For my entire time in the franchise community, I have heard of this epic hunt for the great unicorn – the secret to franchise growth. Conference after conference, people ask what the new secret is. Even when we know the truth is that there isn’t one, we hunt, and for good reason. Pressures from leadership to sell, sell and sell drives sales teams to hunt, hunt and hunt.
In this franchising world, hunting is activity and activity creates the perception of winning.
I have written—dozens of times—that the secret will not be found. Is this said with forever certainly? Absolutely not. The speed at which technology is changing does create a hope that the unfound is someday discovered.
But a hunt without a victory is ultimately a giant waste of time. If that hunting happens in a field without unicorns, sales teams will continue to turnover because the executive leadership demands sales and the sales team thinks a unicorn will solve it.
Brands that have experienced great growth haven’t found the single unicorn where you spend X amount of dollars and get this many so-called guaranteed results. Not Jersey Mike’s. Not Arby’s. Not Buffalo Wild Wings. Not Smoothie King.
“If you can guarantee me deals, I will sign-up for your services,” the prospect of our agency says.
“I could lie to you like everyone else and tell you that you will grow through the magic of PR, but then, how could I sleep at night,” I say, thinking about all of the other jokers in the business who sell on false perceptions.
The secret to a great hunt is not creating more noises to attract the prey, dressing up in better camo or finding the secret spot no one knows about (other hunters knew that spot and already left it). It’s about time. Simply executing on the basics again, and again and again.
I have written about the team approach to sales – the need to have complete buy-in from operations, marketing and leadership in order to grow. Is that considered a unicorn? Absolutely not, because when sales teams bring that up someone shouts out, “Just get me the leads.”
Let’s place the unicorn on the bench for a second. Let’s focus on the components of great growth.
There is education and there are sales.
The two activities are different, but often lumped together when it comes to franchising.
Franchise development and franchise sales are vastly different, too. Yet, those terms are combined as well.
Franchise development is the combination of education (awareness) and sales (growth). It happens when you take a brand that executes the fundamentals (a great product, strong unit-level economics, great direction and a predicting continued demand for the brand) and applies a strong sales process to it. That sales process is comprised of why you/why now (your story), the delivery (your advertising, PR and marketing), your website (where leads will come to) and then the process of responding (quickly and informatively), qualifying and processing (discovery day, validation and through signing).
Also, franchise development doesn’t stop at the sale. Why? Franchisees are the greatest tool for franchise growth.
Now the unicorn is back in the game. It’s your franchisees.
Are your franchisees making money? Would they still say they would buy the brand? Are they swallowing up more units? Are they telling all of their buddies they found their unicorn?
If you truly want to understand the franchise development possibilities of your brand, start with the base of franchisees and understand the ins and outs of how they bought – the candidate journey. Invest in understanding what it would take for them to continue their growth. Rally the storytelling around them.
The unicorn – that single thing that will magically grow your brand – does not exist as a solo activity. It is a collective. It is a field of unicorns working together. But, if the franchisees are not satisfied, then good luck ever growing your brand – unless, of course, you take a good look in the mirror and figure out the pathway to correct it.