Five Cornerstones for Building a Successful Franchise Ad
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Five Cornerstones for Building a Successful Franchise Ad

Business buyers evaluating a prospective purchase want answers to key opportunity factors. If you don't provide these answers, their relatives, CPA, attorney, or armchair advisors will! During my career I've had the enviable position of gaining insight into these major decision-making criteria, which could make or break the attractiveness of a franchisor's concept with discerning buyers. I've listened to, learned from, and consulted with hundreds of print and Internet advertisers seeking ways to accelerate their response rates. This included providing in-house creative services to increase lead generation performance. What we discovered were the critical factors that attract prospective franchisees--whether you're a $50,000 cleaning franchise or a $1 million restaurant concept.

After developing and measuring hundreds of ad campaigns, it became clear what franchise buyers respond to, whether through print, electronic, trade show, or PR efforts. These "attention grabbers" must be showcased in your advertising. Otherwise, you'll lose their eyeballs in 2 seconds to the 10 competing franchises next to your ad. Buyers need answers to five decision-making questions. Address these with a motivating message and you can take away more prospects from your competition!

  1. What is your opportunity? Your opening copy must define in a compelling statement what owning your business is all about: "We are offering a professional, proven automotive service now available for interested entrepreneurs in several states" certainly isn't going to arrest my attention! Sounds boring, and where's the sizzle? Please, get me excited as I scan 200 franchises in nanoseconds on the Internet.

    Now let's transform this opening paragraph into an opportunity statement for the reader: "Our high-demand safety technology has revolutionized the automotive industry! We are now offering in limited markets an executive management opportunity for qualified individuals seeking a low inventory, patent-protected product endorsed by the U.S. Automotive Safety Council and National Automotive Association." Now we have grabbed their appetite from the get-go with sizzle and meat that can motivate prospects to read further!
  2. Is there a market? In today's fickle marketplace, businesses must have staying power to survive. Buyers need to know about you. Does 75 percent of the U.S. population use your service annually, or is it a specialized product targeting the booming health and fitness market? Are you recession-resistant, and why? Prospective owners want facts about the success, acceptance, and sustainability of your franchise concept. Does it have a future, or is it just another fad? Tell me up front to satisfy this fear.

    Why in this competitive world don't franchisors broadcast compelling industry research about their businesses? It's a must, and great way to get a prospect's attention. For example, many buyers mistakenly think gourmet coffee is a saturated business, so one franchisor tells them, "The specialty coffee market continues to explode in an underserved market, with 77 percent of Americans now drinking hot and cold coffee beverages, according to the Specialty Coffee Association." Many buyers don't realize the magnitude of the picture framing business, so another franchisor tells them, "Everyone is a potential customer! The average U.S. household owns 14 paintings and pictures in closets, under beds, and in garages waiting to be framed and hung."
  3. How will I benefit? Here's your key opportunity to grandstand what's special about your franchise. This doesn't mean making meaningless, generic statements about "providing high-quality products and great support for our franchisees." Showcase your "wow" factors, those outstanding four to six advantages that will excite prospects and catapult you into their top picks for investigation: "24/7 on-call franchisee help line"; "customer accounts provided through our national marketing system"; "daily customers averaging 20 visits per month"; "70 percent of our new franchises are purchased by existing owners"; "keep your full-time job starting up this business"; "free weekends and holidays"; "you can produce income within 45 days"; "no royalty fees."

    Sears Carpet & Upholstery Care aggressively leveraged their "wow" factors. The company promoted some extraordinary benefits they offered prospects: "Franchisees can access extensive local mailing lists of Sears customers and can offer zero percent interest when they use their Sears credit card." Sears headlined its brand power in their ads, stating, "Two thirds of households in the U.S. have done business with Sears."
  4. Are you credible? Buyers need assurances about your business successes, capabilities, and health as a franchise system. Brag about your achievements: "Ranked in the top 10 retail franchises in the U.S. by Entrepreneur magazine"; "Recognized as 'Business of the Year' by the state of Colorado"; "Servicing 550,000 households since 1976."

    Ad testimonials are essential for establishing credibility with your prospects, yet more than one third of franchise websites don't include them according to Franchise Update's Annual Franchise Development Report. Who do you think buyers believe more--you, or franchisees who have invested their lives into your business? Always feature owners with their photos and franchise locations in your ads. Their experiences and advice carry far more impact than your sales pitches. Customer testimonials are also effective, especially for new concepts.
  5. Do I qualify? Prospects want to know if they meet basic qualifications so they don't waste their time responding to your franchise advertising. And if you don't at least list initial financial requirements, they're also wasting your time. Flurries of emails and phone calls from individuals who can't afford your $300,000 franchise make little sense. In addition, let the interested reader know up front if your success profile requires strong management or sales skills, an engineering or mechanical aptitude, or previous food service experience. Remember, buyers want to be pre-screened so they can investigate franchise opportunities that are the right fit for them.

This is an excerpt from my book, "Grow to Greatness: How to build a world-class franchise system faster." Order copies at

Published: April 7th, 2010

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