While franchisees may be tempted to boast about themselves, bragging is only likely to alienate consumers. So how can you toot your own horn without blowing it?
“Any man who must say, ‘I am the king’ is no true king.” Game of Thrones fans may recognise the words of Tywin Lannister, played by the terribly talented Charles Dance. However, non-aficionados of the HBO show are well-advised to pay attention too. In fact, any franchisee that fails to take heed of the above could run the risk of losing customers, especially if they have a proclivity for bragging.
While franchisees are encouraged to only buy into franchises they believe in, constantly broadcasting how great the company is can only have one outcome. “It is very simple; people just lose interest,” warns Dugan Aylen, head of franchisee recruitment and resales at Granite Transformations, the home-transformations franchise. “With all the noise out there, why would anyone listen to someone boasting about themselves?”
Rather than boosting sales and revenue, franchisees will simply blow it by relentlessly tooting their own horn. Likening some businesses’ self-congratulatory tendencies to friends bragging about their lives on Facebook, Aylen continues: “Even if they are your friends, you still get bored of them.”
However, franchisees that sermonise about their own magnificence don’t only risk alienating potential customers but may push away journalists too. “Just sending irrelevant releases is going to get you blacklisted,” warns Sally Anne Butters, director at Rev PR, the specialist franchise PR agency. “If you send an email to every contact you know saying that you’ve got this product, the journalists who keep getting those messages will eventually stop opening emails from you.”
For these reasons, self-aggrandising press releases and adverts should be no-gos for any franchisee. However, that doesn’t mean franchisees can’t talk about themselves; they just have to be cleverer about it. “You have to turn that bragging into branding,” says Sammy Blindell, co-founder and managing partner at How To Build A Brand, the brand-building agency. She stresses that the better a franchise’s brand is, the less the franchisee has to brag, adding that a strong brand doesn’t come down to the best product but the people talking about it. “It is no longer about who you know but who knows about you,” she says.
Much like expanding one’s social network, franchisees have to start by getting to know their audience and what it wants to hear about. “If you start talking about something that people are interested in, they will automatically become attracted to your company,” says Blindell. Ultimately, becoming familiar with the things that stimulate your customers will stand you in good stead. “Connecting is more natural once you understand your customers’ needs and desires,” says Jonathan Cronin, brand and communications manager at CeX, the video-game franchise.
For franchisees, understanding their market is even more important at a local level than a national one. “Franchisees must connect with the community in their area,” says Aylen. This also means that franchisees get the best of both worlds as they can piggyback on the national franchise’s brand while still playing the local-businessman card. “You get both the local trust and the line of thought that goes: ‘I’ve seen them everywhere, they must be good,” he adds.
But just because franchisees have the opportunity to be both local and national, that doesn’t mean they should spare any efforts getting to know their local market. Blindell advises franchisees to start their odyssey into the minds of consumers by adhering to the creed of the real-estate market: location, location, location. “Ask yourself: ‘Where do your customers hang out in the biggest concentration?’” she says. “You’ve got to be the most visible and credible person in the place where your customers are.”
The second step is to talk the talk. “You need to speak customers’ language,” explains Blindell. Understanding various local dialects allows franchisees to address their market easier whilst boosting both brand and customer relationships in the process. Yet that doesn’t mean franchisees should revert back to bragging about the greatness of their products’ features with some additional local slang sprinkled on top. “Don’t talk about the features; talk about the benefits,” advises Aylen. “Identify how this product or this service is going to benefit this person. How is it going to help them?”
Whether the franchisee is delivering food, senior care or music lessons for children, they should talk about how clients’ lives can level-up by using their franchise’s services. Suffice to say, an office temp with a bad attitude is unlikely to be at the top of the list of things that customers benefit from. “Anyone that meets customers becomes the face of the brand,” says Cronin. “Great service grows the brand. Poor service destroys it.” In other words, employees are as important for franchises as they are for any other business. “A lot of franchises make the big mistake of trying to grow too quickly and employing the wrong people in the process,” says Blindell. “All the people that customers talk to are your ambassadors, so you’ve got to take control of the conversation.”
Franchises that employ service-minded and capable employees are certain to reap the rewards. Not only does great service give franchisees’ reputations a power-boost but it can also provide them with indirect bragging opportunities as customers start reviewing their services. “It is really important to harness the power of customer reviews,” explains Butters. “A good franchisor will have a process in place to help their franchisees collect reviews.”
For instance, franchisees could ask clients to fill in a form after a job is done, write reviews online or give feedback via email. While this may help business leaders improve their relationships with customers, it also provides the opportunity for franchisees to publicly but indirectly pat themselves on the back. “The only bragging that is credible is customer reviews like a Trustpilot score and press reviews,” says Cronin.
Not only is offering great service a worthy goal for any enterprise, it also provides franchisees with another indirect bragging opportunity as they become eligible for industry awards. “It is a really great way of getting local publicity for franchisees,” says Butters. However, while awards may be a good way of getting other people to talk about franchisees’ greatness, business leaders should not take signing up for different awards lightly. “There is no point in entering an award if you enter it poorly,” she adds.
Yet, as long as a franchise is equipped with the best employees, solid market research and an appropriate tone of voice, it should be well on its way to establishing a brand that’s a hit with customers.