Start With Your Story: How All Franchise Marketing Stems From Strategic Messaging

According to the International Franchise Association’s “Franchise Business Economic Outlook for 2016,” there are 795,932 franchise establishments, representing more than 3,000 franchise brands in the United States. Needless to say, there’s no shortage of choice for those will heavy pockets and a desire to operate a franchise business. To stand out in the pack, effective franchise marketing is paramount.

There are plenty of ins-and-outs to highly targeted digital marketing and public relations tactics, but the first and foremost component to any campaign stems from its ability to tell the brand story on a emotional and logical level.

Consider this metric for message development: If you can substitute a competitor’s name for your own and the message is still cohesive, you’ve failed to differentiate your brand, and most importantly, your franchise opportunity. If you find yourself in this unfortunate predicament, it’s time to get back to the drawing board.

Be different, not ‘me too’

When it comes to franchising, there are dozens of ways to differentiate an opportunity, with most having their own advantages. Aside from concept, think of components like size of investment, target market or franchise structure. Wherever that differentiation occurs, find your “EST” and push it hard. While being the biggest, cheapest, easiest, quickest or hottest “something” leans toward a retail consumer perspective, many of the same principles apply for franchising, especially when it comes to concepts that are undifferentiated from the start.

All too often, companies try to be the “best” at all things for all audiences. Unfortunately, these brands quickly learn that the desire to succeed at all things leads to mediocre everything, a long-term disaster. For franchise marketers, staking a position in two of these five “ESTs,” while perhaps identifying new “ESTs” along the way, is essential in commanding higher ground over potential competitors. Put simply, good franchise messaging works to create a strong value proposition by controlling the desired position in the marketplace.

This remains certain for franchise marketers: Upfront work to stake a position in the marketplace ensures that the messages about your brand/concept are coming from you, not your competitors.

Buyers may be shopping differently

Refer back to the opening statistics, and think hard about how a franchise buyer might consider his or her options. Would they systematically analyze more than 3,000 concepts? Would they put each concept side-by-side and make the most logical choice based on that analysis? The short answer of course is, no.

Typically, most buyers will consider a dozen or so opportunities before making a decision, with most of those considerations coming from a specific industry segment they are initially drawn towards. And buyers are drawn to industry segments for any number of reasons. Perhaps a buyer has prior experience they’d like to leverage, or they’re looking for an opportunity to have the most fun but still have a high return on investment. Maybe they are only looking at franchise brands that have a certain number of locations, or have been in business “X” many of years. The point here is that every process will be different.

Operate under the assumption that each and every buyer is looking for reasons to eliminate your concept from consideration, not the other way around. That also means crafting a story that attracts serious candidates and not those just perusing. While that may sound harsh or counterintuitive, the basic principle of successful franchise marketing is to eliminate the time wasters, and move those “A” prospects along in the sales pipeline.

From a messaging perspective, provide enough essential information for prospects to self-disqualify, like the investment details, but withhold enough information that requires further exploration, perhaps on your franchise website or marketing materials. Remember though, the messaging on a franchise website never sold a franchise on its own, so ensure that you don’t give it all away upfront, and instead encourage follow up via a form fill.

Messaging via personas

Before any funnel can overflow with leads, your high-impact messaging should stem from understanding your potential franchise buyers, and developing personas from that understanding. This starts with a detailed assessment of the profile, needs, goals, pain points and behaviors of the potential franchise buyer. A good place to start is by looking at your own franchisees and what differentiates top performers from those whose performance is marginal or worse. A specific side-by-side comparison of these two groups will often yield insight to better focus your marketing efforts. 

Additionally, it’s important for a franchisor to ask themselves specific questions about: What personality traits are right for this business? Is there a particular age range that would fit best? These questions, among others, work in conjunction to create a picture of “the ideal franchisee” and help franchise marketers develop messaging that influences potential franchise buyers on a logical and emotional level.

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, Jonas established TopFire Media to provide a strategic and synchronized method for digital marketing in the franchise industry. As a digital marketing strategist with more than a decade of in-depth experience in SEO and PPC, social media publishing, conversion based marketing, inbound marketing, sales management, and online lead generation, Jonas has built a career dedicated to delivering an integrated marketing approach that achieves client success and long-term relationships.

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