Traditional and social communication, community relations, and working with local charities are great ways to build awareness around your franchise, get involved locally, and increase sales. A very effective way to do all three is to hold events that allow you to incorporate many tools together in order to maximize your reach, your efforts, and your resources.
As a franchise owner your immediate thought is probably, “An event? Aren’t events expensive?” In yesterday’s non-digital world, they could be cost-prohibitive, with printing invitations, paying for catering and décor, and months and months of planning. But in today’s world, using Web conferencing, video Skype, or inviting people to your franchise during non-business hours makes hosting events very cost- and time-efficient. Think about events less as a fancy gathering with cocktails and finger foods and more as a way to get information to many people at once.
Following are 10 ideas for using an event to draw target customers to your location or to showcase your expertise in new and interesting ways.
1. When did you open? Use that date as your birthday party date and have a party. Buy a big cake and invite your current and prospective customers to check out your franchise and share some sweets with you.
2. Every region has a franchise industry conference at least once a year. Host a TweetUp at your region’s conference. It doesn’t have to cost you anything. You can invite your Twitter followers to meet you in the hotel lobby bar and everyone pays for their own food and drinks. This is a great way to meet your Twitter followers in person, but also put a face behind your franchise brand. If you’re not on Twitter or don’t want to have a TweetUp, you can take the same idea and invite vendors, partners, customers, and prospects.
3. If you’re not open yet, host a ribbon cutting ceremony when you do open. Invite the mayor, some local VIPs, and your local TV news. Also invite your prospective customers so they can see what you’re about and be one of the first to experience your franchise. If you want to do something out of the ordinary, consider making your ribbon out of ice or concrete. Then use a chainsaw to cut it, instead of the typical red ribbon and scissors.
4. Does your franchise offer classes? We have a franchise client that offers computer classes to kids. So we invite the parents in to take classes while their kids pretend they’re the adults. It drives new business for them because the kids have pester power and love the idea of switching spots with their parents (and they love the classes).
5. Taking the TweetUp idea even more local, invite your customers and prospects to your local fair-trade coffee shop. Pair each of your current customers with a prospect and host a speed dating-like event. Every five minutes, you ring a bell, and your prospects switch to the next customer to learn more about what your franchise offers.
6. If your franchise is geared toward women, offer a manicure and martini night at your location. Nearly every city has nail technicians for hire that will come to your franchise for the evening. If you make it a monthly event, the brand loyalty you’ll instill will be greater than any kind of direct mail or advertising you can do.
7. Partner with a local charity – a charity that makes sense to your franchise – and present a potluck fundraiser at your franchise. Everyone you invite, from the charity supporters to your customers, brings a potluck dish and $20. All money raised goes to the charity and you can have tours of your location and staff around to talk about what it is that you do.
8. Partner with a local restaurant to host a private event. You invite your top 20 customers and ask them each to bring a friend. The restaurant provides new menu items to test and get feedback and you provide information about your franchise…and create 20 new customers.
9. Does your franchise offer a specific service? If so, develop a Webinar series that allows you and your staff to engage with potential customers online. Create videos and presentations that showcase what it is your franchise does and also presents you as an expert within your industry.
10. One of my very favorite event ideas, using social media, is a franchise that was six months from opening. They created a Facebook fan page and asked for input on everything from paint colors and seating fabric to business hours and charities to support. When they opened, they had a built-in loyal following because all of their fans felt like they’d helped build the location. You can do this with any business, open or not yet open.
Offline and online events are great ways to interact with your target audience on a very personal level, while getting your business messages across and building your franchise’s presence. Through well-planned tactics and an organized approach, your franchise is sure to increase awareness and reach company goals.
Gini Dietrich is the founder and chief executive officer of Arment Dietrich, Inc. Gini is not only a communication professional, but also a business owner who understands how results affect the bottom line and year-over-year growth. She takes this expertise and combines it with traditional and new media to brand and revamp a company’s image, network, develop new business, and grow the company. To encourage dialogue about the use of communication through leadership, business growth, and social media, Gini founded a blog, The Fight Against Destructive Spin.