While my company was putting together the data for this year’s AllBusiness AllStar Franchise rankings, I noticed a trend: Franchisors are allowing more “local flavor” into their franchise units, increasingly tailoring everything from products and services to marketing plans to fit the local market.
While it focuses on pizza restaurants, this interesting article by Pizza Marketplace illustrates many facets of the localization trend. Pizza Inn CEO Charlie Morrison encourages his franchisees to experiment with new pizza toppings for their pizzas. This franchisee innovation has been responsible for some of the franchisor’s bestselling menu items, such as a bacon cheeseburger pizza that has mustard and pickles on it.
That captured my taste buds’ interest — until I got to the part about the mustard and pickles, but maybe that’s because I live in California. Pizza Inn tailors these unusual menu items to different regions: The enchilada pizza that was embraced in Texas didn’t fly in the South.
Being aware of what works — and what doesn’t — in a specific region is the key to successful localization. No one knows better than a franchisee what works in his or her community, which is why most successful localization programs begin with innovation at the store level.
Localizing requires some extra effort on the part of both franchisors and franchisees. For franchisors, successful localization means walking a fine line. You must encourage and welcome innovation at the local level, but also put systems in place to ensure that new marketing programs, product launches or special offers are implemented in a way that doesn’t weaken your overall brand message.
For franchisees, localization means thinking independently. Instead of waiting for the franchisor to hand you everything you need to operate or to solve all your problems, you’ve got to think entrepreneurially about what could work in your community. And you, too, must walk that fine line — coming up with your own ideas and insights, but also being willing to accept the corporate office’s decision on whether they’ll be implemented and how widely.
Thinking local makes sense because in a world where customers increasingly demand customized, personal experiences, one-size-fits-all business strategies just don’t fit anymore. Franchise companies that use localization successfully can benefit from the best of both worlds: A brand that’s widely recognized, and locations that have strong, personal connections with their communities.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva on Twitter @Rieva. Visit SmallBizDaily.com to read more of Rieva’s insights on small business and to buy her newest book, Marketing 101: Quick Tips for Marketing Your Business.