Franchisors are shifting the conversation online to be able to engage and educate their franchisees on the state of their brands and how to plan for the future.
Since the start of the pandemic, businesses across the globe have adjusted the traditions of their industries in order to find creative solutions for survival. For franchise brands in particular, part of this process has been re-imagining what an annual convention might look like and how to effectively keep franchisees up to date and informed on the current state of the company.
For the next several months at least, franchisors should plan to host their conferences and conventions virtually. During a time when so much is still uncertain, communication between franchisees and franchisors continues to be key. The absence of a regular event like this — where so much information-sharing and inspiring conversation takes place — could compromise new and existing franchisees’ enthusiasm for the business.
While the prospect of planning a large virtual event may be intimidating to some franchisors, the breakdown of what these conferences actually look like is fairly simple. With the help of tech-forward team members, hosting a virtual conference is essentially just one large Zoom meeting broken down into a daily schedule and hosted over a period time, depending on the amount of content that needs to be covered and the number of speakers who might be joining the event. Franchisors have the opportunity to engage their business partners all at once and inform them about how the company has dealt with the pandemic and what its plans for the coming year are. And in the place of the small talk that typically takes place at conventions like these, franchisees have the opportunity to share their successes and challenges virtually to a much wider network of support.
From a franchisor standpoint, one added benefit of hosting these conferences virtually is the opportunity to boost attendance and participation. Eliminating the cost and effort that are attached to travel, as well as the time franchisees have to spend away from their businesses, incentivizes their participation. The ease of signing up for and attending virtual conferences opens the doors for franchisees to become stronger, more well-informed business owners who are eager to build a strong connection to their brand in order to see personal success.
If months of working from home has taught us anything, it’s that technology is not always on our side. Poor WiFi connections can result in choppy calls or frozen screens, or an audio issue might be the cause of a 15-minute delay. With all of that in mind, it’s important to prepare for things to go awry. Franchisors should have a plan for how to host numerous franchisees on the same call and should test their technology prior to the virtual conference or convention going live. If guest speakers will be in attendance, it’s important that they have also tested their technology in advance and are prepared to troubleshoot if the need arises. In the event that something does happen, franchisors should have alternative plans and communicate to attendees what a back-up plan might be.
In no way will a virtual event be able to replace the in-person appeal of attending a franchise conference, but that doesn’t mean these events still can’t be exciting. To further incentivize franchisees to attend, franchisors can send along a care package with branded notebooks, calendars or T-shirts. Franchisees should feel excited about the event and sending them gifts for attending helps them to feel engaged, appreciated and proud to represent their brand.
As the world continues to navigate the pandemic, franchise brands will have to continue to learn and adapt to better suit the needs of the future — and in order for that to be successful their franchisees need to stay informed. For now, the best way to do that is to connect with them virtually — hosting an online conference creates an opportunity to highlight the brand’s greatest success stories and its growth plans in an otherwise uncertain year.