So, you’re a brand new franchisee. You’ve signed on the dotted line, you’ve handed over your money and you’re brimming with passion and enthusiasm for the product or service that your new venture is going to be delivering. And now it’s launch time and the time that reality kicks in – you need to find your very first customers for your brand new business!
When you become a franchisee (or indeed a new business owner of any type) in whatever industry, you suddenly discover that you have a lot of hats to wear! You must become an instant expert in your product or service, you also need to become finance savvy, you have to 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 very first customers. In joining a franchise brand you become part of a business with what should be an excellent and established reputation. That helps hugely when it comes to finding and winning over your very first customers. On the converse though, I always tell anybody looking to invest into a franchise (my own included!) that you need to be realistic. Buying a franchise is not a guarantee of overnight success and of customers appearing in their droves from day on. Any franchisee must still put in 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 very first customer.
Everyone’s go-to when looking for a product or service these days is the internet – whether that be Google, other online search tools or via social media. A franchisee should be provided with their own online web presence – by way of website or dedicated web page set up with appropriate Search Engine Optimization so that customers can find them when using relevant geographical search terms. A great franchisee web presence will also have the ability to be customized. At the end of the day, people buy from people and so it’s important that a franchisee can personalize their page or site with their own details and information, add customer testimonials when received and so on – on the proviso of course that 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 training on how and where to get the right messages across to the right target customers, guidance on the use of tone and language and so on.
Marketing Toolkit and Resources
Brand consistency is vital to the long term success of a franchise brand and I wrote about this recently in a separate article. The franchisor will have gone to great efforts and expense to develop the name and branding for the product or service, to ensure that it is legally protected and to develop a brand identity. The terms of the franchise agreement will contain clauses about important things such as use of trademarks, artwork and branding. A new franchisee is likely to be provided with a range of printed materials and electronic materials and images to allow the franchisee to begin marketing their business locally to potential customers. But again, training and support needs to be provided by the franchisor to the franchisee so that they understand how to use the materials that they have been provided with to find those very first customers.
A franchisor should be actively and continuously marketing the overall brand on behalf of the franchise network. How this is done will depend on the industry, but is 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 franchises will charge their franchisees an advertising levy (also 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 overall marketing initiatives.
Franchisee Marketing Planning and Support
A franchisee can be provided with all of the 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, then those materials are going to be pretty useless. As well as the franchisor carrying out overall brand marketing, the franchisee will have to market their new business locally too. Some franchise brands will have a local advertising requirement and require their franchisees to spend a certain percentage of turnover on local advertising initiatives, to ensure that the franchisee is focused on moving the business forward and isn’t tempted to “penny pinch” on this area of business activity.
And so we come back to the fact that a franchisee suddenly has to become a marketing ninja – although the majority of new franchisees 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 will have made the expensive mistakes. They should have a thorough understanding of the demographic of brand’s target customer, know where they are hanging out and where marketing efforts should be directed. They’ll have an awareness of competitor activity too. The franchisor should therefore be able to use their knowledge and experience to provide the franchisor with an effective marketing plan so that the franchisee can effectively market their business locally and win those first customers.
Ongoing marketing support is also key. As well as support from the franchisor and central team, the value of peer support also can’t be underestimated. For new franchisees, the opportunity to chat to other franchisees working in the field and learning from their experiences is invaluable and a great franchisor will have open lines of communication to allow this to happen.
With the right help and support from their franchisor and the rest of the franchise network, a new franchisee should soon be well on their way to establishing a solid initial customer base. The next challenge is not to rest on your laurels, to keep those clients loyal to you – and then look to ways of encouraging them to win you even more new customers. Because as we all know, loyal customers are our very best unpaid sales force!