There’s no escaping the fact that times are hard at the moment. The cost-of-living crisis has hit everyone, especially on the back of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether the Bank of England officially declares we are in a recession or not, it’s still a period of little or no economic growth.
With costs rising, you may be looking to cut back on costs, and the marketing budget is often one of the first to get hit. There’s plenty of research to show that this isn’t the right move. Companies that didn’t cut back during the 2008-9 economic downtown performed better than their competitors in the long term. But if you need to make savings, that doesn’t mean you can’t do any marketing.
Whether you are a franchisor looking to recruit new franchisees or a franchisee searching for new customers, here are five ways to market your franchise on a smaller budget.
I’ve always been a huge fan of networking. It doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but it is a low-cost way to meet fellow business people who may be your target customers or know someone who is. Especially with the rise of virtual networking, you can reach people all over the country (even the world!) without having to pay for petrol to leave your desk. The FSB offers free networking all over the country, and most networking groups allow you to visit at least once or twice to see if a group is right for you. This will enable you to pick up many new contacts and build your network without shelling out a penny.
Consider joining a relevant trade association. Though there may be some cost involved, there’s real value in connecting with other members to network and share best practices. For example, the British Franchise Association runs lots of good webinars for members on topics like recruitment, which could be really useful.
Social media might be time-consuming, but it is a free tool to market your business. If you have to cut back on spending, use your time to post regularly from your accounts and ensure they are in top condition, fully completed and up to date. Interact with others on the platform. Post in relevant groups. Ask questions or share information. As a franchisor, you could advertise your franchise on LinkedIn Jobs for free but be prepared that many people will assume it is a salaried role.
You never know where (or who!) social media might lead to. One of my franchisees first saw the Get Ahead franchise advertised on Facebook. We’ve also welcomed clients through LinkedIn, and I connected with Investing In Women on LinkedIn, which has become a successful recruitment channel for my franchise. Social media can definitely produce results if used wisely.
Like networking, many local business exhibitions are free to attend and allow you to meet people from your local area or industry. Paying to exhibit at shows can also be a relatively low-cost way to make an impact. The most important thing is to choose the right exhibition. For example, I decided to exhibit our franchise at Flexpo, as I know the kind of people that make great franchisees for Get Ahead want to work flexibly. I also target exhibitions in locations where I want to grow the business and recruit new regional directors, as it’s an excellent way to raise awareness of the brand in the local area.
Are you an award-winning business? Awards are a brilliant way of raising your business profile, generating good news to talk about in your marketing communications and building your network. Some are very expensive to enter, but there are also many free-to-enter awards or some with low entry fees of £25-50 per category. If you’re looking to attract customers in your local area, your local business awards are a great way to reach your audience. Make the most of the networking opportunities along the way.
Entering awards isn’t just about winning – every step along the way is a marketing opportunity for your business. It can also be a real confidence booster. Even writing your awards entry can make you realise just how much you have achieved, giving you a renewed enthusiasm to market your franchise despite all the economic challenges.
Seek out grants, funding or free training opportunities
Contact your local council Business department and research online to find out about funding opportunities in your area. You might be surprised by what could be available. Funding could be available even for marketing activities, particularly for investments in digital marketing or upskilling. You may have to match their funding, but it will still mean that your money goes much further than it would have otherwise.
Even if you don’t qualify for any financial support, you may find that local ‘growth hubs’ offer free training courses. These can be another way to meet new contacts who might become new clients or franchisees and acquire valuable new skills.
To succeed in business, mindset is everything. Yes, you may be feeling the pinch and wondering how you’ll continue to grow your business. But there are still many marketing levers you can use to attract new franchisees and clients. You’ve just got to find the right ways to make it happen.