Over the past several weeks, I’ve been fortunate to meet with several C-level executives at a variety of franchisors – large and small. They range from foodservice operators to healthcare companies to various service businesses, and they all had the same question. How can I grow my system?
We discussed what types of marketing programs they’ve used in the past – portals, direct mail, seminars, PR, etc. But they still didn’t feel that they’ve found the secret sauce. The reality is that a tactic does not make a strategy to grow. After all, every company’s tool box is the same (at least kinda the same). In past blogs, I’ve pontificated about the importance of the franchise message (why should I buy your system?) and the need to accurately define your audience — the ideal franchisee — which is all very important.
But one aspect of a savvy franchisor’s development strategy is leveraging the success of their most proven operators or franchisees. We’re talking about validation. You might be asking, “Doesn’t that come after the prospect is already interested, gone through Discovery Day, (or whatever you might call it)?” The simple answer is yes, but why not accelerate the “validation” process and use it as a proactive marketing tool.
Some of the lawyers reading this might be concerned that this could be viewed as steering. However, it could not be further from the truth. By using your successful franchisees early in the process as examples of why your system is worth someone’s consideration, will engage a prospect faster and help facilitate the validation process since your recruitment effort is based on the system’s successes. Not you – the franchisor – claiming success, but the franchisees sharing theirs.
Now, this is not a new idea, I know. Dozens of franchisors use testimonials on their sites to articulate the benefits of their business. But that assumes the prospects are visiting your site. First step is to get them there — so why not take some of those testimonials and integrate them into your marketing campaigns – PR, advertisements, speaking at franchising seminars, cameos during webinars, blog posts, FB and Twitter posts, etc.?
If you’re seeking the ever elusive multi-unit operator for your system, there is nothing better than using your – you guessed it – successful multi-unit owners to talk about why your system is worth a prospect’s consideration. Make them the center of your marketing message. Too often we get caught up in crafting the best website, ad, brochure, but forget the best marketing message lives in each of our stores every day.
I’ve spent time with various successful franchisees over the years: mulit-unit, multi-brand operators, single unit franchisees, etc. They all have incredible stories as to why they chose the brands they’re operating. Us marketing folk could learn something from these stories on how to market the reasons to invest in a franchise.
With all that said, there is another benefit to featuring your best zees: It fuels competition among those not included in your marketing. If other operators see some of their peers getting some love, they (since most are competitive by nature) will want to perform better – not just to make more money – but to get their 15 minutes too.
It’s an important point that is sometimes lost in the process of “awarding” new franchisees: Peer-to-peer communication always wins! In reality, without it, there is no franchise.
Lorne Fisher, CFE, is CEO/Managing Partner of Fish Consulting, a national PR & marketing firm specializing in serving mature and emerging franchise companies. He speaks frequently at various franchise conferences and serves as an instructor at the International Institute for Franchise Education at the H. Wayne Huizenga School of Entrepreneurship in South Florida. Learn more at Fish’s Web site or Fish on Franchising blog. Contact Lorne via email or Twitter anytime.