By paying attention to audience, content and channels, it’s easy to breathe new life into your franchisee marketing strategy
The common consensus at the bfa conference at the end of June was that 2017 has been a tough year for franchise recruitment. The enviable success stories of networks that have swelled in numbers are still there of course but many franchisors reported diminishing returns from the usual channels and a need for fresh thinking.
But while it can be tempting to leap straight into a game of ‘where shall we advertise next?’, reinvigorating your recruitment needs to be much smarter than that. Even if you’ve had poor results, you may be marketing in all the right places – just with the wrong messages. Your franchise might be the perfect solution to someone’s needs but if your brand image isn’t conveying that, it’s just another missed opportunity.
The fertile lead-generation period of autumn is the perfect time to change that. It’s a period that covers the career dissatisfaction of returning holidaymakers and back-to-work parents, as well as seeing the start of people thinking ‘let’s do something different in 2018’. This means it’s also where messaging and strategies can be set for next year.
Properly refreshing your marketing comes in three stages: reviewing who you’re trying to reach, how you’re trying to reach them and what you’re trying to say. If you use an agency, they should lead on creativity, strategy and planning; if you have in-house people, then get them involved in the process – and listen to what they’re saying. Including your team ensures you have a range of viewpoints and engages them, resulting in passion and consistency of message when you come out the other side.
The first place to start is with the who. Defining or redefining who you’re looking for dictates your headline messaging and the channels you’re going to use. Profiling your ideal franchisees should be a fun and inclusive process, the more minds the better.
Rather than focusing simply on an individual who is your dream franchisee, it’s important to delve into the traits of several people. Examine the personalities of your franchisees, not just their previous careers. What makes them tick? Digging a little deeper will reveal shared personality traits, even where wildly different career or demographic backgrounds indicated no commonality. This is the gold you’re looking for to build a more robust and better understanding of your dream prospects. In fact it can be much more effective than if you just take your star performer and try to find their clone.
Once you’ve created the personas of your target audiences, you can consider what they might listen to, read or watch and you understand the messages they need to hear to pique interest in starting or buying a business. Put yourself in their shoes. Look through their eyes. What are their needs? Why should they invest in your franchise? From there, you can create messages that will appeal directly to them, not everyone else.
When it comes to brand image and lead generation, you get back exactly what you put in – a jaded message gives you tired results, numerically and in terms of quality; a dynamic one brings interest from similarly passionate, driven and ambitious individuals.
Refreshing your brand is not as simple as rewriting a portal profile. The realm of communications is a big, multifaceted beast, incorporating myriad touch points with your audience. Content impacts every aspect of franchise recruitment and needs to be approached as such: look at the bigger picture. When was the last time you reviewed how your auto-response emails, website copy, case studies or social-media posts enhance your key recruitment messages in subtle and interesting ways?
Leave no stone unturned to ensure your messaging is consistent, on-point and clear. You need to critique your entire suite of communications, including: social media, website copy and design, PR articles and media engagement, case-study angles and copy, prospectus, adverts, landing pages, newsletters, videos, eshots, auto-responder email content and recruitment processes and people.
The good news is that not everything will need changing. Some aspects – usually the most recently updated ones – will be doing the job well already, while others might just need tweaking to get your messages across.
Once you’ve got your messaging and audience, it’s time to determine the platforms you’re going to use to reach them. Your marketing mix should be all about the numbers. Start with the old: analyse your results over the past 12 months for each of your current marketing channels, going deeper than just cost-per-lead. Don’t simply assume the cheapest is best because other avenues may be producing consistently better quality and much stronger ROI, rather than a stream of dead leads that sap your time. Consider the proportion of engaged enquirers per channel or look for patterns of people from one source going deep into your recruitment process.
This data also gives you a direct comparison between old and new messaging, so you can track the effect of your refresh on your results on each channel over time. As time goes on and your dataset grows, you’ll be making smarter decisions on your recruitment strategy because you’re basing them on evidence of what works.
When it comes to the new, take the same approach. From stage one, you should have ideas for new platforms that will put your brand in front of the right audience, on which you can run campaigns for a trial period before over-committing on budget. Monitor their effectiveness, tweak as necessary and compare on quality and cost with your established channels, removing those which aren’t working. Remember you may need different messages for non-franchise media advertising, such as a landing page that introduces the concept of franchising itself as well as your opportunity.
Refreshing your marketing is a substantial but exciting task, one that should be approached with relish rather than trepidation. Much more than just coming up with some new channels that sound like a good idea, it’s an opportunity to take a step back, seek input from others and ensure your communications are shaping the brand image you want. If you’re looking for better results in 2018, the time to change it up is now.