Pain, fear and other realities when finding your franchise connection
Illustration by Jonathan Hankin
Think back to your most recent car buying experience for a moment. Did you start by researching the entire universe of models and styles?
Did you research safety ratings, miles per gallon, anticipated resale price, and all the ratings from the last three years of Consumer Reports?
Or did you instead fall in love with a car based on its look, image or reputation and then talk yourself into buying the one you most loved—perhaps using some of those exact “features and benefits” to convince yourself (or your spouse) that you were making a sound decision.
Be honest now. Your spouse is not looking.
While there are certainly those who shop based strictly on a defined list of tangible benefits, my guess is that most of us allow emotions to rule most of our major decision-making processes, just as our franchise prospects do when they invest in a business.
The simple truth when it comes to messaging is this: franchising is an emotional sale.
From a franchise marketer’s perspective, it is important to remember that the franchise buying process starts with pain. Speak to a great salesperson and they will almost universally tell you that selling a franchise is all about finding and resolving that pain.
People do not just simply wake up one morning and decide to buy a franchise. Something motivated them to start the franchise buying process on that particular day. And that is the root of the pain.
Perhaps the pain is something that they are moving away from—a bad boss, too much travel, lack of opportunity, being passed over for promotion, fear of losing their job, a small raise, inadequate compensation, or just plain boredom with their daily lives. Or perhaps it is a long unmet need that they have been moving toward but have not realized.
And while it is the salesperson’s job to find the pain, it is the marketer’s job to provide the salve. And that means providing the buyer with a vision of what their future could be like if they would be willing to make a few changes.
A box of chocolates...
Henry Ford once famously said that customers "could have any color they want, so long as it is black.” Imagine today standing at a car dealership, looking at the selection, and seeing the same make, model and color over and over while the salesperson is extolling “all the bells and whistles” that exclusively come only with this model.
That is all too often what happens in the world of franchise marketing. Receive a brochure or read a website, and lo-and-behold, the franchisor is talking about their operations manual, their training and their world class support. You might as well brag about the fact that you have an FDD!
Last month, we referred to the iFranchise Group’s Franchise Success Cycle and how the various components in that cycle contribute to the long-term success (or failure) of a franchisor. One of the first and most important elements of that cycle is the ability to create value for the prospective franchisee. But there is far more to it than simply creating value. One must create a unique value proposition for your franchisees that solves some emotional need.
Far too many marketers focus on what a franchisee receives from the dollar (the manuals, the training, the support) and not on what the franchisee perceives they are buying (independence, prosperity, a “fun” life and a chance to be in charge of their own destiny). So what we really have is a two-part process: creating unique value proposition and the communication of that differentiated message in a way that eases the prospect’s pain.
Identifying and satisfying these emotional needs, of course, is easier said than done. The emotional needs that will motivate one franchisee will be very different than those that will be required for another franchise prospect for the same system. Consider two prospects: one who wants to move away from the boredom of her job and the other that is afraid of losing the security of his.
And while your first reaction here might be to punt this individualized messaging over to the sales team, the savvy marketer will embrace the individuality of emotional needs rather than running from them. But in order to do that, once you define what makes you unique as a company, you must make sure that you have a sound understanding of your target prospect.
Many emerging franchisors tend to point to financial gain as the key motivator for their franchise prospects. But when it comes to emotional marketing, one needs to understand why money is a motivator for your particular prospect. And, in fact, some studies have shown that money is not the primary motivator behind a franchise purchase, falling behind “general independence” and “being their own boss” and coming in only slightly higher than “doing something they love.”
To connect with your audience on an emotional level, start by looking at your existing franchisees. Identify what differentiates the top performers from the lower performers and conduct side-by-side comparisons of these groups.
As an emotional marketer, we also need to remember the two great motivators: fear and greed. Remember, your prospects are often being asked to quit their jobs, give up their benefits and invest their life’s savings in a business in which they have no experience. So while our message must focus on their ability to achieve their vision and alleviate their current pain, it must also actively dispel their very natural fear.
There is very fine line here. Make it sound too difficult, and you will scare your prospects away. Make it sound too easy and your prospects may opt to enter the business without you. Only by understanding each other’s deepest needs, fears and desires will you be able to create a lasting relationship that will work for both franchisor and franchisee.
Mark Siebert is CEO of franchise consulting firm iFranchise Group. Reach him at 708.957.2300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.