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How Living Large franchises boost sales


When Watermill Express, a drive-up drinking water and ice franchise, started in 1984, it focused solely on growth through corporate-owned locations. The Brighton, Colorado-based company decided to give franchising a shot in 1990 but suspended that arm of the business until just about two years ago when franchising was back on the table as a way of increasing growth.

Lani Dolifka, president and CEO, says when Watermill first decided to franchise, it viewed the strategy as a way for a young company to open up new markets but quickly realized that too much growth in a short amount of time was not a good thing. “As a small company we felt that the best use of our limited resources was to focus on building company locations so we did that for many years until we could take another look at franchising,” Dolifka says.

This time around, Watermill has recruited a chief operating officer, Madison Jobe, who is in charge of both sales and operations. While that can sometimes be a tight line to walk, Dolifka is convinced that the two departments need to function as one to understand the company’s philosophy of delivering safe, affordable drinking water. Watermill has had success recruiting new franchisees through brokers and will continue that strategy in the year ahead.

Dolifka stresses that she’s not focused solely on sales numbers. “We don’t judge our success by how many franchisees we sign up, we judge it by the quality of our franchisees and their operations,” adding that Watermill uses social media mainly to increase awareness, not as an active franchisee recruitment tool.

Social media strategy

Spray-Net, an exterior painting franchise based in Canada, is spending a “good portion” of its budget on social media as it ramps up franchisee recruitment efforts in the United States. Founder and President Carmelo Marsala says the company is starting to better define who their target franchisees are, namely millennials and also Gen Xers.

Spray-Net is focusing recruitment efforts by “speaking the language they speak” through business blogs and Facebook advertising campaigns.

Marsala says Spray-Net has been nimble enough to constantly meet franchisee expectations. The training process in the early days essentially involved Marsala and the franchisees in a classroom with him explaining procedure and answering questions. Now, Spray-Net has more formal documented training procedures.

To make the franchise more attractive to potential franchisees, Marsala thinks like them and anticipates stumbling blocks. For example, he says, many worry that they don’t have marketing chops so Spray-Net takes care of it for franchisees.

“We do direct mail, we’ll do local Facebook campaigns, create microsites, do their local SEO, newspaper ads, even book them for home shows, all they have to do is show up,” Marsala says, adding that while most franchisors do brand and awareness marketing, “we actually go all the way down to lead generation marketing.”

Spray-Net invests heavily in software for marketing, sales strategies, and distribution among other aspects and playing with big data allows it to create territories based on demographics and potential demand for services rather than just blindly allotting states. This approach has been another attractive proposition for franchisees Marsala says.

After hearing that staff recruitment might be another area where potential franchisees need help, Spray-Net plans on launching a recruitment campaign this year to help them create social media campaigns to be able to hire staff. Marsala says that these are the many ways Spray-Net is constantly improving on itself to respond to franchisee needs and as a way of increasing franchise sales, and anticipates adding more as the business evolves.

Culture conscious

Blink Fitness, a low-price fitness model, has kept franchise sales in-house and expects to do so for the immediate future. Blink expanded to 50 corporate-owned locations first before franchising. Todd Magazine, president, says the goal is to build the brand and business through a combination of corporate and franchise locations and that there’s practically no competition between those two sides of the equation.

Since 2016 when it first started franchising, Blink has modified its approach to sales: rather than taking a “broad approach” to multi-unit opportunities, Blink has narrowed its targets to reach multi-unit operators who are looking to diversify. QSR food operators who are looking to expand into new opportunities are in the crosshairs.

“We’re going to all the shows, the IFA and multi-unit conferences where it’s a great opportunity to meet people and have conversations with people who are existing franchisees.

We’re really trying to sell them on the benefits of diversifying into fitness,” Magazine says. Celebrities and athletes who might be investors and interested in owning a franchise are also on Blink’s Rolodex to approach.

Magazine says the model has been polished; now it’s a matter of reaching the right operators, adding that since there’s “so much noise” on social media, those outlets are less of a tactic for franchise sales. “We connect with potential franchisees through relationships and focus on separating ourselves from the pack,” he says, adding he prefers “face-to-face conversation.”  

Expert tips to boost franchise sales

Tom DuFore, CEO of Big Sky Franchise Team, says it’s a good idea for franchisors to try a mix of lead-generation sources and give them at least six to 12 months to work. “It comes down to budget and finding the right marketing mix for your specific brand. Each brand pulls different lead quality from the various lead sources. For most, it becomes a trial-and-error exercise and then a continuous refinement.”

“Build the power and pull of your brand to the consumer and the franchisee will follow,” says Chris Conner of Franchise Marketing Systems. “Franchise candidates that enter your sales funnel because they like the brand and are attracted to the business because of what you offer the consumer will close at a significantly higher rate than paid listings.”

As tempting as it might be to do otherwise, make sure your prospects are properly qualified, advises Mark Siebert, CEO of iFranchise Group. The big three boxes to check off are: capitalization and credit; work ethic; and personality and fit with your organization.

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