Think Before You Buy: Pros and Cons of Owning a Franchise

Think Before You Buy: Pros and Cons of Owning a FranchiseBuying into a franchise is a great way for a novice entrepreneur to get their feet wet, and learn the ropes of running a local business in a specific industry, with a somewhat reduced risk of failure and lots of support and guidance. It’s not for everyone, however, and before making the leap, would-be franchise owners should carefully consider all of the pros and cons, including these:

1) The Brand

Pro: The Power of the Brand

Let’s face it, the main reason for buying into a franchise is the national recognition. When popular franchises like Krispy Kreme and Ikea move into a new territory, there are lines around the block on opening day. Who doesn’t want instant customers? The more popular the franchise, the more you’ll have to pay, of course, but financing will be easier to obtain.

Con: Licensing and Royalty Fees

Instant customers cost money. Expect to fork out around $35,000 or so right off the bat in the form of a franchise fee, plus a percentage of your monthly sales in royalties. Depending on the franchise, licensing fees can range from $20,000 to over $100,000, and royalty fees are generally between 5 and 12 percent.

2) The Plan

Pro: A Blueprint for Success

Think of a franchise as a business-in-a-box. It’s a tried and true (hopefully, if you’ve done your research) formula that someone has spent many years perfecting. It’s been successfully replicated many times over, with tweaks and improvements made along the way. All you have to do is follow the directions — some assembly required.

Con: Little to No Creative License

If you’re the type that doesn’t like to color between the lines, a franchise is not for you. There’s usually very little flexibility in the way a franchise is set up and operated. You’ll likely be given an operations manual as thick as a phone book, detailing everything from the products you must carry and your hours of operation to the uniforms you must wear and even the posters you have on your wall.

3) The Training Program

Pro: Training and Support

Thanks to a formal training program and a dedicated support staff, even a complete novice can open a successful franchise. From online pre-training to formal classroom training at the franchise headquarters, you’ll be taught everything you need to know, from start-up through daily operations. And once you’re up and running, your franchisor’s support staff should play an active role in your success, with in-person visits and coaching, along with online and telephone support to answer your questions and help you over any hurdles you may encounter.

Con: Honestly, we can’t really think of a down side to this one.

4) The Location and Real Estate

Pro: Location, Location, Location

When it comes to setting up your franchise, finding the right location is everything. Major franchisors have in-house real estate departments that can help you find and secure the perfect spot. Even smaller franchisors often have ties with commercial real estate brokers that can smooth road bumps when it comes to negotiating the lease agreement.

Con: Competing Locations

You may have a successful franchise, and out of the blue one day your franchisor might decide not to renew your franchise agreement for the following term. Why? There could be another franchisee nearby whom the franchisor favors for some reason. Maybe it’s adjacent to another type of franchise they own, which doubles their profit. Don’t kid yourself; your location is just another pawn on the franchisor’s chess board.

5) The Marketing Materials

Pro: Marketing Assistance

Many local businesses don’t have the resources to hire a big marketing firm, nor the time or expertise to create their own professional-looking marketing materials. Fortunately, as a franchisee you should have access to ready-made templates and pre-printed materials for use in your franchise. Although you’re expected to develop and implement your own local marketing plan, don’t be afraid to ask for assistance from your franchisor. Many large franchises even provide specific funding for local marketing campaigns to their franchisees.

Con: National Advertising Fund

Some franchisors may require you to pay 1 to 2 percent of your monthly gross sales into an advertising fund to help pay for all that marketing assistance. All the more reason to make the most of it.

6) The Power of Corporate

Pro: Corporate Purchasing Power

When it comes to purchasing inventory and supplies, you could have the advantage of significant price breaks due to volume purchasing. Some franchisors have a supply chain for everything from major equipment to toilet paper and cleaning supplies.

Con: Required Vendors

Unfortunately, this often means you’re stuck with the choices made at the corporate level, and can’t go out and find your own vendors. Some franchisors even add to their profits by forcing franchisees to purchase products from corporate headquarters at above market rates. Read your contract carefully!

Should You or Shouldn’t You?

As with anything, there are upsides and downsides to owning a franchise. It all depends on your experience level, personality, goals and desires. If you’re a paint-by-numbers type of person who likes to follow directions, set and achieve goals with limited risk of failure, a franchise is right up your alley. If you’re more of a freestyle personality who likes to start from scratch and see what develops, then franchising is definitely not for you.

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Facebook to Test “Place Tips” in NYC

Facebook to Test "Place Tips" in NYCFacebook, the great connector, specializing in connecting you with friends and news now wants to connect you with “the world around you,” according to Mike LeBeau, product manager for the new Facebook “Place Tips” feature of Facebook’s iPhone app.

Still in the pilot stage, Place Tips is designed to provide specific location information based on a user’s geographic location as determined by GPS, WiFi and cell phone triangulation. Users who have enabled Location in their Facebook iPhone app will see an innocuous notation at the top of their news feed. Tap to open, and Place Tips will feature tips and recommendations centered on the nearest venue, which have been posted by the user’s network of friends along with content from the venue’s Facebook page.

If Place Tips Can Make it There…

It’s a monumental undertaking that will likely give Foursquare Tips a run for the money, so Facebook has launched a pilot program to test it out — where else? New York City, of course. Arguably the most densely packed real estate in the nation, NYC is a proving ground for testing the technology needed to nail down a user’s exact location.

What kind of technology? In addition to GPS, WiFi and cell towers, Facebook is deploying bluetooth beacons in select locations around the city including the Strand Book Store, Dominique Ansel Bakery, The Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien Hotel, Veselka, the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop, Pianos, Brooklyn Bowl and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. These beacons will be able to instantly detect Facebook users who enter the premises.

Facebook execs are quick to assure users, however, that turning on Location will merely allow the app to provide them information about the nearest venue; the user’s location will not be shared unless the user decides to check in or otherwise post their location.

How Will This Affect My Local Business?

Once fully deployed, this new Facebook feature stands to benefit local businesses tremendously, since content displayed will come not only from the user’s friends network but from the location’s Facebook page as well. Savvy business owners could post special offers on their pages that would have the effect of location-based SMS marketing without having to go to all the trouble of sending a text. Imagine a user is checking their news feed as they’re walking through your store to get to the mall. They tap Place Tips and there’s your special discount offer along with comments from friends about your products. It doesn’t get any better than that.

How is it Different from Foursquare?

First of all, it’s Facebook, which is a much more popular platform. Second, Foursquare Tips are those posted by the general public, while Place Tips will be posts from the user’s network as well as from the location’s Facebook page. Of course, if you’ve just moved to the West Coast and all your friends are back on the East Coast, you likely won’t see any Place Tips from your network.

Only in NYC

Once Facebook fine tunes the technology and works out all the bugs, the app will eventually be rolled out to the rest of the country, and then to androids. But for now, it’s only available on iPhones, and only in New York City.

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The Future of Internet According to Google CEO – Nothing

The Future of Internet According to Google CEO - NothingWhen Google CEO Eric Schmidt told panel members at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last month that the Internet would likely disappear in the not too distant future, he stirred up a hornet’s nest of speculation.

It all started at the end of a panel discussion, when Schmidt was asked to share his views on the future of the Web. Schmidt started out by saying, “I will answer very simply that the Internet will disappear.”

Popular Interpretations

“And here’s what he really meant by this: As wearables gain traction and our homes become smarter and more connected, Schmidt sees a future where the Internet is all around us.” — Tim Worstall, Forbes.com

Expanding on his preface, Schmidt added: “There will be so many IP addresses, so many devices, sensors, things that you are wearing, things that you are interacting with, that you won’t even sense it.”

“Schmidt is referring to the so-called ‘internet of things,’ in which internet-enabled devices from phones to watches to thermostats and lightbulbs are increasingly programmed to be able to work on their own, for efficiency’s sake.” — Dave Smith, Business Insider.

“It will be part of your presence all the time. Imagine you walk into a room, and the room is dynamic. And with your permission, and all of that, you are interacting with the things going on in the room,” Schmidt further explained.

“Eric Schmidt is right. The Internet of Things is growing at an extremely fast rate. Billions more devices will come online over the next decade or so.” — Christian de Looper, Tech Times.

A Consensus of Opinion

By and large, most everyone seems to agree that Schmidt is not really saying that the Internet is actually going to disappear, but merely become so pervasive that it will simply blend into the background.

“Instead, he’s saying that the Internet will be seamlessly integrated into our lives, by way of a lot of connected devices and sensors.” — Hayley Tsukayama, The Washington Post.

“The internet isn’t going to disappear: it’s just going to mature.” — Tim Worstall, Forbes.com

From World Wide Web to Internet to Id

When one considers the transformation of the Internet from conception to maturity, it’s reminiscent of our nation’s expansion into the western territories. In the early days, a trip across the country was a major undertaking that took years of planning and preparation followed by months of perilous. Today you can fly from coast to coast in a matter of hours if you like, or you can take a scenic route by train, automobile or bus.

Similarly, the Internet started out as a fixed network of servers. Access was by telephone (remember dial-up) and getting “online” was a bit of an ordeal. Then along came cable, broadband, cellular phones and satellites. Somewhere along the way we stopped typing WWW into the address bar of our browsers.

As for URLs, ICANN’s decision to add a whopping 1,300 new extensions into the mix is sure to open up the Internet frontier to wildcat development, expanding the number of URL addresses exponentially.

What Does This Mean for Local Businesses

While the vision of the future may not necessarily be right around the corner, it’s essential for local businesses to get started today to cultivate that online presence so that they are not forgotten tomorrow. Already, the lack of an online presence is tantamount to business suicide and the trend is expected to continue.

Getting started online can be a daunting challenge to some but a great place to begin is on these three platforms (Google+, Facebook, and Yelp). Simply having your listings claimed and updated on these three pages will offer a huge boost to your online presence.

We used to sit down at our computers and “go online.” As we are able to “go online” with more and more devices, and as we become ever more connected in a host of almost imperceptible ways, it stands to reason that one day we will no longer “go online” to the Internet. We will already be there. Only it will no longer be the Internet. It will just be.

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Avoid these 10 Mistakes New Franchises Make BEFORE & AFTER Signing

Avoid these 10 Mistakes New Franchises Make BEFORE & AFTER SigningWhile opening a franchise can be a simpler, less risky means of becoming an entrepreneur and local business owner, there are nonetheless many pitfalls and heartaches that can go along with any venture if you go about it the wrong way. Many a franchise owner will tell you they wish they had done more research before getting started. Here are ten of the most common mistakes made by franchisees.

1. Failing to Read the Fine Print

Buying into a franchise without the help of a seasoned franchise attorney is probably the biggest mistake that new franchisees make. The most powerful set of optics will not prepare you for the fine print involved in a franchise contract, and the legal lingo can be positively mind-boggling. Before you fork over your hard-earned savings and commit the next 10 to 20 years of your life to this new enterprise, make sure you have explored the ins and outs of the contract with your attorney, and that you understand all of the possibilities and contingencies involved.

2. Choosing the Wrong Franchise

Don’t be suckered by the lure of a hip and trendy new franchise. The power of a franchise is in its proven track record, not flash-in-the-pan popularity. Invest in a solid franchise that has stood the test of time and performed well in a variety of different economic climates. You’ll also want a franchisor that’s a good fit for you – culturally. Check out message boards and discussion sites to see what other franchisees have to say about their experiences.

Additionally, be sure to choose the right business for the right location. Of course you want to choose a franchise that inspires and excites you, but if your potential customers don’t share your enthusiasm you’re just simply out of luck. Research the community and plumb the demographics of your target audience. Check out potential competitors and see whether the area can support another similar business.

3. Cutting the Wrong Corners

Getting started can mean a large up-front investment in equipment and supplies. Write a comprehensive business plan and budget for everything you’ll need. Cutting too many corners at the start can lead to long-term complications, from equipment failures to lost revenue and even possible customer lawsuits.

4. Settling for Mediocre Employees

Your employees are the heart and soul of your new franchise. Take the time to recruit hardworking, personable employees that will represent you well to your customers. Develop thorough and thoughtful job descriptions, keeping in mind the kind of personnel that will interact well with your customers. Don’t scrimp on salaries; pay your people what they’re worth and you’ll have more time to spend building your business instead of interviewing and hiring new workers.

5. Forgetting About Uncle Sam’s Cut

Get some assistance from a tax attorney when writing your business plan, to maximize your deductions and factor in tax liabilities for your new franchise. Too many franchisees forget all about this particular detail until they get an unpleasant surprise at tax time. The best time to start thinking about taxes is April 16th — for next year.

6. Failing to Work Towards Goals

While your business plan likely has a set of (hopefully) attainable goals for one, two, five and ten year increments, it’s important to remember that they’re not just figures on paper for the purposes of getting a loan. These should be realistic goals that you are actually working to achieve. Instead of burying them in your business plan, post them on your bulletin board and measure your success against them on a regular basis.

7. Ignoring Customer Reviews and Feedback 

Customer reviews are a necessary part of doing business in this day and age, when social media posts can go viral and make or break a business reputation. Franchisees who ignore a bad review on their Yelp site do so at their own peril. Conversely, social media and review sites offer business owners a terrific opportunity to interact with customers and get feedback, both positive and negative in order to improve their operations. Be sure to respond to customer comments and reviews, and smooth any feathers ruffled by a bad customer experience.

8. Not Understanding the Franchise Model

If you’re getting into a franchise in order to be your own boss and do your own thing, then a franchise may not be for you. The franchise model is based on conformity and uniformity. You may be the boss of your own operation, but you’ll still have to answer to a higher headquarters. Many decisions will be out of your hands, and the hard work and long hours required to start up a franchise may even dictate your work schedule.

9. Putting Too Much Expectation on the Brand

Number one in franchise marketing mistakes is failing to do your own marketing. It’s important to remember that franchises fail on pretty much the same scale as independent businesses. Of course, your choice of franchise will make a big difference, but complacency can doom you to failure nonetheless. Even with a strong, popular brand, you’ll still need to develop and implement an effective local marketing plan in order to ensure the success of your operation.

10. Failing to Read the Fine Print — Again

Even after many years of operating a successful operation, you could be told that your franchise contract is not being renewed. Franchisors make such decisions every day, often to the detriment of the affected franchisees. It’s important to realize that the franchisor holds all the cards in this game, and can make changes at any time, from procedures to product lines to locations and more. Once again, consult a seasoned franchise attorney at the outset and be prepared for the worst. Unfortunately, the term “buying” a franchise is a misnomer; you’re really only leasing it. Realize that it may only be a short term deal and be ready with a backup plan.

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How To Put Customers At The Center Of Franchise Marketing

How To Put Customers At The Center Of Franchise Marketing

This post by Brian Iredell, Director National Sales at Signpost, was originally published at Franchising USA.

This year’s International Franchise Association Convention in Las Vegas was a celebration of all the exciting developments in the franchise world today. The biggest event in the industry, IFA 2015 hosted almost 4,000 professionals that came for forward-thinking keynote speakers, educational sessions and roundtables, and presentations on the latest innovations in franchise management, financing, growth, and more. The excitement reflected the rosy 2015 economic predictions of a 5.1% rise in GDP and 247,000 new US jobs.

Signpost was there attending sessions, and meeting with franchisors, franchisees and vendors to discuss the future of franchise marketing. An emerging theme that surfaced was the importance of focusing on the end customer. There are many catch phrases that refer to our current age of the customer:“1-to-1 communication,” “relationship marketing” and “big data” were all making the rounds. We want to avoid the adage “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” and share actionable tips to start putting the customer at the center of your franchise marketing.

Read the rest of the article on Franchising USA’s ‘How To Put Customers At The Center Of Franchise Marketing’ page by clicking here.

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Are Your Franchisees’ Marketing Not Working? Maybe It’s Not Them

Are Your Franchisees' Marketing Not Working? Maybe It's Not ThemAs a franchisor, you not only have the job of building your brand on a national level, but you have the additional responsibility of helping to manage and support your franchisees’ marketing efforts on a local level, to ensure their success and enhance the reputation of the brand. So you set up a program with marketing guidelines, funding and even promotional materials, but it just doesn’t seem to be working out as you had hoped. What went wrong?

When it comes to franchises, marketing is a team effort, but unfortunately, not all teams play well together. It takes a combination of communication, resources, dedication, enthusiasm and intuitive leveraging of individual talent to accomplish common goals and achieve victory. You need to give your franchisees the correct tools, instruct them on how to use them, and then motivate them to winning behaviors and champion their successes.

Provide Marketing Funds for Franchisees

In providing franchisees with funding for local marketing campaigns, franchisors must tread a fine line between being overly restrictive on how the funds are used, and not being restrictive enough. While you want to ensure that the funds are used for their intended purpose, that being marketing rather than inventory, rent or other budget items, you also don’t want to discourage franchisees from applying for funding because the process is too complicated or time consuming.

By providing a clearly defined set of funding guidelines along with a streamlined reimbursement process, franchisors stand a much better chance of getting franchisees to participate meaningfully in a local marketing program.

Provide Expert Guidance

Designate a knowledgeable marketing management team to champion and support the efforts of franchisees. Many operators are so busy running their franchises that they don’t have time to learn the ins and outs of local marketing, and will gladly accept helpful advice and guidelines on how to proceed. Your marketing manager or team should be in charge of standardizing and harmonizing the marketing efforts of franchises, including providing approved content, graphics and templates, as well as managing or overseeing local business listings for a consistent message and format.

Make it a Team Effort

Franchisors should make a concerted effort to get to know their franchisees, to understand their strengths and weaknesses as well as the particular challenges they face in their individual markets. To this end it’s a great idea to get out in the field every so often and visit different franchises, perhaps even check out their nearest competition.

Every team has players with different skill sets. Successful teams leverage the skill sets of their players to best effect. By pairing stronger players in the marketing arena with those who are struggling, the whole team benefits. Conversely, franchisees with weaker marketing skills might have helpful management or operational advice to pass on to their marketing partners in exchange.

Remember to acknowledge, promote, and reward successful marketing efforts. Not only will it incentivize continued efforts, but it gives other franchisees something to strive for and a clear outline of what kind of marketing activities are most effective.

Above all, don’t be afraid to ask for help. In the constantly evolving digital marketplace, it’s pretty much impossible for any one person to be a subject matter expert these days. Even the best marketing teams need outside help once in a while. Encourage your marketing manager or team to be open and honest about their areas of expertise and let you know when they’re in over their head.

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The Why and How to Make Your Website Suitable for Mobile

The Why and How to Make Your Website Suitable for MobileIn 2014, mobile Internet access surpassed desktop usage, and in 2015 the landscape continues to evolve to reflect the increasing emphasis on mobile. Not satisfied with just cell phones and tablets, consumers are now trying out a variety of wearable devices such as smart watches, glasses and clothing that perform both singular and multiple functions. And smart phones and tablets currently are expected to do a whole lot more than just make calls and connect you to the Internet; customers expect to use mobile devices as a personal assistant, to send them reminders, provide directions, keep an appointment schedule, pay for purchases and perform a whole variety of other functions. It may not slice, dice or chop, but today’s mobile devices can do just about everything else.

Is Your Website Mobile-Friendly?

As a result of the mobile invasion, we’ve seen a lot of emphasis on the need for mobile-friendly websites, which will display correctly on a variety of devices including smartphones, iPhones, iPads and tablets. Sites that are not mobile-friendly either will not load at all or will be functionally unusable on some devices. If a consumer cannot access your website on his or her mobile device, he or she will simply move on to the next site that is mobile-friendly. Most distressing of all, they may never return to your site, even when it pops up in their next local search.

Business owners who aren’t sure whether their website is mobile friendly can visit Google’s test site, enter their site’s URL and get a quick evaluation. Some basic features of a mobile friendly website are:

  • Phone numbers and physical or email addresses can be selected to provide directions, place a call or send an email message from the mobile device;
  • Contain small file sizes for images and graphics to facilitate faster loading;
  • Do not contain Flash media files, which are not supported by Apple and some other mobile devices.

Simply being mobile-friendly, however, is so 2014. In 2015, your website should be optimized for mobile.

Optimized versus Mobile-Friendly Websites

Optimization takes mobile-friendly a step further, and makes a website not only accessible on a variety of mobile devices, but provides a more convenient and pleasing user experience. A mobile optimized website takes into consideration the size of the screen on the device used to access it and reformats content, increases the size of navigation buttons and optimizes the size of images and graphics for better viewing. Some key elements of a mobile optimized website are:

  • Thumb-friendly navigation buttons with large touch-points;
  • Optimized graphics and content for priority display of critical information;
  • Click-through functionality that makes selections easier without the need to type;
  • Option to view desktop version of the site.

Responsive Website Design

Initially, as mobile devices became more and more popular, web designers began to create sites tailored specifically for cell phones and tablets. As mobile devices continue to proliferate, however, keeping up with the many different screen sizes and ratios became somewhat cumbersome. As a result, many businesses are now opting for a new type of responsive website design that is adaptable to any mobile device. Instead of formatting itself for a specific browser or type of device, a responsive website orients itself to the screen size of the device.

Mobile Applications

Combining a mobile application with a mobile friendly or optimized website is another option for companies that have functions that can be accomplished without visiting the main website. Whether it’s making reservations, placing a recurring order, managing a customer rewards account or checking the status of a delivery, a mobile app lets customers handle simple transactions quickly and easily without the need to even log on to the Internet.

So for 2015, the emphasis is increasingly on mobile. While it’s still important to maintain a dynamic desktop website, since much of the information, blogs and other content is indexed by Google and helps to achieve and maintain good search ranking, mobile websites are critical for driving sales and broadening your customer base.

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7 Local Marketing Tips to Promote Your Fitness Franchise

7 Tips to Promoting Your Fitness FranchiseWith an ever-increasing emphasis on health and wellness, now is a great time to be in the fitness business. And if you’re the proud owner of a fitness franchise, you’re no doubt already enjoying the benefits of a surefire recipe for success and national brand recognition. When it comes to promoting your fitness franchise at a local level, however, you still have work to do. Here are seven helpful local marketing tips to get you started.

1. Create an Engaging Online Presence

Customers looking for a fitness center will typically browse your website and local listings first, to see if your facility is what they’re looking for — key word being looking. Show them how great your facility is with photos, video tours and sample workouts. Add a blog to your website with regular fitness tips and advice, diet plans, healthy recipes and news and events going on at your facility. Create a calendar page where you can post times and descriptions of your classes and keep it updated regularly. Customers know that if your online presence is engaging, chances are your facility is as well. Check with the franchise corporate team to see what they provide and what’s allowed.

2. Advertise Locally

Your franchisor is promoting the brand on the national level, but you need to handle the local fitness marketing campaign. After all, you may also be competing against other franchises or independent fitness centers that are operating nearby. Target your local market with ads on community radio stations, local cable channels, newspapers and circulars. Try sending out postcards via the USPS’ geo-targeted delivery service to select neighborhoods in your area.

3. Make Use of Flyers and Printed Materials

Design an attractive flyer — or get one from your franchisor if possible, and customize it with your location. Post flyers on local bulletin boards in community centers, libraries, grocery stores and local apartment complexes. Keep a stack on the front desk for customers to give to their friends, along with a coupon for a free workout, exercise class or other try-me incentive.

4. Offer Referral Rewards

Your national franchise may already have a referral rewards program in place, but if not, set up your own on a local scale. Offer freebies or membership discounts in exchange for referrals that become new members. Everyone likes a free tee shirt, health drink or fitness accessory, and if it’s imprinted with your logo and address, it’s free advertising for you as well. Try offering rewards on a sliding scale based on the number of referrals a member brings in.

5. Offer a Free Workout Session 

Help your customers bring in referrals by providing them a coupon for a free visit, tour and workout session with a professional. This gives the prospective customer incentive to come in and get the full experience. Once they’re flushed with endorphins they’re much more likely to sign up than if they’re just dropping in to look around. Another great idea is to allow members to bring a guest to certain fitness classes. After all, when friends workout together, they’re much more likely to stick to their workout routine, so this is an effective way to bring in new members.

6. Add Lots of Variety

One fitness center cannot be all things to all people, and your franchise no doubt follows the model of the corporate brand when it comes to classes and equipment. But you can still add variety by changing things up and adding a new and unusual class now and again. Even if your focus is pure spinning, you can have a class or two in a different style or with a twist. Consider having various guest instructors come in on a regular basis to teach different kinds of exercise classes, and promote them well to ensure good attendance. You may want to add the most popular ones to your regular schedule.

7. Hold Fitness Seminars

Leverage the expertise of your trainers to put together a fitness seminar for the community, focused around diet and exercise. Tailor it to the demographics of the surrounding community. For instance, if you’re located in an area surrounded by golden agers, you could host a seminar based on fitness needs of seniors and exercise techniques to avoid hip fractures. If you’re in a community with a lot of bicycle clubs you could host a seminar on strength training and nutrition for bicyclists. Be sure to promote your seminars to your existing member base via email and sms as well as through liaisons, i.e. senior centers, bike clubs, etc.

Remember, of course, not to stray too far from the franchise brand, and make sure all of your efforts and activities are appropriate. When available, make maximum use of printed materials, banners and approved advertising content provided by the franchisor. All of your local marketing strategies should be geared to promote the brand as well as your individual franchise.

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6 Steps To Identify Franchise Marketing Vendors That Fit Your Brand

Franchise Marketing Vendor

As a franchisor, a tremendous amount of your time and effort is spent on building and marketing your franchise brand. After all, the stronger your brand, the greater the demand for your franchise opportunities and the faster you can grow your business. Additionally, you benefit from helping your franchisees with their own local marketing efforts; their success is your success. How do you accomplish all of this, executing your franchise marketing plan while making sure you’re maximizing your marketing budget? The right marketing partner can help.

Choosing a Franchise Marketing Partner

Finding the right fit for your franchise business can be a time consuming process, but it’s time well spent. Better to spend the time up front to find a helpful, effective partner that works for all franchisees than to spend the time at the back end trying to get out of a partnership post roll out. Take a comprehensive approach to reviewing different marketing agencies, platforms, and software solutions to determine the right partner for your needs.

  1. Determine your franchise system objective
  2. Identify an initial list of vendors that can deliver on your needs
  3. Gather information on the vendors on your list
  4. Review the information and establish a shortlist of vendors
  5. Schedule meetings and demonstrations with shortlisted vendors
  6. Evaluate the finalists and select a vendor that fits with your franchise

1. Determine Your Objective

It all starts with determining what it is that you want to accomplish. It’ll help clarify your needs and set you on the path to finding the right partner. What is your goal, when do you want to achieve it and how much is already being taken care of? Examples of objectives for a corporate franchise marketing team could be to:

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Ensure national brand consistency
  • Generate more local foot traffic
  • Improve online reputation

It’s essential to determine what part of your budget you can allocate to these marketing efforts based on priority. The objective and available budget are two important criteria to evaluate marketing vendors against.

2. Identify an Initial List 

The place to start preparing your list of vendors (10 is a good number to start with) would be with those you’ve already have contact with. Add to that recommendations from other franchisors and any other reputable vendors that handle clients in your industry, both locally and nationally. Local vendors may be convenient, but you’ll want to make sure they have the chops to handle effective nationwide marketing. Lastly, you should do an online search and learn about any new innovative vendors that may be up and coming as new technologies are constantly changing what’s possible.

3. Gather Information

Once you’ve identified an initial list, try and get as much information as possible about each of the vendors. Request direct information, check their website and other online resources, ask for feedback from industry connections, and if individual franchisees have already worked with the vendor – that is the ideal input to consider. At this point your main goal is to confirm whether the vendor’s offerings will help you accomplish your objective. This is your first impression of the vendor where you can learn about their responsiveness, communication style, and interest in your franchise brand.

4. Determine Shortlist

Some vendors will take themselves out of the running by either not responding or responding in a way that isn’t helpful to you. Reviewing the information by those who respond will no doubt make it clear that some companies simply are not a good fit. Either the details of the services offered do not match your objective, an out-of-budget price, or because they are not a “culture fit” with your franchise system. Ideally you’d want approximately 3 vendors on your final shortlist.

5. Meet and Demo

For the vendors on the final shortlist, you’ll want to dive right in and learn about every intricacy of what they can offer your franchise. Both sides should have the intent to build a long-term partnership that makes both better off. You should understand not just what the vendor offers, but what exactly they’d offer your franchise system and how it would help accomplish your objective (never lose sight of your initial reason for exploring marketing vendors). Here are some questions you may want to ask:

  • What are the two greatest strengths/differentiators your company has?
  • What are the unique benefits your company can offer us?
  • What quantifiable results have you achieved for other franchises?
  • How will we measure the success of your efforts?
  • How will this work for individual franchisees? How can we optimize franchisee adoption/compliance?
  • How does this work with my existing efforts and systems?
  • What is a projected timeline of results we should expect to see once we start working together?
  • What franchise experience do you have?
  • What experience do you have in my particular industry?
  • Who would be our key account representative and what is his/her commitment to our account?

For vendors to provide the best answer, it is essential that you also share your objectives, challenges, ideas, and concerns. This is the stage where trust needs to be built to establish and develop a possible long-term relationship.

6. Make Your Final Selection

Now’s the time to make the final choice between vendors. The process might end with an initial pilot before a long-term contract or nationwide rollout, but at the very least you should commit to one vendor. In today’s fast-moving world, standing still means taking a step back as competitors won’t be waiting for you. After going through this process, you should be confident you’re making the right choice and on your way to accomplishing your franchise marketing objectives.

Good luck!

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Signpost Local Marketing Software Case Study | Active Life: Westchester Yoga Arts

Westchester Yoga ArtsWestchester Yoga Arts Introduces the Millenia-Old Practice of Yoga to More People with Signpost

Signpost works with thousands of small and medium sized local businesses across the country that each have their own story. We will share them here on our blog. This post reviews the story of Westchester Yoga Arts in New Rochelle, NY.

1) Tell us a little bit about Westchester Yoga Arts.

Westchester Yoga Arts has been in business for about 10 years, but the name we have today probably came into existence about 7 years ago when we separated from the original company and we kept expanding. It was rough around the time of the economic crisis of 2008, but 4 years later we were bursting at the seams and we had to expand from Pelham to New Rochelle. It was like a phoenix rising from the flames!

We offer guidance in a range of classes, specializing in yoga, with classes on belly dance, as well as Zumba. We live and breathe yoga, and to that end we also offer tips and advice for future generations of yoga instructors to pursue their passions with helpful videos on our Youtube channel.

I knew this is what I wanted to do when I first took a few yoga classes and immediately fell in love doing it. It was my dream to retire and open up my own studio – and when Westchester Yoga Arts finally opened its doors – it was a dream come true.

2) How do you promote your services?

In the past we’ve tried everything from print to radio advertising but the main issue we found was the lack of being able to track results. These solutions had no guarantee and provided no way of truly knowing how the ad was performing.

At the moment we use 2 local deal sites – Groupon and LivingSocial to supplement the services from Signpost. While deal-hopping has been a small issue for us, most people see the value of the classes we teach once they are in the door and thankfully, our retention rates have been fairly high.

3) How does Signpost fit your marketing strategy?

What drew me to Signpost was its ability to capture contact details, send SMS, and send out our offers automatically. To me, any marketing platform that can bring people in with a hook is a huge draw and Signpost has been incredibly successful in that regard.

Seasonally, in the past we have experienced a cyclical lull in attendance for the winter, but Signpost has definitely increased attendance. When we featured yoga in our campaign, the yoga classes were very well attended – as opposed to Zumba which wasn’t mentioned, dropped in the typical fashion. This year, with Signpost’s help, our attendance for yoga classes has done better than in the previous 9 years.

4) At Signpost, one of our core values is “Signpost fights for small businesses.” How have you experienced this so far?

Honestly, as a client from both the past platform and the new, we’ve seen constant improvements in how Signpost works with us and incorporates our feedback. There is so much new stuff, and we get speedy responses from everyone we contact and our account manager has been very polite on the phone and very accommodating. It’s just been phenomenal.

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