Social Networking & Franchise Lead Generation Revisited

In light of discussions at this year’s International Franchise Association Convention about “new” ways of generating franchise candidate leads, and as I continue to field an influx of questions from start up and emerging franchisors trying to find a “silver bullet” to jump-start franchise sales, I am again sharing the following article I wrote back in 2011 as the principles continue to apply to this day. Actually, they may apply even more today as more and more have adopted social networking platforms as major sources of securing information and for communicating.

Social Networking and Lead Generation

We’re often asked if social networking can be utilized effectively for franchise lead generation purposes. Well, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

When working on a lead generation project, establishing objectives is paramount to the success of the overall strategy. Assuming the strategy has been developed, complete with establishing an ideal candidate profile and identifying specific geographic areas for expansion, we typically proceed as follows:

First, we focus on networking groups that include individuals that best fit our client’s ideal candidate profile. From there we drill down to individuals in the geographic area we’re targeting per our plan. Let’s say teachers fit my candidate profile. we would search out networking groups specific to teachers, education, etc. Then, we would participate in discussion groups to get a feel for the group and to be noticed and subsequently accepted within the group. There’s always a spin one could use to achieve this objective.

Next, we seek out members from the specific geographic areas we’re targeting and begin communicating what we’re ultimately trying to accomplish… to generate interest in a specific franchise opportunity. Sometimes there’s interest right there in the group. Often, it’s a referral that we get that makes the effort within that group worthwhile.

We also focus on groups that can provide me with referrals such as insurance agents, realtors, financial planners and attorneys. Again, if you’re proactive within networking groups it’s relatively easy to enlist support and gather information. Again, there has been some interest from members of these groups but it’s amazing how many times we’ve been referred to an interested party who lives in another part of the country that is willing to jump at an opportunity in my target area. You see, the fact that it stems from a referral is key!

Lead generation through social networking takes time and effort no doubt. However, once you’re proactive within networking groups, you almost end up with a snowball effect as the leads come in bunches. Some leads start out by simply posting a thought provoking discussion with some back and forth interaction with a responder and the responder saying,”what is it that you do?” Next thing you know, you’re discussing an opportunity and the door is wide open.

Most times however, it takes considerably more effort, but we’ve found people are networking online and participating in discussion groups for specific reasons. They’re all looking to expand their business, improve their position, seek out various types of opportunities, and make money. Attracting these individuals online sure beats running an ad in the local paper and waiting for the phone to ring!

Posted in Lead Generation, Social Media/Digital Marketing | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Financial Performance Representations in Digital Space – Friend or Foe to Franchising?

At what point do you believe a Financial Performance Representation crosses the line outside franchise disclosure requirements?

As discussed at various break-out sessions during the recent IFA Convention, social media has created many opportunities to present and discuss franchise opportunities across and through multiple channels, often linking from one social media platform to another. As many franchisors jockey for a competitive edge and increase their social media efforts, it’s important not to lose sight of franchise disclosure requirements.

The practice of embedding financial information within online press releases, blogs and even within Facebook posts, appears to be growing. Certainly, publishing this information by itself doesn’t create an FPR. But, directly or indirectly referring candidates to the information is an FPR, and if the information is not part of a franchisor’s Item 19, it becomes an improper FPR.

Considering the linking capabilities within social media, often to the point of creating a cross-platform, multi-tiered effect, some so-called, self-professed industry professionals apparently believe they can get away with improper FPRs. Especially, as social media is still “relatively new” and growing into new areas, misunderstood by many, and virtually under the radar of most authorities.

It appears the thought is, if enforcement of franchise disclosure is lacking in traditional areas, social media has become the new wild west!

Beyond the obvious illicit practices and potential ramifications to unsuspecting franchise candidates, what also causes reason for concern is the impression it makes upon start-up franchisors that follow suit – often, not even realizing the practice may be improper. After all, they see it being done by individuals who they believe are reputable franchise professionals. So, why not follow the same practice that they unsuspectingly come to believe is actually a best practice?

Sure, everyone is responsible for their own actions, and ignorance is not a legal defense. However, if these illicit practices continue within franchising, more and more will participate to the point of it becoming a common practice, with many believing it has become a best practice. Momentum picks up with so-called thought-leaders promoting the practice as an effective lead generation strategy, influencing even more franchisors. Some will be unsuspecting. Some will just jump on the bandwagon.

At what point will these practices be considered to be out-of-control and intolerable, and detrimental to franchising?

Posted in Franchise Sales, Franchising, Legal and Research, Social Media/Digital Marketing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

6 Key Points to Strong Franchise Relationships

Building Solid RelationshipsValidation and multi-unit ownership are strong indicators that positively memorable experiences exist within your franchise system. Another way to confirm the existence of these experiences is simply to ask your franchisees: would you do it all over again? However, as a franchisor you must first earn the right to even be taken seriously if you ask this question.

As you head down the path of creating positively memorable experiences with each and every franchisee, be sure to consider ALL touch points – even those beyond the obvious mediums of in-person, by phone and via email. Think digitally!

How do you interact with franchisees on Facebook? How do you come across to your franchisees in LinkedIn discussion groups? Is there common courtesy? Are you proud of each other’s actions within these platforms?

Many will refer to all of this as being great in theory, and not really practical. But just think what could happen if every touch point were seen as another opportunity to create or enhance a positively memorable experiences. How would that change the culture of your system? How would that lend towards growing your brand? Think of the ripple effect.

Here are six key points to creating positively memorable experiences in a franchise organization:

  1. Understanding the true meaning AND spirit of interdependent franchise relationships. This must be shared and exemplified at every point of contact with franchisees.
  2. Developing the right culture at all levels. Be careful- culture is also defined as bacteria! This takes time and commitment, and is a reflection of how people, whether franchisees, employees, suppliers or others, are treated at all times.
  3. Creating an environment of truth, trust and transparency based upon open, two-way communications – the cornerstone of creating the right culture. Think of a three-legged stool that could hold a great deal of weight when fully intact, yet would immediately fall under its own weight if one leg was compromised.
  4. Establishing your franchise system as family. Treat them as such but understand that this is not the typical type of family of yesteryear with subservience to the head of the household. Mutual respect is paramount!
  5. Building an environment of bottom-up profitability and growth with ALL parties to the franchise agreement and other related agreements focused on mutual goals and objectives. All must sing out of the same hymnal, and not just for dress rehearsal – so be sure to give them the hymn book.
  6. Positively Memorable Experiences – Live it and breathe it every day for optimum results!
Posted in Franchise Relations | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Controlled Growth Key to Success for New Franchise Concepts!

Working with entrepreneurs exploring franchising as a business expansion strategy, I’m often asked the question, “How does a new franchise company sell franchises without brand recognition?” Here are my thoughts…

Initially, the founder is the brand. It’s his or her passion for the business. It’s how he or she treats customers and employees alike. It’s how the business is promoted within the local market. Not just through typical advertising efforts, but through solid grassroots, organic efforts.

The initial franchise candidates are actually the “low hanging fruit” of the original business. These are the customers that inquire whether or not the business is a franchise and how they can learn more about owning their own. Most are interested because the business appears to be thriving and they’ve seen the owner (founder) time and again, always smiling and shaking hands. Public Relations efforts should ensure this occurs.

They admire the owner a great deal and will base their decision to open a franchise location, on the potential of establishing a relationship with the owner. They’ll compare the opportunity to other franchises and justify to themselves that they’re in on a ground floor opportunity with a direct line to the founder. As such, they feel their probability of success is greater because their location will be in the home office city and if they need help, they could easily approach the founder and the home office because of the proximity to their franchise location.

Ideally, the next few franchisees will also be in the same market as the original business and the first franchise location. It’s prudent to only expand locally until critical mass is established in the market, ad cooperative is developed and support systems are perfected. Now the concept is ready to expand outside the initial market.

However, it is often financial suicide to entertain requests from candidates all over the country. Instead, development efforts should be concentrated on one or two cities relatively close to home office city. For instance, if original business and home office is in Houston, the natural progression would be to promote the opportunity next in San Antonio/Austin and Dallas/Fort Worth areas.

As these markets start to become established with franchise locations, it’s advisable to promote the concept in another two or three areas. Maybe, explore another “hub” and “spoke” scenario. Let’s say, Atlanta as the next hub.

Expansion efforts should be the same as they were in Houston and expansion out of that market shouldn’t occur until Atlanta has a critical mass. Then, when that occurs, the opportunity could be promoted close by in Nashville and Charlotte. Now, you see the spokes of national expansion beginning to form.

While this is going on, maybe inquiries start coming in from the San Francisco area. So, the next phase of expansion might be in the Bay Area. The Bay Area becomes another hub, and once developed, the franchise opportunity could be promoted up the road in Portland and to the East in Sacramento and the process continues.

It’s all about controlled growth and the founder exhibiting tremendous restraint in expanding too fast and in areas far away from his core group and subsequent hubs to be able to provide ample support, create ad cooperatives and build the brand geographically. Chances of franchise success are far greater at all levels of the franchise organization within the parameters of a controlled plan of development.

So, to answer the often-asked question directly, I suggest everyone in the system having a clear understanding of the founder’s vision and if it includes anything but a controlled development plan with his or her firm commitment to actively participate in the franchise sales process, the chances of selling the first ten to twenty franchises will be a frustrating, monumental task that most likely will fail miserably.

Posted in Franchise Development, Franchise Marketing, Franchise Sales, Franchising | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Do Transitioning Corporate Executives [Really] Make Good Franchisees?

This question was discussed on Linkedin approximately a year and a half ago, and the following is a comment from a franchise professional that I believe raises some very important additional questions about transitioning executives as franchisees.

Maybe we could ask the question another way. How have franchisors succeeded when they awarded franchises to transitioning executives? . . . Puts a little different emphasis on it.

We sometimes look at franchise success as up to the franchisor, i.e. it’s the franchisor’s job to be sure franchisees succeed, and that includes transitioning executives. But of course we know that not all franchisees, including transitioning executives, are created equal. Some are better than others! People in transition may, in fact, not make very good decisions–they may panic and jump into a franchise too quickly and they don’t do all the homework that’s necessary or they don’t at least ask all the right questions.

It would be interesting for franchisors to reveal how “transitioning executives” have fared though that’s probably asking a bit too much. Because again, even if the transitioning executives failed, it doesn’t mean the franchise system is a bad one. Now it may not be right for transitioning executives, but that’s probably incorrect. Would that be like saying it’s not right for left-handed people? I just don’t think “transitioning executive” matters. What matters is how well prepared the candidate is for franchising and whether or not the candidate picked a good franchise. Because we also know that all franchisors are not created equal, either. Some are better than others–and I bet there are some that could tell us 100% of the transitioning executives that joined them succeeded.

Any thoughts?

Posted in Franchise Success | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments