As a franchisor, it’s your responsibility to drive and execute a sustainable marketing strategy across your franchisee network. There are many challenges and frustrations actually making this work in practice, such as getting the support and buy-in from your franchisee owners and unaligned marketing messages at a local level.
A well intentioned, yet poorly integrated marketing strategy can be detrimental for your brand, and can prevent the growth you are striving for. The same goes for your loyalty or customer program. Without a collaborative go-to-market approach and customer experience, your customers will be confused, frustrated and take their business (and their friends) elsewhere.
So, how do you get franchisees on board?
Let’s start at the very beginning
What does your franchisee on-boarding process look like? I’m sure there are many logistical and operational processes at the top of the list, but how does marketing fit in? Ensure you take the time to thoroughly educate them on the program. Don’t just talk about the program logistics, talk them through the values and benefits so they truly understand the value proposition from both a franchisee and customer perspective. Share success stories from other franchisee owners, introduce them to these franchisee owners so they can learn from their peers. Instil the customer mindset at the start of your relationship.
Empathise with your franchisees’ individual situation
Your franchisee owners may likely be specialists in the industry you operate but won’t necessarily have had much exposure to marketing/customer planning processes or marketing in general. They perhaps won’t consider the long-term benefit of the customer program to their business, as they will be ready to start making sales for their business. Remind them the customer program will drive foot traffic to their stores, it’s not simply to give away discounts. Encourage them to contact you regularly for guidance, advice and support. Also, reassure them that you will be supporting their local marketing efforts through segmentation targeting. The last thing you want is for the franchisee to go into a silo, working on their own reactionary campaigns/promotions – with no input or review at a national level.
Don’t make promises to customers that your franchisees cannot deliver
This happens more often than you think. A promotion or offer will be shared on a national level, which the franchisees had very little knowledge of. By doing this, you will lose respect from both the customer and the franchisee-owner. Whilst marketing the program is your responsibility, you need to continue to get buy-in in order for it to be a success. Be prepared to answer any questions or respond to challenges. If a customer does not receive what they were expecting, they won’t be shy in telling you that they are not happy. You risk losing that customer forever.
Make it easy for them
If you already have resources available, the franchisee will avoid creating their own, integrate your marketing for your franchisee network, for example:
– Create a list of brand and marketing assets which franchisees can directly access and employ through their own marketing channels, i.e. website, social media, email and direct marketing, promotional offers. Host these assets on an easily accessible platform.
– An overview of all marketing activities and communications, particularly any relating to the customer program. We recommend maintaining a calendar so the franchisees can see clearly what’s happening, when it’s happening, and what they need to do to support/roll out across their own franchise.
– Share performance metrics of the customer program, acknowledge leading franchisee owners and ask them to share their experience and expertise. Keep everyone up to date on the value and purpose of the program.
It’s important you maintain regular contact with your franchisees on the performance of the program, both from a national and local store perspective. You need to dedicate time to make it effective; update your franchisees, answer any questions they may have, ask for their feedback (and act on it when it makes sense to do so), value their input. Be clear on the value of the customer program, share customer stories/reviews and the customer impact. Help your franchisees with L&D, upskill them, host workshops or 1-2-1s, dedicate relevant time to the program in your annual conference. Be creative and keep it fun. Look for opportunities to keep your franchisees consistently engaged with the program.
Onboarding your customer program
Leading a franchise network can be challenging, particularly when it comes to customer marketing strategies. A collaborative, joined-up GTM approach is the only way you will truly drive customer loyalty and company growth. It’s imperative that each and every one of your franchisee owners are on the same page, and that they truly understand the value of the customer program (for them, the customer, and you, the franchisor).
Set the scene right at the start of your relationship, empathise with their own situation and position, don’t make promises the brand cannot deliver on as a whole. Make it easy for the franchisees to love, encourage and promote the program. Keep them regularly updated, maintain momentum and engagement. It takes time and dedication to make a franchise customer program work, but the rewards (such as financial, brand reputation, and customer satisfaction) certainly make the investment worth it.