Franchise Buyers Beware – Don’t Let the Ghosts of Owners Past Haunt Your Future!

A social following and positive online reputation can make or break relationships with potential new customers, especially in a regional franchise where social media and online reviews can be a key differentiator.  When a franchise is bought or sold social media channels and review site ratings are valuable assets that need to be considered and included when determining a purchase price. There is definitely value in a 5-star online reputation and room for negotiation when it’s just a 1-star.

Consumers are increasingly relying on social media, including online review sites, to select a brand. In fact, Digital Air Strike conducted a study on social media trends and this proprietary data showed that 79 percent of consumers say using the internet, including social media and review sites, were MOST helpful when researching a business, surpassing all other mediums. 81 percent said online review sites helped them select a business.

Many digital marketers believe that a positive online reputation can become your greatest, or worst, salesperson. If you consider the results of the Digital Air Strike study above, a poor reputation can deter more than 50 percent of potential buyers from even visiting your franchise. So, when buying or selling a franchise, keep those numbers in mind and make sure you’re prepared to maintain or change an online reputation.

When buying a franchise, make sure all log-ins and passwords are included in the contract and the transaction. We work with clients every day who don’t have or can’t find the appropriate login and passwords for their Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and many other sites important to their social media and online reputation.

We recently helped the new owners of a business in Indiana reset logins and passwords for all of their social and review sites because they didn’t get this information in the sale. It took our team about a month to get this information updated ─ which, because we have contacts at all the sites, is actually very fast compared to the time it would take an “average Joe” to get the information. In that time, bad reviews came in and couldn’t be responded to and the business’s social sites went stale.

As insurance, franchise buyers should also request that the previous owners not shut down any email addresses until they get the logins to these important accounts reset. Buyers should also ask for all information about Google Analytics and the logins that go with that account as well. These analytics go a long way in helping you determine the best strategy for your franchise’s digital presence moving forward under your ownership.

Before the sale is even final, the purchaser should request that a social media policy be put in place for current employees. This will help ensure that any negative comments about a potential sale are kept offline. It’s an important practice that all franchises have a social media policy, whether it’s all stores under the franchise umbrella or just the individual owner/manager, that provides guidelines of what can and can’t be shared online – even on an employee’s personal pages. This practice is even more important during the sale of a business.

If the franchise you’re buying has an especially bad social and online reputation, you may just want to start from scratch.  That includes changing the physical address of your store. Many franchises are big enough to allow for a change from, for example, 100 E. Main Street to 102 E. Main Street. Google doesn’t care about new ownership, it pays attention to the business address. So, if you need to leave bad reviews behind, move a little.

Sometimes no reviews look worse than bad ones, so if you’re starting from scratch, implement a plan to get new reviews. The best way to do this is to survey clients and customers nightly and make it easy for the happy ones to share their positive feedback publicly. Additionally, there are tools that can help you ask customers to leave a review in real-time. Sending a survey via text or email to a happy customer who is in your store or has just left is a great way to encourage new reviews. We’ve found this practice can garner hundreds of good reviews in just a few months.

This is also a time to get legitimate likes and followers on your social sites. You shouldn’t buy them, but you can use targeted ads to reach consumers that are interested in your franchise business, the goods and services you sell and even the charities you support.

Most companies today spend time and money on their social media and online reputation and shouldn’t think of these things as “throwaways”. In this digital era, consumers are always online and social media channels have immense value to a business.

Over his 25-year career, Dave Venneri has helped grow revenue at numerous technology startups and brings a wealth of sales leadership to the Digital Air Strike team. Prior to joining Digital Air Strike as Chief Revenue Officer, Dave was most recently Vice President of Inside Sales at G/O Digital (online division of publicly traded Gannett Co., Inc.) and held senior sales leadership positions at multiple technology companies including LivingSocial, Yodle, Intava and Who’s Calling. In addition to years of SMB technology experience, Dave also served in sales and marketing roles at the Seattle Mariners, Cutter & Buck and Cutters Gloves.

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