Fending for yourself
This article appears in the March/April 2014 issue of Business Franchise Australia & New Zealand
WHY MARKETING DOESN’T STOP AT THE FRANCHISOR
Working with both franchisees and franchisors (and having had a go at being both at one time or another) has given me a good chance to understand their different perspectives throughout the whole up and down cycle of the franchise relationship.
Often, the biggest frustration that franchisors have is that their franchisees aren’t doing much in the way of local area marketing - that is, building up the business name close to home in support of the brand promotion done on a wider scale.
My response to this is that (in the nicest possible way) both the franchisee and the franchisor need to share the blame, and to take responsibility for promoting the business.
There is almost always generous scope for franchisees to work within their system and branding rules and still do lots of local area marketing. So if franchisees aren’t doing anything to promote their business we can usually pin it down to one of three reasons why:
1. They have been ‘spoilt’ with a good market or strong reputation and haven’t needed to fend for themselves;
2. They haven’t been taught or encouraged to local area market from day one; or
3. The franchisor has been too quick to bear all the responsibility for keeping the franchisee busy and hasn’t insisted on it being a partnership exercise.
At the end of the day, a franchise is a small business with the added bonus of a brand and support system to give you everything you need to succeed. However it is still your business (and probably your family’s business) and with so much on the line it is important that you do everything you can to have people lining up at your door.
WHAT IS LOCAL AREA MARKETING?
Local Area Marketing, sometimes called Self Promotion, is simply anything you as the franchisee can do to help bring new customers into your business. Usually, it involves working at a local level or with the community, as these things are specific to your business site as opposed to the whole franchise group.
Local marketing is the opposite of broad mass marketing (which is why you need both) – where mass marketing is expensive, local marketing is often cheap (or even free), where mass marketing reaches thousands or millions, local marketing reaches hundreds of your closest neighbours.
Some examples of types of low cost local marketing that are usually allowed within a franchise system (check first obviously) include:
1. Networking with local businesses and people. (I call well-connected people ‘sneezers’ as you can let them know about your business and they will tell everyone - you become highly contagious!)
2. ‘Giving back’ or sponsoring local schools, kinders, sporting clubs or community groups. (There is an effective and non-effective way to sponsor things – to ensure you get ROI try to package in ways to meet the members face to face rather than just
getting a sign on a fence).
3. Appearing at fetes, festivals, markets, council events, home shows or trade expos.
4. Joining your local BNI chapter, rotary group, chamber of commerce, etc. (As the business owner of a well-known brand you need to become a little bit famous in your local area – even if you’re a bit too humble!)
5. Leaving business cards for your services in other businesses, on bulletin boards, etc.
6. Advertising your services within key employers in your area (such as council, hospitals, large manufacturers etc).
7. Running promotions or sales specific to your outlet and distributing (franchisor approved) flyers to letterboxes.
8. Thank you letters to customers for using your services or to the top 10 referrers in your client base. We use this one very effectively in my medical business – top referrers have increased to generating us over $1000pm each since we introduced thank yous.
9. Host beneficiaries with other local businesses such as gift vouchers or free trials for their clients.
10. Appearing in local directories, school newsletters or discount booklets (NB: advertising copy must always be approved by the franchisor first).
11. Offering your team (and customers) incentives for referrals.
12. Going to the bank, post office and school pick up wearing your uniform!
WHAT LOCAL AREA MARKETING DOES THAT THE REST DOESN’T
No amount of money or brand exposure can replace local marketing. What we are looking for is a powerful combination of the macro and the micro – mass media and the local engagement working simultaneously to give you the most thorough impact.
After doing your own marketing for a while, you will notice that running your business becomes exponentially easier as the percentage of self-sourced customers increases. This is because in many ways, customers won over by interacting with you locally are way better for business. Here’s just a few:
1. Referred work averages a 90 per cent conversion rate. Clients who come to you via word of mouth (or simulated word of mouth such as introductions by a third party) are part-way converted before you speak to them and most times an effortless sale.
2. Customers are at the start of the buying decision. This means that they might decide to come to you after talking out loud to a friend (“I’ve been thinking about getting a fence/haircut/home loan”) or when they get some marketing piece from you. They are coming to you first, so you set the rules. On the other hand, customers that come in as a ‘lead’ usually decided some time ago to make a purchase and are at the ‘yellow pages’ stage of shopping around (often on price).
3. Market penetration is deep rather than wide. Your franchisor’s advertising is akin to flying a helicopter over your area and chucking flyers out the back. Yours is like knocking on every door individually. Reaching all of the people close enough to buy from you needs doing at a local level – your franchisor cannot possibly hope to reach each and every one of these people just using mass media.
4. Marketing can be highly targeted. If you are looking for customers in a particular demographic – mothers, fathers, students, professionals, DINKs, etc, you can tailor cheap but extremely effective strategies just at these groups by working with other businesses, community groups or clubs that they frequent.
5. Your business value increases. Having a strong reputation locally increases your attractiveness not only to potential customers but too the best employees (who of courses want to work for the best companies) and to potential purchasers should it come time to sell. In addition, having control of your own work levels and a proven marketing system gives any purchaser a water tight guarantee about keeping your goodwill after the sale.
6. Your whole team can get involved. In my businesses having the team help with local marketing gives us so many other benefits. They build their own profiles in the community which brings in more business but also increases their confidence and business skills. We have FUN. We celebrate when a particular event or campaign goes well because we were all involved. Team camaraderie is at an all-time high when we get things underway and you simply can’t measure what effect all that positivity has on our sales.
7. You are not at the mercy of other people. Inherently, marketing gives you control of your own income – which pretty much solves every other problem you can have in business (it’s why I moved from business coaching to marketing in the first place). Even if your franchisor is generating bucket loads of work via their own marketing plan, having something going for yourself not only gives you more control over the type of customers you get (read: better quality), it also means you have your own know-how-insurance against anything changing in the future.
Marketing to me is all about being in control of your own business and how busy you are. This responsibility is yours – it doesn’t go away just because you belong to a franchise system, and when you think that it does it leaves you dangerously at risk. Because really – whether the market is good, bad or otherwise – things can change and it’s so much better to know how to fish than be dependent on fish from others.
A former CEO for the Jim’s Group, Katherine has over 17 years’ experience in franchising. She has worked with many brands, been a successful ActionCOACH franchisee (#14 in the world) and was runner-up Franchise Woman of the Year in 2010.
Graceful Solutions is a marketing company specialising in no-cost, low-cost and local area marketing. Their team of 12 offer services including websites, online advertising, marketing plans & low-cost strategies to engage existing customers and find new ones.