Jenny Brynteson and Mike Murtaugh don’t just give back to their communities—they listen, engage and rise to the opportunities presented.
Local marketing is the hot fudge sauce poured onto the sundae of franchising—it just makes everything sweeter. Every brand looks for franchisees who are chomping at the bit to get into their communities to start generating local buzz for their businesses.
Sometimes, those active franchisees find so much success with their local marketing efforts that everyone in town starts to recognize them. In fact, that’s exactly how two The Country’s Best Yogurt (TCBY) franchisees grew their stores to lead more than 350 nationwide locations in sales.
Forget A-list celebrities. These are TCBY-list celebrities: All the brand awareness without any of the pesky paparazzi.
Jenny Brynteson owns a store in Greeley, Colorado that is ranked No. 4 in the nation for sales. And although she’s owned the never-before-ranked Fort Collins TCBY location for just a year, it’s currently ranked No. 10 in the nation.
“I am quite sure our success has to do with our local initiatives,” Brynteson told 1851 Franchise. “We gave out little coupon cards and ran a Mother’s Day promotion in Fort Collins. I can’t help but think people revisited the store, had a new experience there and now keep coming back.”
These local promotions are a huge part of Brynteson’s marketing strategy. “We live in a community that is pretty familiar with all the goings-on,” she said of Greeley, which has a population 105,000. “It just seemed to me like community relationships and friendships are where you gain success. We do a lot of donating to schools to support causes, and they turn around and help us too. It’s a give-and-take.”
Brynteson hits up school field days, fairs and holiday parties to hand out coupon cards. “We offer a free cup of yogurt for kids,” she said. “Teachers love having something to give out—it became a tool that they could use as a gift or incentive.”
She also participates in her district’s back-to-school backpack giveaway that benefits 3,000 underprivileged kids. One of her staff members gives out big cups of yogurt while dressed up as the TCBY mascot… so maybe there is a bit of paparazzi involved, after all.
“The kids love it,” she said. “We put on a lot of fanfare at that event. It goes a very long way with the school district and the families—and it’s an awful lot of fun.”
On Mother’s Day, Brynteson took her personalization strategy a step further by personally greeting every single customer who came through the door. “I have a fantastic manager named Shannon who has been with me since the very beginning,” she said. “We are both moms and community people, so it seemed natural for us to make friends and be friendly.”
Brynteson’s firm belief in hospitality—and a willingness to put herself out there—was a hit. “People would leave and say, ‘Thank you so much for having us!’ We have this culture of people feeling like we’re doing them a favor. It definitely pays off.”
The franchisee finds connecting with her fellow fro-yo fans on a deeper level to be one of the best parts of the job. “It’s extremely satisfying,” said Brynteson. “People come into our store to get a cup of yogurt, but they often leave feeling special. On our normal business days, there are many people who come in and stand at the register and talk about what’s going on in their lives. It’s interesting how fast they feel like a friend. Then they come back and feel like they belong there.“
All the way across the country in Peachtree City, Georgia, Mike Murtaugh has found his own local notoriety with TCBY.
He’s even earned a unique nickname: Mr. TCBY.
“I’ll be in the grocery store, and a young person will go, ‘There’s the TCBY guy, Mom!’ I never expected to be a local celebrity,” laughed Murtaugh. “But that means we’ve touched a lot of people.”
Murtaugh finds joy in creating a unique destination for people from all walks of life to come together and unplug. “People are just hanging out, not on their cell phones, not on their laptops—just talking,” he said. “I think it’s a great thing. I’m humbled by it.”
With a population of 35,000 residents, Peachtree City has truly embraced TCBY as a fixture in the community. In fact, despite the city’s small size, Murtaugh’s store recently ranking No. 6 in national sales. It certainly helps that Murtaugh’s store delivers catering with a highly visible, notorious and restored 1950s Chevrolet truck. But it’s mostly Murtaugh’s initiatives in the community that attract business.
“Though we don’t expect much in return, I’m a firm believer that if you give back, you get so much more back,” he said. “We talk with organizations about the best way we can mutually connect. I just delivered yogurt to an organization recently—we sell it to them for $1, then they sell the yogurt for $2 a cup. They make a profit, and there’s no risk because we take back what isn’t used.”
The father of an Air Force captain and pilot, Murtaugh also partners with Legion Post 50 in Peachtree City to support local veterans. For example, his team recreates their restored 1950s Chevy on a golf cart chassis for the Legion to use while fundraising at its annual WWII reenactment event.
“The ladies dress up as bomber girls and sell yogurt. It’s a risk-free profit opportunity to sell a cold treat on a hot day,” he said. “They provide the labor, and I set them up with the equipment. It’s a win-win: We both make a profit, and the veterans are great representations of our business.”
After working in corporate marketing for most of his career, Murtaugh relishes the opportunity to build buzz in Peachtree City. “We hyper-focus on our target customers and really work with them where they live,” he said. “You have ‘home and school,’ or ‘home and church.’ We want TCBY to be that third place. We do all we can to entice, reward and support people that fit that profile.”
Murtaugh advises franchisees looking to build a larger local presence to take it one step at a time. “Start in your comfort zone. Look around your store, like at a school or a church, and get the word out,” he said. “Once you get out of your comfort zone, then you’ll get more confident. Get creative and think outside the box—it doesn’t have to be a $500 sponsorship for a softball team. Just engage the community and the organization you are trying to support.”
Indeed, truly listening to the needs of the community will get any franchisee’s gears turning. Open up a dialogue with a group that resonates with you and your business, and you may be surprised what clear opportunities readily present themselves.
“I think it goes far beyond selling yogurt,” said Brynteson. “You have to choose to care about your community and the things they care about."