Franchising is no stranger to change. The industry adapted well to the internet when it integrated its then traditional marketing at tradeshows with development of elaborate websites. Next, the industry adapted again as it integrated its marketing efforts and web presence with franchise consultants and brokers through a multitude of franchise portals.
Well, as Bob Dylan once wrote, “…the times they are a changing.” Much has been written and spoken about weeding through the many tire-kickers experienced on the internet, shuffling from one portal to the next with the same non-objective to “see what’s out there.” The franchise industry has literally seen thousands of these leads with no purpose, no chance of ever presenting a franchise opportunity.
Instead of trying to catch fish in a wide open ocean, why not direct your attention to the fish in a lake, pond or even, a barrel? That’s correct, a barrel! In searching for qualified franchise candidates, we, as an industry, need to locate the barrels of candidates that exist in the market today. How do we accomplish this seemingly insurmountable task? We need to embrace new technology and integrate the same with traditional efforts. Specifically, Social Media and all it has to offer.
Social Media is truly extraordinary, consisting of many different aspects beyond the familiar LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. There are wikis, webinars, blogs and podcasts, just to name a few. But there are others as well. To the many, the thought of stepping foot into this jungle is daunting, and therefore, the journey continues to be delayed. So, as the old adage of how one could eat an entire elephant (of course, one bite at a time), it’s necessary to take small bites out of the Social Media elephant and step through the jungle carefully, one step at a time – using all the tools at our disposal to reach our destination… our objective.
The following is a discussion on a blog by Michelle Bonat originally posted in 2008 but still very relevant today. Michelle discusses taking small steps towards integrating Social Media Marketing with classic (traditional) marketing programs.
Babysteps…How to integrate social media with traditional marketing programs
Social media marketing is most effective when it is an integrated part of your overall marketing efforts. But how do you jump into social media when you already have some really effective classic marketing programs in play? Here are a few ways you can babystep into the world of social media by leveraging the good stuff you already have.
1) Maintain a single consistent marketing strategy through classic and social media marketing.
Your goals, objectives and messages should be consistent across all of your marketing. Sounds simple, but unless you define and enforce this it won’t happen.
The good news here is that you don’t have to re-figure this all out just for social media. It is really just taking your existing marketing platform and extending it.
2) Extend your reach – Reach out to your influencers in ways that they like to communicate.
Use your existing marketing knowledge about who influences your product’s purchasing decisions, and use social media tools to create a discussion with them where they hang out.
Some specific examples: Are your influencers kids? Get on the social networks catering to the younger set. IT buyers? Figure out which bloggers are influencing this community. Mobile sales professionals? Deliver content in a mobile enabled way, such as Twitter.
3) Invite your customers into the process.
While you are planning your next product, refining your messaging, or even launching a marketing campaign, figure out a way to get your customers involved whenever possible as early as possible. When you do this they feel that they have been heard, feel more engaged and valued, which results in a tighter connection with your company and product. It also gives you the benefit of upfront input. A product that people actually want? Described in a manner that speaks to them? Wonderful!
A good way to on-ramp this customer involvement include online communities (public or private, even a public group on an existing social network). You can even ask them to deliver their thoughts in video form by way of a contest – “describe what our product means to you”.
4) Turn an online forum into a social media hub.
Make people feel more at home by adding profile information and allowing the posting of pictures (or pointers to a picture posting service like Flickr).
Recognize that you have to give to get. Start a genuine conversation with your audience by having company employees contribute to the forums in their own words. For example, instead of just asking for feature enhancements suggestions, tell them what direction you are headed and, if possible, the timing for these enhancements (without giving away too much info). Then ask them their opinion.
Try these few tips to help ease into a social media program that leverages your existing marketing – and you will soon be on your way!
Note: This post was revised from earlier post on this site, “Web 2.0 – A Jungle for Franchise Development” (Mar 2009)