Hats off to the team at Franchise Update Media for a terrific Franchise Consumer Marketing Conference last week in Atlanta. The Vya team came away from the event with some great connections and an instructive view into the realities faced by today’s franchise marketers. Here are just some of the powerful insights and recommendations we heard from those who are on the frontlines of franchise marketing.
The Challenge and Opportunity of Specialization
In his opening keynote, William Espey of Chipotle Mexican Grill advised attendees, “Don’t try to be everything for everyone, be something for someone, true to who you are as a brand.”
This message aligned with what Darrell Johnson of FRANdata spoke of later in the day in his “State of Franchising” presentation. He noted that the franchise industry is seeing subsector specialization. One example is specialized fitness brands. As a result, marketing is shifting to an individualized, focused approach.
Individualized marketing certainly can pose a challenge to franchisors at a time when it is hard to keep up with all the new platforms and marketing channels available for spreading your message. At the same time, there can be the challenge of scaling as your number of franchisees grows. Mike Rotondo from Tropical Smoothie Café brilliantly underscored this point by explaining if you aren’t prepared when your number of franchisees explodes, it’s like “building the plane as you are flying it.”
Technology Vendor Selection and Implementation
The FCMCon program offered guidance for those dealing with the challenges of specialization and scale. There was a helpful panel session on Day 2 dedicated to choosing the right technology platform for your brand, which addressed issues like streamlining processes as you prepare to scale and deploying new marketing channels.
How franchisors go about choosing partners (not just technology) to help enhance their marketing efforts was a recurring topic discussed by numerous franchisors throughout the conference. We captured some great advice on this topic that bears repeating:
Barbara Moran of Moran Family of Brands advised, “When you outsource, you need to pick a vendor that matches your core values.” She added, it’s “important to have vendors that really understand what your objectives are.”
Ed Waller of Paul Davis Restoration asked attendees, “Do you want to teach a vendor about franchising or go with someone that already understands the industry?”
“What to look for when choosing a technology vendor? 1) capability, 2) scalability, 3) longevity.” This was the advice of Ali Rauch from Chicken Salad Chick.
Shawn Clark from Paul Davis Restoration offered a number of helpful recommendations, such as, “You need to focus on the implementation of the software as much as you focus on choosing the software. …Establish a sense of urgency: you need to convince internal stakeholders that doing nothing is more dangerous than change. …Create a vision – develop an elevator speech to educate and promote the technology initiative internally. …Create short-term wins but don’t declare victory too early or else you lose momentum.”
The Essential Ingredient: Franchisee Engagement
Of course, any marketing initiative in the franchise industry requires the engagement of franchisees to be truly successful. Throughout the conference, brands shared their insights for franchisee engagement. Here are some of their top insights and recommendations:
Franchisors can ensure the brand’s marketing strategies make their way to local markets by helping franchisees with planning their marketing—calendar planning, campaign how-to-guides, email reminders.
“The more we can do to take the planning off their plate, the better,” said Brooke Budke of TITLE Boxing Club. And Steve Schildwachter of Brightstar Care added, “A franchise company is a consulting firm for their franchisees.”
Several companies talked about how they have regular marketing conference calls with franchisees. “Sometimes you need to have a third-party expert [like a marketing agency or marketing partner] present to your franchisees to get buy-in,” explained Duone Byars of Christian Brothers Automotive.
Franchisors also emphasized that communication should not just be one-way down to the franchisee. Matt Smith of sweetFrog Enterprises acknowledged, “We [the corporate marketing department] have evolved to a better listening organization; we are a vehicle for franchisees to communicate up.”
Other franchisors believe in franchisees as promoters. They suggested finding those who can be positive influencers for other franchisees. For example, some franchisors feature franchisees as presenters during webinars.
Darrell Johnson of FRANdata suggested, “If you want a franchisee to spend more money [on marketing], show them it makes more money.”
In addition to sharing the best practices and advice of successful franchisees, you can use data to drive the point home.
As Adam Passarelli of Elements Massage described, “It was so important to show a dashboard to our franchisees to show results [and to compare performance]. The franchisees at the bottom call into the marketing department for help.”
Interrelationship Between Internal and External Efforts
Franchisors also talked about the importance of walking the walk—being true to your brand promise at every level of the organization—internally and externally. This was echoed by the featured keynote speakers.
“Everything you are doing internally needs to be a reflection of what you want to express externally,” explained William Espey of Chipotle Mexican Grill in his opening keynote.
This sentiment was echoed by Seth Mattison of FutureSite Labs in the closing keynote when he said, “The experience leaders create for their employees mirrors the experience the brand creates for its customers. Customer experience is a reflection of culture, culture is a reflection of leadership.”
The franchise marketing experts who shared their insights from the stage and in the hallways of FCMCon certainly gave us plenty to consider as we continue to advance our MRM solutions for franchise clients and other distributed organizations. And we’re already looking forward to next year’s conference!