What’s Next in Technology and Franchising?

Disruptive technologies are obviously here to stay, as web-based software continues to rapidly transform the competitive landscape for franchisors — but with an important difference from the recent past. Historically, franchisors have focused on using technology to improve operational efficiencies, without much emphasis on the brand experience that customers and franchisees are having.

This has changed. The winners in the next phase will be the franchisors who take advantage of technologies that enables other parties to engage; and for the franchisor to establish and maintain a culture of continuous improvement in marketing, operations and across all brand touch points.

Empowering Unit Growth 

Just as business software has made functions like accounting radically more efficient, the next wave of experience-based software will make us better at collaboration and the capture of critical knowledge. Implemented properly, these solutions will enable franchise organizations to grow closer to their customers, progressively smarter and ultimately more competitive.

Recruiting is the foremost priority for every franchisor, and that’s why software that facilitates engagement is becoming more popular. It’s an opportunity for you to share the right information in an environment that you control, and to demonstrate your brand’s commitment to the success of your franchisees – should you elect to move forward with them. Successful unit growth is now more about providing the clarity that empowers a good decision, and less about selling them on how great you are.

Of course you should do some homework before you adopt any new technology. It’s a strategic investment that will impact your organization for years to come, so you must choose carefully.  As a brand steward, what should you be looking for in experience-based software solutions? We have noticed five key business activities that the right software will enable for your brand:

BE FOUND: Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Foursquare, Yelp and other social networks generate tremendous amount of peer-to-peer interaction. People who want your product or service are on these networks, and at times they are actively looking for what you offer. Be there ahead of time and you have a shot at earning their business. Look for automated solutions that cut down the manual work in posting updates; and for a solution that gives the franchisor greater control over franchisees’ social media presence.

LISTEN: Odds are good that your brand is being discussed on these same social networks. For better or worse, you must know what’s being said and by whom. There’s a range of software-based tools that can help you monitor the conversation around your brand and really listen to the voice of the customer.

RESPOND: Whether someone is building your brand up or tearing it down, it’s best to acknowledge them. Your supporters appreciate your love, and your detractors might be shocked into becoming supporters when you listen and make things right. With the right tools, you can respond in real time, and avert customer service disasters before they happen.

LEARN: When you have data around every customer interaction, you have rich opportunities to learn lessons that are critical to your brand. The best practices are the ones that help you earn more profit, right? Organizations that apply analytics generate up to 1.6X revenue growth, 2X EBITDA growth and 2.5X stock price appreciation, according to a 2012 study conducted by IBM Center for Applied Insights.

ADJUST: Use the insights derived from your analytics to empower people throughout your organization. You’ll be equipped to make better decisions, and react quickly to real-time situations.  With a focus on your most critical outcomes, you’ll have a competitive advantage.

 An Opportunity, Not A Threat

Obviously the technologies we’ve discussed are more than “a trend.” Facebook and Google aren’t going anywhere. If anything, the pace of change in online marketing is only going to continue to accelerate. So it’s imperative for any competitive franchisor to have a strategic plan that will help leverage these innovations. From a leadership position, experience-based software must be framed as an opportunity for growth, rather than a threat to how we’ve always done things.

It’s worth noting that as you seek to be found by your new customers, rather than hunting them down, you will need to embrace greater transparency as an operating principle for your entire organization. This means sharing content that will be of interest to your prospects, across the channels where they are already active. This is how marketing is conducted now, and the good news is that there are solutions that will enable you to get there quickly.

Feel free to contact me if you would like a free copy of our indexing and benchmarking studies performed exclusively for the franchising industry.

Jon Carlston brings years of executive leadership experience in the franchising industry in product management, sales, and training. As Sales and Customer Service Director for Franchise.com, Jon produced revenues of $1.5 million annually through sales of advertising, electronic document disclosure, and other software solutions. Today he spearheads the continual refinement of Process Peak solutions, ensuring that the offering meets and exceeds the needs of franchisors and franchisees.

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