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How to make the magic happen


Mark Siebert

Illustration by Jonathan Hankin

Captivated by a great magician’s death-defying tricks and impossible illusions, it’s easy to lose yourself in the performance. And, that’s exactly what the magician wants to happen.

If you resist the bemusement and focus your attention on the details of the performance, you’ll notice that a big part of a magician’s act revolves around the story they are telling you. They’re directing your attention so that you see exactly what they want you to see, while ignoring that which they want you to ignore.

While franchisors should never attempt to mislead their audience, they can take a lesson from the crafty magician in how to focus their prospect’s attention on their strengths and not on any of their perceived weaknesses.


Without a doubt, the words you use to promote and sell your franchise opportunity are where the magic starts. A carefully crafted message should offer critical details about your opportunity, about the history of your company, about your company’s values and mission, and about your plans for growth—all while encouraging franchisee prospects to take the next step.

All too often, we see websites, videos, brochures and other promotional materials filled with vague aphorisms like “in business for yourself, but not by yourself,” with little, if any, discussion of the brand’s specific value proposition. These messages do not simply fail to convey value, they also convey the message that you have nothing of value.

The savvy franchisor should instead focus on telling their prospect what they have, while minimizing attention on what they do not. New to the world of franchising? Turn that newness into an advantage. Small? Nimble. Higher royalty? More service and support. Smaller territory? Clustered advertising for greater brand recognition.

And, be careful about the language that you use. Would you rather “buy” a franchise or “invest” in one? Would you prefer to work with someone whose title is “franchise salesperson” or “franchise development officer”? Would you want to be “sold” a franchise or “awarded” one?    

More than turning weaknesses into strengths, your message needs to differentiate you in some respect. And, it needs to do so in a way that is easily verified and, ideally, in a way that prevents your competitor from responding.

When McDonald’s first franchised, for example, there were dozens of “knock-off” concepts—Henry’s, Sandy’s, Red Barn, Wetson’s, Druther’s (which began as Burger Queen), etc. The one concept to emerge in the market during that time was Burger King. Because the company touted its different operating format (“Have it your way”) and its signature, flame-broiled, oversized burger (“It takes two hands…”), Burger King was able to differentiate itself in a way that McDonald’s couldn’t match. It wasn’t as if McDonald’s was going to upend its entire concept to replace its equipment with flame broilers. And thus, BK carved out its defensible niche.

Nothing up my sleeve…

A franchise sale, is, at the most basic level, an emotional purchase. While the words you choose will help to sell them on your story, special attention should also be paid to the non-verbal cues you’re delivering.

First and foremost, you need to nail your delivery.

When taking your seat at a live performance, what is one of the first things you notice? Often, the answer is the stage set. You recognize the lighting displays, stage props, backdrops, etc. These visual cues begin to tell the story before the performer even steps on the stage. Before the curtain rises, you will know if you are about to view a multi-million-dollar Las Vegas production or your child’s high school play.    

Likewise, your promotional materials, website design, videos, and even your business cards will induce the same type of impression on a franchisee prospect, and will speak volumes about your company before you can even utter a word.

Remember, we are often asking our prospects to quit their jobs, giving up their perceived security and job benefits to pay us a significant fee and invest their life’s savings in a business they have no experience with. So what kind of emotion do we need to engender? Trust.

Using cheap materials to print your company’s brochures will send the prospect a subtle message about the health of your company. Perhaps you are struggling. Perhaps you cut corners. Photos of beautiful but empty stores may show well from a consumer perspective but are a franchisee’s worst nightmare. The images you use must demonstrate the action, excitement and potential success that they can achieve with your brand.

Involve the audience

A great performer will involve their audience. Magicians dating to before Houdini would bring their audience up on stage to make them part of the performance. Likewise, it is important for franchisors to “paint their franchisees into the picture.”  

That said, franchisors sometimes fail to appreciate which audience they are involving. In developing a brochure, for example, the focus is often on the prospective franchisee. And while a franchise brochure needs to focus on the prospect, it also needs to be written with influencers in mind. Oftentimes, the franchise brochure serves as the top hat donned by the prospect when talking to his or her banker, accountant, lawyer, spouse, and the know-it-all “Uncle Charlie” who will be sure to tell them what a lousy idea it is to leave the security of their job.

Ultimately, franchise marketing is not like a magic performance at all. It is not about smoke and mirrors. It is not about tricking your prospects or being deceptive. But, it is about making sure that your prospects see what you want them to see when they look at you in the limelight. When you can accomplish that while being honest, open and informative, that is when the magic happens.

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

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