Business websites in the context of franchises is a tricky balance between flexibility, brand integrity and control.
Being a franchisee can be a rollercoaster ride at the best of times. Like many business owners, franchisees are exposed to the unpredictable climate of winning and retaining their client base. Whether it be a product or service based business without sales there is nothing.
Many franchisees step out of corporate life and look to owning their own business as an opportunity for them to get some kind of life back, time with their families and freedom to have some life work balance. but it doesn’t always pan out that way.
Franchise business owners need to be able to wear many hats. They need to be sales people, marketers, networkers, business owners, bookkeepers, counsellors (for clients - you’d be surprised) and there is very little work life balance in the first twelve to twenty-four months. And it’s because of this, they look to their franchisor, the company they placed trust in, their adopted brand, not just for leadership but for probably what is the most important aspect of any businesses ability to function, leads and sales, or what they refer to it as …marketing.
Now, when it comes to those of us ‘in the know’ we are in a position to understand that marketing and sales are two very different beasts. But, try explaining that to a fledgling franchisee who has just given you what might seem to them like a life savings in absolute faith that you will help them get their business off the ground.
You can have all the processes and principles in place, you can have great support system and a back office of quality staff, but if those leads and clients don’t start flowing then you have a problem. A problem that will let its voice be heard within your network, a problem that won’t go away. It isn’t something you can ignore.
So, what can you do about it?
As a franchisor, you should know exactly what your client (the franchisee) needs before they even see a contract. You should be familiar with their region, what works there, what doesn’t. You should know the trends of customers in the area, what times of year are busier or quieter, what sells best etc.. it’s all the stuff you need to be on top of, and you probably are, but people are unpredictable, right?
One thing you absolutely must do is embrace digital marketing, you need to provide strength in your brand and online is the best way to do that. But that’s not the golden ticket, you can have a great website and be on every social media platform there is, you can run an AdWords campaigns and push out blog after blog, EDMs to your mailing lists, but does that guarantee people are reading? No.
Are people looking for you? Do they know you exist locally? What have you done to ensure your brand reaches them? Do you know their habits? Because without this information you can’t provide the value your franchisees want.
So where is the value?
The value is in providing your franchisee with a local brand. Something that talks to the person looking for that product or service in the same part of the world. Local area marketing (or in marketing speak “Hyper Local Marketing”) is the most important step to any businesses future in the early days, if you can build a local brand and become the go to person - you will nail it.
Having spoken to dozens of franchisees over the years about this, here is the exact feedback we got from asking them two questions.
- What do you view as being the two most important things your franchisor can provide in terms of value?
- Of these two things, which one should be the highest priority as a deliverable
The answers all pointed in the same direction sales and leads/local marketing, for both answers. Some elaborated that they felt their franchisor was providing what they (the franchisor) believed to be high value to their clients, but continuously missed the mark when it came to delivering.
How can you provide the right value?
Having the right people is just part of it, the one thing you must have is the right system. Something with the ability to give your franchisees the ability to build the local brand and once you have that system then you find the right person to drive it. If you do that, the leads, the sales, the income will follow.
So here is the punchline for well-meaning and progressive Franchisors out there today. Take a look at your competitor’s website. Does it show where each franchise is located on a map? Perhaps a state by state search with some addresses and phone numbers listed on them. Is a listing true value? It might be to. Blue chip brand like McDonalds whose brand value stands alone. Unless you’re brand is greater or equivalent to that of a McDonalds, why would you do the same thing? Why wouldn’t you break the mould and give each of your franchisees their own website (website not page) that allows them to build a brand on their doorstep?
As Gary Vaynerchuk once said "Don’t be afraid to break things!"
Written by Lee Rogers