There are four proven ways franchisors help franchisees build an initial client base
You’re a new franchisee, you’ve signed on the dotted line and you’re full of excitement about the product or service. And now reality kicks in - you need to find your first customers.
When you become a franchisee in whatever industry, you suddenly discover you have to wear a lot of hats. Not only do you have to become an expert in whatever product or service you’re delivering, you need to become finance savvy, develop business and managerial skills - and become a marketing genius too.
Joining a franchise network brings with it inherent and obvious advantages when it comes to finding those crucial first customers. By becoming a franchisee you’re investing in an established business with what should be an excellent and established reputation, which helps massively from day one when it comes to customer confidence. On the converse though, it’s important to bear in mind that buying a franchise isn’t a guarantee of customers appearing in their droves from day one. A franchisee must still put the hours and effort into marketing their business.
However, there are ways in which a good franchisor can and should support their newest franchisees in reaching out to win those first customers:
We all know that nowadays pretty much everyone’s go-to when looking for a product or service is the internet - whether that be Google, other online search tools or social media.
A franchisee should be provided with their own online web presence by way of a website or web page set up with appropriate SEO, so that customers can arrive there when using relevant search terms.
A great franchisee web presence will be customisable. People buy from people, so it’s important a franchisee can personalise it with their own details and information, add customer testimonials when received and so on, as long as it remains consistently on brand. A franchisor should also provide a new franchisee with branded social media accounts on whichever platforms are relevant - and some training on how to use them. We’ve all seen social media marketing done well and seen it done badly too. New franchisees will require guidance on how and where to get the right messages across to the right target customers.
Brand consistency is vital to a franchise. The franchisor will have gone to great efforts and expense to develop the name and branding for its product or service to ensure it’s legally protected and to develop an identity.
The terms of the franchise agreement will contain clauses about things such as use of the franchise trademark, artwork and branding.
A new franchisee is likely to be provided with a range of printed and electronic materials and images to allow them to begin marketing their business locally to potential customers. But again, training and support needs to be provided by the franchisor so that the franchisee understands how to use the materials they have been provided with and how to make sure they’re on brand too.
A franchisor should be actively and continuously marketing the overall brand. How this is done will depend on the industry it operates in, but it’s likely to involve a mix of direct advertising campaigns, online advertising, social media marketing and public relations. The entire franchise network will benefit from this.
The majority of franchisors will charge their franchisees an advertising levy - sometimes known as a marketing levy or brand fund contribution - to fund these full network marketing activities. A great franchisor will also regularly take feedback from the franchise network about where to concentrate these initiatives.
A franchisee can be provided with all the fanciest marketing materials and tool kits in the world, but if they don’t know how to use them and, crucially, how to respond to enquiries from potential customers coming through the door, those materials are pretty useless.
As well as the franchisor carrying out overall brand marketing, the franchisee will have to market their business locally too. Some franchise brands will have a local advertising requirement and will require franchisees to spend a certain percentage of turnover on local advertising initiatives to ensure the franchisee is focused on moving the business forward and isn’t tempted to ‘scrimp and save’ on this area of activity.
And so we come back to the fact that a new franchisee suddenly has to become a marketing ninja, although the majority of new franchise owners are unlikely to have come from a professional marketing background and are likely to find the whole thing quite daunting.
When it comes to marketing, the franchisor will have ‘been there, done that’ and made the expensive mistakes. They will have a thorough understanding of the demographic of the brand’s target customer, know where they hang out and where marketing efforts should be directed, as well as being aware of competitor activity too.
The franchisor should therefore be able to use its knowledge and experience to provide the franchisee with a marketing plan, so that the franchisee can effectively promote their business locally.
Marketing support is also key. Within my own brand, we consistently keep our franchisee support package and systems under review and adapt it with feedback from our franchisees.
One of the things we implemented as a result of this is a specific standalone marketing mentoring programme for all our new franchisees during the first few months of their franchise - coaching them through the process of setting up and launching their franchise business, marketing their launch event and encouraging them into good marketing habits that will stand them in good stead.
It’s effectively a handholding exercise, supporting them to get themselves out there, put their face in front of their business and build personal relationships.
The value of peer support can’t be underestimated. For new franchisees, the opportunity to chat to other franchisees working in the field and learn from their experiences is invaluable and a great franchisor will have open lines of communication to allow this to happen.
With the help and support of their franchisor, a new franchisee should soon be well on their way to establishing a solid initial customer base. The next challenge is to keep these clients loyal to you and then look for ways of encouraging them to win you even more new customers.
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