Marketing & Staffing Strategy: Do You Have One?

Whether you are a franchisor or a multiunit franchisee, you must have noticed that the marketing and sales landscape is changing. No matter what kind of business you're in, status quo marketing and sellingis no longer going to get you the resultsyou need or want. In a business-to-consumer franchise system you will see the demographic changes in your customer marketplaces more quickly than in business-to-business. Time to wake up and smell the demographic coffee!

Nothing wakes you up more than hard numbers–true, no-lie statistics. Did you know that the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. population are Asian American, Hispanic, African American,and the over-55 populations? Nearly 90 percent of the U.S. population lives in urban settings. In the top 100 U.S. cities,former minorities have become the majority. All of this we have known in our field for years.

Any brand new data? Yes, out of the Census Bureau. From July 2003 to July 2004, analysts reviewed recent demographic data and made the following observations:

During this period half of all growth in the U.S. population came from Hispanics.

  • The growth rate of the Hispanic population was three times that of the overall population.
  • The Asian population expanded by 3.4 percent during this period.

For some of you the elder market represents significant revenues:

  • The older generation is the most white. Nationally, 12 percent of the population is 65 or older. Among single-race non-Hispanic whites the proportion is 15 percent versus just 5 percent among Hispanics.

On the other hand there is a lot we can tell from the future demographic picture by looking at the demographics of schoolchildren:

  • Overall, 7 percent of the nation's population is under five years;however, among Hispanics, preschoolers account for 11 percent of the population. Twelve percent of the U.S. population is between the ages of five and 13; but among Hispanics and Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders, that proportion is 17 percent.

These numbers alone can frame our conversation. Throw in the emergence of the Internet and the ever-accelerating speed at which information is flowing and these market changes will be more evident to even the least informed. You hear them called "emerging markets," "ethnic communities," "nontraditional customers," or"high growth target populations." Is your franchise ready to reach out to these communities and markets?

Changes in your customer or client populations require changes in how you market, staff, sell, and deliver your services and related products. Do you see these changes as opportunities or as a challenge or problem? The emerging field addressing these issues is the diversity, or inclusive marketing field. New and diverse customers demand new and diverse service and product offerings and Status quo or traditional marketing, selling, and customer retention are signs of the past.

Fundamental questions you must begin to ask:

  • Do you have people in your sales ranks from elder, Hispanic, Asian, or African American backgrounds?
  • Do you hire people who speak Spanish? (They don't have to be Hispanic, but that helps.)
  • Who do you target to solicit new franchisee prospects?
  • How, where, and who do you source for prospects?
  • How do you reach out to these new and emerging marketplaces?
  • Are your franchisees attracting and retaining increasingly diverse consumers? Or are you continuing with your status quo sales and marketing management approach and ignoring huge growing opportunities in your marketplace(s)?
  • Are your competitors rushing into these new markets ahead of you and gaining a competitive advantage?
  • Do you have a plan to secure these new franchise prospects,customers, and clients?

Make no mistake about it: this field is one of the hottest and fastest-growing areas of the marketing and world. If you still need clarification, turn on Telemundo, Univision, CNN Hispano, or BET. Are you strategically positioned for the present and future high-growth communities exploding in the United States now and for the foreseeable and not-so-foreseeable future?Without a plan you have no direction and no chance of surviving the increasingly diverse and competitive free market forces. I can usually tell how committed a franchise system is to these new marketplaces by the people they hire—the people who staff their places of business. I recommend a "walk about." Go to your competition. Visit their places of business. Who are they hiring? More important, who are they not hiring? Who is missing?That is really the way I look at it. When I work with a client,who do I see and not see present on the "floor" of their business?By the way, if I pick up on it, you know your increasingly diverse customers are picking up on it. Does your team resemble the increasingly diverse customers they serve?

If you look at Wendy's or Denny's or Coca Cola – they really have wonderful stories to tell. They took their ugly moments of truth in the spotlight and went from facing a crisis to turning their situations into opportunities to rethink, rediscover, and reinvigorate their commitment to the ever-changing, increasingly diverse marketplace. Last time I checked, Denny's had more than 60 black franchisees. How many franchise systems in the U.S. can boast of such a commitment?

In the corporate world you find a new position emerging:"Director of Multicultural Marketing." I have come across a similar position with one of my clients and I am thrilled they are going down this path. The title of their just-created new position is Emerging Markets Coordinator. Your point person for these emerging markets will be building relationships with organizations like the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, African American Chamber of Commerce, LULAC, National Council of La Raza, Asia Society, Urban League, IFA's Minorities in Franchising Committee, NAACP, and the Women's Franchise and Distribution Forum to name a few. If these organizations mean nothing to you,this column might just be the wake-up call you and your franchise system need.

Is your franchise system a leader, a lighthouse in the diversity conversation? Please share with me. I welcome success stories, best practices and realized results.

Mauricio Velásquez, president and CEO of the The Diversity Training Group and Spanish Translation Services in Herndon, Va., works with the franchise and corporate worlds and can be reached or 703-478-9191.

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