Hook the Big One, Angler

You don’t need a brand new marketing plan to net a trophy fish, just learn from the professionals

As the summer wears on, franchisors and franchisees alike head to the waterfront to cast their lines into the water, hoping to hook the “big fish.” It doesn’t take a great leap of the imagination to see how this same scenario applies to marketing and selling your franchise.

Think about a fisherman camped out on the shore, watching a modest bass boat crawl its way around a bend of the lakeshore. The boat pilot beams ear to ear under a sky blue, lure-hooked bucket hat as she aims her craft for the dock and her berth. Our theoretical shore-bound fisherman can see from his vantage point that the boat pilot has a glistening four-foot largemouth bass hanging from one of the poles (never mind that a true sport angler wouldn’t haul their fish this way).

The shore-bound fisherman may look at that scene and think catching that big one was easy, that all it took was a fancy boat and an easy hour out on the water. But they, like a franchisor reading about a competitor landing a large, multi-unit deal, may not understand all of the hard work—and deep marketing dollars—that went into the catch.

Franchise marketing is a game of numbers, which means the more money you spend on marketing your franchise offer, the more leads and ultimately sales you’ll make. The formula is more complicated than that, sure, but the underlying principle is sound.

But franchise marketing success takes more than just money, and woe unto any franchisor who assumes the almighty dollar is all one needs.

Fish on the line

Enacting your marketing plan and running through several, a dozen, a hundred prospects before landing a solid sale is a common experience in the franchise world, and it’s rare that a franchisor catches the big fish right off the dock. That’s not to say it never happens, but just like the world of fishing is unpredictable, it often takes several tries and many iterations of your marketing plan before a franchisor is able to sign their first franchisee, let alone the bank-breaking multi-unit deal.

One of the most important factors to consider in casting your net for prospects is whether the franchisee will be successful or not. A prospect who does not have the skill set, work ethic or resources needed to grow and maintain their business will have little chance of success, and granting a franchise to such a candidate not only sets them up for failure, but over time, the franchise system as well. That’s why constantly refining your marketing plan to target prospects with a particular background or specific skills is so important.

A long day on the water

I tell new franchisors that they should settle in for the long fight when it comes to marketing—ranging anywhere from six months to a year or more before they sign a franchisee and start to recoup their spend. Beyond your killer marketing plan, it’s a game of numbers and you have to spend time carefully constructing, adjusting and then feeding your lead funnel. We talk about a rate of about 50 leads per sale, and though there are outliers and constant fluctuation, the lesson is that it will require time.

Not everyone is right for franchising. The best franchisors are often entrepreneurs who possess exceptional communication skills, who are also great salespeople. That kind of thing takes endurance. But that’s not all.

Endurance, patience, focus and dedication

Finally, after those long hours catching fish that didn’t fit the mold or that snapped the line and got away, the shore-bound fisher may ask the boat pilot: was it worth it? Is the large bass going to feed the family? Is the large bass going to justify the tall tale she’ll tell bellied up to the bar tonight? Just like asking a franchisor who just nabbed the big deal, yes, the boat pilot replies, it was.

The biggest thing I tell new franchisors is that they need to be dedicated and have a long-term and flexible marketing plan if they want to land the big fish. Through the disappointing “almosts” to the long, tiresome hours they’ll put in to satisfy a prospect’s information requests, the shore-bound franchisor should have the stomach to stay in the fight.

Even though the bass boat franchisor might make it look easy, it won’t be. In the franchise marketing world, a primary decider of your success will be these core, personal qualities: endurance, patience, focus, dedication. These are things you can develop, but ultimately, not things you can buy. A marketing consultant like me can help, but it all comes down to you in the end.

Is your marketing plan ready? Are you ready?

Matthew Jonas is the president of TopFire Media, an award winning, integrated public relations and digital marketing agency specializing in franchise marketing and consumer branding. Together with the leaders of iFranchise Group and Franchise Dynamics, Matthew established TopFire Media to provide a strategic and synchronized method for digital marketing in the franchise industry. As a digital marketing strategist with over a decade of in-depth experience in SEO and PPC, social media publishing, conversion-based marketing, inbound marketing, sales management, and online lead generation, Matthew has built a career dedicated to delivering an integrated marketing approach that achieves client success and long-term relationships.


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