Integrating Social Media with Traditional Franchise Marketing

The first segment of Franchise Development via Social Media described how to establish the “Virtual Meeting Room” as the online site to enable interested parties to gather and share information about your franchise concept. The second segment of this four part series, explored the path of guiding an interested party through the virtual meeting room, enhancing the experience with videos, photos and a multitude of Web 2.0 tools, until the individual transitions from general to specific interest and evolves into a franchise candidate. At this point, the franchise candidate is primed to move through the franchise sales process and make an informed decision about his or her entrepreneurial future. Interacting with the candidate throughout the time spent in the virtual meeting room enables your executive committee to make an informed decision as to whether or not the candidate should be awarded a franchise in your system.

anne-indecisiveNot convinced that a social media strategy will help you achieve your franchise development objectives? That’s understandable as it is certainly new, and as such, is difficult to measure for complete efficiency and effectiveness. Basically, there really isn’t anything to measure it against. So, if it doesn’t work, for whatever reason, you need to be prepared and have a back up plan. Is that your thinking? If it is, you’re partially correct in thinking this way. I say, partially, because you should transition into any new marketing approach, and the best way to do so, is to integrate the old with new, the traditional with the innovative.

I also say, partially, because a back up plan, running simultaneously, is a double expenditure and as such may cause you to shortcut the new strategy justifying your decision as you being more comfortable with the old strategy anyway. But keep in mind, the old has been losing its effectiveness over the past few years and today’s franchise candidates are trending away from old methods of exploring business opportunities so change is necessary. Fortunately, you can move into social media at your own pace and slowly transition away from traditional strategies while maintaining the total marketing efforts necessary to achieve your objectives.

Now, let’s look at some of the traditional marketing you might have used in past franchise development efforts and see how you can integrate the same with social media. Over time, you may transition completely out of the traditional methods or may opt to keep some in place, at reduced levels than in the past, and as dictated by the franchise development results achieved by the total efforts.

franchises_availableTraditional strategy: Tapping your current franchise network for customers that may be interested in your franchise concept. Various costly marketing tools include newsletters, post cards, in-store signage and printed materials. Approaching customers should be effective as they’re basically the low-hanging fruit that should be easily picked. Customers know the concept and are generally satisfied with the product or services. They’ve seen how busy the franchise unit is and have experienced the growth of the brand in the market.

Social media strategy: Invite franchise customers to the company’s social networking site and encourage them to participate. On the site, they’ll see videos and photos as we’ve described in parts one and two of this series. The effectiveness of this interaction is far stronger than introducing customers to the possibility of owning their own franchise through cumbersome print materials that get left in the back of the car or get discarded. Certainly the interactivity of the social network site blows away the message being told in print.

Traditional strategy: Advertising in local and national media for individuals interested in small business ownership, franchising and hopefully, your franchise concept. This is an expensive proposition as print advertising is very specific to a local market and multiple markets may be necessary to grow effectively. Or, the national publication costs are cost prohibitive for the size of your concept.

Social media strategy: Blogs are today’s media. Blog writers are today’s journalists. Through tags and various Web 2.0 tools (widgets), content is spread across the internet to multitudes of bloggers that ultimately wind up discussing and promoting your concept. As discussed in previous parts to this series, social network groups can be targeted to attract franchise candidates according to the ideal franchise profile you’ve created. This makes your actual sales efforts more concentrated to actual qualified candidates as opposed to dealing with the swarm of tire-kickers from print media.

lemonTraditional strategy: Portal websites became very popular as the internet gained steam in both popularity and daily usage. Unfortunately, now there are so many portals that regurgitate leads across the internet that many portal leads have been contacted by 10-20-30 different “franchise experts.” This has created a “used car salesman” effect that has actually turned people that may have been interested in franchising, totally against the industry.

Social media strategy: Similar to the strategy identified above as the alternative to advertising in local and national media. And, instead of an interested party being directed to specific information, the social media effort gradually presents the facts and information about the franchise while encouraging interaction with the entire franchise family. This goes a long way towards building trust, an essential component to the franchise sale.

Traditional strategy: Personally, I believe franchise expos and tradeshows are quickly becoming a thing of the past. First, it’s just too expensive to send a team of representatives to man a trade booth in some city outside the city where the corporate headquarters is located. Further, people are intimidated by salespeople and prefer instead to search for opportunities online in a non-intimidating environment, and at their own pace.

Social media strategy: With the wealth and breadth of information available online, an individual’s computer is in essence, a virtual tradeshow or franchise expo. Why should an individual interetsed in franchising go anywhere else? However, it’s not good enough to just have a website. A website is static and two-dimensional. Instead, a blog and social network page, again as we’ve previously described, is essential to stand out from the crowd and create an interactive forum where the franchise candidate can learn and share information towards making an informed decision. Again, at his or her own pace and without feeling intimidated.

Non-traditional strategies: There’s a multitude of fairly new strategies that have been utilized in franchise development efforts. One, email marketing, is effective to an extent. Email blasts have become very common and have had a relative level of success. Except, it’s starting to become stagnant as more and more companies have launched extensive email campaigns and the excitement of yesterday is gone today. Most people now look at email marketing as spam and actually block it whenever and however they can.

email-vs-social-mediaSocial media strategies: Welcome to video email marketing. Or, as is commonly referred to as vidmail marketing. Actually, let’s call it email on steroids! Videos, an essential Web 2.0 tool, can be transfered to blogs and social networks to enhance the experience and more importantly, convey a consistent message in a dynamic form. People remember 10% of what they read. 20% of what they hear. And 30% of what they see. But, remember 50% of what they see AND hear together. So, which is it, email or vidmail?

A recent blog post on The Buzz Bin, defined some basic “musts” for fluid integration of social media. They include:

•Ensuring overarching value proposition and related communications are available in social web when dialogue naturally permits
•Cross-promotion of URLS and calls-to-action through web, mobile and print media for giving, tell-a-friend, webinars, etc.
•Spotlight third party coverage from blogs in the press room
•Advertising: Word of mouth is buoyed by advertising, so social media efforts should be tied to ad campaigns for print, online and keyword marketing. “Connect on Facebook” and other similar calls-to-action should start becoming common aspects of your ad campaigns.
•Public relations: Integrating willing online influencers as part of your outreach is essential.
•Emails: Any email sent from an organizational property should also include a call-to-action for the social web. Think about this: People reading email are already online.
•Website: Prominent first screenview promotion of social media properties needs to be developed for the 1.0 site. We recommend a clean badge or clearly delineated text.
•Cross promotion of social web activities. Badges should link to a portal site that unites all of your social media properties (once you develop them). Then use the portal as the home page and calls-to-action site for all online activity

Certainly, this list is far more technical than the explanations provided in this series but they correspond very well and should be used as a guide when executing your plan to integrate social media with traditional strategies.

Tomorrow, we’ll be closing out the series with Part 4 of Franchise Development via Social Media. Our last segment will tie everything together to make increased franchise sales a reality as opposed to a vision, or fantasy. We’ll also touch on basic sales skills necessary to add the personal touch that is so essential to closing the sale.

In the meantime, please list your questions and comments in the space provided below, and I will respond accordingly prior to releasing the last part of the series.