Just like we all need that strong cup of coffee to break through the inevitable morning brain fog, every new business owner is in need of a jolt to get things rolling. You know—those sometimes-elusive elements that we’re told can spark a young company’s growth and position it on the right track for years to come.
Not sure where to start? We talked to Steve Beagleman, the president and CEO of SMB Franchising, to hear his strategies for emerging brands looking to win at franchise development.
Increase visibility through branding.
When you start a company, make sure you have a clear idea of what you want the project to be. Your branding needs to reflect the soul of the company, and it can’t be overly complicated—think simple messages that reflect the integrity of the product you’re selling. According to Beagleman, it’s also crucial to make sure your brand is consistent—ensure that your company’s franchisees maintain and exude the vision you worked so hard to perfect.
Build up your online presence.
Building brand awareness is paramount to success, and the best way to get your name out there is through the Internet.
“The first thing anyone will do when researching your brand is visit your website—it’s like inviting someone into your house,” Beagleman said. “Ask yourself if your website is too archaic or unprofessional? Would you invite someone into your house if it were a mess?”
A consistent social media presence matters, too. A single Tweet or Facebook post probably won’t get you 100 leads lining up outside your office, but it will give your brand recognition and legitimacy. When a potential franchisee researches your brand and sees that you have a robust, engaged fan base, he or she will be more inclined to view your brand as successful and relevant.
Hire the right people.
If you want to grow your franchise, then you need people on your team who know how to play the game. Fill your corporate line-up with people with franchise branding and development experience. Find a PR expert, sales and development experts, an accounting guru and a marketing expert to round out the team. And last but certainly not least, hire the best franchisees you can find. Beagleman believes business owners should be selective. The first franchisees you hire will become your brand ambassadors. Make sure you can trust them.
Nurture your franchisees.
You spent a lot of time researching, interviewing and hiring the perfect franchisee—hang on to them! Establish a good rapport with your franchisees by letting them know you’re here to help, Beagleman said. Mentor the rising stars, and make sure they’re proud to work for you.
Find your target market and stick to it.
To prepare for growth, you need to know your target market. If you sell your product or service to the right people, you’ll have an easier time expanding than if you try to sell to every demographic out there.
Eat, breath and sleep PR.
Having a strong PR game is crucial. Take advantage of every press opportunity that comes your way—none are too small. Make friends with the press. Be available for interviews. Get involved in the community. Better yet, partner with an agency that knows PR and franchising—they can help you get opportunities that you couldn’t otherwise get on your own, both on a national and local level.
“PR is the best way to make your business seem bigger than it actually is. That really matters when you’re just starting out,” Beagleman said.
At its core, franchising is a relationship business. Who you know and who you connect with is just as important as having a standout product or service. To become a franchise with a solid amount of units, you need a strong professional network to help you do it. Attend franchise conventions, be active with the International Franchise Association and get to know people in your potential markets. Beagleman also encourages young business owners to find a mentor—a master business veteran who knows a thing or two about the franchising world.
Nail down the follow-up.
As an emerging business owner, leads can be pretty hard to get. Don’t sabotage yourself by not following-up with interested parties or take too long getting back to them.
“You work incredibly hard trying to get those leads through relentless social media outreach, public relation efforts and simple word of mouth. So stay on top of it,” Beagleman said.
Complacency can be one of the biggest threats to a growing business. Assuming that you will continue to be successful simply because you have been in the past probably won’t work out long-term. Regardless of your industry, the marketplace changes all the time—whether its new technology, new regulations, or new competition—and you can’t afford to stick to the same plan from which your business grew. Embrace flexibility and change—your business plan should be a living document that evolves with time to ensure that you can keep up with, or stay ahead of, the rest of the pack.