It’s imperative that franchisors understand each franchisee’s individual level of expertise when it comes to each field of operations – marketing and PR included
It goes without saying that one of the main motivations for investing in a franchise is the relatively unlimited support available from your franchisor and the ability to follow a proven business model where many of the most common mistakes made by independent business owners have been ironed out. However, there are still some areas of operation that franchisees feel they need additional guidance.
“The standard expectation is that a franchisor will provide franchisees with a predetermined process for launching and operating their business,” explained Dan Archer, franchisor and UK managing director of in-home care franchise, Visiting Angels. “This often, at the very least, includes an onboarding checklist, support with territory mapping, legal guidance and ongoing training. Sadly, in some cases, franchisees find that, once the pizzazz of their grand opening is over, their franchisor becomes less available for guidance. At Visiting Angels, we like to go above and beyond for our franchisees, especially when it comes to an area of business operations that still mystifies many owners – PR and marketing.”
Right from the outset, it’s imperative that franchisors understand each franchisee’s individual level of expertise when it comes to each field of operations – marketing and PR included. For instance, some may have worked in marketing so it’s likely they may simply need a refresher or guidance on how to place any messaging so that it’s relevant for the field they’re now operating in. For others, they may have never even attempted any PR or marketing activity in previous roles, so they need to be trained up to a basic standard to follow the franchise system’s guidance.
“It’s crucial that my franchisees have a clear understanding of how actively prioritising both PR and marketing will benefit their business,” added Dan. “This is especially important in Visiting Angels’ case because of the way in which we deliver our services to our clients. As a premium and ethical provider of specialist in-home care, we don’t fulfil care packages funded through the Local Authority – we only support private clients, therefore allowing us to pay our carers a competitive and well-deserved wage for a job well done. This is what differentiates us from other in-home care franchises, like Caremark and Bluebird Care – we hold ourselves to a higher standard. Because of this, our service – and the marketing and PR efforts promoting our elite standards – needs to stand out from the crowd. This is why, for our franchisees, ensuring a clear strategy for all profile-raising activity is followed – and to the letter – is all the more important.
“Because of this, we’ve devised an all-encompassing training regime, which includes a crucial and obligatory PR module. During this tailored session, delivered by our specialist PR agency, we quickly ascertain who simply needs a steer in the right direction and who may need more direct support and guidance.
“During this training programme, franchisees are encouraged to discuss their motives for launching an in-home care franchise in the first place and what impact they hope their business will have on their community, in terms of support for the vulnerable and local employment. It is in these statements that franchisees will find the ‘headlines’ that the local press is looking for. Franchisees are also offered guidance on how to implement their own ongoing PR strategy and how that should align with their marketing activity.”
Across the board, it’s common that franchise prospects come from all walks of life. Some invest in in-home care brands, like Visiting Angels, having worked in the healthcare industry before, whilst others may have worked in customer services or management roles and are therefore passionate about delivering a quality service or recognising talent. Whatever their experience, new business owners don’t have time to sit down and write engaging, expert content to use in their marketing and PR activities. It’s up to franchisors to equip both new and existing franchisees with ongoing content, tailored to the franchisee’s specific territory, with guidance on how to maximise its use.
As a testament to his commitment to his franchisees, Dan provides his Visiting Angels network with a whole host of additional content that they can utilise to gain valuable PR coverage in their local area. This content often takes the form of an expert guide, produced at regular intervals throughout the year, covering a variety of topics, such as four things to know about Parkinson’s disease or advice on tackling loneliness in lockdown. These expert articles - attributed to the MD of the local office in their respective region - can be used on the franchisees’ blogs, social media and pitched to their local press.
“By working with us to successfully promote these expert guides with local media titles, prospective clients will come to think of a franchisee as a trusted, valuable source of factual information,” said Dan. “But, if that prospect were then to research the franchisee and their office online, to find no social media presence, no reviews and a lacklustre website… well that’s where the enquiry ends. That’s why I invest the time and resource into pressing the importance of actively implementing a comprehensive and consistent PR and marketing strategy.”
Andrew Lofts, who owns the Visiting Angels franchise in East Staffordshire with his wife, Helen, has found the additional marketing and PR support from his franchisor invaluable.
“We launched our business in September last year and, soon after, worked with the PR agency retained by our franchisor to put together an educational guide on tackling loneliness in lockdown, for Mental Health Awareness Day,” explained Andrew. “The guide was subsequently pitched to our local media, which caught the attention of the regional BBC radio station. I was then invited to speak on air about the impact of the pandemic on the vulnerable and elderly isolating at home. Having only launched a new business the month before, that four-minute broadcast offered me the chance to introduce myself to local listeners and placed me as a trusted voice in the field of in-home care.
“From that interview alone, we received quality enquiries from both prospective clients and job applicants – to know that they’d heard about us from listening to the local radio station is proof in the value of quality PR activity. We’ve since successfully secured coverage on a regional lifestyle website, from an article on Parkinson’s Awareness Month. For us, ensuring we’re constantly engaging with our regional press and revisiting our PR and marketing strategy is a fundamental component of our success and, as a complete PR novice, something I may not have attempted without guidance from my franchisor.”
Equipping franchisees with additional assets has proven invaluable when it comes to the growth of Visiting Angels across the UK. With more than 10 offices launched in less than three years, the brand’s success on British soil is a testament to the quality of the model.
“At the end of the day, as franchisor, it’s my responsibility to fill any gaps in our franchisees’ business experience. Taking into consideration the fact that the majority of my franchisees have never run their own business before, it stands to reason that they would need additional support with strategic growth – PR and marketing play a fundamental role in that,” said Dan.