To put it bluntly, without customers you have no business. So making the right customer base aware of your business is key. But if they don't have the resources for the traditional massive media campaigns, today's franchisees have to find new creative, inexpensive methods to reach their markets. "Franchisees must understand exactly where their customers are coming from and aim their efforts toward those neighborhoods, office buildings, hospitals or colleges. They need to be very efficient with their marketing dollars," says Mark Kaplan, chair of Great Wraps Inc., a wrap-sandwich franchise. "Right now, with things the way they are, it would be a sin to be inefficient with marketing dollars and marketing effort."
Bill and Karen Peterson have worked to find inexpensive and effective ways to market their Jupiter, Florida, American Leak Detection franchise (detecting water, drain-waste, sewer and gas leaks), a business they've owned since 1988. "We're basically trying to stay aggressive in our marketing efforts. We're not only doing the traditional marketing as far as direct mail and trade shows and participation in associations--we're also trying to focus on customer service and relationships that have an opportunity to refer business to us," explains Karen, 49.
To make sure the marketing and advertising programs you put in place benefit your business, consider the pluses and minuses of each option. "You have 50 different advertising media to choose from, and you have to decide 'Where do I spend my money? What's effective? What's not effective?'" says Keith Whipple, 34, operator of two Wing Zone franchises (makers of specialty Buffalo wings) in Charlotte, North Carolina. "Advertising can get pretty expensive pretty quickly."
Best Supporting Role
One of the major benefits of joining a franchise is that the franchisor provides you with a tested and proven operating system. While it seems obvious, following the system the franchisor has put in place is essential for a franchisee's success. That's even truer in 2003. "The more you fail to execute those key elements, the more adversely it affects your business," says Robert Tunmire, president of Glass Doctor, a glass replacement franchise. "Because of the complexity of business today, you really have to be [following the system]. In the current environment, there's no margin for error."
"Because of the complexity of business today, you really have to follow the system. In the current environment, there's no margin for error."
Kaplan agrees: "The franchisee has never had more of a responsibility to play his or her role. When times get more competitive, franchise concepts have to get stronger. They've got to perform better," he says. "We're pressing our franchisees to absolutely understand, in this environment, consumers have other options to choose from and could be hesitant to spend. We have to be excellent, and franchisees have to play their role as prescribed in their franchise agreement--not only because they're required to, but because they need to [to succeed]."
Keeping these key elements in mind can benefit not only your franchise, but also the system as a whole. "If you're going to buy a franchise, you do what the franchise does. You don't try to stray from it and do your own thing. If you want to do that, you should be an independent [business owner]," says Whipple, who's been a Wing Zone franchisee since 2001. "Consistency is one of the most important parts of a franchise, and that means with pretty much all aspects of your business."