Tech shakes up franchise recruitment
The same technology-driven analytics and targeting tactics that are changing consumer marketing are helping franchisors with recruitment and development approaches like never before.
“For us, it’s not about the number of inquiries, it’s about the number of qualified candidates,” says Barbara Moran, co-founder and CEO of Illinois-based The Moran Family of Brands, franchisor of seven automotive brands. “We can move people who want to be part of our system through the process much quicker—and we are able to move people out of the process much quicker when we know they’re not going to be a good franchise candidate.”
For Moran, whose automotive aftermarket repair and maintenance brands include Mr. Transmission and Milex Complete Auto Care, finding the right fit goes well beyond meeting financial qualifications to include the ability to understand and follow processes. For instance, the brand can track whether or not a prospect has read through the FDD and other sales material.
“Before we’d have to ask them lots of questions to figure out if they actually read the material,” says Moran. “We feel it has helped us hone in on a better-qualified person to be our franchisee, because it’s really important to make sure the people who are coming into your system are going to be part of your family and able to have success.”
“The entire digital footprint of people enables us to be really targeted about who we want to talk to and get in front of our brand,” agrees David Bloom, chief development and operating officer at Capriotti’s, which kicked off 2021 with the acquisition of Wing Zone.
Technology has revolutionized franchise recruitment and development, allowing today’s franchise prospects to evaluate a brand long before they make their presence known to a franchisor. The explosion of this early digital due diligence is another reason that maintaining a stellar social media presence and having a prospect-friendly and focused website for opportunity seekers are vital to franchise successful recruitment. But it’s just the start.
TWO BRANDS, ONE PROCESS
A high-functioning recruitment website, omnichannel communication, financial and operational transparency, and fresh, relevant content-rich storytelling catered to today’s candidates have become technology-driven best practices. Automation and analytics help franchisors reach and nurture prospects with the right message at the right time.
Brands must also continually evaluate and measure what’s working to keep those qualified inquiries coming. Douglas Kwong, vice president of marketing at Dallas-based Rave Restaurant Group, which has more than 200 Pie Five and Pizza Inn restaurants operating in the U.S. and internationally, takes advantage of targeting capabilities through digital marketing to zero in on qualified franchisees.
“Our process involves crafting our ideal partner profile and then running advertisements geared toward our target audience,” he says. “The traction we’ve received from our digital marketing efforts has been incredible.”
Pizza Inn’s digital marketing campaigns resulted in a threefold increase in franchise inquiries through the website. Campaign content is tested to ensure messages that resonate with potential franchisees to optimize media spend and maximize results, says Kwong. “From there, the leads turn into a tailored, one-on-one conversation with potential franchise partners to establish and begin building those relationships.”
ROCKING THE TECH!
High-touch franchises like School of Rock have looked for creative uses of technology to adapt throughout the pandemic. Within the first days of lockdowns the performance-based music education brand, with nearly 300 locations in 10 countries, converted its patented teaching method into School of Rock Remote and kept franchise development efforts humming. A new area development agreement in Ireland and a master franchise agreement for 20 schools in Taiwan over the next decade are among the brand’s 2020 highlights.
Replicating discovery day at the brand’s Chicago-area home required some creative chops. The two-day “Opening Act,” designed to occur at the back end of the recruitment process, has historically delivered the franchisor an 80 percent closing rate. The compacted virtual Zoom event, rocking in at just 5 hours, has been continually enhanced throughout the pandemic. Instead of dinner with the leadership team, prospective franchisees took advantage of phone calls to ask questions one-on-one.
“It’s all about the personal touch,” says Chief Development Officer Tony Padulo. “Everything we do is around creating a relationship. So whether it’s a pre-Covid situation or a Covid situation, our techniques haven’t changed.”
While School of Rock looks to return to an in-person discovery day experience someday, the brand is rethinking its four-day onboarding process, thanks to the overwhelming success of its virtual training. An additional bonus is that existing franchisees and employees have jumped at the expanded chance to take a refresher course—without the travel costs and time.
“It’s actually been an opportunity to optimize the number of people coming through our training,” says Padulo, whose career includes 22 years in various leadership roles at Dunkin’ Brands.
Capriotti’s had been sealing most of its franchise deals virtually long before the arrival of Covid-19. Remote meet-and-greets and discovery, along with data-driven, virtual site selection and inspection are routine for the brand.
“We continue to push that envelope as far as we can to do everything to deliver everything we can digitally or virtually, realizing that getting on a plane and flying 6 hours spending a day or two someplace to look at a few sites and then flying back home is not necessarily the best thing to do, especially early in the process,” says Bloom.
Finding system-wide ways to communicate and strategize will remain a priority as brands look to expand their technology to overcome challenges, boost productivity, and seize the opportunity to improve all operations. Among the top trends are the use of artificial intelligence to increase efficiency, and gamification for employee training.
Moran sees the franchisor’s role increasingly shifting to a coaching approach to help franchisees keep up with the rapid-fire availability of real-time data. The company counts on “brand ambassadors” to communicate with franchisees daily and troubleshoot questions and concerns with support, which frees up the operations coach to focus on product and lead conversion, she says.
With the launch of Turbo Tint in 2020, the company is also moving into e-commerce. Turbo Tint, developed with a long-time Oklahoma franchisee, specializes in vehicle window tinting services delivered in less than an hour with a customer-centric lounge-like waiting experience. “I love collaboration,” Moran says. “And that’s what technology is—it’s collaboration.”
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