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How to Market Your Franchise

To build a strong marketing strategy, franchisors need to leverage all of the development tools available to them, including social media, franchise development websites and brokers.

When deciding whether or not to franchise, emerging brands need to ask themselves how they will get the word out about the opportunity to prospective franchisees. This is called franchise development marketing, and it is an integral part of any franchisor’s growth strategy. Now, as franchisors look forward to a post-COVID world, it is more important than ever to have a solid marketing plan in place to encourage healthy franchise growth. 

1851 Franchise spoke with BizFranHub co-founder and managing partner Jonathan Pace to learn more about how emerging franchisors can start to market their franchise. 

1851 Franchise: How can a business know when it's ready to start franchising?

Jonathan Pace: They need to be at the point in the business where they have grown and they have scaled to multiple locations already in a local market. The business also needs to be performing with margins that are at least above average for their industry. At that point, they have a proven business model and have figured out the consumer marketing, which means customers are coming in, and they have more demand than they can handle. People are calling from outside markets or nearby geographic markets and asking about bringing the brand there. When they start to get those kinds of phone calls, and they can’t necessarily expand outside that local area themselves, franchising is a great answer. Now, they need to decide how to continue their growth strategy. If they want a local invested representative in a designated area investing alongside then, franchising is right for them.

1851 Franchise: How can a franchise start to get the word out about its franchise opportunity?

Pace: I am a franchise consultant, so I can be a little biased, but I think consultants are a big benefit because we are working with candidates and we are finding out more about their individual skill sets. The first 10 franchisees you bring on need to be extremely strong operators — they are going to be the validation that helps you sell your next 100 franchises. Consultants can match candidates up with new emerging brands that they’ve never heard of or seen before in their market. Brokers have a deeper understanding of the brand’s founders, the flagship location, why they started the franchise and the kind of owner they want. Consultants should be used in conjunction with other marketing methods. A big part of the strategy needs to be figuring out what a brand’s ideal franchise owner will look like and then going out to places where those people will be. Additionally, brands need to get their information up on a franchise development website so people can find it easily. That will drive contacts and leads. They can also advertise in different trade magazines like Entrepreneur and try to get some news coverage. 

An emerging brand should focus their marketing on their local area and then grow regionally from there. If it is an East Coast franchise trying to open on the West Coast, there won’t be as much brand recognition. If they start where the HQ is located and work out regionally from there through marketing, people will have more familiarity with the concept.

1851 Franchise: How can franchisors use social media for franchise marketing?

Pace: Today, social media is so critical, especially in terms of establishing the brand’s identity and mission. Candidates want to know what the brand stands for so they can determine if their values align with the franchisor’s values. If they can see those values on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, they will be able to develop a deeper understanding of what the franchisees are doing in real time, as well as what is going on at the corporate level. Also, as people consider starting a new business, they are looking to social media for ideas. Your social media marketing can speak to the fact that the business will give them the opportunity to be their own boss and control their own schedule in a way that isn’t allowed in the corporate world. They can build up a business with equity and can one day potentially sell it as opposed to going the traditional job route where payment, commitment and responsibility grows over time. Franchisors should use social media to show the benefits of franchising, and that is going to drive more candidates.

1851 Franchise: What are some common mistakes franchisors make when marketing their franchise?

Pace: One of the most common mistakes is going out and trying to market to the masses. Initially, you have to find extremely strong franchisees that are also going to have a passion for the brand. They need to be your brand ambassadors — spokespeople who are going to tell the next wave of franchisees how great the opportunity has been. If franchisors go out and spend a ton of money on large-scale, generalized marketing campaigns, they might end up with franchisees who have the money to invest, but might not have the real passion that will drive growth to 100-plus franchises in the future. Franchisors should instead focus on niche marketing that will reach ideal candidates — where are ideal candidates spending their time, what are they reading, etc.? Find the places where you can reach the ideal candidates who share your passion. Don’t be so eager to sell those first few franchises. The beginning is where you need to slow down and find high-quality franchisees that are invested in the brand's future. You are still creating the brand at this point, so those first franchisees are part of the “founder circle.” They believed in the brand more than anyone else because there was no validation yet. 

1851 Franchise: How can franchisors optimize marketing on the consumer front?

Pace: It all comes back to the training and the operation manuals that they have set up, specifically the marketing assistance that they provide to franchisees. What I like to see is a franchisor using digital advertising and finding ways that the franchisee can have their local marketing automated. By having the social media in place, as well as things like a national call center that answers incoming phone calls, franchisees will be able to focus on growing the business, hiring people and optimizing the customer experience. Having those marketing assets and tools in place will drive a lot of traffic for franchisees.