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Use PR to Sell Franchises

Ready to start franchising your business? Here’s how to generate the kind of PR that attracts ready buyers.

Mark Siebert

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Some years ago, a client of mine was featured in Entrepreneur magazine. The story generated thousands of leads, which, in the course of the next year, accounted for 70 franchise sales and, shortly thereafter, the sale of the franchise company for more than R12 million – all without ever spending a cent on franchise advertising. Press Sells.

Public Relations as a Lead Generation Tool

For the vast majority of franchisors, public relations is not responsible for a significant portion of franchise sales leads. But while the numbers of leads produced is likely to be smaller than more traditional sources, such as the Internet or print media, few methods of lead generation provide the quality of leads generated by publicity.

Leads generated by publicity carry the weight of a third-party endorsement, and as such, have one of the highest closing rates of any leads. Research into this area shows that PR is second only to referrals in terms of its ‘close rate’ – the rate at which new leads convert to franchisees.

Generating Franchise Press

The first rule in generating press is that you have to have a story. The second is that you have to have an angle – the slant that presents the information in the story with a unique point of view. Perhaps just as important, the story angle should be timely and topical.

So, if your franchise really does have a story or two in it, what should you do first? While you might be tempted to try to generate your own press internally, this is generally not advisable. Unless you have talented writers with sales skills on staff, you should probably hire a good PR firm that specialises in franchising.

A good PR firm specialising in franchising has numerous other advantages over internally generated PR. In particular, a good PR firm will:

  • Understand how to create a story and an angle that sells.
  • Have contacts within the industry who will take their calls when they’re pitching your story.
  • Have knowledge of editorial calendars, as well as what has run in different publications over the last year, so it can tailor stories to a publication’s specific needs.
  • Have the creativity and the instinct to ‘create news’ by tying your franchise – and a story surrounding it – to topical trends or hard news events.
  • Provide a full-time and dedicated PR effort for the franchisor, and have the ability to turn up the jets when a big story arises.

Moreover, a PR firm can provide PR both for you and for your franchisees with equal effectiveness – providing your franchisees with increased value both when they first open their doors and on an ongoing basis.

The Press and Your Franchisees

One way to create news is to sell and open franchises. Fast growth through franchise sales is news.

By its very nature, the sale and opening of a franchise also presents opportunities for press at a local level. In addition to stories on the opening of a new business, a skilled publicist can also use this event as an opportunity to sell profile pieces on the franchisee and trend pieces touting the market served by the business.

At the unit level, one of the most effective tools for generating this press is through the use of a grand opening event. These events, which often occur after the actual opening (called a ‘soft opening’), are geared toward publicising the franchisee’s business, both by targeting its future customers and by inviting local notables and the press.

And, since the story is local, it is generally easier to obtain this publicity based on the angle of ‘local entrepreneur makes good’ and ‘look who showed up.’ While grand opening techniques vary based on the type of business being promoted, they are often a vital mechanism for jump-starting unit-level sales and profitability.

Finally, good publicity achieved for your franchisees will have the incremental benefit of promoting good franchisee relations. Franchisees who get off to a good start are, of course, happier. Seeing their names in the newspaper and knowing the franchisor was partially responsible for placing that story engenders early enthusiasm.

Since nothing sells franchises as fast as satisfied franchisees, franchise PR is integral to many franchisors’ development strategy.

As a franchise consultant since 1985, Mark Siebert founded the iFranchise Group, a franchise consulting firm, in 1999. During his career, Mark has personally assisted more than 30 Fortune 1000 companies and over 200 startup franchisors. He regularly conducts workshops and seminars on franchising around the world. For more than a decade, Mark also has been actively involved in assisting U.S. franchisors in expanding abroad. In 2001, he co-founded Franchise Investors Inc., an investment firm specializing in franchise companies. He's on the board of directors of the American Association of Franchisees and Dealers and the board of advisors to Connections for Community Ownership, which encourages minority business and job development through franchising.

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Franchisors

Get Your Franchise Running Smoothly – Even When You’re Not There

Does the thought of taking time off from your franchise outlet make you nervous? Then you have to learn to run your business instead of letting it run you.

Diana Albertyn

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“A sign of a successful business is one that can operate without your physical presence 24/7,” says Brad Sugars, start-up expert, author and founder of ActionCOACH. While your franchise systems and operations are designed to run smoothly and consistently, is your staff trained to be productive in your absence?

“Franchises are already by nature systematised operations, so it boils down to how you as a business owner hire and train people to get the necessary jobs done,” says Sugars.

If you know a sick day will cause havoc in your store, an assessment of how you’re running your business is needed. Are you really running a successful franchise if things fall about without your supervision? Take a step back and consider the following steps to manage your franchise without it controlling your life. Pretty soon you could book that vacation.

Determine your role in the franchise

Are you managing the franchise, taking orders, doing admin and handling every other aspect of the business? Then you’re not hiring the right people, because those roles should be filled by people who can be left to carry them out unsupervised.

Related: How To Write An Operations Manual For Your Franchise

“And if you don’t have the right people for the job then it might be time to start hiring, so you can free up your franchise’s most valuable resource – you,” says Pieter Scholtz, co-Master Licensee for ActionCOACH in Southern Africa.

“You need to get an idea of how you can hire people to take repetitive or administrative tasks away from you. Ask yourself: ‘Do I really need to be doing this?’” says Sugars. Your business cannot run optimally if you’re the single most-knowledgeable and capable person there.

Lead with clarity

You have long-term goals for your business, perhaps even acquiring more locations and running multiple units. While growth is good, you need to share the load and ensure everyone employed in your business is working towards the same goals, otherwise, it’ll be difficult to get there. Sugars suggests asking yourself the following:

  • How will you make your vision a reality?
  • What makes you different from other franchisees and business owners?
  • What kind of team do you want to recruit and create?
  • How does all of this deliver value to your customer?

Conveying your vision can help ensure employees know how to get to the end-goal faster and more efficiently.

Related: 3 Steps To Ensure Your Franchisees Flourish Your Support System

Plan for long-term cash flow

Loyal customers ensure a constant flow of cash through the franchise and this requires exceptional service and the building of strong relationships. “Target your top-spending customers and establish a good relationship with them for long-term cash flow,” Sugars suggests.

Although the broader campaigns are covered by the marketing fee you’re paying to your franchisor, it’s wise to focus on your local’s tastes and suggestions when looking to deliver an experience worth returning for.

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Franchisors

Are Your Employees On Board With Your Franchise’s Brand Promise?

You cannot run a successful franchise if your staff isn’t aligned to the brand’s values.

Diana Albertyn

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Are the people who work in your franchise outlet familiar with the franchise’s brand promise? As a franchisee, you’re required to deliver a uniform experience, so any customer who walks through your door feels like they’re at the same store the franchisor has across multiple locations. If your employees aren’t able to embody the franchise’s brand promise at every interaction, you have a challenge on hand.

“If your company’s brand promise is a warm and friendly atmosphere, you can’t deliver that if your employees aren’t warm and friendly,” says Robin William, Senior Practice Consultant at Gallup.

“Selecting the right employees is essential to providing the right brand service. Hiring people who can’t behave the way the brand wants them to will doom a service initiative.”

Related: How To Write An Operations Manual For Your Franchise

When employees know what’s expected of them, they’re able to keep the promise the franchise makes to customers – leading to higher customer and employee engagement, trust, and revenue.

More than a mission statement

Even if you’ve ensured every one of your staff members know the brand’s mission statement, how can you be sure they’re able to exemplify it in their behaviour every day? William suggests that you do the following:

  • Create structures and mechanisms to consistently instil brand values in the franchise’s culture.
  • Discuss brand behaviours daily.
  • Demonstrate brand behaviours yourself every day.
  • Praise the efforts of individuals who demonstrate brand behaviours.
  • Hold employees accountable for not exhibiting brand behaviours.

Once you’ve clearly defined the right brand behaviours, it’ll be easier to have staff on board who deliver your franchisor’s brand promise.

Internalise the culture

Here’s a conundrum. Do your staff know what to do in a situation where a customer’s request might not be aligned with the brand promise, but the brand promise is always to deliver on customers’ requests? It’s a tricky situation, but if you’ve clearly articulated the promise, your staff will know how to “Behave the brand”, says William.

“Do whatever it takes to deliver on its brand promise. Whether it’s focusing quality, fast service, customer care, or low prices,” he says.

“Employees must execute brand and service behaviours consistently, and frequent reminders can help employees understand and internalise these behaviours.”

Related: 3 Challenges To Establishing A Franchise System And How To Overcome Them

Empower your staff

Investing in your staff is the best way to encourage them to act in line with your brand’s promise. Once they understand why it’s important to act along the lines of your brand, they will feel empowered and motivated to do so.

Starbucks trains employees to memorise customers’ names and preferences in line with their promise of making everyone who visits their stores feel at home. Apple’s strategy of hiring nice, smart people who are passionate about service and the product aligns with the company’s belief that knowledge can be improved, but personality cannot.

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Franchisors

How To Write An Operations Manual For Your Franchise

After establishing that your business is franchise material, ensure you’ve created a clear roadmap to success for your franchisees.

Diana Albertyn

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Documenting the replicability of your business is key to launching a viable franchise operation. Without manuals and instructions on how exactly you carried out your concept to its current level of success, your franchisees won’t accomplish the results you anticipate.

“Unless you can capture your business on paper, you cannot claim to have a business system to sell. Even detailed documentation may not be enough,” says Franchise Direct’s Lorraine Courtney.

“You may need to provide structured education programmes for new franchisees and their staff to teach them your business system.”

With the help of an experienced franchise consultant, you can devise the critical document that contains all the aspects of what make your brand successful.

Related: 3 Challenges To Establishing A Franchise System And How To Overcome Them

Why you need a franchise operations manual

If you’re second-guessing the importance of crafting an operations manual, then you shouldn’t go into franchising. “Your operations manual is your go-to document for deciding who is responsible for what in any franchisor-franchisee relationship,” says Dani Peleva, Managing Director at online marketing agency, Local Fame.

According to Peleva, your manual should generally include each franchisee’s contractual obligations to you as well as the complete details on how you expect them to fulfil these obligations.

“On a basic level, it tells your franchisees what you expect of them. It gives them all the information that you’ve accumulated while operating your franchise,” says Peleva. After familiarising themselves with this manual, franchisees should know how the information can be used to build their own business up to be as successful as the original store.

What an operations manual will do for your business

When all your franchisees know what’s expected from them as they run their respective locations, the entire brand is then able to provide a cohesive, coherent customer experience, which is crucial to your success as a franchisor.

A good manual will also help you build better relationships with your franchisees as they won’t need to constantly contact you to clarify aspects of the business they’re not sure of. If they’re applying the information in the manual, they should know everything you know about how to run this type of business, meaning they’ll make good profits – for you and themselves.

Related: 3 Steps To Ensure Your Franchisees Flourish Your Support System

“One of the steps most potential franchisees make before signing an agreement will be to contact your other franchisees. A strong manual will help your current franchisees return positive feedback,” adds Peleva.

How to decide which elements to include

Obligations detailed in your franchisee agreement will have to correspond with steps on how to achieve them in your franchise manual. As a new franchisor, you cannot be expected to have a manual as thick and wordy as your established counterparts.

Peleva suggests covering aspects such as:

  • How to set up a franchisee location and start trading
  • How daily operations will be conducted
  • How development or expansion will be controlled.

“Your operations manual should always include as much detail as possible regarding operational practices that are to be followed,” says Peleva. “A simple list item that states ‘this obligation must be fulfilled’ is not helpful. Looks always to the ‘how’ of the issue and you’ll cover everything you need to.”

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