When it comes to franchising, there’s more to marketing than consumer-focused advertising. One of the main challenges is to market the brand to the franchisees themselves and keep them engaged. Franchising is an attractive model for retail organizations and restaurants. It allows for expansion of the brand without incurring significant corporate financial liability. But franchising is not without its risks.
As independent business owners, franchisees sometimes “go rogue” with their own off-brand initiatives that are counter to corporate’s branding and marketing strategies. One of the earliest examples of this can be seen in the film “The Founder”, the story of Ray Kroc and McDonald’s, where some of the first McDonald’s franchisees took it upon themselves to add their own regional menu items and run their own off-brand promotions. When the experience is inconsistent from store to store, it weakens the brand.
As well, franchisees often think it’s solely corporate’s responsibility to drive sales. They may not understand how important it is to build a positive reputation in their local community, to engage local businesses, and to provide an exemplary customer experience.
Franchisees are the public face of your brand, and it’s crucial to keep franchisees engaged with the brand and to make sure they understand the value of maintaining the brand image and message.
Here are some of the best practices that are relatively easy to put into action:
Create a solid brand spirit:
It’s crucial that franchisees understand and believe in the brand. When a brand has clear values, mission and positioning, it gives franchisees a foundation they rely on. If you want to ensure “buy in”, create a spirit of collaboration with your franchisees. Seek their opinions and give them a role in the definition of the brand platform. It creates a feeling of belonging and ownership and will go a long way to motivating franchisees. It will also help to ensure uniformity and consistency of the brand, which in turn will lead to increased consumer trust and engagement.
Recognize their efforts:
To increase loyalty and emphasize that feeling of belonging & community, gather with franchisees, recognize their efforts and celebrate their successes. Conventions, awards, news bulletins, and a franchisee intranet system are tools that can be put in place and that will drive engagement.
Give them the right tools:
Understand that franchisees are not marketers at heart. Give them plans and programs that are easy to understand and simple to execute in their own communities. Inspire them with real-life examples of how the programs will increase store traffic and sales. “If you follow these simple steps, here are the results you’ll achieve!” As well, demonstrate how a small financial investment on their part can result in a much greater return. As an example, ask franchisees to select one business in their community each Monday and provide a free catered lunch. Franchisees are reluctant to give away their product, but this type of program creates enormous goodwill and is a fantastic “sampling” opportunity with people who otherwise might never visit their store.
Keep the conversation going:
Continue to engage with your franchisees on a weekly, or better yet, daily basis. Your positive attitude is infectious. Keep spreading the word that the brand is thriving and that goals are being met. This is also an important message for potential franchisees. Remember, it’s not all about the numbers. Franchisees not only invest their money in your brand; they invest their entire lives – and they want to be part of positive, thriving brand culture.