Community is key to marketing your franchise locally.
Talk to successful franchisees about how they were able to market effectively in their local areas and you’re bound to hear certain words and phrases pop up again and again: “community,” “grassroots,” “boots on the ground,” “getting involved.”
From the smallest towns to the biggest cities, there’s no one perfect formula that will work for every franchise. However, after speaking with owner-operators across the country, it’s clear there are some common threads for franchisees that flourish.
Becoming a part of the community
Carolina and Andrew Johnson were with Toppers Pizza from the very beginning (in fact, Andrew was taking college classes with Toppers founder and CEO Scott Gittrich). And while they’ve grown their first Toppers location into four stores across multiple states, the couple didn’t exactly launch out the gate with the world’s most sophisticated marketing plan when they started in Eau Claire, Wis.
“The first day we opened, it was totally dead,” Andrew recalled. “We were hoping people would be excited about a new place to try …”
Carolina explained the couple’s marketing budget was nonexistent, but she also knew they could use Toppers’ greatest asset to spread the good word – its team members.
The business duo immediately set to work getting involved with local organizations, especially the fraternity system. They sponsored every event and club they could with free pizza. Eventually, people took notice of the friendly couple who seemed to supply every community social function with delicious ‘za.
The first day they hit $1,000 in business was a banner moment. Now they see that kind of sales revenue around dinner time at a single location every single day. And while the brand’s marketing prowess has grown along with its presence across the country, Carolina and Andrew still invest heavily in community involvement.
“We still donate to any club that comes to us,” Carolina said. “We still do a lot with the fraternity systems.”
The importance of getting a brand’s name out there in the community was apparent to TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® Brentwood’s Sally Mink when she came aboard as marketing manager for the franchise location in Tennessee. The franchise had created a Facebook page, but it had forgotten to hit the publish button, helping to explain why no one was liking its posts. Besides some pay-per-click ads and flyers, that was pretty much it.
Mink knew she needed to get out and about in order to put TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® at the top of people’s minds.
“I didn’t have the money in the beginning to do big things like TV or radio,” Mink said. “I had a really small budget when I first started. I looked at free ways to market, started hitting the pavement, got my face out there and jumped into any kind of community event I could.”
From networking at the local chamber of commerce to dressing up moving trucks for parades, Mink’s goal was to “show the community that we’re here, we’re involved and we’re more than just a moving company.”
A lack of marketing budget forced Mink to get creative. At one point, she made a list of all the places around town that could be potential clients and made candy baskets for each one with TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® company sayings on them.
Just as with Carolina and Andrew at Toppers Pizza, Mink’s local marketing efforts took some time to manifest results, but once they hit, they didn’t let up. Just this April, Mink received 22 leads that came directly to her thanks to her local networking efforts. Meanwhile, since coming on board, Mink said her TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® location has seen consistent revenue growth of 20 percent or more year-over-year.
Becoming a community fixture was key for Manny Toor of Which Wich Superior Sandwiches, as well. Toor was drawn to the brand because of its good vibes (there’s a reason company leader Jeff Sinelli is referred to as Chief Vibe Officer, after all), and he dedicated himself to spreading that sense of community at his own locations, cultivating a positive environment for customers and employees alike in Virginia.
“Local marketing is everything to a Which Wich franchisee,” Toor said. “Marketing in local newspapers, reaching out to local bloggers, turning my personal Facebook page into everything about my restaurant and team.”
Toor has also found that having the right intentions toward a community goes a long way.
“We consistently stand behind doing anything and everything we can for children,” he said. “We have schools coming in and asking about fundraising – whatever we can do in the community, we do. The people we help tell their friends, and it turns into a snowball effect. It’s always better when your intent is to do something good for someone else, like feed a hungry child. Inherently, though, you do end up making money because people appreciate it and they come back.”
Entrepreneurs Need to Be Extroverts
Nick Powills, chief brand strategist at No Limit Agency, understands how crucial boots-on-the-ground marketing is for local franchises.
“Local marketing is all about getting your hands dirty with guerrilla marketing tactics at the local level,” he said. “Typically, when franchisees open their businesses, they don’t invest heavily into marketing in their community — school sponsorships, hosting events at the business, etc. The expectation is that the business can stand by itself. The reality is that in order to have buzz, you have to create it. General marketing tactics can be simple coupons, direct mail activities or even simple newspaper ads. Those who win the most are the ones who do it on a more intimate level — kissing babies and shaking hands.”
This is a lesson all the franchisees above learned well. Buying into an established business by becoming a franchisee means benefitting from a brand name that may already be on the tips of people’s tongues, but it doesn’t guarantee success. At the end of the day, franchisees are business owners, and like any other business owner, they must work at making themselves not just an alternative in their local community, but a favorite among customers.
The best way to accomplish this? Letting people see your face, learn your name and remember your business by getting out there and getting involved. Some franchisees may be natural introverts, but in order to successfully own local store marketing, they must be willing to shout from the mountain tops any which way they can in their local communities.