The Human Element: Selling Franchises by Selling Franchisees
The Human Element: Selling Franchises by Selling Franchisees

Why using people to market your franchise opportunity works.


It’s a versatile tool that stems from a simple concept: Use what you have to get what you want.

Successful businesses apply leverage to multiply their gains. Liam Neeson uses it to bring down the bad guys when you’ve been “taken.”

And franchisors can use it in the form of their franchisees. Or, at least, they should.

“It’s about connections,” said Denny’s Senior Director of Global Franchise Recruitment Doug Wong. “It’s not difficult to describe to people who we are at Denny’s. We’re a legacy brand. People know our brick and mortar. They know our food. But they don’t feel a connection unless you put people in there.”

To help leverage the human capital built by the brand over decades, Denny’s requires all potential franchisees to speak with at least two existing franchisees before they even attend a discovery day.

“We want them to fall in love with the brand all over again for the same reasons they were attracted to it in the first place,” Wong said. “One of the largest franchisees in our system started as out as a server. Each one of those conversations creates a connection.”

That process can net big dividends if used properly, said Smoothie King Franchise Development Manager Chad Tramuta.

“Personal connections are the gatekeeper,” Tramuta said. “Leveraging franchisees to tell their stories puts prospective franchisees in their shoes. People tend to be very visual and relational. When they can relate to someone and put themselves in their shoes, it goes a long way.”

Creating those personal connections isn’t always a simple process, but it’s worth the extra effort, said Nick Powills, chief brand strategist at Chicago-based PR firm No Limit Agency.

“People sell brands, period,” he said. “Without people, franchises can’t exist. Without franchisees, brands would be stuck in mediocrity forever.”

However, Powills cautions that personal stories won’t generate leverage on their own.

“Tell their stories, then use your PR,” he continued. “Many brands hire public relations firms then never do anything with the press they secure. Press has value the moment it publishes, but even more value when you leverage it across all areas that have prospective eyeballs.”

Positive press can also cross over into the advertising world.

“Third-party credibility is key,” said HOT DISH Advertising President Dawn Kane. “For a potential franchisee, it’s about the business and the support. But you’re also selling the lifestyle. If you paint the picture the right way, they envision themselves there and they can relate. They say, ‘Hey, I’m just like them.’ It humanizes the process.”

It’s critical to put a franchisee’s best foot forward in order to make that message resonate.

“If you’re going to do it, do it right,” Kane said. “We can prove on the back end that it brings return on investment. But, it can do more harm than good if it doesn’t look right. Hire a professional that preps well, shoots well and edits well to put the right message out.”

Tramuta agreed.

“We live in a time where all the information you want can be accessed online at the touch of a button,” he said. “Ten years ago, you could be the gatekeeper of the information you wanted to be out. That’s not the case anymore.”

To make the most of the marketing opportunities created by leveraging franchisee stories, Powills suggested targeting other tools, like social media.

“Emotion is critical,” Powills said. “Social media platforms provide some of the most incredible proactive marketing tools ever. When connected with content, exact targeting can help put your message in front of people who actually desire it. That’s a big win.”