Involving Franchisees in Your Marketing Programs, Part 1
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Involving Franchisees in Your Marketing Programs, Part 1

Involving Franchisees in Your Marketing Programs, Part 1

Balancing both sides of the franchise consumer marketing dynamic can be tricky, calling for well-defined central strategies, robust tech-driven tools, and a forum for good old-fashioned collaboration that builds trust and advocacy across the system. As franchisors roll out new technologies and programs to promote their brand, a comprehensive view of marketing guidelines based on transparency, communication, and owner input is critical to secure franchisee buy-in to a brand’s marketing spend. After all, when it comes that spend, a good chunk of is the franchisees’.

“It’s all about setting up your franchisees for success,” says Michelle Luchansky, vice president of marketing at Property Management Inc. (PMI). “Even though there is no one-size-fits-all approach to certain challenges when it comes to marketing, there are systems and processes we can put in place with marketing operations that can help drive a business. The goals are to be strategic with that and make sure everything ladders up to the parent brand.”

The events of the past 2 years have reinforced the value of strong partnerships as Covid turned the marketing playbook on its head, resulting in working with outside firms for digital marketing and technologies to power online engagement and to deliver their goods and services to homebound consumers during the pandemic.

“What we set out to focus on in early 2020 was a very different place than we are in today,” says Nicole Salla, chief marketing officer at Kiddie Academy. “The pandemic’s impact on marketing was truly an opportunity for us to launch into new ways of thinking, find ways to be more flexible, react in real time to consumers’ quickly changing attitudes, and look at other ways to get to the end goal.”

The marketing fund

With marketing fees typically ranging from 2% to 5% of a franchisee’s gross revenue, owners want to ensure they get what they are paying for.

At Sola Salon Studios, Jennie Wolff didn’t have a job description when she was approached about signing on with the brand in 2013 as its only marketing executive. Wolff, with a background in events and integrated marketing, listened and learned from key franchisees as she built the marketing vision and budget for the brand. Today, as Sola’s CMO, Wolff’s seven-member marketing team supports the marketing efforts of more than 600 franchise locations and some 18,000 independent stylists.

Sola’s national marketing fund covers the brand’s digital presence, social media strategy, media relations, traditional and nontraditional marketing campaigns, and innovative educational programs for stylists who have positioned the company as the industry leader. Wolff devotes the most significant chunk of the marketing budget to acquisitions marketing through digital marketing and other strategies designed to drive tenant leads to local franchisees, who operate the shared salon facilities across the U.S.

Along with a national approach, the brand’s local team supports franchisees with a playbook and marketing toolkit featuring vendor tools, resources, materials, and how-to guides to drive awareness and execute lead activations in their markets.

With growth comes the need for transparency. In the past year, Wolff has reorganized the brand’s marketing budget into a tighter, more straightforward format focused on pillars instead of tactics.

“I don’t want everyone in hundreds and hundreds of lines of budget detail,” she says. “We needed to roll it all up into a digestible format that would allow people to know what kinds of questions to ask, and to feel they have enough level of detail to understand how the money is being spent.”

Demonstrating ROI isn’t always easy. For Sola, measurable cost-per-acquisition data comes only from the brand’s digital marketing. But that alone won’t fill a studio, which is where Sola’s events, programs, apps, and tools—which make the lives of stylists and franchisees easier and more profitable—come into play, says Wolff.

“It can be challenging to prove all of that out,” she says. “But the proof is in the pudding. Happy customers call their friends. And that’s where a lot of our referrals come from.”

As stewards of the marketing fund, it’s vital for CMOs and other marketing leaders to help franchisees understand how the investment in marketing builds the brand, says Salla. Kiddie Academy’s Brand Building Committee consists of four franchisees from various regions of the country. Members serve two- or four-year terms and work closely with corporate to share ideas, review results, and provide feedback on new and ongoing marketing plans.

“We believe in transparency about how the Brand Building Fund is invested with our franchisees,” Salla says. “We develop annual reports showing how it was invested and the KPIs achieved. We also meet annually with our Brand Building Committee so they can advise on key initiatives, provide their insights and thoughts, and then serve as advocates among their fellow franchisees for our marketing initiatives.”

Next time, part 2: Getting franchisees involved, communicating the process, and building bridges

Published: February 22nd, 2022

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