The Right Franchise Marketing Materials

Now that it's boom time for savvy franchisors, follow these tips to give your marketing materials some pizzazz.

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By Mark Siebert

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

While some franchisors seem to be continuing their cutbacks on marketing, smart companies know this is the time for bold, positive action. Disillusionment with the stock market and the improprieties of America's upper management and a national air of uncertainty have created legions of corporate executives and others who yearn for more: More freedom. More family time. More control over their destinies. And more fulfillment than they can ever achieve working for someone else.

So how do you go about creating the marketing pieces that will jumpstart your franchise sales efforts? It starts with the story. You need to create a powerful brand story that's compelling on both an emotional and logical level. It must both inspire and motivate your prospects to action, as well as answer questions such as "What do I get for my money?" and "Why do I need you?.

Once your story's crafted, it should be communicated consistently through a number of essential methods, including these:

Franchise brochure. Despite living in the digital age, the franchise brochure remains the undisputed king of franchise marketing materials and the one absolute essential. Not only will franchise prospects pour over every inch of it, this brochure will be scrutinized by their spouses, lawyers, accountants, landlords, investors and their know-it-all brother-in-law, Jerry.

So forget the cheapo folder with the chopped-up inserts. Go four-color with quality copy and design by a company that knows franchising, and use excellent photography and printing stock. Good brochures can cost $4 to $5 per piece in quantity, but are well worth the price. Consider a print shop with digital printing capabilities, if you prefer a shorter print run (under 1000).

Mini-brochure. The "mini me" of franchise marketing, a tri-fold rack brochure can be used as a trade show handout, a direct mailer, or an in-store promotion. Printed in quantity, a four-color mini-brochure can be produced for as little as 30 cents per piece, making it much more economical than its big brother.

Web site. The obvious digital essential, a franchise's Web site is part franchise advertisement and part promotional material. Its purpose is both to generate franchise leads and to promote the franchise to people who already know of the opportunity. A well-designed site is the cost of franchise entry these days: Franchisors without a professional looking site will lack credibility. And here's a tip: Don't offer too many details about your franchise opportunity on your site unless you require prospects to provide contact information to view it. Your goal is to generate contact and harvest leads, not answer every question your prospects may have.

E-mail response messages. Your Web site can generate a massive amount of unqualified leads to sift through. To solve this problem, we recommend a system of customized, auto-responding, follow-up e-mail messages that encourage interested prospects and filter out unqualified inquiries without wasting valuable staff time. The appropriateness of this strategy varies from franchisor to franchisor.

E-brochure. Often designed in a Flash format, e-brochures are about the same size and dimension as a standard business card but are designed to run in the CD-ROM or DVD drive of most computers. Your message should be compelling and can even include video clips and voice-over narration. Production costs of less than a dollar per piece make them an economical way to deliver a tremendous amount of information in a small package, but they have the disadvantage of requiring a computer in order to deliver that message. E-brochures can double as a franchisor's Web site, and can even require some data capture in order to access them. Some franchisors will even use these e-brochures as e-mail attachments for more immediacy. These aren't an essential, but they're a strong piece that demonstrates that your company is state-of-the-art.

Sales videotape. An eight to 10 minute, professionally produced franchise sales videotape is hard to beat for effectiveness. With sound, music, narration and vivid videography, a quality video draws your prospects into the franchise experience like no other medium. It's also great for Discovery Day and group presentations and for sending to distant prospects and enables you to deploy the most powerful secret weapon of franchise sales: enthusiastic testimonials from happy, successful franchisees. From a production standpoint, the development of this video allows an easy transition to the e-brochure, which is less expensive than the $3 per piece cost per tape.

The Difference Between Franchise and Consumer Marketing

The other day, I saw a beautiful brochure from a hair salon franchise-glossy finish, heavy stock, full-bleed four-color photos. And on the cover, there was a photo of a pristine salon in operation: three barbers standing shoulder-to-shoulder, just waiting for me to come in to get my hair cut. As a consumer, I was thrilled. I could simply walk right up to this immaculate operation, and in minutes, I'd have one of these three barbers cutting my hair, with no waiting!

But this brochure illustrated the franchisee's worst nightmare! What if I open this business and nobody comes? The prospect, at least subliminally, is thinking, I'm paying those three barbers. And there's no one in those chairs. When creating marketing materials, franchisees want to see the fur flying. Consumers in the chairs. Cash changing hands. Needless to say, marketing to prospective franchisees is very different than marketing to consumers.

Also unlike most consumer marketing, franchise marketing is often subject to legal constraints as well. Nine states (California, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Washington) require that ad copy be approved by state agencies, and they may not let a franchisor get away with language that consumer marketers could use without hesitation. Basic terms like "success" and "profit" may not pass muster with state regulators and will probably raise an eyebrow or two from the attorneys-so franchise marketing materials must always be designed with the lawyers in mind. In fact, I always recommend that franchise marketing materials be reviewed by your lawyers prior to their printing or use.

On a related subject, since your marketing materials must be consistent with the information contained in the UFOC, changes in the franchise offering will dictate changes in your marketing materials. Given the expense of printing brochures or producing videotapes, it's imperative that these materials are developed to be timeless.

Brochures should avoid discussion of material contract terms or costs that may be subject to change. Instead, this information should be contained in separate inserts that are often contained in a dye-cut pocket. And in all your materials, avoid references to dates, numbers of units, or events with a specific reference in time.

In short, savvy franchisors recognize that it's boom time for franchising. They're putting a fresh coat of paint on their concepts, rallying their troops, and boldly communicating their optimism and excitement. They're producing fresh corporate marketing materials, and getting them into the right people's hands.

Mark Siebert

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Franchise Consultant for Start-Up and Established Franchisors

Mark Siebert is the author of The Franchisee Handbook (Entrepreneur Press, 2019) and the CEO of the iFranchise Group, a franchise consulting organization since 1998. He is an expert in evaluating company franchisability, structuring franchise offerings, and developing franchise programs domestically and internationally. Siebert has personally assisted more than 30 Fortune 2000 companies and more that 500 startup franchisors. His book Franchise Your Business: The Guide to Employing the Greatest Growth Strategy Ever (Entrepreneur Press, 2016) is also available at all book retailers.

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