Megatrends and Megatrends 2000 author and futurist John Naisbitt is credited with saying, “Franchising is the single most successful marketing concept ever.” With that said, Discovery Days are one of the best ways successful franchisors market themselves to prospective franchisees.
Having experience working with and for franchise businesses for years, I have participated in and produced countless Discovery Days. I have seen great results and not so great results.
Virtually no one produces the same type of Discovery Day, but the successful ones have many things in common. The same can be said regarding unsuccessful Discovery Day events.
Over the years I have collected some valuable tips for franchisors to use in developing their own successful Discovery Days:
1. Decide when to schedule your Discovery Day
This is a timing issue and depends on what your sales cycle involves. Some franchisors plan a Discovery Day in the beginning of the sales cycle before the prospect ever even sees the FDD, and some prefer to hold a Discovery Day near the end, after the prospect has had time to review the FDD and they’re ready to sign the franchise agreement. The way you decide to do it depends on your specific franchise business, what your competitors are doing, and how your particular sales cycle works. No matter when your Discovery Day is scheduled, you will expend time and effort to invite them to your corporate office (or one of your top franchise locations), so plan to invite only your top prospects.
2. Make sure your Discovery Day is completely planned from the first moment they arrive to the moment they leave.
Don’t make the mistake of trying to “wing it” because you will ultimately regret it. Plan everything including when they will arrive and who will pick them up and where they will stay. Plan carefully who will be their coordinator during the event and train that staffer to know exactly what to do in every situation. A franchise Discovery Day handbook with names, contact numbers, emails and directions should be created well before the event and either sent or hand-delivered at the first meeting. Your staff should also have an agenda to follow with contingency plans if something unscheduled happens (i.e. failing to show up at an arranged time, or meetings that run long, etc.).
3. Pre-qualify your prospects prior to Discovery Day
While you are investigating your prospects, understand they are investigating your business as well. Have a contact person your prospects can talk to easily any time. These staffers can find out many important details about your prospects that could help you decide if they are good candidates well before you invite them to your Discovery Days. Also, find out if they’ll be able to obtain financing for the franchise.
4. Train all your home franchise staff well, no matter what the position
One of the situations you do not want to see is an “Undercover Boss” moment where an employee bashes the company or does something against company policy during Discovery Days (or any day). You must trust every employee and have confidence they are completely trained to be professional, polite, unflappable and efficient. Nothing could be worse than holding a prospective franchisee event with unprepared or unpleasant staff.
5. What type of Discovery Day is right for you?
Is your franchise more laid back and chill, trendy and fashion-forward, all about car repair, staffing, lawn care or part of a restaurant chain? Match your Discovery Days to your business, and remember to think like a potential franchisee. A good way to evaluate your Discovery Days is with feedback from attendees. Some businesses provide Discovery Day attendees with comment forms or surveys so they can make future Discovery Days more successful – for both the franchisor and the franchisee.
In some cases a “shadow day” is a helpful way to let a potential investor try out being an actual franchisee for a day by shadowing one of your most successful franchisees during a workday. This will help a prospect get to know if the business is right for them. Be aware, however, that this can pose potential problems if your host franchisee is not running a very tight ship- your host franchisee should be a top performer and one of your best company proponents.
Heather Ripley is the founder and CEO of Tennessee-based Ripley PR, a national public relations agency specializing in franchising. She is also a guest contributor to Entrepreneur.com.