Mapping out your marketing plan

As a franchisee, it's not easy to know which route you should take to reach your marketing goals. Taking some time to plot out a path can ensure you don't get lost along the way

Mapping out your marketing plan

You wouldn’t embark on a major journey to a new destination by hopping behind the wheel and hoping there will be sufficient signage along the road. In much the same way, it’s important that franchisees think long and hard about where they want their marketing efforts to take them. Having a clear marketing plan effectively acts as your road map and should answer three key questions: where are we now? Where do we want to get to? And how are we going to get there?

Before planning their journey, franchisees first need to work out where they’re going. This will mean considering what their business’s annual and mid-term objectives are. In a lettings and estate-agency environment, a typical aim might be to grow the number of managed properties from X to Y over a set period – say 12, 24 or 36 months.

With quality management information systems in place, a franchisee will be able to work backwards to quantify what the marketing plan must deliver in order for the company to achieve this growth target.

Say a business currently manages 150 contracts and has aspirations to grow its portfolio to 200 within a year. This would mean its marketing plan must make provisions to deliver enough quality leads to generate an additional 50 contracts. If the average conversion rate for new business appointments to agreed contracts is 50%, then it is established that an additional 100 new business appointments must be generated within the coming 12 months. And, working even further backwards, if a business calculates that 25% of all enquiries received are converted into new business appointments then it is established that the marketing plan must deliver 400 new business enquiries to hit its goal.

The next hurdle to tackle on your journey is to consider the various media channels available to you, be they local – such as radio, property press, consumer press, door drop media and recommendations – or national.

Whilst experimenting with these different media, it’s important to calculate the returns each channel is providing. Franchises should record the total number of new enquires coming from each specific medium and divide this by the monetary spend on that channel to calculate a cost-per-enquiry (CPE). For example, local radio might produce 200 enquiries over 12 months at a cost of £10,000, delivering a CPE of £50, while the local property press has delivered 50 enquiries at a cost of £5,000, resulting in a CPE of £100.
This can then be tweaked and improved upon with a bit of performance management. Increasing the conversion rates from enquiry to business appointments or business appointments to agreed contracts will increase the business’s growth or reduce the required marketing spend.

Another way of boosting a business’s conversion rates is by improving standards. By providing a better service, the business will see increasing numbers of referrals and recommendations that do not attract a direct cost. This will deliver additional ‘warm’ new business enquiries that, in turn, will improve the conversion rates of leads to appointments and appointments to business. The end result will be that the company is able to further grow its customer base within the its marketing budget.

These kinds of calculations prove invaluable in planning the best route for your business to take. But whilst one medium may seem overwhelmingly more effective than another, it’s worth noting that different above the line – for example radio – and below the line – such as direct marketing – media support each other. They create cut-through and together contribute to the overall effectiveness of the business’ marketing plan. Moreover, whilst establishing the financial return required of the marketing plan, attention must also be given to the creative treatment – that is the message, content and imagery that is to be delivered to the target market.

That said, your business is likely to have pre-determined marketing budgets and will have set parameters within which it must work. This means that while the marketing plan must strive to deliver balance across various media and disciplines – such as advertising, public relations or sales promotion – marketers will skew the plan towards those that best deliver the desired results within the available budget.

Often a business’s target market will consist of broad groups that need approaching differently, potentially by targeting the company’s service offerings to one group and its products to another. To this end, the marketing plan must allow for targeting opposing yet often overlapping customer groups, while consistently promoting the company’s brand values, be they quality, price, innovation or service standards – or more likely a combination of all of the above. Further consideration must be given to the changing needs of the customer groups. For example, in a lettings and estate agency business, today’s tenant customers are often tomorrow’s landlord clients.

Pitfalls to avoid are numerous, including agreeing to long-term supplier agreements for untested media that do not give the option to break should the media or creative treatment fail to deliver the required results. Another issue is associating the brand with a medium that does not reflect the company’s core values – you wouldn’t see Harrods advertising on a local, black and white home-printed leaflet for example. Another mistake is engaging or dismissing media channels that competitors have historically used but have now withdrawn from.

By applying a structured approach to marketing with good quality management information and an understanding of the local media opportunities, a franchise owner should be able to clearly quantify what their marketing plan must deliver. And once a franchisee has mapped out their journey, they can finally hit the open road and start driving toward their destination.

Nick Harris
Nick Harris