Four Steps to Social Media Success

Share Interact Engage

Updated January 11, 2017

A year or so ago, there was a great article shared with me about things we can learn from teens about about social media. To me, the article was spot-on. Point blank, the reason teens are better at social media than, well, anybody, is answered directly in the article as follows:

“Because teens aren’t on social media to promote or sell. They’re there for 1 main reason… To be social!”

The article reaffirmed some things in my mind about social media that we at Franchise Foundry execute on for both our franchise development and accelerated digital strategies clients, but many companies haven’t even begun to do, are afraid to and/or have no clue how to do. One thing in particular is integration across platforms. Another is community-building. And, another is avoiding brand regurgitation making sure to be social and to make it about the audience, not just about the brand.

The key, the true key is that businesses (and marketers) view social media solely as marketing while teens look at it as communicating (sharing information, interacting, engaging… developing the relationship whereby asking for something, a call-for-action, if you will, is normal to the relationship, it is not out of sync, it is not overstepping boundaries, it is not selfish – instead, it is earned! Yes, these are my four steps to social media success – share, interact, engage and then, only then have your earned the right for a call-to-action… and together they are quite effective as they’re all about communicating first, marketing second.

Social Networking & Franchise Lead Generation Revisited

In light of discussions at this year’s International Franchise Association Convention about “new” ways of generating franchise candidate leads, and as I continue to field an influx of questions from start up and emerging franchisors trying to find a “silver bullet” to jump-start franchise sales, I am again sharing the following article I wrote back in 2011 as the principles continue to apply to this day. Actually, they may apply even more today as more and more have adopted social networking platforms as major sources of securing information and for communicating.

Social Networking and Lead Generation

We’re often asked if social networking can be utilized effectively for franchise lead generation purposes. Well, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

When working on a lead generation project, establishing objectives is paramount to the success of the overall strategy. Assuming the strategy has been developed, complete with establishing an ideal candidate profile and identifying specific geographic areas for expansion, we typically proceed as follows:

First, we focus on networking groups that include individuals that best fit our client’s ideal candidate profile. From there we drill down to individuals in the geographic area we’re targeting per our plan. Let’s say teachers fit my candidate profile. we would search out networking groups specific to teachers, education, etc. Then, we would participate in discussion groups to get a feel for the group and to be noticed and subsequently accepted within the group. There’s always a spin one could use to achieve this objective.

Next, we seek out members from the specific geographic areas we’re targeting and begin communicating what we’re ultimately trying to accomplish… to generate interest in a specific franchise opportunity. Sometimes there’s interest right there in the group. Often, it’s a referral that we get that makes the effort within that group worthwhile.

We also focus on groups that can provide me with referrals such as insurance agents, realtors, financial planners and attorneys. Again, if you’re proactive within networking groups it’s relatively easy to enlist support and gather information. Again, there has been some interest from members of these groups but it’s amazing how many times we’ve been referred to an interested party who lives in another part of the country that is willing to jump at an opportunity in my target area. You see, the fact that it stems from a referral is key!

Lead generation through social networking takes time and effort no doubt. However, once you’re proactive within networking groups, you almost end up with a snowball effect as the leads come in bunches. Some leads start out by simply posting a thought provoking discussion with some back and forth interaction with a responder and the responder saying,”what is it that you do?” Next thing you know, you’re discussing an opportunity and the door is wide open.

Most times however, it takes considerably more effort, but we’ve found people are networking online and participating in discussion groups for specific reasons. They’re all looking to expand their business, improve their position, seek out various types of opportunities, and make money. Attracting these individuals online sure beats running an ad in the local paper and waiting for the phone to ring!

Financial Performance Representations in Digital Space – Friend or Foe to Franchising?

At what point do you believe a Financial Performance Representation crosses the line outside franchise disclosure requirements?

As discussed at various break-out sessions during the recent IFA Convention, social media has created many opportunities to present and discuss franchise opportunities across and through multiple channels, often linking from one social media platform to another. As many franchisors jockey for a competitive edge and increase their social media efforts, it’s important not to lose sight of franchise disclosure requirements.

The practice of embedding financial information within online press releases, blogs and even within Facebook posts, appears to be growing. Certainly, publishing this information by itself doesn’t create an FPR. But, directly or indirectly referring candidates to the information is an FPR, and if the information is not part of a franchisor’s Item 19, it becomes an improper FPR.

Considering the linking capabilities within social media, often to the point of creating a cross-platform, multi-tiered effect, some so-called, self-professed industry professionals apparently believe they can get away with improper FPRs. Especially, as social media is still “relatively new” and growing into new areas, misunderstood by many, and virtually under the radar of most authorities.

It appears the thought is, if enforcement of franchise disclosure is lacking in traditional areas, social media has become the new wild west!

Beyond the obvious illicit practices and potential ramifications to unsuspecting franchise candidates, what also causes reason for concern is the impression it makes upon start-up franchisors that follow suit – often, not even realizing the practice may be improper. After all, they see it being done by individuals who they believe are reputable franchise professionals. So, why not follow the same practice that they unsuspectingly come to believe is actually a best practice?

Sure, everyone is responsible for their own actions, and ignorance is not a legal defense. However, if these illicit practices continue within franchising, more and more will participate to the point of it becoming a common practice, with many believing it has become a best practice. Momentum picks up with so-called thought-leaders promoting the practice as an effective lead generation strategy, influencing even more franchisors. Some will be unsuspecting. Some will just jump on the bandwagon.

At what point will these practices be considered to be out-of-control and intolerable, and detrimental to franchising?

Can you handle the truth about your social media efforts?

Wow. Talk about a loaded question! To quote the late-comedienne Joan Rivers, “Can we talk?” – I believe the key here is really being honest with yourself. Yes, we need to hear the truth… that is, unless, again quoting another famous person, Jack Nicholson as Colonel Jessep in A Few Good Men, “you can’t handle the truth!”

Well, and I’m quoting again here, this time from one of my all-time favorite movies, The Godfather, “Let me be more frank just to show you that I’m not a hard-hearted man…” Do you feel you could be doing better in social media? Ah heck, let’s ask the real question and stop dancing around, Does your business suck at social media? Below is a really great article as posted on Business2Community.com that may shed some light and maybe even open your eyes… to the truth!

4 Reasons Your Business Sucks at Social Media By , Published March 9, 2012

Social media networks were supposed to be the promised land for small businesses. They were supposed to be the great equalizer, the marketing tools that finally gave start-ups the same exposure as the industry leaders. But if that’s the case, why does your company still only have eight friends on Facebook?

Running a successful social media strategy is not as easy as many small business owners think it will be. Your company’s online success depends on several factors, and if you don’t account for all of them, you could find yourself stuck in the social media wastelands.

That’s not something many business owners like to hear, but the good news is that getting out of the Internet desert is simply a matter of redirecting your efforts. While thousands of businesses struggle to establish a presence online, they all tend to have trouble with the same four issues. So if you’re not getting poked as often as you deserve, use this guide to troubleshoot your social media strategy.

The articles goes on to list the 4 reasons as…

  1. Stop trying to build Rome. Build relationships.
  2. Be more than active. Be hyperactive. 
  3. Aim for a social media strategy that matches your value propositions.
  4. Stop looking for love in all the wrong places.

To learn more about these 4 reasons, click HERE.

 

Franchise Social Media – Beyond the Basics [REVISITED]

The following is an updated article that was originally posted on several sites online including Franchising.com and in-part right here in this blog. As social media continues to be a significant component of a franchise brand’s digital footprint and an essential element in direct or complementary franchise development efforts, I thought it prudent to update and re-post accordingly.

What is Franchise Social Media?

blog-mcdonalds_mom_bloggersBasically, Franchise Social Media is more than just social media. It’s the application and utilization of social media within a franchise system. Sure, many of the same principles apply, but franchising is different than most small business models. It’s unique in many ways beyond the typical B2B or B2C model. There are specific disclosure laws that are a major part of the franchise candidate recruitment process. Even from a consumer proposition standpoint, the integrity of the entire franchise organization must be considered. And, one cannot discuss social media in a franchise environment without touching upon guidelines, policies and procedures, and brand uniformity.

So, Franchise Social Media is how social media is utilized to not only fit within the various levels of franchising, messaging and content must be considered. It must be integrated within processes and methods across and within all franchise marketing and development efforts. Certainly, utilizing social media within franchising is more than just asking an administrative assistant to set up Facebook, Twitter and Google+ accounts and post and tweet away; especially, without a purpose or specific objective, and definitely not without a well-defined plan of action.

Despite what many marketing professionals believe, Franchise Social Media must be more than what is defined and implemented across most small business segments. The interdependency of the franchise relationship, the franchise dynamic, if you will, must be considered and focused upon as a social media plan is put into action. At all times, the question, “How does today’s activity affect others within the organization?” must be on the forefront of administrators’ minds as they post, tweet, connect, and engage every day! A simple mistake can send a ripple effect throughout an organization. A major error, which could include a slow reaction to a potential crisis (remember Dominos employees’ You Tube video?), could be akin to a tsunami racing ashore at 500 miles an hour, with little or no warning to the people (franchisees) along the coast, and possibly inland as well.

Are you afraid or frightened yet? Are your thoughts circling around the decision to just continue to leave social media alone? Or, if you’re already entrenched within social media, are you now considering slowing down, pulling back on your efforts, or maybe even bailing out altogether? Well, you shouldn’t be afraid or frightened, and certainly, you should not bail out. Actually, there truly needs be more focus beyond the basics of social media, with a very detailed, comprehensive plan to direct efforts specifically to Franchise Social Media.

At Franchise Foundry we still utilize a basic acronym of e-IDEA (originated back to our earlier company, FranchisEssentials) as a guideline when developing franchise social media strategies for clients. The acronym translates to Explore, Identify, Develop, Execute and Analyze. Five easy steps to keep in mind and remember to remain focused and stay on track in your efforts.

EXPLORE

In the initial stages of a developing a Franchise Social Media plan, it is essential to review current levels of general social media proficiency throughout the organization. This includes the franchisee base as well. Determine not only who within the organization is proficient, but within which social media platforms they excel. Be sure not forget the enjoyment factor!

For instance, if franchisees are utilizing videos and photos effectively within their efforts, it’s safe to say that video and photo sharing should be integral components of the franchise social media strategy. Explore further for individuals within the organization that enjoy photography and video production. Having these individuals interact with marketing professionals bring new perspective to the process, especially as they will also bring practical perspective of working within the franchise organization at different levels.

PodcastThe same holds true for individuals within the organization who are most proficient and passionate about training, and are fully versed on internal training processes and procedures. It lends to being able to bring other aspects of social media to the table – webinars being the most obvious. The less obvious, but very effective includes internet radio for podcast replays or on-demand access, and video again, for sharing simple or more complex information.

Upon exploring various types of social media and the increasing number of tools available including social media management software along with determining the proficiency and enjoyment/passion levels within the franchise organization, it is then the correct time to step into the Identify stage.

IDENTIFY

Here’s where Franchise Social Media really starts to make practical sense as this stage fosters thought about the ultimate objectives of the franchise organization. Most believe this stage is entirely focused on identifying targets. However, identifying targets is only a portion of this stage.

Identifying objectives within a franchise organization is where Franchise Social Media separates itself from basic social media as there are typically many objectives to define, including increasing business at the franchisee level, improving brand awareness, creating interest in the franchise opportunity, and developing or strengthening communications throughout the system. Much of this process is unique to franchising as franchise law and the franchise relationship both need to be taken into consideration. Proceeding ahead without these considerations could result in significant consequences at various levels.

In identifying objectives, it’s most likely apparent there are multiple targets to attract. Within the consumer proposition the targets will be customers, but are they retail customers, business customers, or both? For franchise lead generation, there may be multiple targets that could be attracted in different ways. For example, attracting a transitioning executive may take a different approach than attempting to attract a transitioning executive from a specific industry segment.

Next, in this stage is identifying where all these targets communicate and congregate online. This is often an ignored component of a social media strategy, and one that would specifically lead to the strategy being non-effective. After all, what use is it to broadcast a message if it is not known where to broadcast the message so it will be heard by the target audience? Identifying the online locale of the target audience is critical to the success of the program, but it’s also critical to identify if the target audience is communicating within that locale.

DEVELOP

The results of the two previous stages provide the foundation for which the Franchise Social Media strategy should be built. Without the proper foundation, the strategy structure would be flat, lineal and two-dimensional. With a firm, well-defined foundation, the strategy will rise to a cross-platform, multi-tiered structure with communications lines running across the structure, to and from different points.

Franchise Social MediaEssentially, it can be looked at as the difference between a simple tic-tac-toe diagram drawn on a piece of paper, to a Rubik’s Cube that has many sides and angles, and is three-dimensional. Taking it a step further, when attempting to solve the tic-tac-toe challenge, there are only a handful of options before success or failure is imminent. Not so with a Rubik’s Cube as there are many, many options to succeed. In fact, the only way to fail at solving the Rubik’s Cube challenge is to give up and stop trying.

The Develop stage must address key components to the program including resources available AND dedicated to the effort. Resources include both human and financial resources. As social media has no time limitation or barrier, it can be considered a 24/7 plan of managing and monitoring. The various defined objectives must overlap for the three-dimensional structure to remain upright. The strategy must resemble blueprints similar to those developed when building an office building complete with common infrastructure and utilities, but where various floors will be designed for different tasks, and will be occupied by different people.

An effective Franchise Social Media strategy has some commonality built into it through the use of the basic social media channels. However, it should never be considered a one-size-fits-all solution as there are just too many variables from one franchise organization to another. These variables must be individually addressed and include, but are not limited to franchisees already using social media, percentage of effort to be dedicated to consumer proposition and lead development, coordination of timed events, content development for daily activity, responsibility for response both at the franchisee and franchisor levels and timeliness of the same, and transition from the virtual to the real world whether it be at the unit level face-to-face with customers, or within the franchise sales process with a candidate.

Development of the Franchise Social Media strategy is not much different than the development of an operations manual for a franchise system. It must be thought-out and planned for every aspect of the business at-hand. It must be comprehensive to handle the “what ifs?” It must be well-defined to work seamlessly from one individual to another. From 30,000 feet it could look not much different than a franchise system.

EXECUTE

Now, the fun part kicks in and execution of plan is put into action. If the strategy is well-developed and communicated throughout the organization, including to and with franchisees, execution of plan should run smoothly, and should actually be an enjoyable experience. The strategy, defined in a living document, must be in the hands of all involved in the effort. Guidelines must be followed for optimum results. Policies and procedures must be in place for reference as needed.

social media actionsThe key to executing the plan lies within engagement and monitoring. It’s imperative to share content and information that is pertinent and relevant to the target audience. That does not, and should not mean the constant regurgitation of brand messages. The opposite is actually more effective and will actually attract and retain individuals within the online community. Many will return again and again seeking new information. If done effectively, an online community develops and becomes a portal of sorts with followers returning almost daily for new information they may be able use that day.

From a lead generation standpoint it’s imperative to share information beyond the brand message and certainly of the franchise opportunity itself. Information pertaining to entrepreneurship and small business ownership along with links to articles about transitioning executives, establishing goals and objectives, family role in business ownership, and small business finance are popular topics. Sharing this type of information with occasional posts about the brand and franchise ownership will keep this target audience returning day after day, looking forward to new information that will assist them in achieving their goals and objectives. As a valuable resource, a relationship begins to form; a key component of the franchise sales process.

Monitoring the activity is vital to further developing the relationship regardless of whether it’s with consumers or candidates. Timely responses to questions and comments go a long way in common courtesy. More importantly, interacting when the consumer or candidate is “hot” typically spurs conversation. It’s that conversation that establishes the personal interaction that potentially moves the process along. It’s the backbone of the “people buy from people” theory. It’s also at this point where the virtual to in-person transition begins to happen. It’s also where the relationship is most prone to unravel.

It is essential that front-line staff and franchise sales personnel fully understand and are aware of the information being shared with consumers and candidates alike. They should also be aware of online activity, especially the activity leading towards “buying” activity. As the transition to the in-person setting, which includes a visit to a franchise location and a telephone call with a franchise sales representative, the professionalism established online must continue. The online message must be consistent and continue to be conveyed.

ANALYZE

Certainly, metrics are important in gauging the effectiveness of any online strategy. And, it’s vitally important to analyze and quantify results on a regular basis. However, the key metrics are actually simpler than that of algorithms, click-through rates, and impressions. It’s what I refer to as a Social Media P&L.

This P&L takes the objectives, expectations and desired results, as established in earlier planning stages, and quantifies them into hard numbers. Then, these numbers are analyzed against actual results. This should be done weekly, monthly and quarterly in order to view development and progression of trends which then creates the opportunity to tweak and revise the plan much like turning a ship at sea. As you know, turning a ship at sea is done in a very slow, deliberate manner as a quick turn could easily capsize the vessel.

Ultimately, the results achieved within the plan must line up with the initial objectives of getting involved in social media in the first place. Therefore, it’s imperative the initial planning stages include specifying desired results and defined numbers. It’s not enough to just say, “We want to increase business and franchise sales.” Well, how much of sales increase? And, where? What particular market(s)? Over what period of time? And, for franchise sales purposes the same holds true but from its’ own unique perspective.

Keep in mind the operational aspect that needs to be considered in the process, and in evaluating plan effectiveness. It’s not uncommon to drive leads to franchise locations and to franchise sales departments, only to result in poor conversion rates. Obviously, the poor results in this situation are not the result of a poor social media plan as much as it stems from a poor sales effort. It is essential to take into consideration all aspects of daily operations, at the appropriate levels of the organization. It’s imperative the information pulled from these various levels be accurate and timely to accurately evaluate potential issues, and to be able to quickly resolve problems.

Erik Qualman, Author of Socialnomics and the person behind the infamous Social Media Revolution videos states that Social Media ROI is still being in business five years from now. A powerful statement, indeed! But one that I highly value and believe in as social media continues to gain momentum and becomes even more valuable, and essential, than it is today.

Expanding social media beyond its basic elements and utilizing it with specific intent and purpose can prove quite effective in generating multiple benefits at all levels of a franchise organization including increasing traffic at the unit level, creating brand awareness, generating interest in franchise opportunity and improving communications throughout the system. Understanding how social media need to operate in a franchise environment is critical to future success, and a primary reason for referring to it as Franchise Social Media, complete with functionality unique to franchising.

Social Media: Looking Back to 2010 – Has Anything “Really” Changed?

Four years ago, I submitted an article for the International Franchise Association publication, Franchising World. The article was about capitalizing on what was then a relatively new but increasingly mainstream technology, social media. When looking back at the article I quickly realized that not much has really changed from my philosophy in effectively utilizing social media, and especially in a franchise environment. Sure, some of the platforms have changed and some social media have gone by the wayside while new ones have popped on the scene, but from a strategic standpoint, my philosophy remains in-tact as does the [potential] value social media brings to franchise organizations. But, I’ll let you decide for yourself as you read on and I look forward to your feedback…

Simplifying Social Media for Optimum Results
As published in Franchising World – August 2010

The key to effective technology usage is developing an integrated plan, choosing the most complementary tools and implementing well-planned strategies.

Integrated Franchise MarketingSocial media technology is evolving at a rapid pace. New tools enabling increased communication with various constituencies are being introduced on a frequent basis. While the franchising community is not yet embracing social media at the levels of the public-at-large, its members are beginning to understand the multi-tiered value that social media participation can provide to their firms. This value includes:

• Creating or improving brand awareness that drives business to franchise locations,

• Creating interest in franchise opportunities or franchise-candidate lead generation, and

• Establishing or improving communications and information-sharing throughout the franchise organization.

A frequently-cited impediment to the franchising industry’s adoption of social media is the perceived time commitment required to achieve optimum results. There are many implementation methods and technology tools that can be utilized to execute a firm’s social media program in a way that will maximize ROI, minimize time requirements and achieve complete integration into its overall marketing strategy, all of which will serve to achieve optimum results.

Saving Time

A big part of the challenge with building a substantial brand presence on social media is the need to ensure that a brand is reaching its target audiences on the various social platforms where it is participating, and since the number of social media platforms now numbers in the mid-hundreds, it’s obvious why this can be perceived as a daunting process. Participation on any platform necessitates building a profile there and then adding new content on a regular basis to keep the brand’s audience interested and engaged. While firms do exist that will concurrently build a company’s profile on up to several hundred sites (for a fee, of course), these tend to be very generic profiles that will not serve to attract the interest of a target audience and are therefore not recommended.

A better plan is to begin by identifying the top 10 social media platforms where a franchise will find the audience it is seeking. Typically this will include one or more of the top three platforms: Twitter, a micro-blogging platform with wide and diverse appeal; LinkedIn, a networking platform for a business-oriented audience; and Facebook, which began as a way to communicate with friends and family, but has evolved into a leading marketing platform for brands large and small to communicate with a potential audience of over 400 million members.

Many other social-media platforms exist including those that are targeted to specific geographic areas and those that appeal to specific demographic targets. A good place to start reviewing platform options is the blog, “Marketing with New Technology.” After a brand has been established and built a following on the originally selected platforms, then it can consider whether it wants to begin exploring additional social platforms to broaden its base of followers.

The second step will be to build the firm’s profile-corporate pages on each of the selected top 10 platforms and to concurrently authorize the development of any employee or franchisee-managed profiles that will be linked to the franchise account.

The third step is where the franchise will begin to achieve significant time-savings by using social media. This is to incorporate the use of a social-media aggregator into the social media program (see list on Page 14 of the digital August 2010 Franchising World).

A social media aggregator will allow a firm to attach the selected social platforms to one account and then upload content only once, but publish it to all of the selected platforms, thereby avoiding the need and the time to move from platform to platform to make posts.

The best aggregators will allow a firm to be very selective about which platform each piece of content publishes to, enable the attachment of multi-media content such as photos or video, permit the identification of a specific date and time that the item will actually post and finally, allow a franchise to incorporate multiple levels of authorized access so that several people can post content, but only certain ones can actually authorize it to post to the social media platform.

This type of tool allows the workload to be distributed while ensuring compliance with franchisor branding and messaging guidelines. Aggregators are available at costs and functions ranging from free, with very basic services, to more than $25,000 per year for enterprise-level programs which provide the highest levels of functionality and security. Some of the aggregators even incorporate the ability to post blog entries, e-mails and text messaging.

Read the complete article HERE.

Technology As The New Norm – Are We There Yet?

As we’re at mid-year, it’s essential we look forward to the second half of the year and review our goals and objectives. But, too often we don’t take into consideration how we’re going to make certain we achieve those goals and objectives… understanding what’s involved, doing the necessary prep work, learning about technology that will help, etc.

As the world rapidly moves towards “everything digital” it is vitally important, and absolutely essential we stay on top of technology. This cannot be stressed enough! It is reality and is paramount to any type of business success. The key is not to look at this from a negative perspective. Instead, embrace it for what it is, and for what it can do to help grow your business. Technology is not the enemy. It truly is your friend and one that can help you in more ways than you could ever imagine.

Imagine doing business today without computers? Without the internet?

Many business owners in the late ’80’s were reluctant to embrace computers and many thought the internet was a fad and would wither away. Many of today’s business owners have the same thoughts about social media and digital technology. Heck, many are still complaining about Web 2.0, when Web 3.0 is already here!

I guess the most important thing to realize, and probably quite different than looking back at technological advances in the ’80’s and ’90’s is the fact that today’s consumer has embraced technology and has incorporated it into their daily routine. Of course, let’s not lose sight of the younger generations that utilize technology because, quite frankly, they don’t really know any other way of doing things. It’s the norm to them. Actually, many in the younger generations don’t even look at it as technology!

So, back to today’s consumer… As they have embraced technology at a quicker pace than in the past, they demand, correction, expect, brands to have embraced it as well. They also expect brands to be ahead of the curve, and at the very least, ahead of where they are as consumers using technology. I guess a key question to ask at this time is, “At what point does today’s and tomorrow’s consumer meld together and eliminate the transition stage?” I ask that because the transition stage is today’s business owner’s comfort zone. It’s the comfort zone relied upon that minimizes the sense of urgency to embrace technology. It’s the comfort zone that has many business owners stating, “I have time. I’ll check it out next year.” or, “Our customers are older. They don’t use this new stuff. I’ll worry about it when I have to.”

Understand, today’s consumer, regardless of age, has embraced, or at the very least, accepted technology. Their expectations are growing by the minute, and most have ventured far beyond their own comfort zones. Add to this the influence of younger generations that in the past would have been considered to be bringing up the rear, that are now pushing forward, and pushing hard. Before you know it, the transition stage, the comfort zone, will be gone, and business owners that have not embraced and accepted technology will not survive.

Franchise Candidates: A Changed Mindset

This article was originally posted on August 13, 2009 as Franchise Candidates: A Changing Mindset. Well, I guess we can revise the title slightly to reflect candidates’ current views – A Changed Mindset. Nevertheless, the article may be even more relevant today as franchising attempts to rebound from the economic downturn and continues to explore more viable lead generation strategies that will attract today’s franchise candidate. Many continue to explore social media and have realized its position as an integral and effective component of these strategies… of course, when utilized according to a plan.

caution-01A look at today’s franchise candidates will reveal they are more sophisticated, better educated, and more technologically advanced than ever before. In addition, and even more so because of the economic downturn, they are extremely cautious.

Today’s candidates are spending more time researching opportunities, and doing so at a much slower pace. In order to be diligent in the process, more time is spent online pouring through page after page of information, constantly bookmarking, and moving back and forth from new information to saved information. They’re comparing notes with other franchise candidates on social networking sites. As well, they’re gaining invaluable insight monitoring online discussion groups and forums.

Ultimately, today’s franchise candidate desires and needs to be certain the franchise opportunity is as close to perfect for his or her situation, as humanly possible. In the past, and especially after previous recessions, franchise candidates took their capital gains and invested in a franchise opportunity. Many times leaving the principal investment untouched. There was a sense of throwing caution to the wind because they were investing profits. Many times ungodly profits, at least by today’s standards. Does anyone remember when money markets kicked out 17% profit margins?

Unfortunately, many individuals looking at franchise opportunities today are looking at things differently. They have to. Many are transitioning corporate executives staring at the back end of illustrious careers trying to squeak out just ten more years before retirement. Facing the challenge of younger talent, new technology, and a rapidly changing business environment, many opt to “buy” a job and explore franchising and small business ownership.

What Changed?

Here’s the difference between today’s recession, and of those in the past. As huge fortunes have been lost, and large gains have not been realized in current financial markets, today’s candidates are forced to invest all or part of their remaining nest egg in order to enter the world of business ownership. Of course, everyone knows and fully understand the risks involved in owning a business. But in yesterday’s business environment, many franchisees and business owners were “gambling” with profits.

Certainly, no one wanted to lose money in a business venture. But, many had fallback positions with funds still in retirement accounts and of course, if they had to, employment. For many of today’s candidates, failure is not an option because fallback opportunities are fast becoming non-existent. Actually, I believe many of today’s candidates might not have even considered franchise or small business ownership in the past.

So, as many individuals explore their options, they will focus more and more of their efforts online. Franchisors must embrace this fact, and dedicate more resources to the internet and look to social media to complement, not replace, their traditional franchise marketing strategies. By doing so, they’ll realize multiple benefits for their entire system including:

– Creating or further developing brand awareness with franchise candidates and consumers alike
– Generating franchise leads that are genuinely interested in exploring what franchising and small business ownership has to offer, and how a particular concept may be the vehicle to achieve their goals and objectives
– Establishing an interactive environment of communications and information sharing that will become the backbone of future franchise relationships throughout franchise systems

Last, many franchise candidates previously viewed franchising and small business ownership as a way of achieving their wishes, hopes and dreams, regardless of what those may have been. Today, it’s more about goals and objectives, and necessities. We, as an industry need to fully realize this, and understand the mindset of today’s franchise candidate.

Franchise Sales Process: Consistent or Flavor-of-the-Month?

Occasionally, I take a look at some of my posts from a few years back just to compare my thoughts and perspective from then to now. I always ask myself if I’m consistent so as not to confuse anyone. But more importantly, am I focused for the long-term or for just the here-and-now. Well, below is a post from June 2009. I’m sure you’ll agree that I have been consistent and have not jumped on any flavor-of-the-day bandwagon… It really is about fundamentals and best-practices!

Franchise Sales During the Recession

WSJRecently, in one of the franchise groups on LinkedIn, there was some discussion about the Wall Street Journal article, “Franchise Sales Pull Back During the Recession.” Several franchise professionals posted their comments and, of course, I added my “two cents” as well. Okay, I was definitely long-winded compared to the others, but as most of you who read my articles are well aware, I have a passion for franchising and franchise success and tend to go on and on to share the same with all who will “listen.”

“I too, believe there are many well-qualified candidates exploring franchising. Some as a career alternative, and also, in the case of already being a small business owner, as a business expansion strategy and/or an income diversification plan.

No doubt, the number of overall franchise leads has diminished quite a bit. But I believe many of the “tire kickers” have gone by the wayside while the more qualified candidates continue to search, inquire and ultimately decide franchising is right for them to achieve their goals and objectives. However, in order to fully realize this trend, one must realize that the candidates’ approach has evolved.

Today’s qualified franchise candidate is more sophisticated, educated and technologically advanced than we have ever seen before. Add to the mix, a sense of extreme caution, and their process in exploring franchising and specific franchise opportunities has become more of a detailed, well-thought out strategy.

Always understanding that there is risk in any entrepreneurial endeavor, today’s candidates explore franchising because it may provide even the slightest edge against failure. Their mantra has become, “failure is not an option” and they now live it by doing everything humanly possible to dot every “i” and cross every “t” and then rechecking only to do it over and over again until they have full, complete confidence in their decision.

To that end, the overall process from initial inquiry to franchise award is much longer than in years’ past and that is something franchisors must be prepared to effectively handle. It’s a primary reason I believe social media works so well in the new era of franchise sales as it creates an environment for today’s candidates to research organizations, share information, communicate with individuals at all levels of the franchise organization from franchisees to corporate executives, view photos, audio and video, etc. And, they can do so at their own pace and to their full understanding. That is the key.

Understanding and adapting to today’s qualified franchise candidate will help franchisors ride out this current economic downturn. Putting their heads in the sand and just complaining about the poor economy and the franchise candidate pool drying up will only incorrectly prove true that their negative thoughts are correct.

All that being said, certainly there are challenges in securing financing and other variables that must be contended with and addressed accordingly. But as the franchise candidate pool diminishes and many of the tire kickers aren’t around to waste our time, we should now have more time to explore all options, use our creativity and innovation, network beyond our comfort zones and seek out alternative solutions. I believe those solutions are out there and many are capitalizing on them as we speak. They will not only survive, they will thrive as others have done in other recessionary periods.”

Value-added Discussions – A Linkedin Best Practice

In a recent discussion within the LinkedIn Franchise Executives group a question was asked about how best to present products and services to group members. The question stemmed from a revision in group rules put in place to keep the group focused on its objectives of exchanging ideas, sharing information, and promoting best practices within franchising. By attempting to eliminate the clutter of self-promotion, MLM opportunities, and even franchise opportunities, revising the rules was seen as the most practical way to retain group members and increase participation.

Here’s the question and my response regarding value-added discussions…

Question: “Outlining some guidelines is an excellent way to embark and start bringing a format or platform to enhance value to the group, congratulations on your initiative.

Please tell us at what point information and value added discussions should be introduced to the group in your mind. I think anyone here is interested in gaining value and as well, sharing value, but it all sooner or later leads to developing new business, directly or indirectly, that is mutually beneficial. There is a fine line between “advertorials” and “value exchanges”. Are you able to define further what format, discussion or response you think would serve the reader and the writer (group members) best? ”

Answer: “I believe value-added discussions can be introduced at anytime. However, I do believe it’s a social networking best practice to “earn the right” to do so by getting to know group members, participate in group discussions, and contribute to the same.

Then, based upon a perceived group or industry need, I suggest initiating a discussion about that need (or challenge / issue). Certainly, one can lead into presenting within the discussion details of their product and how it could satsify the need, address the challenge or resolve the issue. The key is not to immediately shove the product or service down members’ throats.

I believe what is often overlooked or ignored, is that group members, especially ones being sold to, have knowledge about franchising, are aware of the needs, challenges and issues the industry is facing, and may actually be aware of the companies providing services and products in the area of concern. What they may not be aware of is the person presenting a company’s products and services. And, people buy from people, right?

So, I recommend anyone with the objective of selling products and services be a person first, by developing relationships with group members. Then, be perceived as an expert in your field by sharing knowledge and experience through participation. I believe sales should follow…

As an added note, I believe the same process works within other social media including Facebook and Twitter, with platform appropriate modifications to plan.”

This post originally published January 2011.


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