"What are some effective ways to get franchisees to 'buy in' and become actively involved with local-level marketing efforts?"
Dianne Phibbs, President, Calabrand Marketing
Local marketing has always been an important part of individual unit growth, particularly in organizations that have not grown into co-op or national advertising. Franchisors must assume a leadership role in helping franchisees understand how to market at the local level. Franchisee success in local marketing has three important elements:
- Franchisee involvement in local marketing efforts starts with a clear understanding of the roles of the franchisee and franchisor. So often franchisees join a concept thinking that because they're part of a franchise organization, everything will be done for them because they pay royalties. Local marketing is critical to individual location success as well as for the long-term health of the brand. It's important to be sure your franchisees understand their role in local marketing as well as that of the franchisor. Be sure to communicate this as much as possible, starting with the sales process.
- Teach your franchisees how to plan, implement, and evaluate a marketing program. Make this a focus of your new franchisee training program. Start with a marketing calendar that will outline the revenue-generating initiatives for the first year of operation.
Help your franchisees understand how to evaluate marketing programs such as local print or community sponsorships so they may make good decisions for their location. Continue the process by offering user-friendly toolkits for marketing materials. Provide easy access to materials that have an impact and that franchisees will want to use. This will ensure that local use of marketing materials will be in keeping with the brand image.
Test new programs in company and franchised locations to provide an ongoing level of support. Then, teach your franchisees how to evaluate marketing efforts and measure success.
- Share best practices and success stories of franchisees. Franchisees love to hear stories about other franchisees and how they're growing their businesses. This will create excitement within the franchise community and entice franchisees to try new things. Provide a forum for franchisees to share this information through a franchise marketing council or intranet.
Be sure to assume a leadership role in local marketing. Don't leave it up to your franchisees to develop and implement their own materials. It's the franchisor's responsibility to provide tools, information, and resources to help franchisees make good decisions and drive revenue at the local level.
Jayson Pearl, SVP Marketing & Franchisee Onboarding, Brightstar Care
At BrightStar Care, our focus on helping owners become actively involved in local marketing starts with making programs as easy to implement as possible. We've seen much higher satisfaction and adoption of local marketing initiatives when the process is easy and the communication is clear for our owners. We work to make this happen by focusing in three areas: services, training, and technology.
- Services. We try to offer the services that keep our owners and their staff focused on providing great care and community networking--not on printing and graphic design. Our Creative Brief System is one example of this: an owner can submit a design request for anything from an online advertisement to a car wrap, and our graphic designers will bring these to life. This provides a win all around as we add high value and ease for our owners, while ensuring consistency and quality in brand and legal elements. And by making the completed designs accessible for review by all BrightStar owners, they have access to more great ideas that we can more efficiently create with only customization, not starting from scratch.
- Training. Training is a big part of engaging our owners in local marketing--making sure they understand the tools that are available, how best to portray our brand, and the best marketing investments for their stage of growth. We link the benefit and compliance of training for our owners by requiring "Brand Orientation Training" for all new franchisees before they are given access to the many marketing files and resources we've created for them.
- Technology. Leveraging technology is key to franchisee local marketing program buy-in. Helping our owners create and thrive within new social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, as well as building their local online assets, is a top priority in our business. Making sure we help our owners establish and build their sites, pages, and accounts and then providing them with ideas for generating great local content is key. We also provide online dashboards for owners to monitor the results of their efforts and benchmark their reach against other BrightStar franchisees.
Heather Neary, Chief Marketing Officer, Auntie Anne's
When striving for franchisee buy-in, it is important to engage with franchisees when making your decisions. Franchise Advisory Councils (FACs) are powerful groups in your system--if you listen to them and use their knowledge and wisdom to develop initiatives for the entire system. By engaging with franchisees at every step, you make them part of the decision-making process. The initiative (whether it's a new product launch, a marketing campaign, or a new service) will be more successful as a result.
Throughout the collaborative decision-making process, it is important for the franchisor to understand what motivates the franchisees. If you don't feel like you have their support, ask them why. Talking to franchisees about their concerns (actually picking up the phone and talking to them, not just sending email) and then listening to them is powerful.
Making your case credible to franchisees is also a critical component to gaining buy-in. Explaining the "WIIFM" is effective when communicating with franchisees. When presenting the "ROI" of projects, make sure your FAC has thoroughly tested and vetted the project, and share those results with the rest of the system. It's important to talk to franchisees in a way that makes sense to them. Getting to know your franchisees as individuals is essential in helping to understand how to best communicate with them. For example, a franchisee may own one store and want to know how launching a new product will help them. For this individual, translate the test to actual store numbers, e.g., "Over the eight-week test, the average store increased sales by X percent, or Y dollars." If another franchisee is driven by margin, talk to that individual in margin terms.
Securing buy-in for local marketing is no different. Local marketing initiatives should be tested and then sold to the system by sharing the positive results others have experienced. Use your FAC, a group voted into their position by their peers, to test programs and share the results. Help them understand the unit-level economics at their store, and then help them understand how a particular program will increase sales, transaction counts, margin, etc.
At the end of the day, your success as a franchisor depends on the success of each of your franchisees. No franchisee-franchisor relationship is perfect. It is imperative for franchisors to consistently ask themselves what they could be doing better to encourage an open dialogue and success for both parties.