Smart Marketing Strategies That Attract Franchisees

You want more franchisees? Here are some smart ways to attract them with franchise marketing.

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By John Lincoln


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Growing a franchise can be hard work. You have to think about corporate sales and marketing, as well as providing for the franchisees. It looks something like this:

  1. Corporate marketing programs.
  2. Corporate marketing programs for franchisees.
  3. Additional marketing programs offered through corporate for the franchises.

Each of these initiatives takes a lot of work -- and you can't do just one. The thing is, they all work together. You need to have corporate marketing to attract franchises and grow the size of the brand. You need to have marketing for the franchisees because if they are not successful, neither are you. It will also be hard to attract more franchises if your current ones are going under and not profitable. The additional marketing programs also help a lot. In some cases, you will have an owner who owns multiple shops or just one that wants to be a big spender. If corporate offers these programs through vendors, they get to have some control, provide more value to the owners and help grow the size of the brand.

Related: The 4 Essential Elements of a Franchise Marketing Plan

In this post, we will talk about franchise marketing. Specifically, how you can set it up to attract franchisees and boost the credibility of corporate.

Corporate marketing programs.

When I say corporate marketing, I mean marketing just from the business-to-business perspective. Basically, we are trying to attract more franchisees to the franchise. Here are some of the things to consider.

Have a location-based strategy. Almost all franchises have some kind of location element. That means all of your marketing strategy should be tied to location. On the corporate level, you'll want to focus your efforts on the regions that you are trying to build out first. For example, you may start in Southern California, expand to Northern California and then to Arizona. When you do this, you need a good mix of online and offline marketing to build the brand and take the location by storm. Consider the following:

  • Local SEO
  • Local Google AdWords
  • Yelp ads
  • Yellow pages
  • Local directories
  • Microsites or landing pages (there is a lot to know about this one)
  • Local content marketing
  • Social media ads and social media marketing
  • Radio advertising
  • Buy billboards in the area
  • Sponsor sports teams in the area
  • TV in the area
  • Direct mail
  • Try to set up a pipeline for your franchisees

One of the main draws to any franchise is that there will be demand for business due to the brand credibility in the consumers eyes. The idea is that the franchise is so established that when you buy it, the customers will automatically come. Now in some cases, franchises take this a step further and actually deliver business to the franchisees. For example, I have some corporate franchise clients who literally send business to the owners.

Either way, corporate should be working to establish a pipeline for the owners. It makes the business much more attractive and keeps things positive.

Get on lists. Large business sites such as Entrepreneur have lists of franchise opportunities. In addition, people are constantly writing on the topic. Many of these lists are industry-specific, and will often state the best franchises to own at any given time. As part of the franchise-marketing strategy, it is a great idea to get on these lists. People read them often and they can drive a lot of business.

Get them into a funnel. People research franchise options heavily before purchasing one. There are a lot of options, price points, business models, set-up costs… In general, there is just a lot to this type of business. One of the most important things you can do is get them into a funnel. Now, this can be some type of drip campaign using a tool like Infusionsoft or just a basic MailChimp email newsletter. Either way, you need to stay on their radar after you have captured their email and other actionable information. While they might download your information packet at first, they might soon forget the franchise if this is not put in place. Keep in mind that getting them to be a part of your social communities or follow your blog can also accomplish this.

Make your brand glow. Not all of the marketing needs to be direct response. Keep in mind that people need to really like the brand. They need to feel as though the franchise is greater than their current business. Or if they don't have a business, that it is a great opportunity and surefire win in general. Invest in great creative, a nice website and plenty of positive marketing to make people proud to invest in a franchise.

Have a strategy to target similar businesses. This is different for every type of franchise, but one of the main ways some franchises acquire new franchisees is by going into a non-franchise's business and doing a presentation about why they should switch over. This demands a great deck, plenty of supplementary marketing materials and a sales team. If done right, it is one of the most effective strategies for acquiring new franchisees.

Related: What Franchisees Need to Know About Digital Marketing (Infographic)

Corporate marketing program for franchisees.

Outside of doing marketing to acquire franchisees and build the brand, it is also a good idea to have marketing services on the franchise level. Generally, this will be a budget of $150 to $2,000 a month per franchise (of course it all depends on the franchise and the needs), and it will be highly targeted to the individual location. If possible, there should be one standard package and other larger packages which franchisees can contract directly for.

You will need a baseline program. The baseline program should be provided by the franchise, but it can come out of a franchise fund. Generally, franchises will vote on a marketing program and budget at annual meetings. This would then get allocated to these program.

The program should be location specific. The baseline program needs to be very location specific. If it is online that is a given, but if there are offline elements, such as billboard or radio, that also needs to be very targeted. Direct mail also needs to be highly local. The most important thing is to ensure you are delivering in the right markets based on the level of franchisees you have there.

You should have options to upgrade. When creating the options to upgrade, you want to make sure they are all somewhat affordable for the franchisees. Options should then be priced in a general range that makes sense across the board versus pricing differently per region.

It's a good idea to work with an agency who has experience. To build out this type of system internally is very tough. Especially if you are a new franchise with a small team. You need expert and experienced personnel. In most cases, it is a good idea to bring on an agency with heavy local advertising experience and of course franchise experience.

Related: The Best and Worst Franchise Marketing Campaigns of 2015

Issues of which to be aware.

Two of the largest issues are communication and reporting. It is critical to be able to create a lot of reports, send them to franchises and have them be able to interpret it correctly. It is also important to have an open line of communication and excellent customer service. Without it, the value might not be fully understood. Marketing can get pretty complicated, especially digital marketing, so things like webinars and presentations are key to ensure there is ample understanding across all parties.

Additional marketing programs.

Some franchisees will only own one or two franchises, but other will own five, 10 or more. When this is the case, the franchisee will most likely consider their franchises as their own business. A franchise needs to have an agency they can trust to provide custom solutions to these type of owners. Make sure you have a solution for them that is dependable and can get them the results they are looking for.

Summing up franchise marketing.

If you are looking to attract franchisees, you need to have a clear and profitable model, a strong case for making the investment and serious brand credibility. If you do a great job with your franchise marketing, you will be well on your well to attracting new owners.

John Lincoln

CEO of Ignite Visibility

John Lincoln is CEO of Ignite Visibility, a digital-marketing teacher at the University of California San Diego and an online-marketing consultant. He has worked with hundreds of clients ranging from startups to large companies such as FOX, USA Today, WeddingWire and Links of London.

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