It's old news to all of us that franchising has evolved since 2007 with the changes in the lending environment, home equity, high unemployment rates, and lack of consumer confidence. What's amazing to me is that franchising has been talking about the "New Norm" for five years. Let's face it: This is not a new environment for business ownership any longer. It is just the Norm!
I would like to introduce you to "Norm" in this article, and how we might consider working with him. Norm is a franchise seeker with the same needs he has always had. Norm wants to find an opportunity that feels comfortable for him to operate, that can give him a reasonable return on his investment, and that will provide security and a future for his family. Norm has not really changed over the years. However, he has become more difficult to find than Waldo! At the end of the day, the information Norm needs to make a decision is the same as it was 20 years ago. We just deliver it differently. Norm still wants to develop a relationship with someone who has taken an approach of mutual exploration with Norm's best interest in mind.
As we've all struggled to find Norm over the past several years, many of us attempted different approaches to bring him out of the woods. Many of us invested in powerful CRM systems that could walk Norm through the process and access his interest by how much homework he did, or how long he viewed the pages and reviewed the materials.
Others built websites with dedicated URLs for franchise development messaging. Some websites were built to provide extensive information to the candidate to make the research process easier. Others created websites that provided less information and created questions that directed the candidate to sales consultants to start building the relationship face to face.
Franchise professionals have always been a creative group overcoming each barrier placed in front of the franchise sales process. When SBA loans slowed, home equity picked up. When home equity disappeared, the 401(k) rollover plans took over and hedge funds were organized for SBA funding.
Lead generation is much the same. Proactive franchisors over the past several years have expanded their lead generation programs to more of a shotgun approach. Franchisors with larger development budgets started using multiple approaches, while others made choices through good reporting from the CRM systems and focused their budgets accordingly. Remember, each brand has different success rates with lead generation vehicles. Portals are the number-one lead generator for certain concepts, while others find success in SEO and company websites. Others with a more targeted approach use lists and webinars. Franchisors can choose from many options to attract quality franchisees.
Some things just don't change
Norm is still the same guy he was 10 years ago. He's a candidate who wants to research franchise opportunities with a helpful partner assisting him through a well-defined process. Today Norm is getting older, he has a larger net worth, his children have grown, and he is now looking for a lifestyle that allows him to enjoy his family and leverage his skills from his previous career. Norm has become more sophisticated with his research, and the changes we've made over the past few years with our systems, websites, and CRM systems will serve us well--as long as we use them correctly.
"Correctly" is getting Norm the information he needs to make a decision. There's only one Norm, but thousands of other candidates are similar to him. Remember, everyone is not like Norm. It is critical for you to customize your presentations and information flow differently for each candidate you work with. I encourage all of you to ask your candidates what they want, what they are looking for, and how they want that information delivered. "One size does not fit all." Be flexible, be helpful, and make your process one of "mutual exploration" and fun. If you always have your candidate's best interest in mind, the process will work and your brand will grow.
I believe we will all look back on this period as a monumental change in franchising. We've all focused on buttoning up our processes, systems, and materials and have focused on unit economics in the field. We have all become better franchise companies, managers, and strengthened our systems for franchisee success.
New Norm, Old Norm, or Just Norm... you decide!