Marketing Expertise: How Did we Leave That Out?
If you have been around the franchise sales profession for more than just a cup of coffee, you personally know, or have been told repeatedly, that the decision to invest in a franchise is far greater than buying furniture, fixtures, equipment, and software. The investment in a franchise is about fulfilling personal goals, whether achieving a lifestyle, leaving a legacy, or resolving a particular event in life.
To make the monumental and life-changing decision to invest in any franchise concept, a candidate must envision how to apply their personal assets--knowledge, experience, and money--to a franchise model, the success of which will support their lifestyle, legacy, or resolution.
So how does this happen? Over the years, my largest, multi-unit franchise owner regularly repeated a favorite line that answers our question well. He would say, "Jim, nothing happens till somebody sells something." And how do franchise owners sell things? They attract customers through effective marketing strategies ranging from face-to-face sales to online ordering, depending upon the model.
While often refined by franchise owners, most effective strategies are developed by the brand, a capability I refer to as knowing how to "put butts in the seats." Franchise candidates buy the marketing knowledge, experience, and expertise of the brand. Yet, as we all know, more franchise candidates are qualified to learn operating systems, customer sales, or service than how to develop successful marketing strategies. Perhaps this is best supported by the consternation that exists between franchise owner and franchisor over the marketing fund spend or the claim that marketing strategies "do not work in my market."
Why is it then, that as franchise sales professionals, the topic we spend the least amount of time on is marketing expertise? A telltale sign: Does marketing training even appear on the new owner training curriculum under Item 11?
Far too often, the marketing presentation given during the franchise sales process highlights only the services provided by marketing staff, such as identifying local promotional opportunities, cost/inquiry analysis, adapting the annual/national promotional calendar to local market conditions, or grand opening support. While all are great topics that require review, they are not sufficiently powerful to demonstrate how our marketing knowledge is the point of differentiation for our brand and franchise model. As a result, candidates simply bundle "marketing" under "franchisor support services" and continue to search for a compelling reason to join.
The topics we typically fail to discuss are: How do we know what we know about our target customer, and what do we know about influencing their behavior? Most important, how does our influence over their behavior create a positive return? Stated more bluntly, "We know how to put butts in the seats and are willing to share that information with you."
When reviewing the franchise development programs of most new clients, from zero franchise owners to emerging brands to hundreds of locations, they are remarkably silent on the topic of marketing expertise. Throughout the sales process--and especially during program review and again at discovery day--they should present the following:
- The brand vision and values (and no, it is not your product or service), how we communicate it, and how franchise owners are expected to support that vision.
- The specific market niche the brand occupies in terms of audience, product, or service benefit.
- What we know about target consumers, how we know it, and how we back it up.
- How we can influence the target consumer's behavior.
- How we quantify the results of marketing strategies and activities.
- How we transfer marketing expertise to franchise owners on an ongoing basis.
Likewise, franchisors are qualifying the marketing expertise of each candidate by gauging: 1) their understanding, agreement, and buy-in of the brand's vision and values they will represent to consumers; 2) their commitment to funding and consistent execution of marketing strategies; and 3) their past sales and marketing experience relevant to the business model.
Of the thousands of hours we spent with candidates in 2016, we devoted the majority of our time together to reviewing the marketing expertise of the brand they selected. Once established as the key point of differentiation among the competition, we reinforce how the brand's marketing capability is the driving force behind best-in-class average unit volume, operations, and profitability.
In our experience, a sales program that has a sharp, consistent focus on the marketing capabilities that drive unit success and profitability is the most compelling of all franchise presentations. This year we plan to spend even more time unveiling each brand's marketing expertise.
It does not take long to audit a sales program. How do you present the marketing capabilities of your brand (if at all)? Is it the review of a laundry list of support services, or a demonstration of the driving force behind your success? Do candidates believe the brand has the marketing expertise and experience to help them achieve their goals?
Knowing how to put butts in the seats doesn't just apply to selling a product or service, it applies to all of us in the development business as well.
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