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.

Franchise Candidates: A Changed Mindset

This article was originally posted on August 13, 2009 as Franchise Candidates: A Changing Mindset. Well, I guess we can revise the title slightly to reflect candidates’ current views – A Changed Mindset. Nevertheless, the article may be even more relevant today as franchising attempts to rebound from the economic downturn and continues to explore more viable lead generation strategies that will attract today’s franchise candidate. Many continue to explore social media and have realized its position as an integral and effective component of these strategies… of course, when utilized according to a plan.

caution-01A look at today’s franchise candidates will reveal they are more sophisticated, better educated, and more technologically advanced than ever before. In addition, and even more so because of the economic downturn, they are extremely cautious.

Today’s candidates are spending more time researching opportunities, and doing so at a much slower pace. In order to be diligent in the process, more time is spent online pouring through page after page of information, constantly bookmarking, and moving back and forth from new information to saved information. They’re comparing notes with other franchise candidates on social networking sites. As well, they’re gaining invaluable insight monitoring online discussion groups and forums.

Ultimately, today’s franchise candidate desires and needs to be certain the franchise opportunity is as close to perfect for his or her situation, as humanly possible. In the past, and especially after previous recessions, franchise candidates took their capital gains and invested in a franchise opportunity. Many times leaving the principal investment untouched. There was a sense of throwing caution to the wind because they were investing profits. Many times ungodly profits, at least by today’s standards. Does anyone remember when money markets kicked out 17% profit margins?

Unfortunately, many individuals looking at franchise opportunities today are looking at things differently. They have to. Many are transitioning corporate executives staring at the back end of illustrious careers trying to squeak out just ten more years before retirement. Facing the challenge of younger talent, new technology, and a rapidly changing business environment, many opt to “buy” a job and explore franchising and small business ownership.

What Changed?

Here’s the difference between today’s recession, and of those in the past. As huge fortunes have been lost, and large gains have not been realized in current financial markets, today’s candidates are forced to invest all or part of their remaining nest egg in order to enter the world of business ownership. Of course, everyone knows and fully understand the risks involved in owning a business. But in yesterday’s business environment, many franchisees and business owners were “gambling” with profits.

Certainly, no one wanted to lose money in a business venture. But, many had fallback positions with funds still in retirement accounts and of course, if they had to, employment. For many of today’s candidates, failure is not an option because fallback opportunities are fast becoming non-existent. Actually, I believe many of today’s candidates might not have even considered franchise or small business ownership in the past.

So, as many individuals explore their options, they will focus more and more of their efforts online. Franchisors must embrace this fact, and dedicate more resources to the internet and look to social media to complement, not replace, their traditional franchise marketing strategies. By doing so, they’ll realize multiple benefits for their entire system including:

– Creating or further developing brand awareness with franchise candidates and consumers alike
– Generating franchise leads that are genuinely interested in exploring what franchising and small business ownership has to offer, and how a particular concept may be the vehicle to achieve their goals and objectives
– Establishing an interactive environment of communications and information sharing that will become the backbone of future franchise relationships throughout franchise systems

Last, many franchise candidates previously viewed franchising and small business ownership as a way of achieving their wishes, hopes and dreams, regardless of what those may have been. Today, it’s more about goals and objectives, and necessities. We, as an industry need to fully realize this, and understand the mindset of today’s franchise candidate.

True Social Media ROI – Relationship & Community Building

Social-Media-ROICertainly, return-on-investment (ROI) is important but too many miss the boat by trying to make social media a line-item on their financials. First, social media is not advertising. So to think there will be a definitive ROI based entirely upon revenue generated against dollars invested is absolutely off-base.

One needs to look at social media as the glue that can hold several key functions of the business together such as bringing the customer experience to marketing complete with sharing operations role in making the experience positively memorable, and letting the end-user know about its objectives. Complicated? No, but not without proper planning and a long-term vision. Further, social media is vehicle that transports information from one function to another – it’s a conduit.

Social media is the communications tool that should lend itself to truth, trust and transparency in establishing or strengthening the business relationship. Last, social media is the tool that enables a brand or business to earn the right to “ask” for business from customers, clients and investors alike as it provides the platform for them to virtually see how your business operates, how it communicates and how it is perceived. The key here is in establishing community. The necessary steps are relatively simple to follow… Share, Interact, Engage and then, only then have you earned the right for a Call-to-Action. Yes, that’s when the right has been earned.

It does take training for social media to be utilized effectively at any level. But even more so at the local level as franchisees typically cannot afford the luxury of adding human resources to handle their social media. So, training and guidance is paramount. As is open communication and interaction between franchisor and franchisee in managing and monitoring social media. Yes, working together with common goals and objectives, as should always be the case in the franchise relationship. This is just another component of what I believe should be the everyday goal of working towards a truly interdependent relationship. The same should be said about all relationships in a business [and franchise] environment – franchisor/franchisee, employer/employee, business/customer, etc… Yes, it should be the norm, and not the exception.


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