Caroline Crabbe, general manager at Jo Jingles, highlights seven ways to market your franchise during the start-up stage
Buying into a franchise means you’ve bought into an already established brand with the backing and support of a nationwide marketing strategy. So what can go wrong?
The harsh fact is that when you launch a new franchise you - and only you - will be responsible for its success or failure. That’s why getting it right from the outset is so important.
A reputable franchisor will provide you with sufficient support and resources to get your business heading in the right direction and in many cases you’ll have the benefit of being part of a fully functioning marketing programme.
You may also be able to take advantage of nationwide advertising campaigns and strong branding, but that doesn’t remove the need for you to market your own franchise yourself. Ultimately, this is your stake in the ground and you’re the only one who can make your franchise story a successful one.
So during your first week remind yourself that running a franchise means hard work, commitment and a relentless passion for your business. Ongoing marketing and promotion is part of that commitment.
Marketing your business effectively involves time and resource, not to mention drive and focus, but if you have that roll-up-your-sleeves spirit and the self-discipline to manage your own business, franchising can be a brilliant and rewarding career choice.
Your first few weeks as a franchisee are likely to fly by in a whirlwind of hustle and bustle, blurred by growing to-do lists and official documents. But to make sense of it all, here are some tried and tested ways to get your marketing programme moving:
Know your customer and your market
If you’ve invested in a franchise, you have to know who your audience are. You need to get to know them personally, which means creating a picture of what your ideal customer looks like.
They may take varying forms, but create a personality or character to help you to better understand how to get in front of them. For example, what do they look like, where do they shop, what do they read, where do they live, how much do they earn, how many children do they have and what type of things do they like doing?
This kind of information will help you create a visual of exactly who you’re targeting, which will help you plan your marketing activity more effectively.
Adapt to local culture and trends
Make your business relevant to the audience you’re targeting. If people identify with the need for your product or service, they are more likely to take notice of it.
Find out about topical discussions, seasonal themes and national and local events that relate to your audience. If you’re taking out advertising in a local newspaper, for instance, where possible link your content to local topical news or the region itself for a more relevant hook.
Leverage national marketing
If part of your franchise package includes a nationwide marketing programme, use it to your advantage.
Be available to the franchisor to help with any national PR opportunities. They might not result in local coverage, but national exposure can be good for you and your business too.
That said, you should still expect to invest time and money in local PR and marketing. It’s great to have nationwide appeal and recognition for your brand, but use that success as a platform to create more local exposure for you and your business and you’ll reap the rewards.
Build relationships with local media
Research local newspapers, magazines, online news sites and TV and radio stations. Once you’ve done this, keep in touch with them on a regular basis, ensuring you share any local news about your business. Starting that dialogue early on will help you to create opportunities and increase exposure for your business in the local community.
When dealing with the press, avoid a sales pitch. Instead focus on stories, angles and ideas that will resonate with the readers of the publication - journalists want good stories, not adverts.
Reward loyalty from the outset
Once you’ve got your customers interested in your service or product, you need to keep them coming back.
To do this consider running special promotions, loyalty programmes and providing referral rewards, as well as giving away freebies and offering free trials.
Start a conversation
Encourage happy customers to tell others about their experiences.
Customer reviews and testimonials are a great way to shout about your success on social media platforms and websites. Most large franchises will have their own main website, but many are supportive of on-brand locally focused sites and social media pages.
We live in a world where people like to talk about the things they’re doing. They like to share experiences, photos and videos, so setting up your own social media channels - consistent with your franchisor’s policies - is vital. Starting a conversation has never been so easy, but you need to invest time in those conversations to keep people engaged.
You might also consider joining a local business committee to make contacts, spread the word about your business and share knowledge with other like-minded people.
Keep ahead of the competition
Find out as much as you can about potential competitors. Competition is good because it means there’s a demand for what you’re doing. Do your research early on, so you know what you’re up against and how your product or service compares. Follow your competitors on social media and keep up to date with what they’re doing.
Take inspiration from them and their audience - which is also your audience - and learn from the things that don’t work so well. Knowing your market and being aware of other businesses that are in competition with you will keep you one step ahead.