This year’s International Franchise Association Convention in Las Vegas was a celebration of all the exciting developments in the franchise world today. The biggest event in the industry, IFA 2015 hosted almost 4,000 professionals that came for forward-thinking keynote speakers, educational sessions and roundtables, and presentations on the latest innovations in franchise management, financing, growth, and more. The excitement reflected the rosy 2015 economic predictions of a 5.1% rise in GDP and 247,000 new US jobs.
Signpost was there attending sessions, and meeting with franchisors, franchisees and vendors to discuss the future of franchise marketing. An emerging theme that surfaced was the importance of focusing on the end customer. There are many catch phrases that refer to our current age of the customer:“1-to-1 communication,” “relationship marketing” and “big data” were all making the rounds. We want to avoid the adage “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” and share actionable tips to start putting the customer at the center of your franchise marketing.
Actions for Franchises in the Age of the Customer
1) Implement a CRM. To focus on your customers, you need to know them. Make sure you track as much information as possible on your customers including their name, contact details, interactions and purchase details. A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system will allow you to collect and organize all this information. This can be as simple as keeping a spreadsheet that your team fills out for every customer interaction, or there are varying levels of software sophistication to make every required step easier. A CRM storing information on each customer can help you better understand your customers and inform your marketing and support efforts.
2) Identify customer segments. Not all customers are created equal. Each customer represents a unique situation for engaging with your franchise. Consider that they have all heard about your business and came to it in a different way, their current needs are also distinct, and their individual experiences are also unique. Certain customers are more valuable than others based on their spending behavior and influence. By determining and segmenting the most important characteristics of your customers, you can divide your customer base into groups of individuals that are similar to better define your typical customers.
3) Personalize your marketing. The best marketing is relevant. When you deliver a relevant message to a relevant audience at a relevant time and place, you’ve established the most effective form of marketing. This is when you see the highest engagement rates, whether it’s the click rate on your online advertising, open rate of emails sent, or conversion rate on your landing pages. By using CRM and customer segmentation information together, franchise marketing can be personalized for each type of customer to accomplish relevant marketing. The ideal scenario would be marketing for customer segments of one per customer, but even an approach with tailored marketing for 3-10 segments would help you avoid the low engagement of irrelevant mass advertising and bulk email campaigns.
4) Leverage your customers. Your existing customers are your best marketing. People trust other people more than institutions and brands, and the most credible approach to market your franchise is letting your customers do this for you. A valuable offering and an outstanding customer experience are essential, since there is no guarantee for customers promoting your business. But every franchise should facilitate lasting customer relationships by giving them the chance to share word-of-mouth about the business, creating true customer advocates. Encourage sharing on social media, online reviews and the referring of new customers. Many franchises have the benefit of leveraging a powerful franchise brand. However, nowadays your customers are your brand managers that have a large role to play in further building a successful brand.
IFA 2015 was a great platform to reflect and discuss the latest developments in franchise. One thing is clear. More than ever, the customer is king. To continue the exciting growth of the industry and your brand, make sure you learn how to serve the king.
Brian Iredell is Director National Sales at Signpost. Brian has been working with franchisors and franchisees across the country for over 7 years. His expertise in working with franchises includes a wide range of local marketing and customer relationship management.