Websites can be an important addition to any franchise system, providing consumers with information about the company’s products and services as well as introducing potential new franchisees to the opportunity. Similarly, franchisee websites enable franchisees to provide potential customers with basic information like the business’s location, hours of operation and contact information.
Franchisees often provide additional information, such as personnel information, community involvement, awards the franchisee may have won, products and services they have available, and specials the customer may be interested in. Consumers like franchisee websites and are more likely to visit those websites that update their information frequently as they look for specials, new products and other information.
Franchisors have several options in establishing websites for each of their locations. They can:
- Let franchisees establish websites independently and without any specific guidelines.
- Let franchisees establish websites individually but provide them with templates and guidelines so that the sites have a more uniform appearance and content.
- Develop and maintain websites for all their locations.
Pros and Cons
There are some advantages and disadvantages to each approach.
1. Independent Websites
Franchisees often develop independent websites for their businesses when their franchisor has not established any policies for the system or provided them with any guidance on methods for establishing websites. In some franchise systems, the lack of leadership from a franchisor in providing methods for franchisee websites has created a vacuum that franchisees feel needs to be filled, and they move independently to get their own consumer message on the Internet.
Websites that are developed by franchisees without any guidelines or controls by the franchisor are the least attractive option for franchisors, for a host of reasons:
- It can make it difficult for consumers and potential franchisees to find the franchisor’s website since search engines may direct individuals to franchisee sites due to confusion over the use of the franchisor’s trademarks in domain names and metatags.
- It can make it difficult for franchisors to provide links to and from the system’s main websites due to content and inconsistencies on the franchisee sites.
- It has the potential to dilute the system’s brand message because of variations in website content.
- It has the potential to negatively impact the business at the system’s brick-and-mortar location due to poor e-commerce activities conducted by the individual locations.
- If franchisees are not careful, independent websites may contain information that jeopardises trade secrets and copyrighted material. Also, the use of customer information can cause privacy concerns.
- Independent websites may contain unexpected links or advertising that could include information about competitors or other service providers that may be inappropriate. These could include auction sites, discounters, consolidators or even competitive web directories.
Overall, independent websites that are developed without any guidelines or control can be problematic for both franchisors and each of the franchisees. Should franchisees choose to provide information that truly differentiates them from others in the system based on price or services, there is the risk of intrabrand competition that can be very damaging to the brand consistency that franchisors work hard to maintain. Also, if franchisees begin to offer unrestricted Internet sales there is an increase in the risk of territorial disputes between franchisees since sales from one location may take place in another franchisee’s territory. Also, research shows that poorly performing Internet sales activity has a negative impact on how the brick-and-mortar locations are viewed by the public — and this can impact overall system sales.
When they have the ability, franchisors are likely to avoid franchisee independent sites that are set up without any policies or controls and will use one of the other methods available.
2. Websites Developed by Franchisees Using Templates
Franchisee-developed websites that use franchisor-provided templates and content guidelines solve many of the problems that can be found in independent websites while securing most of the benefits for the franchisor and franchisee. Unfortunately, since these sites are still developed and maintained by each franchisee, there are still some issues that franchisors and franchisees need to address.
- Since each site is developed and maintained individually, and given the potential number of sites that have to be monitored by a franchisor, there is a high cost of reviewing each site and monitoring changes made by franchisees to the content, format, scripts and even spelling that may appear on the site.
- With the number of sites that need to be monitored and the ability of franchisees to make frequent changes to their sites, the risk that the franchisor may miss errors and the potential that problems will not be identified is high.
- Personalisation of the site by the franchisee, even using a uniform template, can still cause conflict with the brand’s consistency and chain image.
- Monitoring franchisee sites can also cause relationship problems with franchisees. Because franchisees will be in control of the content and frequency of changes to the websites, there are likely to be frequent discussions and often negotiations with franchisees over the format and content of their sites. This is unlikely to be the best use of either of their time. Also, many of the other risks associated with trade secrets, metatags, consumer privacy, intra-brand competition and Internet sales can still cause problems for the system.
3. Websites Developed by Franchisor
For most franchisors and franchisees, the best option is likely to be for the franchisor to develop and maintain sites centrally for each of its locations since this provides the best control over the format and look of the sites and their content. The advantages:
- By developing and maintaining sites for the entire system, the franchisor and franchisees can be assured that each site will have a consistent look and feel. The brand messages are protected.
- The websites will contain information about each location, and franchisees will be able to update their information periodically by providing changes to the franchisor.
- Consumers will be able to access the franchisee’s site through links on the franchisor’s site because of consistent use of domain names and metatags.
- Potential franchisees will be able to access information about the system quickly.
- Linkage to and from franchisee sites will be uniform and consistent, as will on-site links and advertising.
- Franchisees are protected from the risk of online activities of other franchisees, and there is a reduced risk of territorial risks from e-commerce.
- Trade secrets, copyrighted material and trademarks are protected, and there is a reduction in the risks associated with consumer privacy and other issues.
- Consumer feedback to the system can be facilitated.
One of the negative issues associated with a franchisor developing individual sites for franchisees is that they are expensive to set up and maintain. Additionally, franchisees may wish to personalise and localise the content of their web pages to a greater extent than allowed by the franchisor. Finally, because of the volume of changes to franchisee sites, the franchisor’s ability to modify the sites will be slower than if each franchisee were making their own modifications.
While many of the older franchise agreements may not clearly provide franchisors and franchisees with specific information about each party’s rights, it is important for franchisors and franchisees to keep the customer in focus. Websites should serve customers first by understanding how consumers want to shop and what information consumers need to make their buying decisions. Disputes that impact what has traditionally been the backbone of franchising’s success – brand consistency – need to be avoided. What we have learned from some of the recent disputes in franchising regarding franchisee and franchisor rights in e-commerce activities is that the only party that wins from these kinds of disputes is the competitor.
Make Your Business A Good Neighbour
Take your business from invisible and struggling to a thriving neighbourhood landmark.
Is your business invisible to your customers? You may have fewer customers than you would like because your business does not seem relevant to those in your neighbourhood. This is an even bigger mistake than not being able to reach beyond your direct trading area.
To appeal to people – customers – you should also present your business as a group of people who help other people. This can be helping supply them with goods they need to buy, helping provide them with loans or simply being a reassuring and consistent presence in your neighbourhood.
As our Local Area Marketing Manager, Juan Botha, tells Cash Converters’ franchisees, this is about blending and fitting in like a neighbour. It is about give and take. And all of that adds up to community engagement.
Here are six of his top tips:
- Introduce the family: Cultivate a friendly, welcoming atmosphere in your shop or office. Introduce new staff to regular customers. Make sure that new customers can get to know staff through your in-store welcome boards and name badges.
- Find your partners: Identify the gatekeepers in your community and create partnerships with them. Think about approaching sports clubs, schools, church groups, sewing circles and book clubs.
- Snatch some selfies: If you have local celebrities as customers, take a selfie and post it on your social media: “Guess who came to say hello today . . .” Build relationships with local heroes and you will be able to call on them to host your in-house fun day or charity drive.
- Give back to business: Be involved in local business chambers and groupings as more than a participant. Show you are a good business neighbour by facilitating speed networking, hosting a speaker or sponsoring a sound system or catering for the next meeting.
- Adopt a cause: Identify a local charity and rally support for it.
- Help the community: Launch or participate in a community project – anything from an area clean-up or helping repaint school classrooms to planting trees or a community vegetable garden.
Building relationships helps you build your business’s reputation. That is because you can make people start to feel a certain way about your business and influence them positively towards you. Then, when they need something that you supply, you will be top of mind.
That neighbourhood warmth creates a sense of ownership. These prospective customers will already know how you can benefit their lives and so are more likely to become your regular customers.
They will be acting on the fact that people remember you for the experience you give them. As top American writer Maya Angelou said, their memories will be shaped by how you make them feel – not how or what you make them think. Relationships may be intangible but they can bring real value to your business.
Why Your Franchise Should Adopt A Shared Value Business Model
Stay ahead of the curve in an evolving business environment and unlock business growth by addressing social issues.
Have you heard the term ‘profit with purpose’ in your business ownership circles, but not sure how exactly it could be applied to your franchise? As a franchisor, entrenching this model into your core business strategy could see your current growth potential multiply – along with the communities that play a role in your business’ success.
“By leveraging resources, market access, scale and their capacity for innovation, businesses can advance and accelerate development while generating commercial returns.”– Serial entrepreneur Cindy Langeveld.
Considered the key to profit and progress, the shared value business model enables your franchise to go beyond just ticking the CSR box. Here’s why and how your franchise can start establishing partnerships for business growth:
Indicates your business has a conscience
Not only is a profit-first business approach is no longer viable for long-term business growth, the role of the consumer is becoming more prominent – and they are leaning towards buying from corporations that demonstrate conscientious business practices. Donating blankets to a charity is good, but how are you impacting those involved in the value chain that sustains your business?
Chicken franchise chain Nando’s, for example, creates shared value for the key players in the success of their brand – the small farmers in Southern Africa who farm their unique African Bird’s Eye Chillies used in the PERi-PERi flavour.
This farming initiative was started ten years ago in Mozambique with just six small farms. Today it includes 1400 farmers and produces in excess of 360 tonnes of chilli across Southern Africa.
Ensures your profit creates progress
While implementing shared value business models helps consumers see your business in a better light, it’s important for the initiatives that stem from it have a visible, positive and measurable impact on the communities concerned.
“I’ll never forget my first impact assessment. I sat with one of our farmers and a translator who told me about the impact growing chilli crops for Nando’s was having on his life and his community” recalls Sam Hirst, Nando’s PERi-PERi Farming Initiative Manager.
Nando’s has grown and sustained its network of farmers through learning and improving on the process, despite the challenges involved. Empowering the small farmer has required unprecedented effort and working very closely with farmers every day and every step of the way to overcome challenges such as generating working capital to set up the infrastructure the farmers needed, managing unpredictable weather conditions, and high transactional costs.
Creates sustainable partnerships
The purpose of implementing a shared value business model is so make a sustainable difference in both your business’ growth and that of the communities involved in your supply chain. For Nando’s the motivation was the potential impact the chilli farming could have in its communities.
The franchise has consequently invested in providing these farmers with the tools and skills for sustainable farming. Investing in technologies and various new processes has enabled Nando’s to secure prices and contracts directly with the farmers, avoiding potential negative economic impact on the farmers’ financial security.
3 Employment Best Practices To Apply In Your Franchise
Brand new to franchising? As a first-time franchisee, you may need some guidance on managing your recruitment processes within your business.
You’ve just hired your first few employees. Congratulations. As an owner-operator who is also new to business ownership, navigating the human resources aspect of your franchise may be daunting, especially when growth is imminent. Your franchisor offers support, but may not want to play a huge role in recruiting and managing your staff.
“Employee management and HR compliance is a tricky topic, especially with the relationship between franchisors and franchisees. Depending on what HR support the franchisor can and cannot provide, the franchisee may be on their own in this all-important area.” – Dean Haller, President and founder of HRSentry
This, however, doesn’t mean you’ll have to blindly search your way through human resources practices, hoping you’ll eventually get it right. Invest a little time into learning the basics, and you’ll make the best decisions until you can afford to hire an HR specialist – and pick up some expertise along the way.
1. Equip newcomers with the tools for success
Consider the type of information, tools and training your new recruits may need to function productively in their new work environment – and ensure they get it. “Studies indicate that most new employees decide whether to stay or leave a company within the first six months, so be sure to be welcoming early on to help them feel part of your team,” advises Haller.
“If you’re thoughtful of your employees’ new experience, they will become more productive and engaged, and thus, more likely to stay.”
Remember the first time you went through the manuals while familiarising yourself with the franchise concept? A new employees’ experience is similar as they have to take in a lot of new information while acquainting themselves with their new workspace, colleagues and systems. Make the on-boarding easier, by reasonably introducing each aspect during orientation and training.
2. Remain stern on performance standards
Once both parties are satisfied with the training and support offered, new staff should be made aware of expectations and receive continuous and constructive feedback on their performance based on these.
Should employees fail to meet their KPIs, it’s important you’re able to identify if your best efforts have failed and whether termination is an option. “Don’t procrastinate. Make sure all performance-related reasons are documented clearly,” says Haller. “Treat the person with dignity and respect –not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s good business practice and can help you avoid any potential legal action against your business in the future.”
You can avoid this situation early on by hiring employees whose CVs not only meet your business’ operational needs, your company culture too.
3. Acknowledge and reward hard work
During key periods of business growth, it’s easy to overlook good performance. And even when you acknowledge your best employees, sometimes money in the bank isn’t as meaningful as creative tokens of appreciation.
“Get creative,” says Haller. “Provide flexible work schedules, interesting assignments, or a gift certificate to a great restaurant or spa. Be mindful that it’s costly to replace a good employee, so reward your employees with some kind of benefits if you can,” he adds.
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