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A game of adjustments—when it’s time to tweak your selling playbook


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Mark Siebert

Illustration by Jonathan Hankin

November can mean one of two things for NFL fans. Either you’re looking ahead to the playoffs or you’re beginning to wonder what kind of draft pick you will get next year. As frustrating as it may be for a fan, NFL coaches in the latter category often take their slow starts as an opportunity for adjustment. Perhaps it is time to overhaul the defensive scheme or bench the non-performer to give the rookie a chance.

For franchisors, November is also a time of assessment, marking the annual “slow season” of franchise sales. And much like the NFL, it can provide us with an opportunity to develop some future stars.  

Playing the match-ups

How often have you seen a game where a strategy that is making huge gains in the first half is suddenly ineffective in the second?  This is not simply a matter of luck. This is what happens when the competitor makes an adjustment.  

Once you have identified your lead generation strategy, much like a Lombardi power sweep, you simply run it over and over to get the desired results. But just as the power sweep plays a far less important role in today’s pass-happy offense, one might well find that some of the basics fail to deliver results by the end of the fourth quarter.

In a world in which the landscape changes by the millisecond, franchisors need to be constantly adapting their approach to address their competitors. And when you make a move in the marketplace, it means understanding how your motion will influence their next call and responding—playing the game one step ahead.  

If the first rule of franchise marketing is to track and measure everything, then why do so many of us focus only on what our numbers say about our own performance without accounting for competitive shifts? This question is especially relevant when considering the vast array of tools that franchisors can access either free of charge or for a nominal fee.

Obviously, a simple Google search will give you most of a competitor’s playbook if you dig deep enough. And setting up Google Alerts will keep you apprised of any audibles. Tools like Spyfu, SEMRush and Ahrefs can provide you with deep insight into competitors’ SEO and Keyword strategies. 

Whatrunswhere and iSpionage can help you understand what those competitors are doing from a PPC perspective—from messaging to spend to adwords to advertising effectiveness—and iSpionage will even provide you with data on when your competitors are doing A/B testing. Tools like Kompyte and SimilarWeb provide a broad assortment of analytics in a single package, including analytics of social media metrics.  And, of course, the list does not stop there.

It is important for the franchise marketer to understand how the media strategy being employed will, even in a vacuum, impact performance. And when your franchise marketing extends beyond SEO and PPC (which serve content at the point at which your buyer is interested) to media that are trying to spark an initial interest, it is important to understand the reason some of these plays are subject to diminishing returns.

If a particular medium has a limited readership, the same message repeated over and over will reach fewer new players every month. In advertising parlance, the concept is that of “reach vs. frequency.” Reach represents the total number of people exposed to your message. And frequency represents the number of times that they are exposed to that message.  

Of course, being exposed to an ad (reach) does not mean that you actually read the message it contains. In fact, being exposed to an ad may not even mean seeing the ad if your audience failed to open a particular letter, email or page of a magazine. And likewise, the timing of that exposure may also be critical. Throw a franchise sales ad in front of a reader who just received a big promotion and it will likely have far less impact than if that same reader just lost her job.

This is where frequency comes into play. The more your message is served to your audience, the more likely it will be that they will actually read that message. Moreover, the more that they are actually exposed to your message, the more you will establish credibility and brand awareness.

In fact, in some advertising circles, people discuss the “Rule of Seven,” in which they claim that, on average, a message needs to be consumed an average of seven times before consumers will take action. And while there are no statistics on this pertaining directly to franchising, frequency does have its advantages.

But at some point, the same message in the same media will have impacted, one way or the other, the vast majority of franchise buyers who might be interested in your opportunity. One of the ways to avoid this “frequency burnout” involves varying the message that you use to slip past your prospect’s defenses. If you have multiple targets, consider testing alternative messages. If you are targeting both area developers and individual prospects, the messaging for the former may be more sophisticated and less emotional. And while A/B testing is a tried-and true method for optimizing messaging, exercise caution in using multiple messages in the same media—as brand confusion might be the end result.  

And, of course, the other option is to change your media mix.

First and 10, do it again!

Franchise marketing is a process of constant adjustments. We typically recommend that our clients should turn over the bottom 10 to 20 percent of their media roster at least twice a year, and ideally consider changes once a quarter. So as you think about how to adjust your playbook, don’t be afraid to give some untested players an opportunity to shine.
While some of them will fall flat on their face, the in-game adjustments you make will ultimately help you improve from season to season.

Mark Siebert is CEO of franchise consulting firm iFranchise Group. Reach him at 708.957.2300 or info@ifranchisegroup.com.

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