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Three concepts heat up sales, in Living Large


Unqualified franchisees are a risk to your brand and will pull away your attention, along with important resources—two things emerging brands especially want to avoid. It’s apparent, then, that generating quality leads and identifying the right franchisees is crucial to building a franchise, but how to do that can be tricky.

While it’s tempting to give into the excitement of franchising a concept, building a strong brand foundation with solid operations must come first, and a thorough franchisee profile is necessary to identify who is capable of delivering on your brand promise once you’ve stepped back. Equally important is presenting a clear message that details the concept, its value proposition, how that translates to profitability and what the franchisor does to help its ‘zees attain that profitability.

Making this information accessible online is a must. An immediate red flag is a franchisee-facing website or sales page that’s merely a contact information collection form. Serious candidates want straightforward information and a clear explanation of the benefits of investing in the system, and if your brand doesn’t provide that from the outset, they’re moving on to a franchise that does.

Transparency is crucial throughout the sales process—and yes, we’re talking franchise sales, even though some brands insist on saying they “award” franchises. Without transparency, Living Large bosses say, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to develop successful franchisees. Here’s how our three brands are tackling franchise sales.

Rob Flanagan

“I don’t want them to ever come through the sales process, sign the agreement and feel like something was hidden.”  — Rob Flanagan, Wag N’ Wash

Upfront from the outset

Before ramping up franchise sales efforts, Rob Flanagan first considers the “why” behind a particular growth effort: Is it to gain market share? Is it to sell deals in a new territory?

“We’re in a somewhat unique situation, where our royalty stream is funding our current operations, so we don’t have to sell,” says Flanagan, president of Wag N’ Wash, meaning the pet store brand aims to be deliberate in its efforts and isn’t focused on signing a certain number of agreements. Flanagan wants prospective franchisees “to see honesty and I want them to see transparency. I don’t want them to ever come through the sales process, sign the agreement and feel like something was hidden.”

That philosophy starts with Wag N’ Wash’s franchise website, which two years ago was overhauled to reflect “who we are as a premium brand,” Flanagan says. Those researching the brand get a clear picture of the Wag N’ Wash concept, its four revenue streams—retail, washing stations, grooming, bakery—average store sales and investment figures, and support.

“First we communicate our mission and vision,” says Flanagan. “At the core of what we’re doing is to enhance the lives of companion pets across the planet. Then it’s, how do you make money doing this? Unit profitably, we’re really transparent about.” And support, “How are we going to help you generate those profits.”

When it comes to lead generation, Flanagan isn’t afraid to throw out something that’s not working, such as Google Adwords, which for a couple of years was effective but then stopped bringing in leads, “so we stopped using it for about nine months. We’re just about to start again.” Franchise sales are outsourced to Denver-based RainTree, which Flanagan says isn’t interested in making quick sales but works closely with Wag N’ Wash to help it expand in markets where it already has a location, “Versus two years ago it was, ‘Hey, a lead came in from, say, Albany, New York, and we’re doing it.’”

Wag N’ Wash does offer a discount on its initial $45,000 franchise fee to military veterans and first responders, and to existing franchisees who want to open a second store, but Flanagan is mindful of the perception that lots of discounting can mean a brand is struggling.

“The franchise sales growth last year was really strong, so that tells us we’re doing it right,” he says.

Dan Tarantin

“We very much believe in putting out as much information as we can, for prospective franchisees to explore on their own. That’s the way people buy things these days.” — Dan Tarantin, Delta Disaster Services

Cross-sell to start

When HRI Holdings acquired commercial and residential restoration business Delta Disaster Services last spring, the company that also franchises Chem-Dry carpet cleaning had a lead referral source already paid for.

“The Chem-Dry customer base is a great customer base for restoration,” says CEO Dan Tarantin, also noting the ability of franchisees to easily integrate back office operations, equipment and share labor between brands.

Delta Disaster Services has been hosting discovery days specifically for Chem-Dry franchisees, to educate—and ultimately cross-sell—them on the new brand, and Tarantin says they’re now starting to make a big push to market the franchise to outside prospects.

“We are positioning it as a full-service business, which not everyone does, doing both the mitigation and the reconstruction work,” says Tarantin of Delta’s emergency services and ability to rebuild. He also touts the certification Delta requires of its ‘zees, “Which gives us great credibility with people and with insurance companies,” and a technology component that helps franchisees track jobs “from the moment a person calls us and says ‘help,’ to the moment the job is completed and the insurance company pays us.”

A revamped franchise sales website gives prospective franchisees the ability to fully research the brand, which Tarantin said is beneficial because “it kind of self-qualifies them,” and makes the initial call more productive “because they already have good questions.”

“We very much believe in putting out as much information as we can, for prospective franchisees to explore on their own. That’s the way people buy things these days,” continues Tarantin.

A comprehensive, polished online presence is also necessary to show candidates Delta is investing in the brand, stresses Tarantin, as is communicating HRI has committed to hiring regional operations directors and business coaches, which Delta didn’t previously have.

The brand has an in-house franchise sales and marketing team working to build out the system across the country, and a major digital marketing campaign launched in January.

HRI doesn’t use broker networks, and Tarantin says his experience with franchise expos has been “mixed.”

As he works to grow Delta, Tarantin is also mindful of making existing franchisees “part of the growth story.”

“We keep in contact with current franchisees so they don’t feel we’ve forgotten about them as we grow,” he says. “And we recognize their importance as validators to new franchisees.”

Dan Henry

“We convey the message that this isn’t just me trying to get you to sign a check. We’re trying to make sure we’re philosophically
and culturally a fit.” — Dan Henry, Tough Mudder Bootcamp

Events provide an edge

Tough Mudder Bootcamp leans heavily on the success and strong reputation of its sister Tough Mudder endurance event brand when marketing the fitness concept as a franchise opportunity, a smart strategy says Dan Henry, the spinoff concept’s director of franchise sales.

“You are aligning yourself with an established brand already,” he says. “We have a database of 3.5 million people, so we can engage with that on behalf of our franchisees.”

That gives the emerging brand, which has three locations open, an edge in talks with prospective franchisees, who are often already familiar with the concept because they’ve participated in an event and recognize the power of that branding.

Tough Mudder Bootcamp’s initial investment range of $297,000 to $521,350 means its “not anywhere close to a low-cost opportunity,” notes Henry, which actually bolsters its position as premium franchise in the fitness space. Its franchise webpage articulates its points of differentiation and provides basic information about the investment, “but it doesn’t tell everything,” says Henry, who prefers to have early direct contact with interested candidates.  

“We convey the message that this isn’t just me trying to get you to sign a check. We’re trying to make sure we’re philosophically and culturally a fit,” he says.

All franchise sales efforts run through Henry, while select brokers serve to expose people to the opportunity versus completing the sales. That’s meant to protect the brand, he says, adding of the decision to use FranChoice and Business Alliance Inc., “I was picky and choosy about the broker networks I worked with.”

Tough Mudder Bootcamp doesn’t offer reduced fees or other incentives, preferring to “sell on the merit of the brand,” rather than risk the appearance of a “fire sale.” And Henry points out they’re initially looking at top-tier fitness markets for expansion, particularly the affluent suburbs of Atlanta, Dallas, Seattle and Chicago.

Managing Editor Laura Michaels follows three emerging brands through a year’s worth of challenges in Living Large. Reach her at lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.

What the experts say

Don’t oversell early. “Slow, methodical growth,” is Trevor Robinson’s strategy at Camp Bow Wow and his advice to emerging brands. As the director of franchise development for the dog daycare brand, Robinson has been carefully ramping up franchise sales since coming on board in 2014, with 24 agreements signed in 2017. The brand opened 20 new locations last year, bringing it to 160-plus in 42 states and Canada. “The operations piece just has to be there first,” he says, so don’t be tempted into a “money grab.” “Remember that these are real people and that’s their real money.”

Franchising is a growth strategy. Remember, you are not in the business of franchising, you are in the business of building a brand using franchising, says Bob Gappa, founder and CEO of consulting firm Management 2000. “The most common mistake is not understanding franchising as a growth strategy to build a brand and instead seeing it as a way to use other people’s money to make money,” he says. Another early misstep, he notes, is “not accurately figuring out how much time, money, and effort it takes to break even and make a profit as a franchisor.”

Educate your brokers. Franchise brokers can be an effective way for young concepts to reach new franchisees, but “you have to closely coordinate with them,” says Matt Stanton, chief development officer for WellBiz Brands (Elements Massage, Amazing Lash, Fitness Together). “No one is going to care as much about your brand as you do. And recognize that not all brokers are equal.”

Join the conversation in the Franchise Times Insights group on LinkedIn. Upcoming topics include: attracting capital and accelerating franchise sales.

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