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.

So, you want to do business with franchise companies…

First, and foremost, please understand that many, many business professionals approach the franchise industry each and every day attempting to sell them everything from insurance to office equipment to financial services. It’s an uphill battle that can be extremely rewarding if the trek is carefully and diligently navigated. That being said, the best approach is directly at the franchise organizations. By going direct, you create the opportunity of gaining the parent company’s endorsement and ultimately, accessibility to the entire franchise base. If you attempt to market to individual franchisees initially, you will spin your wheels and burn out faster than you could ever imagine.

In dealing with franchisors, I recommend a subtle, subliminal approach. You will need to become a resource for them to consider introducing you to their franchisees. That’s your biggest challenge. To conquer it I recommend contacting as many franchise publications and blogs as you can, and submit articles and posts. Of course, end them with your contact info, etc. This positions you as an expert in your field and as a resource for the industry.

You can also achieve expert status by being proactive on LinkedIn. Join as many franchise groups as you can. Keep in mind that direct selling is frowned upon in social networking forums. However, by responding to and posting discussions, you can establish your niche. By doing so, the sales intent will be subtle and subliminal, and effective. In time, I recommend you develop a webinar and invite the franchise community to attend. This is a great way to develop a target list.

Consider developing powerpoint presentations to attach to your LinkedIn profile that people can view at their leisure. Maybe a video on You Tube and post on various blogs and social networks. Improve your Facebook presence. Explore groups you’re interested in targeting and consider forming your own group and establish a business page as well. Check Twitter and integrate your messages there as well. Be sure to cross-promote wherever possible.

Basically, I’ve just outlined for you a marketing strategy that is integrated with social technology. It’s cost-effective and it works. Though, I must remind you to be patient as results take time as you “earn” the right to do business with your target audience. But when the orders start coming in, momentum can build very quickly. It can also be plenty of fun and you will meet many exciting and interesting people along the way.

This post was originally posted on this site January 2010

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One-size-fits-all Social Media Solutions… A false prophecy!

As could be expected, many within franchising entered the year determined to make things happen. As also could be expected, many turned to social media, believing it could be the answer to improving sales at the unit level, increasing interest in their franchise opportunity, and considered social media a low or no-cost alternative to what they’ve done in years past.

Unfortunately, many have failed in their social media efforts. The reasons? Well, many did not understand the ins and outs of social media marketing. Some didn’t even understand the basics of the most fundamental social media; Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. And others failed because they were just not 100% committed to the effort. But, are these the real reasons they failed?

Well, as you may have guessed, the answer is, “No!” Ultimately, failure in social media is a direct result of failing to plan. Referring to the old adage, “Failing to plan, is planning to fail” causes me to shake my head in bewilderment at the statements posted in many of the online discussion groups recommending what clearly points to one-size-fits-all social media solutions. How much planning goes into a one-size-fits-all solution? How much commitment actually goes into a one-size-fits-all solution from both the consultant making the recommendation and the client that signs on? How much does a one-size-fits-all solution address outside the realm of the basic social media platforms? I don’t believe it’s ironic or a coincidence that the same questions I pose here are similar to the reasons many fail in their attempt to utilize social media.

Success in social media takes hard work. It takes a well-defined strategy based upon a clear, concise understanding of objectives and desired results. It takes a firm commitment of dedicated resources in both time and money. It takes knowing who the target audience is, where they congregate and communicate online, what messages need to be delivered to create interest, and seperately, to create a call for action. It takes full comprehension of a contingency plan based upon what if…? In essence, it takes planning!

Brian Solis, author the best-selling book on social media, Engage!, and Fast Company expert blogger, recently wrote an article on this very subject, In Social Media, Failing to Plan, is Planning to Fail. He wrote, “I’ve received a series of inbound requests for comments based on a report from Gartner, an IT analyst firm, that estimates as many as 70-percent of social media campaigns will fail in 2011. There are a series of discussions hitting the blogosphere and the Twitterverse exploring this very topic, some elementary and others on the right path. I contacted Gartner earlier this week and the problem is, that this data isn’t new at all. In fact, these discussions are fueled by information originally published in 2008 and in early 2010. Yet another example of the importance of fact-checking in the era of real-time reporting, yes, but, when I paused for a moment, I appreciated the timelessness of this discussion.

Are many of the social media programs in play yielding tangible results?

No …

Are they designed to impact the bottom line or are they tied to meaningful business outcomes?

No …

The truth is that you can’t fail in anything if success is never defined.”

To franchisors, I suggest, before choosing what appears to be a one-size-fits-all social media solution, take the time and expend the effort to develop a social media strategy that not only reflects your current status, but one that can evolve as your system grows. And, be sure to involve your franchisees as it is essential that local objectives to drive sales are integrated in the overall plan that may also include franchise development objectives. Keep in mind, many plans will include multiple objectives that may require that different social media be utilized for optimum results. And don’t forget to integrate your social media plan with your overall marketing and development plans!

Solis concludes his article, “Success is not a prescription. There isn’t one way to excel. That’s the point. Success requires definition based on intentions, goals, and mutual value … across the organization from the top down, bottom up, inside out and outside in. Success is defined departmentally and also at the brand level. There’s much to do …”

Read the complete article HERE.

* This post was originally published on this site July 2011

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Ten Commandments of Social Media

Lon Scafko, author of The Social Media Bible, and keynote speaker for the upcoming Franchise Social Media Summit, wrote an article some time back for Fast Company magazine where he discussed the Ten Commandments of Social Media. These commandments are an excellent guideline to developing a social media marketing strategy, and for future reference.

ten_commandments_large_web-copyCommandment 1. Thou Shalt Blog (like crazy)

Blog. Please. That’s the first priority. Set up a blog, a personal blog, a business blog. It’s easier than you think. Use an existing blogging site such as or or install your own branded blogging site right on your own server by using WordPress. And, WordPress is free.

Commandment 2. Thou Shalt Create Profiles (everywhere)

Create your profiles; do it now before someone else takes them. Once they are gone, they are gone forever. That’s called cyber squatting. So get out there. Use Open Social to make filling in your profiles as easy as a click of a button.

Commandment 3. Thou Shalt Upload Photos (lots of them)

Upload photographs. You’ve got them. Don’t upload the one with you with a lampshade on your head…counterproductive; but other photographs? Absolutely. Customers want to see and participate. You want to give people a face to go with your company.

Commandment 4. Thou Shalt Upload Videos (all you can find)

Videos. You all have got videos. I don’t care whether it’s training videos or customer videos, grab your video camera and go interview some of your customers. What’s better than seeing your customer’s smiley face on your Web site? And it doesn’t cost anything.

Commandment 5. Thou Shalt Podcast (often)

Podcast. If you’re too cheap to get a camera, use the free audio software that’s in your computer. That’s what I did. I created 48 audio podcasts. If you take the podcasts I did for my book and played them back-to-back, they run 24 continuous hours of interviews. You can do that. It’s free. It just takes time.

Commandment 6. Thou Shalt Set Alerts (immediately)

Set alerts. People are talking about you. You probably need to know what they are saying and you want to participate.

Commandment 7. Thou Shalt Comment (on a multitude of blogs)

Comment. Commenting is like going to a cocktail party. You wouldn’t walk into a networking event, walk up to a group of people talking, and tell them your name and what you do in your business. That would be rude and unacceptable. Listen first. Read the blogs and add comments. You can be controversial, that’s okay. But participate. Get involved.

Commandment 8. Thou Shalt Get Connected (with everyone)

Get LinkedIn. Put it in your email that you have a LinkedIn account, you have a Facebook account, and that you have a Twitter account. Make it a part of your heading on your letterhead, because that’s how you propagate. That’s how you sell it.

Commandment 9. Thou Shalt Explore Social Media (30 minutes per week)

Explore social media. Give me thirty minutes a week, that’s all I’m asking. Friday morning grab your coffee, lock yourself in your office, and give me thirty minutes. Just Google something. I promise you within the first 30 days you will be excited. You’ll be as excited as I am. You will get excited because of the ROI.

Commandment 10. Thou Shalt Be Creative (go forth and create creatively)

And the most important commandment is creativity. That’s all. It’s just creativity and having fun. But you know what, that’s what your customers want. They want to see transparency. They want to see authenticity. They want to see you having fun. They want to be able to relate and communicate.

* Previously posted on franchisEssentials June 2010 and June 2011

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Social Media in Franchise Organizations: Who’s Responsible?

I work with many franchise groups in developing and implementing social media strategies. Right now, there’ s a pretty equal split in franchisors handling all social media activities and franchisees participating in the activities. This includes financial and operational activities and responsibilities.

Personally, I believe franchisors should embrace and participate in social media from a brand standpoint. They should develop a basic social media presence and manage it accordingly. Of course, they should be responsible for related costs as well.

As for the franchisees, I believe they should have a presence as well, but with the franchisor’s guidance, training and direction to maintain brand consistency in appearance and message. As for day-to-day activity, franchisees should be responsible for their own posts, which of course, will be complemented by posts on franchisor’s site. Franchisees should also be responsible for the costs involved in day-to-day activity just as they are for marketing activities.

The most effective programs I’m working with include a very detailed, comprehensive social media training program for franchisees. Many franchisors are now incorporating the same into their initial franchisee training. The training provides know-how, basic understanding and the information necessary to move forward in social media effectively and efficiently.

The problem I have found with the franchisor taking on all responsibility, financial and operational, is that franchisees never really realize the effort, nor the results. And, they never truly understand what social media is and they never fully appreciate the benefits of social media. Programs in these scenarios are certain to fail.

Social Media, with involvement and responsibility at all levels of a franchise organization, should provide multiple benefits including creating brand awareness in new markets and improving brand awareness in established markets, generating consumer interest in the brand and building franchise candidate interest in the concept, driving business to franchise locations and generating leads for franchise development, providing firm base for due diligence efforts by both consumers and candidates, enhance marketing efforts through integration of social media activity with traditional marketing to consumers and candidates alike, and develop a foundation for transparent and honest communications and information sharing throughout the franchise organization.

With proper planning and diligence, social media can be a very effective tool for franchise organizations and will be a stepping stone to embracing more and more social media as it continues to expand and develop. Done haphazardly and off-the-cuff, it can be very frustrating and disappointing and as such, will be considered a failure and a waste of time.

*This post was originally published on this site March 2011

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With Social Media Comes Great Responsibility

Within the LinkedIn franchise groups we continue to see discussions about social media. There’s great interest in what still appears to be the unknown. With fundamental questions being asked and basics being discussed, there is still a level of exploration and discovery going on. Yes, and uncertainty as well.

But, there are also discussions about how to utilize social media better, more efficiently and effectively. Many are exploring ways to expand their social media reach into franchise marketing and lead generation. While others are determining how it can help drive business to franchise locations. And, others are looking into improving system-wide communications, support and training through the many facets of social media. Certainly, the franchise community is embracing social media more and more each day.

Discussions have also centered around social media guidelines, policies and procedures. Who’s allowed to do what is an often repeated question? Other questions touch upon Facebook Fan Pages, Twitter presence, types of posts, information to be shared and continue through to crisis management. All are very important topics of discussion and all must be addressed prior to launching a social media program.

That being said, it’s essential an overall strategy be developed that addresses these questions as well as establish goals and objectives of utilizing social media within your organization. Brian Solis, globally recognized as one of the most original and most prominent thought leaders in social media, is very insightful as to how organizations should embrace social media. In his recent book, Engage!, A Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate and Measure Success in the New Web, he shares that insight.

Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, investor, entrepreneur and Chairman, HDNet, is quoted as saying, It’s no longer an era of business as usual. Executives and entrepreneurs must embrace new media in order to not only compete for the future, but for mind share, market share, and, ultimately, relevance. [Engage!] helps you engage. Without it, you’re competing for second place.

In Chapter 17 of Engage!, Defining the Rules of Engagement, I believe Solis truly delivers the message, and addresses many of the underlying questions I’ve outlined above. At the very least, with respect to these questions, Solis provides what is in essence an outline of what must be considered as businesses take the next step within social media.

With Social Media Comes Great Responsibility
from Engage! by Brian Solis
Chapter 17, Page 205

Please remember these words…

Perhaps the biggest mistakes committed by businesses, personalities and brands in social media occur when people jump into social networks blindly without establishing guidelines, a plan of action, a sense of what people are seeking and how and why they communicate, an understanding of where people are congregating, a definition of what they represent and how they will personify the brand online, and the goals, objectives, and metrics associated with participation.

Everything starts with education and the instruction of policies to protect individuals and brands.

In addition to setting the guidelines and regulations for how and when employees [and franchisees] should and shouldn’t engage online when it relates to the company, we must teach our spokespersons, ambassadors, and advocates how to leverage the immediacy, extent, and potential of these powerful social media tools. Our communities will follow by example.

Holding informal and infrequent workshops and/or publishing internal guidelines for self-consumption and interpretation is not nearly enough to satisfy the substantial requirements for an in-depth comprehension of the scenarios, circumstances, objectives, hazards, and nuances associated with engagement, influence, and community building.

This is more than publishing and it’s far more important than empowering employees [and franchisees] with the ability to chat online.

It is our responsibility to contribute to the increase of a significant, tuned, and strategic signal, with a high ratio to noise. I assure you that in doing so, you will earn a place among the elite in the ranks of social, new, and emerging media practices within your organization.

Recently, on Franchise Today, my guest, BJ Emerson, Social Technology Officer at Tasti D-Lite, mentioned social negligence. At the time, I thought it was a powerful statement and was intrigued by its implications. But now that I’ve read Engage!, I truly understand what BJ was referring to, and now realize the power and magnitude of social negligence… and social responsibility.

This post was originally posted on this site April 2010.

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Are You Getting Positive Bottom Line Results From Your Social Media Efforts?

Social media has definitely gone mainstream and many franchise organizations have embraced it for a variety of reasons. Some are utilizing it to create or improve brand awareness. Others are using it to drive business to franchise locations and/or to create interest in their franchise opportunity. And many have embraced it just because they believe they must, or feel they may miss the proverbial boat.

In any event, there are questions that franchise executives should be realistic about in answering as they continue their social media efforts and work towards effectively integrating the same with traditional marketing.

* What are the objectives for using social media within our franchise system?
* Has a comprehensive social media strategy been developed consistent with our goals?
* Are our social media efforts integrated with our overall marketing strategy?
* Are our social media efforts specifically targeted for optimum effectiveness?
* Are we effective in our social media efforts?
* What are our bottom line results?

Although all six questions listed above are important in evaluating your social media strategy and efforts, the last two questions may be the most important. Truly knowing and understanding the level of effectiveness of your social media efforts, and it’s affect on your bottom line, is essential to achieving your franchise marketing and development goals and objectives.

That’s where franchisEssentials can help!

FREE Social Media Assessment ($1200 Value)

franchisEssentials FREE Social Media Assessment has been designed exclusively for franchise organizations. Basically, the assessment is a 48-step Social Media Checkup that evaluates primary and secondary elements of social media efforts, explores franchise-related issues within social media messages, identifies specific opportunities per established and defined goals and objectives, establishes a baseline for quantifying and analyzing social media metrics, and provides a grade for each specific social media component being utilized as well as for the entire social media program.

Upon completion of the FREE Social Media Assessment, a debriefing session is scheduled to explain the results of our findings in full, concise detail and to provide best-practice recommendations for improvement in specific social media efforts, and for the social media program itself. Including the preliminary meeting which typically takes approximately 30-45 minutes, the actual assessment and evaluation, and the debriefing session which takes 45-75 minutes, the total process should be completed within four days.

Ask yourself the questions listed above, and unless your answers are honest and provide you will full satisfaction in your current social media efforts, we strongly suggest you take full advantage of franchisEssentials FREE Social Media Assessment. It really does make good business sense to do so!

Start Now!

To schedule a preliminary meeting, and/or to learn more about this FREE service or any of our franchise marketing and development services, please contact Paul Segreto by email or by phone at 832.838.4822.

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