Marketing your franchise

There is no doubt that the rise of the internet has forced franchisors to change the way they recruit franchise owners. Malcolm Porter of Franchise Development Services South East explores the new generation of franchise marketing tools

In these changing and challenging times efficient use of the marketing budget is vital. Just as you have developed a marketing mix for the products and services that your franchise network offers, it is important to promote your franchise offering across a range of carefully selected media.

The first place to start is in your own back yard. If you have a website, include a franchise area and ensure that you collect visitors' contact details before you share too much information with them. You should also take every opportunity you can to mention your franchise status in any promotional or PR activity that you undertake. After all, every little helps!

The power of the internet in today's market should not be underestimated. There are an overwhelming number of websites offering franchise sales so it pays to do your research and ask for statistics and testimonials from other advertisers before you commit. It's also worth spending a little time researching your fellow advertisers. Are they true business format franchises with a track record in the franchising world? You will do your brand no favours by placing it alongside a collection of fly-by-night pseudo-franchises and business opportunities.

Interestingly, the websites that attract the most visitors are generally those that are associated with a print publication and many advertisers do notice that concurrent print and web adverts have a complementary effect on each other. Specialist franchise magazines are often credited with providing good quality leads from people with a genuine interest in franchising. While a newspaper advert may be seen by a lot of people on its day of publication, do remember that it will be in the recycling bin the next day while a glossy magazine may remain on the coffee table for a month or more. It's also a good idea to get your brand listed in a business directory, such as The UK'Franchise Directory. A basic listing is often free and you can then upgrade your profile as your budget allows.

Of course, your web and print advertising options are not limited to the specialist franchise press. Depending upon your sector, you should also use the websites and publications that deal with your particular industry. This avenue will target your marketing at people who already have the skills and experience to operate in your field, which may be important to your business.

And finally, there is the age old question of whether you should take your brand to a franchise exhibition. Franchise exhibitions can provide an excellent platform for building brand awareness, especially if the organiser has arranged some good quality press coverage of the event. They are generally better suited to established franchise businesses who can bring along some successful franchise owners to share their enthusiasm with visitors. The high costs involved however do often lead many franchisors to conclude that their money could be more effectively spent elsewhere.

So, having researched and developed a marketing plan that includes a suitable mix of media, the next step is to make sure you have the infrastructure in place to deal confidently and effectively with your enquiries. It is reasonable for an enquirer to expect a response within 24 hours in most cases. Or, if you have collected their details at an exhibition, get back to them during the week following the exhibition while the buzz is still in their ears. It doesn't take long for a hot lead to cool so be careful not to fall into the trap of being complacent about your enquiries.

Whether you send out information by post or email, always follow up with a phone call. There is no substitute for contact with another human being. If you don't have the manpower to do this in-house you should consider outsourcing this function to a specialist.

Finally, it is important that you continually monitor your marketing activities. Set up a system that allows you to compare the different media in your marketing mix. You need to be able to identify not just where the most leads are coming from but also where the best leads are coming from. Without this information you will be unable to adjust your marketing to ensure that your budget is being spent wisely.

Franchise marketing is not an exact science and it will involve an element of trial and error. However, with a little research and preparation, you can place your brand in front of serious investors and grow your network, even in these challenging economic times.