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Franchising Supports Small Business Saturday

November 30, 2013 2 comments

Small Business SaturdayYes, progress is being made and franchising is being recognized more and more by American Express in their Small Business Saturday efforts. When launched in 2010, franchises were not included in Small Business Saturday, being excluded with a specific clause in Small Business Saturday literature to merchants interested in participating in the new program. I was definitely surprised and although we still have a way to go I’m happy to say the past two years have seen franchises included in the list participating businesses. And that is great!

When I first realized franchising had been excluded I was quite surprised. Sure, as many are aware, I did flood the social media space with several blog posts about franchising being excluded. No need to regurgitate that any further and I’m not including links to those posts here as American Express did respond, and in a very positive way. They truly wanted to learn more about franchising and its role in small business today and I was more than willing to help. You see, despite the role American Express plays in business today and despite the fact that AMEX executives are very well-educated and understand business, they had huge misperceptions about franchising. Several of the AMEX executives I met with actually thought all franchises were just like McDonald’s – big and powerful! They also incorrectly thought McDonald’s and other [large] franchisors paid for all advertising on behalf of its franchisees. Thus, they excluded franchising, thinking all along that all franchisees had it made in the shade over independent small business owners.

Well, I was happy to share many statistics about franchising and the fact that many franchisees are the same Mom & Pop operators that built their businesses on Main Street USA. Just like many independent small business owners, they have invested their life savings in pursuit of the American Dream. And just like small business owners everywhere, they continue to fight off big box retailers and department stores alike for a slice of every dollars expended by today’s consumer.

Fortunately, American Express listened, and I was quite impressed. Unfortunately, and to my dismay things did not move along as quickly as I would have liked and although progress was made and franchising was included, but limited in the subsequent years since 2010, I was extremely anxious and wanted full inclusion for franchising, and I wanted it now! What I was missing and fully realize now, thanks in part to Tom Epstein, CEO at Franchise Payments Network, is that American Express, albeit a huge organization has a difficult time making abrupt changes to programs as there are many considerations… many financial ones that I had not even considered such as the sheer cost of marketing materials, just to name one of many.

In any event, I was excited to see Tom contribute to the effort of getting franchising more involved in Small Business Saturday. He has spent a great deal of time learning as much as he could from his various contacts at American Express. I believe the efforts are paying off and will continue to do so year after year. Others within the franchise community, including the International Franchise Association have contributed as well, and I applaud their efforts. Speaking of the IFA, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them for all they do in promoting franchising as without those ongoing efforts we’d truly be dead in the water. You see, just as American Express promotes “Membership has its Privileges” so, does membership in the IFA.

So, on this Small Business Saturday, let’s pull out those AMEX cards, whether they be green, gold, platinum, blue, plum or black and spend away at small businesses across our great nation. Happy shopping!

Franchise brands are few and far between on list of top brands in customer service!

March 18, 2012 1 comment

Despite repeatedly hearing that exceptional customer service is paramount in today’s economic environment, franchising sees few brands make the list of top brands in customer service.

Do you believe it’s possible for a franchise brand to consistently deliver positively memorable customer service along the likes of Apple and Amazon.com, just to name a few of the brands that are repeatedly mentioned when discussing exceptional customer service and customer experience?

Are franchisors dedicating enough resources on customer service training? Are franchisees focused enough on providing exceptional customer service?

Personally, I believe it all starts with the culture of the Franchisor and the same must be conveyed to franchisees, not only through training, but in the way franchisors treat franchisees. It must be a top-down effect to start the process and must be on the forefront of everyone’s mind at all times and at all levels of the franchise organization. I also believe an extremely high level of providing positively memorable customer experiences is a key component towards improved unit-economics, and also in helping increase interest in franchise opportunities.

50 Brands Named ‘Customer Service Champions’ as posted on MediaPost.com March 15, 2012

In the faltering economy, the importance of customer service has reached new highs, overtaking even price as a purchase determinant, according to a J.D. Power report.

Read the complete article.

Want to learn more about customer service in franchising?

Mindy Golde, Director of Sales at Listen360 (formerly Systino) discusses Consumer Sales and Customer Experience at the upcoming Franchisee Sales & Marketing Summit. Listen to what she has to say about franchise brands and customer service! FranSummit is March 26-29.

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Would the World be a Better Place Without Franchising?

September 13, 2009 6 comments

This article is a repost from March 15, 2009

It is unfortunate the franchise industry continues to be (and always will be) subjected to bad press because of franchisee failures resulting in lost family savings including the children’s college fund. It’s unfortunate because bad press sells and society has evolved into accident watchers. Need I say “rubber necking on the highway?”

Not to mention that society has become full of gossipers. When was the last time you heard someone in the neighborhood say “Did you know Joe and Mary have been married for thirty happy years?” Such a positive comment is usually left unspoken, at best. Instead, you would be more likely to hear, “Did you know that Joe cheated on Mary.” Well, I think you see the point.

Would it be better for the press to report franchisee failure due to the franchisee not following the system, being undercapitalized or because of serious substance abuse problems? I seriously doubt it. But wouldn’t that at least educate the public? The same public that is looking at franchising as a career alternative or their first step into entrepreneurship. I know, that’s never going to happen either but it would shed a light on the truth.

I haven’t even touched upon less than reputable franchisors, undercapitalized franchise concepts and poor lending practices. Regardless, of how much government tries to protect potential franchise candidates, the government and the industry itself cannot effectively police every franchise professional, every franchise company and every aspect of commercial lending. It’s just not feasible and possible.

What’s the Solution?

So, the ultimate answer lies in dedicating more time and resources in positively publicizing franchise concepts and the industry itself. As well, promoting efforts and results in working with community and non-profit groups would go a long way towards positive public sentiment.

Basically, we (reputable franchisors, franchise professionals and the industry as a whole), need to create a publicity bank that can be withdrawn from as a precaution and hedge against the potential and reality of negative publicity. And just like the cash reserves insurance companies are required to have on hand for future claims, multiple sources and instances of positive publicity must be accumulated to counter the few negative counts of publicity that the media so enthusiastically reports.

The world would not be a better place without franchising. We just need to inform and remind people of the industry’s efforts and accomplishments so the world knows how franchising has actually made the world a better place and will continue to do so for years to come.

The challenge is that in today’s uncertain economic environment, where franchisors continue to cut budgets, the possibility of dedicating more resources towards positive publicity is slim to none. Certainly, it won’t be done in the traditional sense.

But it can be achieved, as it can also be achieved for marketing, development and operations, by exploring non-traditional strategies, methods and processes which are essential to future franchise growth and success.. at all levels.

Franchise Community – This Needs Our Immediate Attention!

August 25, 2009 1 comment

Avoid-texting-while-drivingEvery once in a while, we come across something that makes such an impact on us that we find ourselves motivated to let other people know about our find. Well, I found one of those things. Except, it is not something that I’ve enjoyed, laughed at, or wanted to share for pleasure’s sake. However, it is something that everyone, I mean EVERYONE must be aware of. It’s something that everyone must share and spread the word about. That is, if you care about saving human lives and protecting families from absolute devastation.

The other day I was watching Rick Sanchez on CNN as they showed a Public Service Announcement video that depicted a horrendous accident which was the result of “texting and driving.” After watching this eye-opening four and half minute video, I was speechless, but knew I had to help spread the message of no texting (or emailing, tweeting, posting, etc.) and driving.

One of my social media clients, Mom Corps, happens to follow, and be followed by, @DontTwive. I had seen their posts and even before watching the PSA video, I was intrigued by their efforts. We tweeted a few things about DontTwive and retweeted some of their posts as well. But, after seeing the video, I knew I had to do more.

Today, I posted, from me, and from Mom Corps, tweets on Rick Sanchez show on CNN. Our messages ran across the screen many times during the show. Posts were also made on my personal twitter account, and that of Mom Corps. I also posted a link to the DontTwive blog on my Facebook page. But I know it’s not enough. Not even scratching the surface, but I know every little bit helps when it comes to saving lives and protecting families.

So, in an effort to take this to a new level, I invite all our site visitors to read the following blog article from DontTwive, and view the accompanying video. In addition, I implore all to please preview the rest of their site because it has a wealth of information and other articles pertaining to this horrific subject.

Upon doing so, please join me in supporting DontTwive and their efforts by sharing this information with all your friends and family, and with all your social networking connections. Also, please follow DontTwive on Twitter and make sure to tell everyone who will listen to do the same. On my end, I will look for additional ways of helping, so stay tuned for more details.

4 Minutes and 15 Seconds that can save your life

This 4:15 PSA video from the Wales Police Department is graphic and intense but left us speechless with its message. Some say this video is too gruesome and YouTube has even blocked the 18 and under group from being able to view (the target audience for this Public Service Announcement.)

Read the complete article and watch the video HERE!

This video should be watched by any driver who thinks they can text and drive. Life can change in one second. One second – less time than it takes to Tweet, text, email, or dial a phone number.

Talking PR, Franchising & Social Media with Arment Dietrich CEO, Gini Dietrich

July 2, 2009 9 comments

PR Adapt or DieAs we do quite often, Gini Dietrich, CEO at Arment Dietrich PR, and I, communicate on Twitter, on Facebook, by email and by phone, about a multitude of things, both business and personal. Sure, we banter and kid a great deal along the way. But when the discussion turns to franchising, communications and social media, the kidding quickly subsides, and the conversation turns serious. Okay, not completely serious, because we’re both smart-asses. But serious to the point that we’re anxious to share our ideas with each other, and determine ways to share them with our franchise clients and the franchise community.

Recently, I turned one of our discussions into an informal interview, and asked Gini to share some of her thoughts, so I could share the same with the franchisEssentials readers. Always being shy and not wanting to be in the limelight (yeah, right!), Gini fired off her responses without hesitation, further demonstrating her passion, and conviction in her thoughts. I just loved her response when asked about the future of public relations, as we know it today. Well, decide for yourself as you read some of the Q & A below.

Paul: “How important is a communications strategy to franchise organizations today?”

Gini: “It’s not at all important. Ha! Just kidding. To use one of my favorite quotes by NPS senior news analyst Daniel Schorr, “If you don’t exist in the media, for all practical purposes, you don’t exist.” But in today’s age of digital technology, it’s not just the traditional media strategy that a franchise needs to have. I love the case study of the companies that made it through the Great Depression. Know what they all had in common? They didn’t cut their communication. In fact, they increased it. And the companies that did that then are still around today while their competitors, who cut their communication budgets, went out of business. Like Daniel Schorr says, if you’re not communicating, how will your customers know you exist now and into the future?”

Paul: “Is it important for local franchisees to have a communications strategy in place or is it sufficient to only have it at the franchisor level?”

Gini: “I’m a HUGE proponent of local franchisees having a strategy in place that is complementary to what the franchisor is doing. Consider most reporters won’t cover your business unless there is a local angle. Most local baseball teams are sponsored by local businesses. The Mayor won’t show up to your ribbon cutting if you’re not giving back to the community. Add into the mix social media and you know that people buy from people and want to have a relationship with the people they do business with…not the company or the brand. The person who buys your product or service in his/her community, wants to have a relationship with the person running that entity, not the corporate monster.”

Paul: “Is public relations, as we have known it over the years, changing to adapt to a more “connected” society?”

Gini: “There has been a lot of discussion about whether or not public relations, as an industry, is dying. Most PR people (as evidenced by a recent IABC poll) deny it’s happening and are content with doing their jobs as they’ve always known them. I contend social media is changing the way we communicate and PR, as we know it, is dying. Regardless of PR professionals thinking social media affects the way they do their jobs, someone has to own it – be it marketing, PR, or advertising. I’d rather jump on it now and own it. After all, social media is about developing and fostering relationships with customers, stakeholders, employees, influencers, and individuals. Traditional PR is about developing and fostering relationships with media and influencers. Makes sense to me that it fit in with PR.”

Paul: “What role do you see social media playing within the franchise community?”

Gini: “I love, love, love what Tasti D-Lite is doing with social media. I use this example all the time. They have a store in the Empire State Building. Whenever someone tweets that they are in or near the Empire State Building, @tastidlite sends them an offer to come into the store. In some cases, they offer a free frozen dessert. In others, a discount. This has helped them build in-store profitability, loyal customers, and their intensely passionate following. This is SO EASY to do at the franchisee level. This is just one example of how social media helps build a franchisee following. Get out there and try it. It works!”

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