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Managing the Lead Part 2: How To Set up a Winning Discovery Day

To have a successful discovery day, key individuals and pieces of information must be present and easily accessible.

By Morgan Wood1851 Franchise Contributor
Updated 1:13PM 10/26/22

Discovery day is the step within the franchise development process that allows prospective franchisees to learn more about the brand they’re looking to invest in, potentially “discovering” things they have not yet found in prior due diligence.

Building a complete discovery day experience is a crucial part of successfully growing a franchise network. Doing this requires higher-level thinking about the purpose of a prospect’s attendance. Careful planning and forethought are necessary to ensure critical topics are covered and both parties walk away from the day feeling that they have gathered whatever information they need to proceed.

Rob McColgan, co-founder and CEO of Modern Market Eatery, explained the purpose of discovery day for prospective franchisees in his space. “It allows them to get to know our brand in person and see everything that goes into it — from the quality of ingredients and scratch-made menu as well as meet the restaurant support team that will help them operate their successful restaurants.”

This process will certainly look different depending on the industry and concept, but McColgan highlights a critical takeaway. Prospective Modern Market Eatery franchisees experience the concept on all levels — from the unit to the corporate office — which is incredibly useful to ensure they can fully “discover” the brand from multiple angles.

Optimally, a corporate team member should be able to reach out to the attendees shortly after the discovery day concludes to assess the day's success. “We typically know then if the potential franchisee got what they needed out of the day and whether they’re interested in moving forward,” McColgan added.

Understand What Will Be Most Important for Prospective Franchisees to Experience

“Franchisees are typically most interested in learning how they will be supported throughout the entire process of getting a store open and operating,” McColgan said. While this works well as a sort of broad stroke to begin planning, looking more closely at previous interactions is also important.

Digging into the aspects of the franchise that prospects will likely want more information about and working to incorporate these as a substantial part of discovery day activities will fill any knowledge gaps that exist. 

Further, incorporating activities and other learning experiences that reflect some of the more hands-on things franchisees will need to know how to do can provide a look into some of the everyday requirements that prospects have likely had little to no exposure to thus far.

R. Scott Sutton, chief growth officer of Threshold Brands, illustrates why this understanding is so important.

“We refer to it differently at Threshold Brands. It’s not referred to as discovery day; it is decision day,” he said. “We work very hard with our prospects across all of our brands to make sure that they have the data and access to internal resources as well as our existing franchisees to investigate and understand the brand at a very deep level.”

Prior to attending a Threshold Brands decision day, prospective franchisees have had plenty of time to “discover” what they need to know about the brand. At decision day, attendees will still have an opportunity to ask any questions they may have, but they attend the event with the knowledge and confidence that they are ready to make a choice.

Variations in so-called “discovery days” such as this one are a perfect example of why a deep understanding of what the prospective franchisee will need to experience is so important. A Threshold Brands decision day simply cannot be structured the same way a Modern Market Eatery discovery day will be, and providing attendees with a personalized experience is another crucial aspect of the process.

Ensure Leadership Will Be Available To Attend

Leadership plays a crucial role in all businesses. Having members of the leadership team present at discovery day not only presents a united front to prospects but also loops in expertise from multiple corners of the business. Having leaders from operations, sales and real estate branches of the team attend brings a level of expertise into the room that simply cannot be achieved by a single CEO or President.

Familiarize the Leadership Team With the Bios of Attendees

In many cases, discovery day is all about discovery! Members of the franchise team should be interested to learn more about the prospects and work to truly build relationships with them. Familiarizing everyone in attendance with the bios of the prospects who will be joining is a great way to lay the foundation for strong relationships.

Understanding where prospects are coming from, whether in terms of previous work experience or what is guiding them to pursue franchising, can help the whole team have more meaningful conversations and possibly even predict or cater to the needs of attendees.

At this point in the franchise development process, prospects should not just be a number or first and last name. They are individuals with meaningful backgrounds and goals looking to join the network and should be treated as such.

Collaborate With the Team To Understand What Still Needs To Be Discovered About the Prospective Franchisee

This is an exercise that can be completed after everyone is able to review prospects’ bios. Team members should consider what else they want to know about the prospect and whether there are any lingering concerns or curiosities. 

“We need to agree with the team on what we need to learn from the franchisee to get us comfortable with potentially moving forward,” McColgan said.

Deciding where the gaps are as a team and before the onset of the discovery day itself allows everyone to get on the same page and share a clear understanding of where priorities lie come discovery day.

Make Sure Your Discovery Day Can Stand on Its Own, Independent of Selling

Once you’ve gathered all of the people and information you need, take a final look at your planned discovery day and think about whether it can stand “on its own.” While discovery day is part of the franchise development process, selling should not be the glue that holds the day together.

Throughout the discovery day process, the true goal at the center of the planning should be to create space and experiences for prospective franchisees to learn as much as they can about the franchisor and vice versa. A deal may come as a result of a successful discovery day, but if selling makes up the entire day, prospects will likely notice and take that into account.

Even in a case like Threshold Brands’ decision day, the brand leadership is not focusing its energy solely on making a sale. 

“We have franchisees that will execute their franchise agreements following the conclusion of the day, and others won’t. They’ll go home to process everything and generally make the decision a few days later,” Sutton explained. “We don’t expect to be batting 100%, but decision day sets the stage for the choice to be made — whatever that may be.”