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Gooooaalll! or its tragic opposite— how to score more points in 2018


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Mark Siebert

Illustration by Jonathan Hankin

Anyone familiar with the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA, knows that Italy is one of the most decorated international soccer teams in the world. So it shocked the world when, for the first time in nearly 60 years, the four-time world champions did not qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

And the Italians won’t be the only ones watching the quadrennial tournament from home. The 2010 World Cup Champions the Netherlands, back-to-back South American champions Chile, the United States and Wales also all failed to qualify for the 2018 tournament.

These stunning upsets can teach all of us that no matter how much evidence, expertise and experience there is to support a particular expectation, we can’t predict the future with perfection. In the fast-paced franchise marketing world, getting ahead of the competition can mean the difference between capturing the attention of a prospective franchisee and wasting valuable marketing dollars on the wrong audience.

Scoring in 2017

We anticipate many of the moves that worked in 2017 will continue to put points on the board in the coming years. And the two biggest repeat winners we see in 2018 are content and mobile marketing.  

Content strategy: A well-crafted piece of content should not only answer questions and provide information, but it should also speak to a person’s specific pain points and provide a clear picture of the brand’s message.Today, it is about developing multiple messages for multiple personas while maintaining a common theme and brand identity—and then  delivering these messages  through different vehicles.

Mobile marketing: Franchisors that have put their time and energy into mobile-specific outreach have scored some significant gains in 2017. This is especially true for franchise brands that are developing marketing, advertising and sales campaigns with millennial investors in mind.

Virtual reality: One marketing tactic that gained a lot of attention toward the end of 2016 was virtual reality. While there were certainly some efforts to utilize the advanced technology for reaching audiences in a new and interesting way, the predicted craze didn’t quite live up to expectations.

For the most part, this has been the case for franchise marketers. With a costly price tag on most VR devices, widespread accessibility hasn’t quite caught up to the technology.

But just when you think you can write it off, along comes a new application. The Franchise Consulting Co. has now pioneered a technology to bring costs down, providing a free VR headset to any franchise buyer interested in touring a franchise. They perhaps own the largest library of VR images of franchise systems and are continuing to send VR photographers to participating franchisors to collect images much the way Google does with Google Earth.  

They have recently launched the Great American Franchise Expo, which debuted in Chicago this fall. The expo is the first VR tradeshow of its type, allowing prospects to “ride along” with franchisees while they are on the show floor.     

There is certainly some intrigue to this approach, as VR could literally put the buyer in a franchisee’s shoes—appealing to the emotional nature of the franchise sales process. With eight expos planned for 2018 and more in 2019, we can expect to know much more about this application in the year to come.   

Heading into 2018

Predictability has its place in the world. It allows us to plan our collective futures.  And our success in predicting the future will dictate our success in business.  

But it is important to remember that with predictability, we also need to anticipate the underdog stories: the “Miracle on Ice,” the 1988 Jamaican bobsled team, and Costa Rica’s surprise trip to the 2018 World Cup.

At the risk of getting it wrong, we like to predict things. Here are a few additional franchise marketing trends to keep an eye out for in 2018.

Interactive content: Online publications like Buzzfeed and Mashable have hit it big time with quirky quizzes, “Best Of” listicles and other interactive online content. Infographics appear to have become an integral part of new age human communication. Be prepared to see this type of content bleeding into other prominent publications, franchise recruitment websites, and perhaps, if it makes sense, into your own messaging and online presence.

Social domination: Just like the push to connect with new generations of buyers via mobile device, social media will continue to influence marketing channels for the foreseeable future. Because of the strong relationship between social media signals and Search Engine Optimization, the savvy franchise marketer should look for opportunities to dominate a space by enrolling the assistance of the fans of the brand.  

Years ago, Al Reis and Jack Trout came up with the concept of “owning a word”—when you think of the word “hamburger,” many people immediately think McDonald’s. Today, in order to own a word, you need to own the social media and the fans that surround it.

Chatbots and popups: The chatbots and popup ads that emerged in 2017 will only continue to become more prominent as franchise marketers realize the value these immediate information boxes offer to the user experience and lead generation efforts.  Likewise, remarketing ads will continue to drive franchise lead generation, if they are properly positioned with unique messages targeting specific buyers.

One of these trends, or several, may emerge as the marketing champions of 2018. Or, they all could suffer the same fate as the Americans, Italians and the Dutch—and not even be invited to the stadium. The challenge, of course, is not simply to get the invitation, but to react quickly enough to win the game.

Mark Siebert is CEO of franchise consulting firm iFranchise Group. Reach him at 708.957.2300 or info@ifranchisegroup.com. His new book is “Franchise Your Business: The Guide to Employing the Greatest Growth Strategy Ever.”

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