Franchisors: Emerge a Better, More Efficient Marketing Organization Post-Pandemic

Aug 28, 2020

Liz Schaefer
LinkedIn

How franchisor marketing departments can emerge more efficient and better in serving franchisees post-pandemic

Even though 2020 may feel like the year of “going nowhere,” the truth is, many organizations are moving in new directions with speeds and efficiencies never seen before. The question for many is whether the crisis-driven changes they are making are temporary, or will they last as companies emerge from the challenges brought on by the pandemic?

In a new report titled, Reimagining the Post-Pandemic Organization, management consulting firm McKinsey suggests, “The organization of the future is taking shape in the moves that companies are making now.” For franchisors, being among these organizations of the future means taking steps now that will position them to emerge better and more efficient on the other side of the crisis.

McKinsey asks, “How can leaders accelerate their companies’ journeys toward becoming not only faster, but also better for customers, employees, and society at large?” We’ll examine how franchisor marketing departments can accelerate their journeys toward becoming, not only more efficient (and faster, really), but also better in serving franchisees, who need corporate marketing to be at the top of its game and in their corner more than ever.

WHERE TO LOOK FOR EFFICIENCY GAINS

The current environment underscores a long-standing challenge that franchisors face – how to efficiently manage all of your marketing resources across your distributed organization, particularly localized versions of materials that address local market conditions. Of course, local conditions have always varied. But this has never been more apparent than in recent months, with the patchwork of state and local guidelines that businesses must now navigate. To emerge more efficient, and at the same time, better serve your franchisees, you need to solve the local market conditions challenge.

Solving this challenge involves improving the efficiency of your franchise marketing organization. A good place to start is to look for common symptoms of inefficiency. Are you or your team…

  • spending too much time adding local contact information to marketing pieces for franchisees or resizing digital and print ads for them?
  • licking envelopes and stamps for your own corporate mailings or for franchisees?
  • sending the same limited time offer (LTO) or seasonal campaign kit to all franchise locations even though some locations aren’t able to use all of the materials?
  • receiving lots of emails from franchisees for creative/artwork requests?
  • pulling your franchisees’ email lists so you can send the corporate e-newsletter to their customers?
  • providing marketing materials to franchisees but are not sure if they are being used?
  • struggling with the recent need for remote collaboration because your design team has historically relied on interacting and sharing creative pieces in person rather than through more automated, digital workflows?
  • spending too much time being the administrator of the software for your marketing portal or do your designers spend too much time coding templates?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, you may discover these are opportunities to increase efficiencies of your marketing operations.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR LASTING CHANGE

Once you’ve pinpointed areas for gaining efficiency, prioritize the changes you can make now that will best position you to emerge with a more efficient marketing operation post-pandemic. A number of areas to consider fall under the category of efficient creative request management. By eliminating redundant “non-creative” creative work you can free up time of talented graphics resources for real creative work.

This aligns with treating your talent as your scarcest resource. As the McKinsey report explains, “The only sustainable advantage is rooted in harnessing the passion, skills, capabilities, judgment, and creativity that people bring to work.” In other words, your creative talent should not be wasted on minor graphic edits and your marketing talent should not be wasted on list or spreadsheet management, licking envelopes, or fielding email requests for common items that could efficiently be handled with a more automated approach. Below are some areas to look at for sustained efficiency gains.

Templated materials.

 If you’re looking to reduce the number of custom creative requests your team manages, templated materials could be the answer. Just ask Vya client Kona Ice. With a limited number of designers on staff, Kona’s marketing team was straining to handle the volume of custom requests from its growing number of franchisees. Kona significantly reduced the number of custom requests its design team processes by providing franchisees access to templated and customizable marketing materials via its marketing resource management system.

Kona’s Head of Branding and Digital Marketing Jessica Ross attests, “Overall, we’ve seen a decrease in the number of custom requests and we are much more efficient. We’ve been able to manage our growth with our existing marketing team, and I think our designers are happier too because they are spending more time designing and less time shuffling emails back and forth.” (Read more: Case Study: Kona Ice)

Well-designed templates are effective tools for consistent branding and also provide flexibility through customization to address a range of local market factors. They also allow your creative and design teams to focus on more strategic activities rather than getting bogged down in tweaking marketing pieces on demand. Variable fields can be auto-populated with contact details and pricing data stored in a franchisee’s profile – improving speed and accuracy. Read more tips for templating success.

Custom creative requests.

Of course, there are times when templated materials are not appropriate. If you lack the time or staff to quickly address custom creative requests from franchisees, look to leverage your marketing portal to streamline the process. When custom design support is needed, manage these requests – from initial request through approvals – within your marketing resource management system, eliminating back-and-forth emails and streamlining the process. This will not only make your operation more efficient, it will also allow you to be more responsive to franchisees, which is something we’ll come back to later in this post.

Direct marketing – mail and e-mail.

With a marketing resource management system, direct mail campaigns, including EDDM®in some cases, can be set up for franchisees to easily order within the system and fulfilled by your direct marketing partner. E-newsletters can be sent on behalf of franchisees to their lists which are scrubbed against op-outs for compliance with email regulations. Kona Ice franchisees have the ability to send their own promotional emails via their marketing system, giving their messages a personal and local touch, producing greater engagement than a corporate brand communication. This is just one example of how to address the local market conditions challenge we mentioned earlier.

Digital and print ads.

The simple task of resizing ads can be a significant drain on creative resources. Using a marketing resource management system, digital and print ads can be customized and resized. And the entire process can be managed transparently from initial request through design and approval.

Location profiles for efficient LTOs and seasonal campaigns.

A one-size-fits-all approach to LTOs and seasonal campaigns can be wasteful and costly. Tailoring marketing materials to the specific needs and location characteristics of each franchisee is one way to increase efficiency and reduce waste. And it’s something that is easily managed with technology. Campaign kits and LTO materials can be ordered on behalf of franchisees with order quantities driven by data stored in the franchisee’s digital profile – improving speed-to-market and reducing waste and cost.

A great example of this is Vya client Wayback Burgers, which believes strongly in the ability of LTOs to drive business to local franchisees. Wayback Burgers came to understand that deploying LTOs across more than 150 locations presents logistical challenges. Each location has its own unique configuration and requirements. Using location profiles that are defined in its marketing resource management system, Wayback Burgers is able to efficiently deliver the right quantities and types of marketing materials each franchisee needs to maximize its own success around LTOs. The cost savings is tremendous and waste is reduced significantly. (Read more: Case Study: Wayback Burgers)

BETTER SUPPORT FOR FRANCHISEES

As you consider the steps you can take now to put your organization in the strongest position possible following the pandemic, be sure to include improved support for your franchisees. It’s no secret that the success of your franchise organization depends on your franchisees’ ability to weather the crisis and beyond.

Choices & Options.

The oft-repeated quote, “Give ’em what they want,” is one way of approaching how you support franchisees. Franchisees want options. They like having choices. There are a variety of ways you can deliver. For National campaigns, provide different media elements for local execution within your umbrella campaign – like, billboards, social graphics, web, magazine and newspaper ads, and tear-off flyers. Provide more choices in the form of image options to address local customer profiles that may differ from your national customer profile.

Embrace data as a competitive differentiator.

The experts at McKinsey suggest, “The ability to gather, organize, interpret, and act on data and analytics will be the defining competitive differentiator of our lifetimes.” And this is clearly one area where franchisors can support franchisees.

Franchisors are collecting more data than ever before, as more customers use their apps or website to schedule a visit or pay for products and services. Unleash the power of all this data by using it to help franchisees engage those customers at the local level – from direct mail and email to loyalty programs and more.

Employee recruiting support.

Recruiting and hiring can be one of the greatest ongoing challenges for franchisees. When you create marketing materials for franchisees, be sure to include materials for employee recruitment, not just customer acquisition and retention.

Support grassroots marketing efforts.

As a franchisor, you have an opportunity to build a marketing culture among your franchisees by providing the right tools and training in a form that ensures effective local market outreach. Provide franchisees with profiles or lists of businesses, organizations and associations to network with that can help them grow their business.

Encourage franchisees to consider local sponsorships, which can be a powerful tool for franchisees to build relationships and visibility in the communities they serve. Sponsorships are effective because supporting local sports teams, charitable causes, the arts and other cultural organizations puts your brand in front of the customers and prospects you most want to reach at the local level.

BE FUTURE READY

Keep in mind that you don’t have to go it alone. During this time, when you may find yourself with staff reductions, look to external vendors and partners that fit an “ecosystem mindset.” McKinsey explains, “Companies that have these sorts of relationships are relying on them now for talent, know-how, and data to help fill gaps.” In this way, the right partners can serve as a bridge to the future.

It may be hard to find the time to look up from the many daily challenges you’ve been facing in 2020. But looking further down the road is essential to ensuring your organization is standing strong when the dust settles. Determine which short-term changes align with your long-term vision. The moves you’re making right now are laying the groundwork for your franchise business to emerge a more efficient, stronger and better organization.

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Tags: marketing process optimization, local marketing, marketing operations, franchise, streamline marketing, distributed marketing, franchise local marketing, flexible marketing

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