When influencing, ‘We don’t want nobody nobody sent’
Illustration by Jonathan Hankin
Growing up in the great city of Chicago, where every Democratic candidate for president would come calling on Mayor Richard J. Daley in the hopes of kissing the ring, I learned a bit about the power of influence. Take a ride down K Street in Washington, D.C. today and you’ll find our capital city is full of influencers in the form of lobbyists and advocates. Turn on your television, smartphone or podcast and you’ll find them there, too.
As different as we’d like to think government and business are, franchise marketers would be smart not to rebuke the idea too quickly.
Investing in a franchise is often a life-changing decision that affects the lives of many individuals. There may be family involved, business partners to consider, public opinions to sort through. Marketers must understand each prospective franchisee is influenced by the votes of many others.
Most franchise candidates have already set a goal to become business owners and are ready to begin the sales process. It’s here the first acts of influencing begin.
The court of public opinion
In casting a vote, many people will look at what those in the media have to say about the various candidates before they make up their mind. The same is true for a franchise candidate.
The world we live in has a 24-hour news cycle with an even faster response rate from public opinion. Any person, brand, idea or philosophy exists somewhere online, whether it be in a review on Yelp, a tweeted opinion or a headline splattered across the top of a popular franchising blog. Franchise candidates have the ability to tune in to multiple opportunities for public influence, through various types of media.
And since brand visibility is one key influence, marketers must secure an impeccable online reputation via social media interaction. Validate your brand by encouraging online reviews from those in your network and curate any positive content provided by your public relations team. A 10-second endorsement on a podcast should find its way into a blog post, an email campaign, and be posted to every social channel with backlinks to your website. Marketers should make sure their brand presence exists anywhere a franchise candidate could search for more information.
Any negative feedback must also be addressed directly and in a forthright manner. If you are at fault, address the issue without being defensive and try to provide a solution. Burying one’s digital head in the sand sends a message that you either are not digitally aware, that you just do not care, or that the negative review is simply true.
Likewise, remember that key outside influencers on your candidates will be your own base of franchisees. In addition to serving them well and being concerned with their success, make sure they know the importance of growing the network—in terms of brand presence, buying power, increased franchisor support, and business valuation—so they understand the importance of the validation process.
Playing to the candidate’s base
Franchise candidates will always seek counsel from those they trust: a spouse, family members, friends, an attorney, their accountant, bankers and more. Each comes with a different perspective, but each has at least a subtle motive to dissuade your buyer from moving forward.
When it comes to a candidate’s inner circle, the key is to get them involved. Include spouses or partners throughout the process. Educate them on the offer. Involve them in the conversation. Invite their objections and explore their fears and concerns. Get them on the phone, share your marketing materials, invite them to discovery day. By involving them in the process, you communicate their importance to you and demonstrate your commitment to transparency.
The same holds true for interacting with the business professionals who will influence your candidates. These are the people who try to take emotion out of the equation. These are the lawyers, accountants, bankers and otherwise business savvy professionals who will have specific points of view on what a good franchise should look like. And while you cannot alter the nature of your business to suit every influencer, there are things you can do to help them do their job.
First and foremost, if there is any way you can present an accurate portrayal of unit economics using a financial performance representation, by all means, you should do so. And be sure that any assumptions you make, both in both FPR and in your initial investment estimates, are well documented and properly footnoted so they can do their homework. Provide these influencers with the types of third-party validation they will need to feel comfortable with your offering. And even though these influencers will try to remain objective, remember that no one is completely immune to the impact of high-end collateral materials and the third-party endorsements provided by publicity reprints.
Make them glad they chose you
Having spent my misguided youth in Chicago politics, I also had chance to know Abner Mikva, whose story about his early rejection by a Chicago ward boss is reflected in the iconic quote in the headline of this article. Mikva, who became a federal judge and U.S. representative (and whose congressional hearings ultimately led to the first FTC rule on franchising), showed us why, in a sentence, influence is so important.
In a word, influencers influence because they have our trust. We trust these folks more than we trust someone who is trying to sell us something.
As franchisors, we can take our offer, polish it up, and make it pretty. We can make sure that our message is transmitted through the right channels and to the right people. But ultimately, trust starts by making the success of our franchisees our top priority. And from there, it is earned with other influencers through a culture of inclusion and transparency.
Mark Siebert is CEO of franchise consulting firm iFranchise Group. Reach him at 708.957.2300 or email@example.com. His new book is “Franchise Your Business: The Guide to Employing the Greatest Growth Strategy Ever.”