Brexit will cause a lot of uncertainty. And how you manage your franchise recruitment efforts in the face of it will determine your future. So get it right
To borrow from Plato: “Strange times are these in which we live.” With media and government paralysed by Brexit, high streets in turmoil and markets and UK plc battling with uncertainty, evidence is showing that we, the great British public, are hunkering down somewhat for the winter ahead and, possibly, beyond.
Property and cars are the common major purchases most aligned with franchises in terms of expense and importance. Domestic car production fell by nearly one-fifth in November compared with a year earlier, with output for the first 11 months of 2018 down by more than 8% against 2017 numbers as demand slumped. Meanwhile in the housing market, industry surveys have revealed agents have a record low average number of properties for sale on their books – the inexorable rise in prices in London and the south-east has even been extinguished, according to most analysts.
So where does this leave franchising? Amid the wider slowdown of the economy as businesses grapple with the conundrum of Brexit, franchising once more finds itself something of a beacon of light. The latest research into the health of the sector by the British Franchise Association and NatWest painted rosy headline figures, with growth of more than 14% in the last three years and franchising now responsible for a chunky £17bn slice of the UK’s economic production.
While those figures are more than healthy, that backdrop of economic uncertainty cannot help but have an impact on what comes next for our buoyant sector.
Back to basics
With consumers reigning in spending on big ticket items and a pervading air of “what happens next” around Brexit, it’s more imperative than ever that the three marketing basics are at the forefront of the minds of those responsible for generating enquiries. As a reminder, they are figuring out who your audience is, what messages they need to hear and where they’ll see, hear and read those messages.
The first point is where franchise marketing strategy begins and needs no further elaboration here. The second point is going to take on even greater significance as events unfold in the lead up to Brexit Day on Friday March 29 and beyond. What you’re saying about your franchise cannot simply revolve around you – it must speak to your prospects’ thinking. For many people right now that’s going to include looking for some degree of certainty in these uncertain times.
Fortunately, that’s an area in which franchising excels, proving so in difficult times before, notably following the financial crash a decade ago. Because in periods of uncertainty, there lies opportunity for franchisors with an exceptional business model and the adaptability to hone their messages. If the economy does struggle after we leave the EU and jobs are shed, then more people hungry for their next move become receptive to the attractions of franchising.
The third point is, of course, the holy grail for all franchise marketeers and if you’re looking to capitalise on any Brexit-related opportunities – or simply to kickstart your lead generation after a quiet year – then you’ll almost certainly need to test some new channels before determining which can deliver the best results for your business. There are some interesting new approaches which have crossed over into franchising from abroad or from other sectors and now could be the right time to trial them.
Undoubtedly, it’s going to be a testing period for franchise recruitment. Franchisors who are agile, adaptable and can evidence strong success, backed by personal stories of their franchisees, will continue to draw interest. Others are sure to experience network stagnation to varying degrees. Finding new ways to engage an audience is going to be an important challenge. And for brands most affected by the economic weather elsewhere, it’s going to be imperative to review messaging regularly based on information, both anecdotal from prospects and numerical from data analysis.
Franchising has the power to truly transform lives for the better and remains within reach of almost anyone with the determination to succeed in business. It’s up to all of us in the sector to ensure that message hits home, while the wailing and gnashing of Brexit continues to drown out most other noise in the media and the minds of the UK public. It’s no easy feat – but it’s an essential mission if franchising is to continue to rise and grow that sector-wide turnover figure towards the milestone of £20bn.