Straight-A strategy—launching a sales program that makes the grade
Illustration by Jonathan Hankin
There’s no time of year quite like back-to-school season. The summer heat gives way to crisp autumn air, school buses return to line city streets and a collective sigh can be heard from coast-to-coast as children everywhere mourn the end of vacation.
If you’re anything like me, you can recall just how much excitement and anxiety a new school year can bring. And, if you’re a newcomer to the franchise arena, you may even find yourself in a comparable headspace now—eager to ensure that your introduction to the market carries just as much promise as the first day of school.
Granted, there’s nothing elementary about coordinating a successful franchise launch. However, plenty of preparation and the right support can help you launch a program worth considering long after the bell rings.
Pens, pencils, notebooks, scissors —the star student has it all in tow when returning to the classroom. Just as you wouldn’t resurrect last year’s notebooks for this year’s courses, you wouldn’t introduce your franchise opportunity to the public without first stocking up on dedicated marketing materials.
There’s something about all-new marketing materials and messaging that denotes a fresh start. When you invest in creating dynamic franchise marketing pieces, you have an opportunity to refine your messaging, identify your audience and shift the focus from corporate appeal to buyer engagement.
Just as your franchise messaging needs to be vastly different from your consumer messaging, close examination of your franchise buyers may reveal that you have more than one target market. And, our digital world provides more opportunities for customization than ever before.
The best franchisors will often use multiple landing pages on their websites that are tailored for highly specific audiences—tweaking and sometimes significantly altering the message to address audience concerns and needs. Digital printing provides another opportunity for personalization, as franchisors can invest in short print runs of brochures designed with specific messages for different audiences.
Just like that perfect back-to-school outfit, there’s something about having a new look that can make you walk taller and feel more confident in front of potential investors.
Seize the opportunity to unpack your unique selling proposition and identify the needs of your ideal franchisee or franchisees. Then, invest in creating highly-tailored marketing materials and landing pages that meet them where they are and motivate them to move forward.
Pick a table
When you are the new kid, finding tablemates at lunchtime when you haven’t been friends since diaper days may seem impossible. But the impossible becomes possible when you focus on making one friend at a time. And so it is with franchising.
So, start by making sure the geographic footprint of your marketing is adequately narrow. A narrow market focus allows you to better service your new franchisees by clustering support and consumer advertising. At the same time, it allows you to spend more franchise marketing dollars where you want to open locations.
Virtually every form of media these days can be localized. Pay-per-click advertising —both on search engines and via social media—allows for very specific geographic targeting, as do most franchise advertising portals. Print media—whether you are using paid advertising or public relations—often has a local reach, and even national publications have regional editions. Trade and franchise shows are, by their very nature, going to pull largely from a local or regional base.
And, even search engine optimization can be optimized around regional keywords.
Aside from your geographic focus, consider honing in on the niche your concept occupies and narrowing the message accordingly. Trying to be “all things to all people” will result in a message that is muddled, and that will not light a fire under anyone.
As marketing guru Al Ries said, “the essence of positioning is sacrifice.” You cannot be both a high-end, trendy brand and a low-priced competitor. Knowing what you are not going to be is as important as knowing what you are. Whether you choose to sit at the “cool kids” table or with the chess club is not important. It is more important to pick one table and focus your attention there.
Choose your friends wisely
Given the ebbs and flows of student life, today’s schoolyard chums can become a distant memory weeks later. Not so in franchising.
Even if you are sitting at the right table, you run the risk of befriending someone who just is not a fit from the standpoint of skills, dedication and culture. And in franchising, it can be nearly impossible to shake the friends made in a state of First Day Desperation.
Your first friends won’t necessarily become your best friends. And, your first candidates won’t always make the best franchisees. Too many franchisors choose to award a franchise to the first prospect who will have them, then rue the decision for years afterward. Bound by contractual obligation for a set number of years, these franchisors are sometimes doomed to deal with delinquent, unenthusiastic or undercapitalized owners for the long haul.
The lesson here? Franchise growth is not a race, and the effects of hasty decision-making in this regard could potentially linger for years. So, try not to rush and choose well.
Take the time to properly vet candidates by asking thoughtful questions.
Note any characteristics, ideas or behaviors that demonstrate an inability or unwillingness to follow a system, work well with others, or act in a timely manner. By giving yourself ample time to observe, then act, you can boost the likelihood of finding a lifetime champion for your franchise brand.
A franchisor’s journey is full of firsts; however, the launch of a program is a defining moment indeed. Set a positive tone and pave the way for true growth by entering the market with an A-plus plan.
Mark Siebert is CEO of franchise consulting firm iFranchise Group. Reach him at 708.957.2300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.