Any relationship expert will tell you that communication is the number one factor for a happy partnership. Maintaining open and established lines of discussion means that when times get a little tense, the tools to overcome any obstacle are in reach.
Engaging Communication that Builds Franchise Communities
The same can be said in any business relationship, especially a franchise business relationship. In research conducted by the Asia-Pacific Centre for Franchising Excellence, Project head and Centre Director, Professor Lorelle Frazer cited communication, or rather the lack thereof, as a major cause of franchise conflict, going on to say that communication practices which actively involve franchisees are the most successful.
One of the many challenges to franchise relationships is to continue to engage with your franchisees and to give them the appropriate tools to help them grow their business which in turn will see an increased commitment back to the brand.
There have never been more ways in society to communicate with each other. Most people are connected via smartphone almost 24/7. We sleep with our phones beside us, check emails throughout the weekend and family holidays and over 60 per cent of all mobile users even admit to using their mobile while going to the bathroom. Connecting is not the problem, but rather connecting and communicating in the right way in order to grow these relationships has become paramount.
To actively engage with franchisees around major decisions that directly impact their franchised business, a single channel of communication can be key to ongoing two way communication.
Having a franchise intranet or online portal that can facilitate two way communication will go a long way to building a strong and open community amongst franchisees. Loyalty to their community and their brand will be strengthened if a franchisee feels they have a voice and are being heard in relation to relevant business issues.
It is important to have a centralised online marketing hub so franchisees can access marketing collateral and templates. However, smart franchises are utilising these portals to serve dual purposes. As a communication hub, with multi-layer forums and bulletin boards, these online spaces encourage and promote active two way communication.
Information sharing builds community
Too often franchises have seen it best to keep franchisees separated at an arm’s length from each other, terrified that a room full of franchisee holders will only ever see the negatives of their situations. At times, regional conferences or town hall meetings have been used for the opinionated to take the floor and gripe about their issues for anyone to hear. However, more frequent, constructive and active communication will see these issues openly discussed and franchisee holders given the opportunity to work together to find solutions and overcome problems.
Thanks to regions and territories being well established during the franchise set up process, most franchisees are not in direct competition with each other. Collaborating on information and insights makes sense and most franchisees are keen to freely share their experiences with each other. It is the franchise’s task to deliver a portal to enable more information sharing and robust discussion and by doing so, the brand can actively grow its own cohesive and integrated community.
Does the franchise always know best?
When building marketing plans and calendars for roll out to your franchise holders, it is important to understand the needs of the people on the ground who are often closer to the customer than the brand itself.
An online communication hub will allow for not only sharing but brainstorming, spurring new ideas and campaigns that perhaps have not been considered previously. Franchisees are highly invested in their businesses and can offer clear insights into avenues of the day-to-day operations and clientele that may not always be obvious to the wider brand.
As Professor Frazer found in her report* into causes of franchise conflict, “Involving franchisees in decision-making builds franchisee efficacy, facilitates franchisee acceptance of system-wide adaptations and minimises conflict.” Two way communication will build your franchise by building a strong franchisee community, minimise the separatist stance often adopted in the franchise relationship, and deliver business benefits to both sides.
Joe Papadatos is Managing Director of Icon Visual Marketing, a full service marketing agency that for over twelve years has been equipping businesses with the marketing and sales tools to help them reach their next customer.
Icon Visual Marketing are highly experienced at strategically planning and building robust marketing hubs that help franchisors deliver the right marketing tools and resources to their franchisees grow.
For more information contact Joe on:
T: 1300 138 984