Flick the switch: How to coach your franchisees into becoming marketing experts

For franchisees with no prior marketing experience, promoting their brand new business can be intimidating indeed. Fortunately there's plenty a franchisor can do to help out

Flick the switch: How to coach your franchisees into becoming marketing experts

In this ever-changing digital world, marketing has never been more accessible to franchisors and franchisees but that availability doesn’t necessarily make it any easier to understand or implement. On the contrary, while traditional advertising and PR are fairly straightforward concepts to grasp, these days a franchise also needs to occupy the digital space with equal authority, from content marketing to social media.

For a franchisee who may have come from a role that demanded no marketing output at all, the thought of committing to any or all of these marketing tools can be overwhelming. This is especially the case while they’re also running a business for the first time, trying to find new clients and managing staff.

Fortunately, by refining their strategy and ensuring that national brand building sits alongside, works with and compliments local marketing campaigns, there is plenty franchisors can do to give franchisees a helping hand.

Thinking national and local

As a franchise, the more recognition your brand has nationally, the easier it is to sell it locally. So I’d recommend having a clear marketing strategy at the head-office level that combines your national awareness and brand building with local and individual tactical plans for each franchisee. While you are running the brand’s social media accounts, posting blogs and articles, generating PR and placing adverts, it is important to track and be aware of what is bringing in enquiries and new business for your franchisees.

For example, our franchisees get at least 50% of their enquiries from the online marketing that we do for them and we train and equip them with a local tactical marketing plan for the other half. This kind of approach equips franchisees to build the brand locally using a combination of PR, referral schemes, partnering with local businesses, postcards and brochures, effective low-cost local advertising, targeted networking and social media campaigns. Backing this up with an optimised website with a number of local pages just for them also allows them to have unique articles, testimonials and reviews, all of which helps to drive web traffic and build credibility.

The overall effect this multi-strand marketing has is creating high brand recognition in franchisees’ target areas so that potential clients or team members will have seen their business in a variety of places.

Create confidence in the” brand

Despite what people think, advertising doesn’t have to be expensive. Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, once said: “Starbucks is not an advertiser; people think we are a great marketing company but in fact we spend very little money on marketing and more money on training our people than advertising.” That is a quintessential part of any marketing training – if your franchisees really want to live and breathe the brand they will naturally communicate its values, whether that’s sponsoring a school fair or speaking on the radio.

Spotlight on success

Our franchisees love to share which marketing tactics have worked for them and give each other ideas of new things to try, so we always encourage this at conferences and online webinars. There will usually be some franchisees who really seize the marketing role with both hands. Because of this we make a point of working with them to help others learn and develop, especially when it comes to social media, which is often an area many are nervous about venturing into.

Make sure you share any national activity and success that you’ve generated at head office level with the franchisees too. If you’re going to be appearing in a national magazine or have just won a major award, make sure the franchisees are aware of it so they can share and build on it in their own territories too.

Being social

Getting franchisees engaged with and active on social media channels is one of the most effective ways to help them build networks and a client base. As well as giving them a very simple outline of what the channels are and providing training via video modules, it’s worth running Facebook and Twitter accounts of your own from head office and deliberately posting content that franchisees can share and retweet to their audience.

These channels can be used to start conversations, offer support, comment helpfully, share funny pieces and build trust and credibility; hard selling of their services should be right at the bottom of the list. And don’t forget to put in place a complaints or trolling policy too – this should cover everything from taking issues offline as an immediate action to reporting or blocking followers if necessary.

Regular bite-size training

I love the fact that iPhones come with no instruction book because I know if someone gave me a whacking great manual, I’d put it straight in the drawer and probably never get it out again. But if I can look up a quick video guide to solve certain problems I’ll do it and move on.

The same applies for any marketing training, which is why it’s worth introducing bite-sized video training with interactive sessions to support them. These work incredibly well: put together a hands-on video for franchisees to watch, then set up a number of sessions during which they can dial in and post questions throughout. Creating an annual calendar of workshops, conferences, webinars and one-to-one marketing coaching will also really help the franchisees to get under the skin of your brand, understand and embrace new services and ensure they are all part and parcel of their marketing plan.

Becoming an expert

As confidence in their marketing abilities grows, franchisees should be encouraged to look for regular opportunities to create impact above and beyond their launch campaign. Give them a list of their local media outlets and encourage them to get to know them so they can be called upon to comment for a piece or place the occasional advert. This can be supported by a bank of service and brand description pieces that they can use for anything they may want to run.

As they develop a flair for this kind of local marketing, encourage them to share what they’re doing with head office, whether these are charity partnerships, anniversaries or quirky stories – one of our housekeeping teams recently helped to deliver a lamb. This means you can then share these stories with a wider audience on social media channels, internal newsletters and on the website.

As the franchise industry continues to grow and expand, it has never been more important to be noticed. Helping franchisees to build and develop their marketing plans and activity is an ongoing commitment that, if managed well between head office and your network, will play a huge part in building customers, brand awareness and appreciation for years to come.

Rachel Ray
Rachel Ray