Nontraditional Locations as Lead Generators

Nontraditional locations, typically seen as a vehicle for spreading a franchise brand into new places to reach a captive audience, also can serve as an additional lead generation tool, part of your overall development strategy. Let's consider a few instructional examples.

  • You're at an arena concert on a hot summer day and head indoors for refreshments. The lines at the Jamba Juice concession are long, but they're moving quickly, so you hang in. The crew behind the counter are moving smoothies and snacks like hotcakes, and the register draws are banging open and shut like there's no tomorrow. Pretty impressive. Your mood shifts from impatience to wondering about starting your own Jamba Juice franchise. Seeing is believing, and the next day you phone the franchisor to see if they have any available in your area. "A nontraditional location is a great way to build your brand," says Thibault de Chatellus, Jamba's senior vice president, global franchise and development.
  • With about half of its nearly 200 restaurants located at colleges and universities, Pita Pit provides students with affordable, healthy, portable fare. The payoff from a captive audience of hungry young people certainly is good, but there's another, longer-term payoff, too. One more reason Pita Pit (or anyone, for that matter) likes college campuses is the chance of developing a lifetime customer. "They'll still want your product when they're 30 or 40," says the brand's CEO Jack Riggs. But they also may see a Pita Pit as a business opportunity: they're still young, they believe in the brand, and they ask the manager how they can open one when they graduate.
  • You're at an airport, your flight is delayed three hours, and one of the wires from your iPod's ear buds has come loose. Good thing you know that Radio Shack has started supplying certain stores with a display of batteries, ear buds, memory cards for cameras, and other electronic "essentials" road warriors need to survive. Staring at the choices available on the display, you think, "I have a few stores where these would be great!" When you get home you contact Radio Shack and ask about making a deal for a nontraditional site - which is a lot less expensive than a full-blown store. "It's appealing. We can go into a marketplace, and whether we dominate 100 square feet or an entire store, there's not a space in the USA where we couldn't be operating," says Marty Amschler, Radio Shack's vice president of franchising.
  • You're at a hotel for a business conference and you've loaded up on printed material from the presentations and gadgets and gizmos from the show floor. No way it will fit in your suitcase, so you head to the business center and see a UPS Store sign. It's their chance to make a great impression on you as a business traveler - or, for that matter, on a family that bought too many souvenirs, or the casual traveler in need of printing, copying, packaging or shipping services. As you wait for the cheery, helpful person behind the counter to finish packing up your things, you start to wonder, "Hey, maybe I could run one of these!" and strike up a conversation. The UPS Store takes nontraditional locations seriously enough to have a dedicated team of five, as well as cross-functional support to develop them, says Kevin Pignone, vice president of domestic sales, who heads the team.
  • You're serving your country in a military base overseas and see the logo of a brand you've never tried. What the heck, it's still a slice of America, a taste of home, so you give it a chance… and it's great! When you get home and return to civilian life, you have some money saved, but you're not sure what to do next. One day, driving to a friend's house, you see that same logo and remember the experience you had overseas. When you get home later, you hit the keyboard and learn everything you can about the brand.

The point, of course, is that the more you place your brand in unusual (nontraditional) locations, the more likely it is to be seen by potential franchisees - who otherwise may never have run across it. In addition to those sites mentioned above, nontraditional locations include highway rest stops, train stations, golf courses, resorts, conference centers, senior-living centers, supermarkets, primary and secondary schools, convenience stores, hospitals, office buildings, and long-term care facilities.

Whether you're looking for a recent college graduate or a newly minted veteran in search of a civilian career, an entrepreneur on the move or someone just out for a good time at a show or sporting event, by locating in nontraditional sites you can generate new leads - and even make a little money in the process, instead of spending it.

For more on nontraditional locations, see the next issue of Franchise UPDATE magazine, Issue 2, 2010, available online in mid-May.

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