Some people thought the Internet would spell the end for brick-and-mortar dating services, and they had no problem telling that to Paul A. Falzone, CEO of The Right One and Together Dating. Why, they argued, would people want to come to a dating service when they could meet other singles from the comfort, and privacy, of their own home?
Yet over the past 10 years, Falzone has found that not only have his dating services not faltered, they've thrived. By actually using the Internet to bring customers to his franchisees' doors, Falzone has seen his customer base, and revenues, swell.
Franchise Zone spoke with Falzone about his companies' Web philosophy and how all franchises, not just those in the introduction business, can benefit from being on the Internet.
Franchise Zone:Why do you consider it important to market via the Internet?
Paul A. Falzone: The Web is a very, very powerful tool if it's used properly. We try to direct as many people as possible to the Web, because the type of product we have is personal, so people might not want to ask about a dating service at a trade show booth. [Those interested in buying the franchise] can go directly to therightone.com or togetherdating.com and get their questions answered, find out who the people behind the organization are, what their beliefs are, their mission statement, etc., and get a good feel of the type of company they're dealing with. A lot of questions can be answered in the privacy of their own home.
How do the Web sites benefit your franchisees?
When they send out their mailer, the URL is on the information they disseminate to the general public. Then, when someone fills out an application on the Web, it goes to that franchisee, who can then contact that person and bring him or her in as a new member.
Do you also advertise on the Internet?
Yes. In the past is we've done different campaigns with direct e-mails. We will not spam--when we didn't know any better, someone got us involved with that once, and what a mess that was. We're not interested in being on someone's e-mail server if he or she is not interested in getting the message.
We're basically a multiple listing service of singles, and we're constantly looking for new ways to bring singles through the door, to get in front of the consumer.
Can all companies benefit from having a Web presence?
Absolutely. Whether you're selling steel or love, the Web can absolutely enhance anybody's presence. If I was a marketing guy for a bread franchise, I'd have a site with such beautiful pictures of the products, you could just about taste that stuff when you click onto it. I don't care if you're selling haircuts, whatever it is, there's a way to get the consumer to see, touch, almost smell your product.
A Web site makes you a bit more real [to the consumer], especially if you're selling an intangible like love.
Should franchisees be involved in the process of creating the Web site?
Absolutely. I try to involve our franchisees in those sorts of decisions, because that look, that feel, portrays their individual business as well. The more they feel a part of the national Web site, the more they feel a part of this whole company.
If a franchisee is looking at a company, what should they be asking about the Web presence?
What are you doing to promote your Web presence? How many hits does your site get? How sticky is your site? Our site doesn't need to be [sticky]--we need to inform people and to capture their name and address. If you're selling barbershop supplies, you want the consumer to keep coming back to that site. If you're in a retail mode, you want your site to be as sticky as possible. You want to motivate that general public to keep coming back to the site to participate in all the programs you provide, so you constantly have to keep it fresh and think of new ways to bring these people back in.
Should the franchisee and the franchisor have the same expectations of what they want the site to deliver?
Absolutely. They need to have the same general philosophies, because if one's going one way and one's going the other, the franchisor probably will win out because they're paying the bill. But the franchisees have to be happy about the site, because if they're happy, they're going to promote it, and if they promote it, it only makes it more effective for the whole company.
If either their franchisor doesn't have a Web presence or the franchisee doesn't think they have a strong enough Web presence, what should that franchisee do to help promote his or her own business?
It depends on their agreement, but if franchisees can have their own Web site, they may want to. A lot of franchisors won't allow it. We like to keep control of our trademark. The world is definitely using computers a lot more, and if we don't change with the times, the times are going to have to change us.