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Marketing Skills You'll Need

The marketing skills you'll need to grow your franchise business vary with the type of business you're in – as well as where and how you do business. Food, retail, and service businesses each require different marketing skills; storefront, mobile, and home-based businesses mean different approaches to finding customers; and the ways to attract customers are not the same for different industries or sectors (restaurants, senior care, or home repair service, for example).

Still, what all businesses, franchised or not, have in common is the need to bring in customers – and not only bring them in, but keep them coming in, spending more, and bringing more people with them.

Marketing is not a built-in skill, but it is learnable. Some franchisees will take to it like a duck to water, while others will find themselves breaking out in a cold sweat, just at the thought.

"Most prospects come with a firm belief in the product or service, but a limited strength in sales and marketing," says Flo Schell, a business coach specializing in franchising. "Yet sales and marketing skills are the very skills they need to sell themselves and their services — the skills they need to keep the business alive."

Frequently, new franchisees lack the "selling gene," says Schell. "It is a fact that many franchisees are uncomfortable with the notion of selling their concept to others. It's scary enough being the new owner of a business without having to approach prospective customers and sell them on the business too — especially when the business is their own, because then rejection feels more personal."

Schell, former vice president of franchise development at Sylvan Learning, has written a book, "Stop Selling: Start Clicking," that explains how franchisees can get over their initial fears of selling. She says two steps are "guaranteed" to provide franchisees with the courage they need to begin getting comfortable with selling immediately:

1) Be sure you know exactly who you're selling to, what it is you're selling, and what problems you solve for your target markets.

2) Redefine the word "selling" so that it is comfortable for you and for your customers.

"Wouldn't it be great," she asks, "if franchisees could understand that selling is nothing more than the creation of a new relationship, and that this is something they already know how to do?"

Marketing is not just advertising and sales. It's more like the air you breathe, all-pervasive, present in every transaction, and thanks to social media it has become a 24-hour activity, working even when your franchise business is closed.

Successful marketing begins before you open your business. Your franchisor will help you with pre-opening and grand opening promotions and activities, as well as training in how to continue marketing after the opening buzz dies down. Your fellow franchisees are another source to draw from, especially those in your local market, since the more you succeed, the better it for them as the brand achieves greater market penetration.

It is important to understand that effective marketing involves not only advertising, promotions, direct mail, and the usual methods of reaching out to potential customers to distinguish your business from the competition, but also training your employees to market in every transaction, the use of social media and mobile marketing strategies, and active involvement in your community.

Next week we break down the various channels and methods of successful marketing, providing specific tactics and suggestions for attracting and retaining customers.

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