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.
It’s been two years since we first published the comprehensive four-part series that addressed utilizing social networking to improve franchise development efforts. The series was well-received by the franchise community and became the basis for the report we published approximately six months later, Franchise Development via Social Media.
As we were recently working on integrated franchise marketing strategies for our franchise clients, we looked in our own rear view mirror to determine how we’ve progressed in utilizing social media and how essential it was to integrated franchise marketing. We found we still follow the lion’s share of the strategy we originally outlined but also found that we’ve revised certain parts. As we continue to perfect the integration of social media, with traditional strategies, and incorporate new social technology to the mix, we’re confident our strategies will continue to evolve. Below is an excerpt from part three of the original series, and of the Whitepaper itself, with slight revisions to reflect our evolving strategy.
Integrating Social Media with Traditional Franchise Marketing
Not convinced that a social media strategy will help you achieve your franchise development objectives? That’s understandable as social technology continues to evolve, and as such, is difficult to measure for complete efficiency and effectiveness. Basically, there is still little to measure it against. So, if it doesn’t work, for whatever reason, you need to be prepared and have a back up plan. Is that your thinking? If it is, you’re partially correct in thinking this way. I say, partially, because you should transition into any new marketing approach, and the best way to do so, is to integrate the old with new, the traditional with the innovative.
I also say, partially, because a back up plan, running simultaneously, is a double expenditure and as such may cause you to shortcut the new strategy, justifying your decision as you being more comfortable with the old strategy anyway. But keep in mind, the old has been losing its effectiveness over the past few years and today’s franchise candidates continue to trend away from old, tired methods of exploring franchise opportunities, so change is necessary. Fortunately, you can still move into social media at your own pace and slowly transition away from traditional strategies while maintaining the total marketing efforts necessary to achieve your objectives.
Now, let’s look at some of the traditional marketing you might have used in past franchise development efforts and see how you can integrate the same with social technology. Over time, you may transition completely out of the traditional methods or may opt to keep some in place, at reduced levels than in the past, and as dictated by the franchise development results achieved by the total efforts.
Integrating Traditional and Social Media Strategies
Traditional strategy: Tapping your current franchise network for customers that may be interested in your franchise concept. Various costly marketing tools include newsletters, post cards, in-store signage and printed materials. Approaching customers should be effective as they’re basically the low-hanging fruit that should be easily picked. Customers know the concept and are generally satisfied with the product or services. They’ve seen how busy the franchise unit is and have experienced the growth of the brand in the market.
Social media strategy: Invite franchise customers to the company’s social networking site and encourage them to participate. On the site, they should see videos and photos as we’ve described in parts one and two of this series. The effectiveness of this interaction is far stronger than introducing customers to the possibility of owning their own franchise through cumbersome print materials that get left in the back of the car or get discarded. Certainly the interactivity of the social network site blows away the message being told in print.
Traditional strategy: Advertising in local and national media for individuals interested in small business ownership, franchising and hopefully, your franchise concept. This is an expensive proposition as print advertising is very specific to a local market and multiple markets may be necessary to grow effectively. Or, the national publication costs are cost prohibitive for the size of your concept.
Social media strategy: Blogs are today’s media. Blog writers are today’s journalists. Through tags and various Web 2.0 tools (widgets), content is spread across the internet to multitudes of bloggers that ultimately wind up discussing and promoting your concept. As discussed in previous parts to this series, social network groups can be targeted to attract franchise candidates according to the ideal franchise profile you’ve created. This makes your actual sales efforts more concentrated to actual qualified candidates as opposed to dealing with the swarm of tire-kickers from print media.
Traditional strategy: Portal websites became very popular as the internet gained steam in both popularity and daily usage. Unfortunately, now there are so many portals that regurgitate leads across the internet that many portal leads have been contacted by 10-20-30 different “franchise experts.” This has created a “used car salesman” effect that has actually turned people that may have been interested in franchising, totally against the industry.
Social media strategy: Similar to the strategy identified above as the alternative to advertising in local and national media. And, instead of an interested party being directed to specific information, the social media effort gradually presents the facts and information about the franchise while encouraging interaction with the entire franchise family. This goes a long way towards building trust, an essential component to the franchise sale.
Traditional strategy: Personally, I believe franchise expos and tradeshows are quickly becoming a thing of the past. First, it’s just too expensive to send a team of representatives to man a trade booth in some city outside the city where the corporate headquarters is located. Further, people are intimidated by salespeople and prefer instead to search for opportunities online in a non-intimidating environment, and at their own pace.
Social media strategy: With the wealth and breadth of information available online, an individual’s computer is in essence, a virtual tradeshow or franchise expo. Why should an individual interetsed in franchising go anywhere else? However, it’s not good enough to just have a website. A website is static and two-dimensional. Instead, a blog and social network page, again as we’ve previously described, is essential to stand out from the crowd and create an interactive forum where the franchise candidate can learn and share information towards making an informed decision. Again, at his or her own pace and without feeling intimidated.
Integrating Non-traditional and Social Media Strategies
Non-traditional strategies: There’s a multitude of improved strategies that have been utilized in franchise development efforts. One, email marketing, is effective to an extent. Email blasts have become very common and have had a relative level of success. Greater success is achieved when integrating social media and relevant content links within the email message. Ultimately, the reader will spend significantly more time in and around the meail message as opposed to just discarding the same.
Social media strategies: Welcome to video email marketing. Or, as is commonly referred to as vidmail marketing. Actually, let’s call it email on steroids! Videos, an essential social technology tool, can be transfered to blogs and social networks to enhance the experience and more importantly, convey a consistent message in a dynamic form. People remember 10% of what they read. 20% of what they hear. And 30% of what they see. But, remember 50% of what they see AND hear together. So, which is it, email or vidmail?
Fluid Integration of Social Media
A blog post on The Buzz Bin, defined some basic “musts” for fluid integration of social media. They include:
•Ensuring overarching value proposition and related communications are available in social web when dialogue naturally permits
•Cross-promotion of URLS and calls-to-action through web, mobile and print media for giving, tell-a-friend, webinars, etc.
•Spotlight third party coverage from blogs in the press room
•Advertising: Word of mouth is buoyed by advertising, so social media efforts should be tied to ad campaigns for print, online and keyword marketing. “Connect on Facebook” and other similar calls-to-action should start becoming common aspects of your ad campaigns.
•Public relations: Integrating willing online influencers as part of your outreach is essential.
•Emails: Any email sent from an organizational property should also include a call-to-action for the social web. Think about this: People reading email are already online.
•Website: Prominent first screenview promotion of social media properties needs to be developed for the 1.0 site. We recommend a clean badge or clearly delineated text.
•Cross promotion of social web activities. Badges should link to a portal site that unites all of your social media properties (once you develop them). Then use the portal as the home page and calls-to-action site for all online activity
Certainly, this list is far more technical than the explanations provided in this series but they correspond very well and should be used as a guide when executing your plan to integrate social media with traditional strategies.
*This post was previously published on this site April 2011
The following is a discussion on a blog by Michelle Bonat originally posted in late 2008 but still very relevant today. Michelle discusses taking small steps towards integrating Social Media Marketing with classic (traditional) marketing programs.
Babysteps…How to integrate social media with traditional marketing programs
Social media marketing is most effective when it is an integrated part of your overall marketing efforts. But how do you jump into social media when you already have some really effective classic marketing programs in play? Here are a few ways you can babystep into the world of social media by leveraging the good stuff you already have.
1) Maintain a single consistent marketing strategy through classic and social media marketing.
Your goals, objectives and messages should be consistent across all of your marketing. Sounds simple, but unless you define and enforce this it won’t happen.
The good news here is that you don’t have to re-figure this all out just for social media. It’s really just taking your existing marketing platform and extending it.
2) Extend your reach – Reach out to your influencers in ways that they like to communicate.
Use your existing marketing knowledge about who influences your product’s purchasing decisions, and use social media tools to create a discussion with them where they hang out.
Some specific examples: Are your influencers kids? Get on the social networks catering to the younger set. IT buyers? Figure out which bloggers are influencing this community. Mobile sales professionals? Deliver content in a mobile enabled way, such as Twitter.
3) Invite your customers into the process.
While you are planning your next product, refining your messaging, or even launching a marketing campaign, figure out a way to get your customers involved whenever possible as early as possible. When you do this they feel that they have been heard, feel more engaged and valued, which results in a tighter connection with your company and product. It also gives you the benefit of upfront input. A product that people actually want? Described in a manner that speaks to them? Wonderful!
A good way to on-ramp this customer involvement include online communities (public or private, even a public group on an existing social network). You can even ask them to deliver their thoughts in video form by way of a contest – “describe what our product means to you”.
4) Turn an online forum into a social media hub.
Make people feel more at home by adding profile information and allowing the posting of pictures (or pointers to a picture posting service like Flickr).
Recognize that you have to give to get. Start a genuine conversation with your audience by having company employees contribute to the forums in their own words. For example, instead of just asking for feature enhancements suggestions, tell them what direction you are headed and, if possible, the timing for these enhancements (without giving away too much info). Then ask them their opinion.
Try these few tips to help ease into a social media program that leverages your existing marketing – and you will soon be on your way!
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!
Integrated Franchise Marketing (IFM) is a term we use at franchisEssentials to describe a comprehensive approach to achieving multiple goals and objectives within start-up, 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 key to IFM is the development of a comprehensive marketing strategy that benefits the entire franchise organization, and is in line with the goals and objectives of all parties to the franchise agreement. It includes coordination at all levels to deliver concise, consistent messages that ultimately ensures positive results at franchisee and franchisor levels including:
* Local brand awareness
* Increased sales
* Improved communications with corporate office
* Improved communications with fellow franchisees
* Improved profitability
* Increased business value
* Regional & National brand awareness
* Increased royalty revenue
* Improved communications with franchisees
* Improved franchisee validation
* Increased interest in franchise concept
* Improved profitability
IFM works within traditional marketing methods and processes through and in conjunction with a very wide spectrum of non-traditional marketing and today’s unique, innovative tools and technology including the many aspects of social media, mobile, and email marketing. In addition, IFM encourages a cohesive, team effort at all levels of the franchise organization through information sharing and process awareness, enhanced by a solid educational approach.
As we are at the halfway point in 2010, and understanding that making things happen in the third quarter is crucial to overall success for the year, there’s no time like the present to develop and implement a plan that will help all within your franchise organization achieve their goals and objectives.
For more information about utilizing Integrated Franchise Marketing (IFM) within your franchise organization please contact Paul Segreto by email or by phone at 832.838.4822.
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