Is your franchise business ready for the “new normal”?
It’s time to dust off our binoculars, stair out into a foggier future and try to predict what the post COVID wakeup could look like.
Though COVID has been unprecedented in its effects on franchise businesses of every stripe and size, I’m here to share what we believe are tried and tested strategies and tactics no matter what’s occurring in the world and some new ideas that will position your franchise perfectly for the “new normal” ahead, no matter what it looks like.
Here are five steps franchise brands can take, in order of importance, to help get your franchise and franchisees ready to flourish in the months ahead.
Step 1. Understand Your Data to Make the best Decisions
If you have a solid data structure that has properly mapped and is reporting on your customer’s journey, here’s where to start. (Note: I’m using “customer” here to mean either a) a prospective franchise partner or b) an end customer. These are the two primary audiences franchise brands are attracting and for the purposes of this article are who we’re talking about).
If you don’t have this in place, skip to step 2 because your starting place should always be about your customer, their pain points and where they spend their time and what makes them tick.
If funnels are in place, starting with where you’re seeing drop off in your marketing is the place to start optimizing your spend and areas of focus?
Here’s the high level theory on your funnel:
Yesterday’s Buyer Journey is also Today’s
Today’s Measurable Marketing Tools
Mapped to what a common data structure looks like:
The point of the funnel is to showcase where the numbers are dropping off and, as a result, where you should focus your energy.
Another way to look at things is this way:
Where your “leading indicators” are your “forward looking metrics that should lead to your desired outcomes” (usually leads or sales).
If you think social media or search metrics are “soft”, think again. Those are the leading indicators telling you that real people are finding and engaging with your brand and deciding whether or not to take the next step with you.
If your numbers are low on any point in your customer’s journey, now you know where to make them better.
A question you may have is “what are good numbers?” That’s a hard question to answer without specifically knowing your business and your margins. So I’ll simply say that “good numbers are numbers that are continuously improving because someone is clearly making them better for you over time.”
Now you have clear data to make the “head plus heart” decision-making to right size your activities for growth.
2. Restructure for Growth & Align your Team for Perfect Execution
For a full write up on nailing your digital digital marketing strategy for your franchise system, click here.
If you haven’t built your data structure, it’s time to prioritize it. But first you need to understand who your customer is and where they spend their time so you can get the right message to the right person at the right time.
To help answer “who” your customer is, we have a handy Customer Profile tool you can fill out that looks like this:
You can download the template here: https://rtown.ca/tools/
Regardless of your customer’s profile, there is the highest chance that they can be found online.
People have shifted to online content consumption and have their eyeballs online like never before. COViD has accelerated digital adoption in unprecedented ways.
Look no further than how ad spend has reported to have shifted in the COViD era:
Franchise head offices should begin outlining roles and responsibilities, auditing their social channels, websites and martech stacks, and outlining basic policies and practices to empower their franchisees. Now is the time to formulate some basic strategies for how to drive awareness and growth across your organization through your digital assets.
People are online looking for your franchise (more on that in point 4), product or service. Will they find you? If they do, are you optimized for mobile? Now is the time to get prepared.
Here’s a high level breakdown of the tactics that each of your head office and franchise partners should be responsible for and executing against. You can read more about it here.
3. Get Noticed For Good (change up your content game and bring GOOD NEWS to the world)!
Your prospective customers have been fed a steady diet of bad news for months, having had enough to last a lifetime. They’re hungry for good news and consumer sentiment is rapidly moving towards an expectation for companies they support to be socially responsible and make a difference.
Good marketing always aims to resonate with the values of its target audience. Franchise head office marketing teams should prepare and plan to weigh in with statements and positions on current affairs, as well as audit their content strategies for opportunities to reinforce the human elements around their brand. Celebrating staff, social initiatives and community work can help create meaningful connections with an audience. Franchisee partners and head office alike, should be actively looking to participate in social responsibility initiatives. Social campaigns such as PhilanthroPosts or giving marketing campaigns that trade donation dollars for social engagement can be a great way to make a difference… from a distance.
Social posts that support important causes through funding and awareness make a tangible impact, build positive brand equity for the franchise and have great potential for gaining awareness.
In the case of individual locations adopting local, community causes to support in this way, they benefit by resonating deeply with their local community in a time when putting on physical events may be restricted.
Brands that learn how to better communicate and exemplify their values stand to benefit from deeper, more meaningful connections with potential and existing customers.
Get Better Bang for Your Digital Ad Spend Bucks
The sad reality after COVID is that a ton of businesses have had to close down entirely or weather the pandemic by reducing their advertising budgets. According to Visual Capitalist, Global ad spend across all digital platforms is projected to decline by an average by 12.5%.
For companies that are fortunate enough to still be doing business, that means less competition to gain awareness for your franchise business, product or service along with a decrease in the cost of paid digital advertising.
Head offices running branding ads for the franchise as well as franchisees who are empowered to perform local targeted ad campaigns to drive location growth should see increases in their return on investment (ROI) on ad spend. Now is not the time to pull back, but to forge ahead.
Franchises that recognize and are positioned to take advantage of this opportunity to get noticed and drive growth stand to benefit in the post COVID “new normal”.
5. Get Growth Through Education
Dovetailing off point number two, unprecedented numbers of people are reeling, reimagining their lives after being sideswiped by the pandemic. Lost employment and evaporated job security have sent the masses scrambling to reinvent themselves and secure their future.
Franchise businesses have unique advantages for those looking to step out and start something new. Strong brand recognition, administrative and marketing support, strong supply chain networks and buying power are all advantages to owning a franchise.
Franchise businesses should be looking to hone their value proposition and create content that resonates with, and educates, potential franchisees on the advantages of owning their own business post COVID. The promise of stepping into an established brand with support and an operational roadmap is attractive to those looking for replacement income or business ownership in the future.
Franchises that learn how to tell their story in ways that captivate and educate potential owners have an unprecedented opportunity to garner interest in their franchise in the “new normal” and economic correction that lies ahead.
Digital marketing tools and technologies are often trumpeted for their reach, targeting capabilities and measurability, but understanding their ability to simplify life and accelerate growth through automation, can’t be ignored.
Huge benefits exist for the franchise head office and franchisees that implement CRM and email marketing platforms that, once set-up with automated lead nurture, life-cycle marketing or conversion campaigns, can be reproduced and deployed easily across the entire network, helping grow the business while it sleeps.
Other tools, like the use of AI chatbots that can help facilitate conversational commerce, reduce workloads on customer support teams, and help qualify and generate leads, can find applications in every business.
Today, half of all internet traffic comes from mobile devices and mobile commerce sales in 2021 are expected to account for over 50% of all ecommerce sales. This reveas that engaging consumers with outstanding customer experience right from the palm of their hand is another big opportunity for the forward thinking franchise.
Franchises that learn how to harness the power of automation for marketing and operations stand to benefit from decreased costs, increased productivity, and accelerated growth, in this new, digitally supercharged post COVID era.
So what will the new normal look like for your franchise business? One thing is certain. COVID pushed people online to be entertained, educated, browse and buy like never before. Learning how you can prepare your franchise’s digital marketing strategy and assets today, for the “new normal” that is coming tomorrow, will be a key to your franchise’s growth and progress as the world awakens from COVID.