Getting the most from your advertising spend is more important than ever. These 9 tips can help you become more effective at choosing where you place your ads - and how to evaluate the results.
1. Test, test, test. Especially now, with the Internet's instant feedback, measure different creative to determine which brings the greatest response and run with it. Advertising is a science, so experimentation often pays off in additional franchise prospects. Did you know the headline "business opportunities" draws greater response than "franchise opportunities" does? Or that "businesses for sale" outperforms both of these recruitment titles? Test, test, test!
2. Develop opportunity-driven ads. Focus on ownership benefits and rewards, market potential, product demand, lifestyle, unique advantages, and growth opportunities. Franchisors too often get caught up in retail-oriented ads, forgetting that their products are secondary to the business opportunity their programs offer. This mistake presents a huge challenge costing franchisors millions in lost deals.
3. Make earnings claims. Only about 30 to 40 percent of franchisors today provide Item 19 earnings claims in their disclosure documents. When you have a strong financial story to tell, showcase it! Teaser claims in your promotional material will whet reader appetites about your success and motivate them to respond.
AlphaGraphics proudly advertised its $1.1 million average annual store sales. Aaron's prominently promoted the average $371,527 pre-tax cash flow of its top-performing stores. Heavenly Ham (now HoneyBaked Ham) used to feature the system's 12-year growth record, which averaged a 9 percent year-to-year increase in store sales. Such impressive figures turn heads toward these franchise concepts when potential buyers are scanning through the sea of available opportunities.
Twenty-plus years ago, our direct marketing franchise, American Advertising Distributors, promoted an 82 percent repeat client base, a major "wow" factor for candidates considering a sales franchise. And congratulations to Molly Maid, which emphasized on its website that more that 13 percent of its owners generated more than $1 million in revenues. This dispelled misconceptions that there isn't money in cleaning homes!
Buyers earnestly embrace franchise financial data and are frustrated because most franchisors won't provide it. Impressive ticket averages, profit margins, customer counts, same-unit sales increases, customer retention percentages, and other financial facts can make the difference - especially when your competitors refuse to publish their numbers!
4. Avoid the empty store syndrome. Franchisors continue to create ads with beautiful photos of their stores, or of custom vans... without any owners or customers in sight. Better yet are the midnight shots of lighted structures, which, unless you are a 24-hour service, tell prospective owners they will be working every hour on the clock.
5. Recognize the "I" problem. Being ranked number one, winning awards, and listing press articles is great for establishing your credibility. But without emphasizing how these achievements translate into business benefits, they have little value for the potential buyer. Don't forget the direct-response principle: "What's in it for me?"
Molly Maid won the prestigious Microsoft Windows World Open two years in a row for the software scheduling technology they developed for their franchise owners. Quite an accomplishment, and certainly was a "wow" factor for recruiting franchisees... if they knew how it would benefit them. Unfortunately, the company proudly showcased this new acclaim in its advertising, but forgot to translate the achievement into an owner benefit. Shortly afterward they added the missing "wow." It read something like this:
"Two-time winners of the Microsoft Windows World Open, Molly Maid created a proprietary management program that helped existing owners build million-dollar businesses by saving countless hours in employee scheduling, administration, and paperwork."
6. Why do prospects respond? Ask each candidate in the initial conversation "What was it in the ad that prompted you to contact us?" I guarantee it will help you refine your ad approach to really connect with your buyers. You'll be surprised at what unexpectedly triggered a response. Ralph Ross, founder of several franchises, was a stickler about gaining buyer insights that could strengthen his franchise marketing. He mandated that his sales execs get ad feedback from every ad respondent so he could continually perfect his lead generation.
7. Invest in direct-response creative. The cost will pay back several times in higher responses. Avoid agencies with no franchise recruitment or lead generation experience. Their institutional and image campaigns may win advertising awards, but could deliver you the golden goose egg.
8. Advertise without a website. If you are a new franchisor, you can start generating leads even before you launch your own site! Franchise recruitment websites will create your promotional page, copy text, and request form, and email all prospect inquiries to you. In fact, some analysis reports indicate that more prospects prefer the convenience of responding initially to a commercial franchise site, rather than transferring to the actual company websites. They appreciate the convenience and ease of selecting potential opportunities.
9. Make the media provide solutions. Tap the media for new ideas and ad techniques that are working. They are involved with hundreds of franchise recruitment campaigns and gain valuable, up-to-date response information. When leads dwindle, immediately share your dilemma with your ad reps. Press them for solutions. Does your ad message need changing, and how? What other franchise ads are doing well, and why? What headlines, banners, copy, and graphics are prompting the greatest responses?
Encourage and empower the media to actively share responsibility for your ad success. One sharp media sales person conducted a comprehensive lead generation analysis for his client and increased responses 25 percent simply by recommending the franchisor rerun a high-performing ad from three years before. Another savvy rep had her creative department completely rework a franchisor's ad with new graphics, format, and copy and boosted leads by more than 50 percent.
This is an excerpt from my Amazon.com best-selling book, "Grow to Greatness: How to build a world-class franchise system faster." To order copies, click here.