Franchise Development During Covid-19, Part 3: Opportunities Ahead!
In part 1 of this three-part series, we explored current macro market conditions and discovered that the coronavirus crisis may produce strong tailwinds to support the growth of franchising.
Part 2 provided a deeper analysis of before-and-after Covid performance metrics, culled from the digital lead generation campaigns of more than 50 franchise brands. We discovered that brands continuing to invest in marketing at the same (or increased) rates have been sustaining lead volume and capturing dramatically increased mindshare. In today’s conclusion, l synthesize these findings to provide recommendations on the strategic pivot that franchises need to consider in their lead gen efforts – decisions that could make or break the future of franchise brands.
This past February at the IFA Convention (just 2 months and a lifetime ago), the president of a $1 billion franchise holding company told me about a recent marketing experiment. Testing a variety of ad creative and website/social content themes, his team discovered something remarkable. The messaging and audience targeting that drove the highest quantity and quality of candidate leads was not the tried-and-true financial opportunity-focused approach, but instead one centered on brand values. Attention was captured by showing how the fundamental values of the brands aligned with the core values of the target audience. Furthermore, website content designed to tell this story more efficiently converted interest into qualified inquiries. As a result, his brands realigned their approach to lead gen, devoting increased dollars and resources into baking out this strategy. The first full month executing this new plan produced an all-time high for lead generation.
How does this story relate to our theme of franchise development in the face of Covid-19? At the time of this writing, more than 26 million Americans had filed for unemployment in recent weeks (a jaw-dropping 16% of the 163 million U.S. workforce). And the 401(k) retirement savings of millions more have been decimated.
The newly un- and under-employed are compelled like never before to pursue a next career chapter that empowers them to control their own destinies. Those watching their primary passive retirement investment vehicle contracting before their eyes are also prone to find interest in more active ways to invest their retirement nest eggs (and leave lasting legacies for their families). These people, by and large not sophisticated investors, represent a massive, brand-new pool of prospective candidates (along with newly available labor to build out their teams). Millions more who had been staring at the retirement sun rising over the horizon are now left glimpsing only a flickering starlight of their dream. They are now reckoning with the prospect of a years-long, or even decades-long, extension of work. Most have never proactively sought out franchise or business ownership opportunities—and are unfamiliar with the franchise model and ownership opportunity, so wouldn’t even know where to start.
A country-sized pool of new candidates and the labor to help new business owners launch and grow their business, plus an appetite for active investment vehicles equals a material opportunity to grow your franchise.
Change or lose in a new fran dev world
So why can’t franchise development teams simply do what they’ve always done and expect to see even better results? Because historical lead channels have focused on channeling existing demand, but this new world requires generating demand and establishing a powerful, values-based brand position.
Trade shows, online search, and portals all require someone to raise their hand and express interest. At that point, brands then compete to capture attention and compel action. Today and going forward, it’s incumbent upon brands to drive that awareness, to not just capture demand but also to generate it. Brands that are the proverbial tip-of-the-spear will tap into vast and deep new audiences, enter into relationships as true partners, capture exclusive engagements, and leverage huge proving grounds of audiences to refine messaging and associated candidate profiles. Brands will be in charge of educating the masses about franchising.
To add fuel to this fire, changing expectations around the value of face-to-face meetings versus virtual engagements will allow your team to fully control the candidate experience. From initial message to website and conversion, follow-ups, teleconferences, and virtual discovery days (with produced, multimedia experiences), your team can reinforce the values and brand differentiation at each touchpoint... without the heavy investment of time and money required to spend life on the road.
The conversation I had in a hotel lobby with my franchise friend proved that the times they already were a-changing. The black swan event that is Covid-19 just accelerated this evolution. In the years to come, the franchise losers and winners will be determined in large part by the decisions that brand teams make today. You know the market and you have the data. The time is now to chart your destiny.
Justin Mink is Senior Vice President of Sales at Scorpion. Contact him at 214-459-0274 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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