Franchising Must Change in Order to Disrupt
Franchising Must Change in Order to Disrupt

What's wrong and what's right with the current state of franchising.

This year marked my 10th IFA Annual Convention – which is crazy considering I am only 34. Within those 10 conventions, I have only spoken twice. Hopefully, as my experience deepens, my credibility advances and things become less political, I will be able to share more of the “best practices” that I see in my day-to-day client work. Until then, I will use this platform to tell my stories.

While still a unicorn in my career, had I been able to speak at IFA about franchising, franchise development, social media and PR, these are some of the things I would have discussed:

Social media is dead (at least for business). And I told you so.
A few years ago, I had the privilege of taking a last minute add-on slot at a speaking session about social media. In that session I discussed unbalanced opinions as they related to local Facebook pages and footprints. I said that essentially, there were two schools of thought. First, host everything under one roof as a brand, especially since franchisees bought a license to your brand. Second, give franchisees the power to control their own footprints. My best advice was to go with the first option because Facebook would eventually figure out a way to monetize its system.

I got blasted by another marketing professional for saying that (she couldn’t stand the fact that someone else could be right). To be clear, I put a giant asterisk next to my opinion, as it was just that. I didn’t claim to be the be-all-end-all, just someone providing his best guess as to the right path.

Flash forward and local pages have been hammeredSocial media is dying fast for businesses and for experts, because everyone is an expert now. When you know how to log in, post a status or photo and like a friend’s post, you turn into an expert. Social is out; content is in. And, like I said, brand pages will continue to become more feasible from a spending standpoint. Fifty franchisees paying for their local boosts every day adds up. If all those funds were put toward driving sales through social, there would be a better chance at success.

Further, today’s resumes now include Microsoft Word, Excel and Facebook as skills. Who’s still hiring a Microsoft Word expert? Who’s still asking how many words you can type per minute? Change is upon us. It just depends on how selfish you are when it comes to making that change.

Franchising needs more protection for franchisees
In an ideal world, a governing body would prevent bad franchisors from taking bad franchisees’ money and keep bad suppliers from providing bad services to franchisors. Unfortunately, in the real world, there is a vicious cycle of bad that hurts the good. There are bad consultants who don’t say no to bad businesses, and the cycle continues.

What would happen if being a member of the IFA meant that you were certified as a credible brand? What if that shield actually meant something? What if a CFE meant you were actually a protector, something that could help you get new clients, clout and franchisees?

I would love to see some organizations step up (the Canadian Franchise Association actually does a nice job of vetting its members) and say no to the bad more often.

Disruption is great, but stop using the term “silver bullet”
I laughed when I heard the key term of IFA this year was “disruption.” Come on, guys – disruption has been happening forever. Every time the government throws down its political B.S. hammer on franchising, it causes disruption. When social media came on the scene, that was disruptive. Unfortunately, everyone was afraid of it, so the social media disruption came five years too late. If we are going to be a disruptive business sector, then let’s actually be disruptive. Let’s get the biggest and brightest brands into the discussion. Where is McDonald’s? Where is Domino's? Where is Papa John’s? Why isn’t Fred Deluca keynoting? Don’t just use the term disruptive, actually disrupt!

I would also love to see “community” replace “silver bullet.” The combination of many good parts working in the same direction starts disruption and creates opportunity.

Youth is great when you actually embrace it
So, there is this “NextGen Franchising” push. Cool. The problem is getting all the young people in franchising involved. Youth in franchisees is awesome, but we are losing out on a huge opportunity to raise young CEOs, franchise development pros, marketing experts and more. And after raising them, the trick is keeping them.

Think about the average age of the IFA convention attendee. Now, age is not bad, and neither is experience, but where is franchising’s farm system? Truly getting new blood involved in the industry requires more than just words.

PR works great, especially when a brand owns its process
“Get me more leads,” they all say.

Great. Let’s get you more leads! People operate this way because they’ve been taught that leads are the answer to everything. At our agency, we don’t get a ton of new leads.

However, the leads we do get are quality. This is why we close about 90 percent of our leads and turn them into long-term clients. When did the attitude become more automatically equals better?

Remember when the portals gave you all those leads and you didn’t have time to call people back? Remember when you didn’t even call the leads that came into your site because time ran out?

Qualifiers will be a key hire for many brands. So will enhancing the marketing to focus on a less-is-more approach. If brand X only got 50 leads in a month vs. 1,000, could they still be successful? Duh. If you found your 20 to 30 perfect needles, your price per deal would decrease and, ultimately, royalty would increase.

Everything you can do from a PR/marketing standpoint is great, but only if you can create a strong sales process to handle increased volume or embrace the less-is-better-when-better-closes mentality.