As many franchise professionals continue to explore new methods of recruiting franchise candidates, there’s been a great deal of discussion on how to incorporate social media into the mix. Sure, social media could be used to generate franchise leads. And, quite effectively. That, I have no doubt. But, it’s what comes after generating the leads that concerns me more. So, let’s take a look ahead, before jumping in with both feet on the front end.
Just like integrating traditional marketing strategies with social media strategies, it’s necessary to integrate personal interaction as well. However, instead of an aggressive, focused sales approach, the interaction should be subtle and guiding. Social media tools should be used to make points while making the experience enjoyable and interesting. Candidates will most likely marvel at the use of technology and feel comfortable learning about the franchise concept. And yes, they’ll be more comfortable and be fully at ease working through disclosure and the finer points of the concept itself.
The rest comes down to guiding candidates towards making a decision as it will now fully be an informed decision that has been validated by the social media experience AND the franchisees the candidates have come in contact with. Your franchisees will actually feel more a part of the franchise sales process than ever before. Go ahead and smile as this makes the process easier than in the past. Yes, it’ll be very nice to achieve franchise development goals once again.
Fantasy or Reality? Achievable or Not? Easy or Hard? That’s up to you and your team. It comes down to personal accountability, diligent execution of strategy and plan, professional handling of franchise candidates at all times and above all, NO SHORTCUTS!
Personal accountability is necessary in managing and monitoring social media activity, updating blog content and keeping things fresh. Nobody will stay at a dull party, right? Putting off things for tomorrow that should be done today is just not acceptable. It becomes a reflection of how even the simplest things are handled. A lack of urgency and poor attention to detail will translate into how the franchise sales process is handled, and then withered away.
Diligent execution of strategy and plan is essential. Certainly, adjustments will need to be made along the way. But the plan is your road map. Follow it as closely as possible. Allow extra time and resources as necessary for roadblocks and detours, but stay on course. Monitor your progress. How fast did you get from point A to point B? How fast did a candidate get from point A to Point B? Is the process slowing down or speeding up? Why? Do you need to do some system maintenance to the social media vehicle? Maybe your videos aren’t playing correctly? Maybe the photos aren’t loading fast enough? Maybe it’s time to bring in a “technician” so you can get back on the road as quickly as possible?
Professional handling of candidates means working with each candidate as you would want to be treated if you were the one on the verge of making a substantial investment, maybe putting your life savings on the line! It means conveying a sense of urgency when asked for information. It means paying attention to detail in something as simple as pronouncing their name correctly all the way to something complex such as full disclosure of the franchise concept. And, it means having the right attitude and conveying the same at every moment of working with the candidate at every point of “contact” including by email, on the phone, in-person, and yes, in the virtual world. Keep in mind, at all points of contact, your attitude will shine through so make sure it shines bright and your franchise future will shine bright as well!
This was originally posted in March 2010. However, based upon recent discussions on LinkedIn regarding franchise sales, I feel it’s prudent to post this once again.
I believe last year was the perfect storm with respect to challenges the franchise industry faced in its franchise sales and development efforts. There were three key components that equally contributed to lackluster performance. One was a “cause”. Another was “uncertainty” and the other was “unknown.”
The “cause” was the abrupt cessation of funding. Even franchise sales that were actually made fell by the wayside when financing options dried up almost overnight. It also curtailed many existing franchisees’ efforts into expanding their portfolios with new locations and compounded the problem by having to tap their capital reserves to offset the decline in sales.
The “uncertainty” was the indecisiveness of franchise candidates on whether it was the right time to take the entrepreneurial plunge or not. Many were exploring franchising as a career alternative, and out of necessity, but were unwilling to “put it all on the line.” The risk factor won out and was justified, maybe rationalized, by the tight credit markets.
The “unknown” was social media. As today’s franchise candidates quickly evolved into more sophisticated, technologically advanced and educated candidates, most franchise organizations weren’t prepared for the influx of these individuals within social media networks, exploring opportunities differently than ever before. Thus, the franchise candidates that may have been qualified and well-informed were missed in many cases and either chose a different career path or are actually still searching social media sites for the information that will lead them to the right opportunity.
Now, as the public is seeing some positive trends, like gradual decline in new unemployment claims, we should begin to see more and more individuals searching for information about career alternatives. I believe many will continue to visit social media sites, participating in discussions and sharing information. All the while, they’ll be more cautious than ever, and will insist upon absolute trust in the individuals presenting the information, and the information itself, before taking the entrepreneurial plunge.
Social media is ripe for today’s candidate to explore, identify and act upon a franchise opportunity. Franchisors are highly advised to capitalize on social media and be sure to integrate the same with their traditional franchise marketing and development strategies because social media is here to stay and is truly effective at creating and/or improving brand awareness.
I believe anything a franchisor does should be done to benefit the franchise relationship, and social media plays perfectly into this philosophy as it affords interactivity at all stages of the franchise relationship. From prospecting for qualified franchise candidates to supporting current franchisees, the utilization of social media tools and technology creates environments that strengthen relationships, shares information, provides two-way communications, and provides points of reference for follow up. It creates a multi-tiered platform of information that benefits both franchise development and customer generation efforts alike. Often, simultaneously.
For franchise startups, the founder’s vision of the concept is paramount to future success. They are perceived as the concept. They are essentially the brand. At least until a significant number of franchises are awarded and brand awareness is established across multiple markets, they are the inspiration for franchise candidates. The benefit to spreading this message through social media outlets such as social networking, video sharing, blogs, etc. is that these tools and associated strategies will generate direct excitement about the business model while generating subliminal, subtle interest in the franchise concept. This establishes a perfect foundation for growth. It also defines a very worthwhile, visible support mechanism for franchisees. Of course, it’s imperative to have a well-defined support system in place for training and assisting franchisees.
For established franchise brands, it’s a matter of improving brand awareness in current markets while creating brand awareness in new markets, and markets that are on the horizon for expansion. Again, as with startup franchise concepts, the interactivity created by social media makes it a viable option in driving customers to franchise locations and generating interest in the franchise concept. But, what’s important in a mature system, and a complement to its franchise development efforts, is the improvement of communications throughout the franchise system that is created by social media activity and ultimately lends itself to validation of the franchise concept by the franchisees. For once, franchisees are feeling part of the franchise development process as it’s visible in the organization’s social media efforts. Something that many franchisees have not been a part of in the past.
Ivan Widjaya, author of the Franchise Note blog, recently posted about franchise failure. In the post, Ivan listed these five reasons why established franchises fail:
1. Franchisors compromise too much, franchisees demand too much.
2. Franchisors don’t listen to their franchisees, and vice versa.
3. Franchisors are busy taking care of bad franchisees, bad performing franchisees are becoming “traitors.”
4. Franchisors don’t have strong Management Team, franchisees ask the franchise support team too much.
5. Franchisors make things too complicated, franchisee can’t seem to be able to follow simple rules.
His thoughts behind each may be reviewed HERE.
Certainly, this list is not complete, and I felt compelled to add as follows:
Poor franchise training program – A sustainable franchise system must have an effective, comprehensive training program complete with well-defined and documented process and procedures. Such processes and procedures should be tried and true, and relatively simple to replicate at the unit level. In addition, it is imperative to franchise succees to offer continued training as well as initial training. I agree as the author has indicated, that many franchisors make things too complicated. So, the key is simplicity, but not at the expense of diminishing best practices.
Inadequate franchise marketing programs – Strong franchise marketing programs are essential to franchise success at both the franchisor and franchisee levels, and should be integrated to ensure brand awareness. Poor brand awareness is a key component in many franchise system failures. The failures are the result of poor unit level sales, minimal interest in the franchise opportunity, and of course, poor communications throughout the system. The latter occurs as the system begins to crumble. In the years since I’ve been responsible for directing two major franchise systems, I’ve been repeatedly asked what I would do differently today? My answer is always, “drive leads to the franchisees!” as everything revolves around franchisee success… increased royalty stream, franchisee profitability, system validation, brand expansion, etc…
Of course, there are many other factors leading to franchisor failure that could be debated until the cows come home. But, this is a great start, and it’s important to get this out in the open and discuss so as to minimize failure at any level. For that, I applaud Ivan for choosing this topic, and encourage many more responses.
Whether you’re establishing your presence on Facebook, LinkedIn or any of the other social networking sites, it’s important to get the most out of your experience for it to be effective in your marketing efforts. Basically, it’s important to optimize your social networking presence. In the book, The New Rules of Marketing & PR, the author, David Meerman Scott, detailed how to get the most out of social networking sites for marketing with the following suggestions:
Target a Specific Audience – Create a page that reaches an audience that is important to your organization. It is important to be thinking about a small niche market.
Be a Thought Leader – Provide valuable and interesting information that people want to check out. It is better to show your expertise or at solving problems than to blabber on about your product or company.
Be Authentic and Transparent – Don’t try to impersonate someone else. It is sleazy and could do irreparable harm to your company and to your reputation.
Create Lots of Links – Link up to your own sites and blogs, and those of others in your industry and network!
Encourage People to Contact You – Make it easy for people to reach you online, and be sure to follow up personally on your fan mail.
Participate – Create groups and participate in online discussions. Become an online leader and organizer.
Make it Easy to Find You – Tag your pages and add your pages into the subject directories. Encourage others to bookmark your pages.
Experiment – These sites are great because you can try new things. If it isn’t working, tweak it, or try something new.
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