Getting your head around how to tell the right stories can help ensure that word spreads about your franchise
Think about the last great book you read or film you watched. You went on a journey with the hero or heroine of the tale and walked in their shoes as they saved the world, won the girl or boy, earned their freedom or learned life lessons. You followed their arc, overcame challenges with them, felt their pain and anguish and triumphed in their ultimate glory. You were transported to their world, saw through their eyes and were qinexorably drawn in.
A well-written story gets people to part with just a few hours of their existence in exchange for escape to a fictional world. But as a franchisor, you’re asking people to trust you with their lives, their future and their families’ happiness: sometimes literally everything they have. You think they’re going to do that without you showing them that their leap into the unknown can have a happy ending?
Stories are at the heart of successful marketing and franchisors hold a powerful advantage over their non-franchised counterparts: their franchisees. It’s their tales that make your opportunity unique compared to the hundreds of other businesses vying for the attention of potential investors. They are the hook that creates an emotional connection and elicits that most precious of feelings: ‘I could do that’.
Yes, the support and systems you offer are central to success. But the benefits you provide aren’t the story – they’re just one chapter of it, part of the narrative that helps our hero escape the humdrum, overcome the obstacles and ultimately triumph. Because the hero isn’t you or your business: it’s your prospect. Take them on a journey through the eyes of your current franchisees the way the best authors and directors do and you’ll invoke the spark they’re looking for.
Thanks to the internet, people increasingly seek the views of others before making a decision. Last time you booked a holiday, bought a car or even went to the cinema, you looked at what other people had to say about it. Nobody stays in a hotel anymore without checking TripAdvisor first. The ubiquity of reviews from Amazon to Trustpilot and everything in between is part of modern life. So why do franchisors think it’s any different when it comes to their marketing? There’s no excuse for trying to convince a buyer to part with their money without showing what the franchise has done for others just like them.
Show, don’t tell
One of the most important lessons any aspiring author learns is ‘show, don’t tell’: a reader needs to experience a story through the thoughts, emotions and actions of its characters, not just through the writer’s description of what they’re doing and feeling.
It’s grating to receive eshots that consist entirely of bland lists of bullet points selling the benefits of a franchise, see profiles filled with stock images where a happy franchisee should be centre stage and read quotes that have obviously been written by a PR and not uttered by a real person. Where are the people? Where are the stories? Inspire your prospective franchisees. Give them a reason to care, a reason to get excited, a way for them to see their future with your brand. Show them passion. Show them success. Show them something, anything, that makes them want to transform their lives by investing in you.
Make sure your eshots have franchisee testimonials and pictures on them and liberally sprinkle quotes through your website, prospectus and other collateral. Those words are going to help maintain interest in what you have to say more than your new business management system will.
Pressing home your advantage
In addition to your paid-for advertising, stories are also the bedrock of your free publicity because they’re the reason you get press coverage.
Unless you’ve worked in and around the media, you’re probably blissfully unaware just how much of the news you see, read and hear is supplied by PRs. In today’s 24/7 news cycle, journalists are busier than they’ve ever been because of the weight of demand for new content every minute of the day. So they rely on the news to come to them. A well-told, interesting and balanced story is nectar for a journalist. Human-interest stories are worth publishing and, whether your business is cleaning, care or cars, at its heart is the same thing: people with amazing stories to tell.
Take the recently-crowned Franchisee of the Year, Hannah Drury: she’s a 25-year-old mother who’s already overcome heart-breaking tragedy twice in her life to run a million-pound business – and still finds time to study for a degree. That’s a story that most journalists want to run if it’s told in the right way. For Caremark, Drury’s experience provides inspiration to young people, women, parents – frankly to anybody with ambition and a heart, which is great news for reaching new and wider audiences.
And of course, it’s not just the journalists telling the story either. On LinkedIn, where Drury’s mother has been proudly shouting about her daughter’s achievements, a lot of people have seen the story and have heard of Caremark and franchising for the first time. I’m not connected to Drury’s mum but I’ve seen her joy more than once in my news feed, with plenty of likes and comments alongside.
So as you can see, good stories travel. They inspire. They engage. And they bring you leads from people who want to rewrite their own narrative. Once upon a time, you started a franchise. So how does the story end?