Marketing is a key component to the success of any business, but without a strategic marketing plan or experienced professional to spearhead it, your franchise brand may not be maximizing it to its full potential.
Whether you are an emerging franchisor, or a seasoned franchise organization looking to expand, follow these key steps to building and growing a successful franchise marketing team.
- Use vendor partners as an extension of your team.
As an emerging brand, you may not have a full-time, dedicated marketing role on your corporate team. Early on, marketing strategy is frequently coupled with the operations team, and someone handles marketing in a part-time manner. Once you are ready to add that first person, the most logical choice is a generalist whose knowledge is a mile wide and a foot deep versus the opposite. That said, it’s critical that you leverage strong external partnerships to function as an extension of that marketing role.
Where to start: Digital marketing is one area of expertise that is in a constant state of evolvement. While the general rules hold true, you will want outside experts who are looped into the nuanced details of the ever-changing landscape. The first outside vendor you should hire is a strong digital marketing agency to build and manage your brand and franchisee websites.
- Build scalable systems.
One of the most critical things to keep in mind as you continue to grow and build your brand’s marketing infrastructure is that the same systems should work for 30 or 300 franchisees. As you grow, basic processes within the team should not require more and more time. Avoid manual processes early on to save yourself the growing pains that come with the transition from being an emerging brand to a national brand.
Where to start: While it might be easy to customize individual local artwork requests with someone on staff who knows how to leverage the Adobe Creative Suite for 10 franchisees, this can quickly become a full-time job as your franchise development team sells more locations! Investing in a self-service platform to allow franchisees to customize artwork templates not only cuts down on the time your team spends changing phone numbers, but also makes all assets requested and created across the system visible to all other franchisees. Most systems allow for direct downloads of things like logos, customization of templates and direct download or print and ship collateral. These platforms are so common now, the price points are low, and some print houses will even set them up for you for free to get your brand’s print volume.
- Listen to franchisees.
Franchisees can give great insight into what they need to be successful locally. They are the ones working day-to-day in the field, and the knowledge they can share are the drivers to prioritize marketing and sales goals. On paper, it may look like the lead volume for new customers is increasing, but owners may tell you those leads are for a service line that’s less desirable. These types of insights – and open two-way communication – can help your marketing team be as effective as possible.
Where to start: Leverage existing marketing committees or national ad councils that may be in place. If your brand doesn’t have such a group or doesn’t have enough locations for that to be feasible, schedule one-on-ones with a handful of franchisees to get their perspective on pain points. Then, use the marketing strategy and expertise on your team to address things they bring to the table. Keep in mind you may have to be a bit of an investigator to uncover what the opportunity really is - a franchisee may think their marketing dollars aren’t performing, but it may be a reporting and visibility issue versus an actual performance issue. Dig in, bridge any gaps, and repeat as you continue to elevate the marketing systems within your brand.
- Partner with brand operations & understand unit economics.
If I could give one piece of advice that has never led me astray, it has everything to do with brand operations. The most successful teams I have ever been on are ones where marketing and operations understood the critical role each team plays and worked together to grow the brand. Beyond that, the marketing team should also understand unit-level economics. How do franchisees make money? What product lines or services have the largest margin contribution? How many jobs should a truck run in a day? Having a deeper understanding of how individual locations can – and want – to grow can help marketing make better decisions on where to focus time and effort.
Where to start: When you’re ready to add someone to the marketing team, Operations should be given the opportunity to interview that potential new team member. Once onboarded, include ops training and interviewing the ops staff to their agenda to help your new hire understand their role and what they consider to be the most critical drivers of the business. Ongoing, weekly staff meetings can help keep everyone on the same page. In a small brand or a one brand system, this is much easier and more organic. In a multi-brand system where reporting structures may differ, conscious effort should be put in to pulling all necessary parties into brand-specific update meetings to give all people working in each brand the opportunity to share and learn from each other.
If you are lacking in any of these areas, don’t panic! Start with one area you believe would be beneficial to improve your franchise, focus on that, and work up from there. Changes do not occur overnight, but a consistent work in progress shows growth – and leads to continued success!