Integrated Franchise Marketing & Development

February 15, 2014 7 comments

Integrating technology with traditional strategies for effective franchise marketing and lead generation… a practical plan for future franchise growth, and in some cases, future survival. I shared this and the rest of the article below back in 2011 and I firmly believe it’s still true today!

The days of promoting franchise concepts and brands primarily through static, expensive, two-dimensional advertising are rapidly becoming things of the past. Sure, franchising has experienced a great run and will most likely remain the backbone of small business. However, as we continue to recover from a period of economic uncertainty franchisors must continue to explore and utilize more effective methods and processes in marketing franchise opportunities, products and services as franchise growth objectives continue to be on the forefront of franchisors’ minds in the United States and abroad.

Franchise marketing and development efforts, for both today and tomorrow, must be technologically advanced to attract a more sophisticated, educated (and cautious) franchise candidate and consumer than the franchise industry has ever seen before. A trend that is evolving as an increasing number of transitioning, highly-skilled and educated business professionals and corporate executives explore franchising as a career alternative while already successful street-smart entrepreneurs investigate franchising, perhaps for the first time, as part of their diversification and expansion strategies. As well, value-conscious consumers are spending more and more time researching information online before making a purchase, and not only for the best value. Customer reviews, consumer reports, community involvement and professional affiliation are also being considered.

In addition, today’s franchise marketing and development efforts must be an integration of new technology and traditional strategies, creating what I refer to as Integrated Franchise Marketing (IFM). It’s a comprehensive approach to achieving multiple goals and objectives within startup, emerging and mature franchise organizations. IFM directs its focus on creating or improving brand awareness for the franchise organization at local, regional and national levels, driving revenue for franchisees, and generating genuine interest in the franchise concept itself.

The fact is, candidates and consumers alike, are embracing Social Media and complementing technologies in Mobile Marketing, as a way of researching information and exploring opportunities…including today and tomorrow’s franchise brands, products and services. From this diligent research they will make buying decisions, and will network with others and share the information they’ve accumulated along with their experience with the company they’ve chosen to invest in or do business with. Basically, with an organization they’ve grown to trust!

This article was previously posted on this site October 2011.

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So, you want to do business with franchise companies…

February 13, 2014 1 comment

First, and foremost, please understand that many, many business professionals approach the franchise industry each and every day attempting to sell them everything from insurance to office equipment to financial services. It’s an uphill battle that can be extremely rewarding if the trek is carefully and diligently navigated. That being said, the best approach is directly at the franchise organizations. By going direct, you create the opportunity of gaining the parent company’s endorsement and ultimately, accessibility to the entire franchise base. If you attempt to market to individual franchisees initially, you will spin your wheels and burn out faster than you could ever imagine.

In dealing with franchisors, I recommend a subtle, subliminal approach. You will need to become a resource for them to consider introducing you to their franchisees. That’s your biggest challenge. To conquer it I recommend contacting as many franchise publications and blogs as you can, and submit articles and posts. Of course, end them with your contact info, etc. This positions you as an expert in your field and as a resource for the industry.

You can also achieve expert status by being proactive on LinkedIn. Join as many franchise groups as you can. Keep in mind that direct selling is frowned upon in social networking forums. However, by responding to and posting discussions, you can establish your niche. By doing so, the sales intent will be subtle and subliminal, and effective. In time, I recommend you develop a webinar and invite the franchise community to attend. This is a great way to develop a target list.

Consider developing powerpoint presentations to attach to your LinkedIn profile that people can view at their leisure. Maybe a video on You Tube and post on various blogs and social networks. Improve your Facebook presence. Explore groups you’re interested in targeting and consider forming your own group and establish a business page as well. Check Twitter and integrate your messages there as well. Be sure to cross-promote wherever possible.

Basically, I’ve just outlined for you a marketing strategy that is integrated with social technology. It’s cost-effective and it works. Though, I must remind you to be patient as results take time as you “earn” the right to do business with your target audience. But when the orders start coming in, momentum can build very quickly. It can also be plenty of fun and you will meet many exciting and interesting people along the way.

This post was originally posted on this site January 2010

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Social Media ROI Revisited at Franchise Expo South

February 9, 2014 Leave a comment

imageThis week at Franchise Expo South in Houston, TX, I again had the honor or presenting alongside two great franchise professionals, Lee Plave and Theresa Huszka. The topic, that continues to evolve from event to event was Data 2.0 + Social Media in Franchising. In today’s world of data breaches and the use of “everything digital” for marketing, communications, transactions and so much more always has our sessions well-attended. This week’s session was no different.

Note: Thank you to the Law Firm with Zing, Plave Koch for sponsoring our session!

As I thought back to this most recent session and my repeated reference to developing a Social Media P&L, I thought about a past article I wrote that was picked up by several online publications. Always thinking about the many questions about return on investment on social media efforts, I thought it timely and appropriate to share this article once again.

True Social Media ROI – Relationship & Community Building

Certainly, return-on-investment (ROI) is important but too many miss the boat by trying to make social media a line-item on their financials. First, social media is not advertising. So to think there will be a definitive ROI based entirely upon revenue generated against dollars invested is absolutely off-base.

One needs to look at social media as the glue that can hold several key functions of the business together such as bringing the customer experience to marketing complete with sharing operations role in making the experience positively memorable, and letting the end-user know about its objectives.

Complicated? No, but not without proper planning and a long-term vision. Further, social media is vehicle that transports information from one function to another – it’s a conduit.

Social media is the communications tool that should lend itself to truth, trust and transparency in establishing or strengthening the business relationship. Last, social media is the tool that enables a brand or business to earn the right to “ask” for business from customers, clients and investors alike as it provides the platform for them to virtually see how your business operates, how it communicates and how it is perceived. The key here is in establishing community. The necessary steps are relatively simple to follow… Share, Interact, Engage and then, only then have you earned the right for a Call-to-Action. Yes, that’s when the right has been earned.

It does take training for social media to be utilized effectively at any level. But even more so at the local level as franchisees typically cannot afford the luxury of adding human resources to handle their social media. So, training and guidance is paramount. As is open communication and interaction between franchisor and franchisee in managing and monitoring social media. Yes, working together with common goals and objectives, as should always be the case in the franchise relationship. This is just another component of what I believe should be the everyday goal of working towards a truly interdependent relationship. The same should be said about all relationships in a business [and franchise] environment – franchisor/franchisee, employer/employee, business/customer, etc… Yes, it should be the norm, and not the exception.

Categories: Business 101, Franchising

Defining Franchise Success

February 1, 2014 Leave a comment

imageLast summer, just prior to completing the acquisition of Franchise Foundry and accepting the position of CEO at FranchisEsource Brands International, I was interviewed by Lizette Pirtle, CEO of Expansion Experts. Lizette had the vision of creating a series that, in essence would document franchise success AND provide information to newcomers to franchising that would help them succeed. I am humbled to have been asked to share my perspective. More importantly, I am honored to call Lizette a friend!

Franchise Success: It is All in the Culture

Paul Segreto, CFE, is the CEO and President of Franchise Foundry and serves as the CEO of several of their clients’ companies. I met Paul in 2009 upon my first engagement in Social Media. From day one it was obvious that Paul was a man of honor. I loved his honesty, his straightforward style, his heart, his thirst for knowledge–and most of all, his passion for franchising and for sharing and helping others. Paul has a rich franchising history having been a franchisee as well as leading several franchise companies in many management roles. He is the first one to talk about the ups and downs of his career and all the lessons he has taken from both turns. Paul is always filled with great ideas; his mind never stops, always learning, and always passing on the lessons. He never rests and never gives up; his tenacity and perseverance are equal to none. I was thus delighted when he agreed to be part of this study on Franchise Success.

Paul first defined Franchise Success academically as: “the combination of bottom line profitability and bottom up profitability and growth.” In other words, “You can’t kick in high gear the growth of your franchise network until you have unit and overall company profitability,” Paul explains. “But, it is really all about culture,” he shares as he starts getting into his passion. “Franchise Success is about building a culture that creates positive, memorable experiences at all levels and at all times. Many franchisors get this at the customer’s level, but forget about it when it comes to their franchisees or their staff. It has to be a culture that produces these types of experiences for everyone,” Paul goes on.

“So how do you do that?” I asked. According to Paul, it comes from the realization that success is not a permanent state. He says, “You can go from total success to total failure in an instant if you take your eye off the goal. You must have processes and procedures in place and you must make sure that they are followed at all times. You also must be constantly aware of and foster the interdependent relationship that exists between the franchisor and the franchisee.”

Paul considers the greatest challenge he’s had to face in franchising as “getting franchisees to realize that you truly have their best interest in mind. When a relationship is fragmented, trust disappears, and without it, healthy relationships can’t exist.” Paul has always found himself in situations where he has had to introduce a new way of doing things and has inherited cultures that haven’t been the most conducive to true and honest communication. Although he thrives in the challenges of making a difference and turning around companies, he also has to deal with recreating rather than creating, which is always more difficult to do.

Paul believes that as important as trust is in a company’s culture so is the resilience of its members. The ability to change is crucial for the longevity of franchise companies. “Moving your brand forward requires you and all of your franchisees and staff members to adapt to change. Comfort levels are shaken when we embrace change, so not everyone is going to like you; and I am OK with that,” Paul shares.

Paul deals with these challenges in his usual honest and straightforward style: “By putting my money where my mouth is; by knowing that I must earn the right to people’s trust, that I must lead by example and that I must put my ego aside and say ‘I am sorry’ when needed and try a different approach.” Paul does not sugar coat his communications with franchisees, or anyone else for that matter. He helps them understand how their results are directly related to their actions, and also to their lack of action. The company cultures he creates are not only resilient and trust-filled, but they also include personal accountability at all levels as well as transparency.

When talking about what is required to replicate success, my conversation with Paul got even more interesting. “Here we face an oxymoron. When we think of franchising we think of doing the same thing over and over again all over the place; but to really replicate success franchisors need to be discerning and they need to modify the concept according to the conditions present, be it economic or regional differences.” Paul continues, “For example, take McDonald’s, why have they been so successful? They have adapted. Today the locations look different depending on where they are. You have urban locations, suburban ones, and specialty ones like the one in Asheville, NC, where you live. The menus also change. So, what’s stays the same? The culture: clean bathrooms, attention to details, management controls, and some core menu items.” Paul summarizes, “To replicate success, a franchisor must be quick to adapt and change and tweak the concept slightly to ensure it works in the new area of growth or under new economic conditions without compromising the culture that is identified with the brand.”

Paul has some great tips for those who are considering franchising their businesses. He says:

- Make sure you understand that when you franchise you are no longer in the business you used to be. You are now in the business of franchising, which is all about process, procedures and relationships.
- Keep your eye on the details: ALL OF THEM.
- Give back to the community, and remember you are now entering the franchise community.
- And, most importantly: From the beginning make sure to build a culture that produces POSITIVE, MEMORABLE EXPERIENCES AT ALL LEVELS AND ALL OF THE TIME.

Franchise Sales Process: Consistent or Flavor-of-the-Month?

January 30, 2014 1 comment

Occasionally, I take a look at some of my posts from a few years back just to compare my thoughts and perspective from then to now. I always ask myself if I’m consistent so as not to confuse anyone. But more importantly, am I focused for the long-term or for just the here-and-now. Well, below is a post from June 2009. I’m sure you’ll agree that I have been consistent and have not jumped on any flavor-of-the-day bandwagon… It really is about fundamentals and best-practices!

Franchise Sales During the Recession

WSJRecently, in one of the franchise groups on LinkedIn, there was some discussion about the Wall Street Journal article, “Franchise Sales Pull Back During the Recession.” Several franchise professionals posted their comments and, of course, I added my “two cents” as well. Okay, I was definitely long-winded compared to the others, but as most of you who read my articles are well aware, I have a passion for franchising and franchise success and tend to go on and on to share the same with all who will “listen.”

“I too, believe there are many well-qualified candidates exploring franchising. Some as a career alternative, and also, in the case of already being a small business owner, as a business expansion strategy and/or an income diversification plan.

No doubt, the number of overall franchise leads has diminished quite a bit. But I believe many of the “tire kickers” have gone by the wayside while the more qualified candidates continue to search, inquire and ultimately decide franchising is right for them to achieve their goals and objectives. However, in order to fully realize this trend, one must realize that the candidates’ approach has evolved.

Today’s qualified franchise candidate is more sophisticated, educated and technologically advanced than we have ever seen before. Add to the mix, a sense of extreme caution, and their process in exploring franchising and specific franchise opportunities has become more of a detailed, well-thought out strategy.

Always understanding that there is risk in any entrepreneurial endeavor, today’s candidates explore franchising because it may provide even the slightest edge against failure. Their mantra has become, “failure is not an option” and they now live it by doing everything humanly possible to dot every “i” and cross every “t” and then rechecking only to do it over and over again until they have full, complete confidence in their decision.

To that end, the overall process from initial inquiry to franchise award is much longer than in years’ past and that is something franchisors must be prepared to effectively handle. It’s a primary reason I believe social media works so well in the new era of franchise sales as it creates an environment for today’s candidates to research organizations, share information, communicate with individuals at all levels of the franchise organization from franchisees to corporate executives, view photos, audio and video, etc. And, they can do so at their own pace and to their full understanding. That is the key.

Understanding and adapting to today’s qualified franchise candidate will help franchisors ride out this current economic downturn. Putting their heads in the sand and just complaining about the poor economy and the franchise candidate pool drying up will only incorrectly prove true that their negative thoughts are correct.

All that being said, certainly there are challenges in securing financing and other variables that must be contended with and addressed accordingly. But as the franchise candidate pool diminishes and many of the tire kickers aren’t around to waste our time, we should now have more time to explore all options, use our creativity and innovation, network beyond our comfort zones and seek out alternative solutions. I believe those solutions are out there and many are capitalizing on them as we speak. They will not only survive, they will thrive as others have done in other recessionary periods.”

Are You Confused by Franchise Terminology?

January 16, 2014 2 comments

Many, including myself, refer to franchising as an industry… even though we know it’s really not an industry. A business model is probably one of the better definitions, but what does that really mean?

When referring to a franchise, even many within franchising choose from a variety of terms as a point of reference – franchise organization, franchise system, franchise company.

Of course, there’s also the varying terms relating to the franchise relationship – franchisee, franchise partner and not to mention the slang, zee. And to the other side of the relationship – franchisor, head office, corporate office, parent company… and yes, zor.

And what’s the difference between franchisor and franchiser?

Confused yet?

And, franchise locations are independently owned and operated. Yet, the franchise relationship is interdependent… or at least it should be interdependent and not dependent or independent upon… Well, you get it, right?

Now let’s look at the people serving the franchise community. Yep, franchise community is another reference for the franchise list above but let’s move on. Franchise consultants, do they sell or consult? How about franchise brokers, sales agents, sales representatives, and again, franchise consultants. Whew!

Moving down the chain there are franchise suppliers, service providers and vendors… What’s the difference? Preferred or approved? Is there really a difference?

Of course, there are references to segments within franchising such as master franchising and sub-franchising… Which one is correct? And, isn’t the sub-franchisor actually the master franchisee? I guess it all depends on which end of the relationship one is on.

How about now – confused yet?

Franchise services means what, and providing services to who? Franchisee to end-user? Franchisor to franchisee? Franchise service provider to franchisor and/or franchisee?

Same can be said of franchise marketing, right? Does marketing in a B2B or B2C scenario but within a franchise environment mean that it’s franchise marketing? Or, is franchise marketing actually marketing to franchise candidates?

Speaking about franchise candidates, when is a candidate actually a candidate and not a lead or just an interested party? Does this fall under franchise sales or franchise development? And who’s in charge – the VP of Franchise Sales, VP of Franchise Development, or VP of Franchising?

And then there’s reference to franchise professionals. Is a franchisee a franchise professional? How about if the franchisee is a multi-unit franchisee with 25 locations? How about a franchise attorney? Franchise service provider?

If a franchise executive is a franchise professional, at what level of management does one begin to be considered a franchise professional? How about within the franchise organization itself?  Secretary, if their support is purely administrative as opposed to an admin that actually communicates with franchisees?

Oh, and should the CEO of a franchise company be considered a franchisor as we often refer to them as such at franchise events?

Ironic how franchising is the replicating of a system with focus on consistency in image, appearance, product and service from one location to another. Yet, there’s little consistency in the terminology used to define many aspects of franchising.

CEOs & Social Media – There’s Still a Disconnect for Some

January 11, 2014 Leave a comment

I’ve recently posted in the Franchise Executives group on LinkedIn with the discussion question, “Why are CEOs and other top executives [still] not buying in to Social Media.” I’ve included a few of the responses below. Please share your thoughts and perspective as well…

imageSocial media is certainly a primary means of communication that has quickly become a fundamental requirement to businesses just like the telephone, the website, or email. You could choose not to use any of those communication methods too, but it would be a brave person that tries to succeed without them. As a forward-thinking, open minded executive, how can you embrace social media in all of its glory to enhance your brand perception and be more effective in your leadership role?

“Social media is a good CRM tool for customers that are on it. Like any marketing tool it’s also demographic specific on the users. Also there’s the negative side of Social Media when a company cannot control it. Remember the Australian Subway franchise incident when a customer measured and posted a foot long sandwich on their Facebook page which wasn’t exactly a 12 inches long?”

“Sounds like I am preaching to the choir here, but here is my thought. We work with a few large franchisors. The difficulty they run into with social business generally falls into two distinct categories. 1. Brand protection. and 2. Return on investment. Things have changed, and continue to change every day as it relates to social. The measurement seen as success by a community manager vs. a CEO are vastly different. While likes and followers can, at times be a legitimate key performance indicator, the “C-Suite” is saying “show me the money” and “protect our brand identity”. There are options, and they get better everyday. The things we are able to deliver to our franchise clients today vs. 2 years ago would have been unthinkable. We can now control the brand pages on Facebook from one central location for an unlimited number of Facebook pages. We can change images, push offers to all pages at once, create and deploy tabs, etc. This removes the risk of brand sabotage by well meaning franchisees, yet still allows them to have a local Facebook presence. It took a lot of time and resource to develop, but we couldn’t have even imagined doing it two years ago. Funny thing is, I came to this exact group and asked in an open forum if there was anyone that would like to take a look and give feedback. Do you know how many replies I got? 0. Yep, ZERO. See, most folks don’t get it, or don’t yet understand the value. Even those who are commenting in this thread. :) In reference to ROI – Another area with drastic change. The analytics technology is available now to measure all the way from a specific Tweet, Facebook, or LinkedIn post, clear to the web call to action. This shows a specific and clear path to purchase, or action, aka, a proven result. This is what the “C-Suite” wants to see. We do this every day. Its not magic, it is hard work and using the right approach. And yes, content wins and will continue to. But – Context trumps content all day long.”

“In addition to all the offers you can put to your audience we now offer a product that enables our Franchisees to push instant feedback back to the owner and the sites so that the people who really love the franchisee can share that more readily. This advocacy is a far more compelling tribute to the hard work franchisees offer to keep their clients happy! If you have a veracious appetite for growth you can get it in these channels.”

“CEO’s, other than the disruptors, like their position and want to protect their status. New ideas especially as it pertains to the increasing accelerating world of social media are threatening to those who don’t embrace and encourage leadership @ all levels within the organization. Top down is “OLD School.” Embracing existing media vehicles is “OLD School.” By the time I complete this comment 10 new social media ideas will have been hatched somewhere in the world, and it doesn’t have to be Silicon Valley!”


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