you) is up to date and relevant to your ideal franchisee. Make sure you have a strong company page that links out to your own website. Importantly you need to keep your personal status up to date. Remember to use information and marketing you are publishing elsewhere to save you time (see tip 3). And don't write off Facebook and Twitter, even if you have a 'serious' franchise. These networks are significantly larger than Linkedin and Facebook offers some of the most targeted advertising available as well as another great means of letting the franchisee get to know the real you.
7. Franchise Fact Sheet
A step by step introduction to your franchise and importantly for your marketing, 'what's in it for them'. Always write from the perspective of the potential franchisee and not about 'me, me, me'. Think about what we call the 'rule of thirds'. One third is about your vision, strategy and big dream. One third is about you. This might be you personally or 'you' as a business. The franchisee needs to get to know the essence and style so they can decide if there's a personal fit with themselves. The final third is the sell. Remember to include numbers because franchisees need to see when they can expect to see a financial return from their new business. Continually update your fact sheet as enquirers help you to add the most prevalent 'frequently asked questions'.
8. Traditional Telephone Follow-Up
Many franchisors forget that the traditional telephone conversation is part of the marketing mix and a key step on the franchisee journey. Set a loose agenda for each conversation and importantly a target outcome at the end of the conversation. This might be to send them some information to read, to arrange a follow up conversation when they have had a few days to think things through or perhaps agreeing the first face to face meeting. The telephone follow-up needs to be factored into your franchisee journey (see tip 2) so that it happens at the right time in the process, for the right reasons.
9. Monitor Your Dashboard
Keep a log of everything that happens in your franchise marketing. From the amount you spend on advertising, through social media connections to enquiries and outcomes. Monitor the numbers in maybe a spreadsheet but also keep a record of some of the more subjective things that happen. You will learn a great deal from how enquirers respond to certain ways you describe things and maybe different times of the day when you engage with them. The trick with the dashboard of measures is to learn from them. Turn information into intelligence and improve the franchisee journey to ensure your marketing is delivering best value.
10. Preparing for the First Meeting
Re-read through everything that you have sent to the potential franchisee you are about to meet. Remember how they responded to what you said and how you said it. What were their concerns and what questions did they ask? Not only are you using this meeting to put your mind at rest that they are going to be a good franchisee but you are continuing to market to them as you take them to the next point on their franchisee journey.. signing the contract.
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.