Top 10 tips for successful franchise marketing

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A franchise should be well supported by its marketing department. Image: integr8tedmarketing.com

Marketing is a key element of brand support for any business, and particularly so in a franchise. Paola Tanner explains the complexities at work in franchise marketing and how you can spot a well-marketed chain.

The marketing challenges of a franchised business are markedly different from other organisations in three areas. For starters there is input from a variety of sources such as multiple territories, multiple owners, multiple price tiers; there are marketing team skills, tasks and expectations to manage; and finally the difficulties of implementing strategies.

So, how is marketing a franchise different from a strategic inputs perspective?

When marketing a franchised chain, there is a traditional strategy that applies: the five Ps — product, price, place (distribution), promotion and people. However, from a tactical perspective, a franchised business has layers of complexity that make implementing the strategy a complicated process:

• Multiple territories and custom demographics

• Multiple owners, people, levels of expertise

• Price tiers

• Physical locations and business models

• Inconsistent distribution opportunities across geographies

With so many segments and variables, delivering an effective strategy can be a challenge. Franchisors may find it hard to balance good economies of scale while addressing the customisation required to give franchisees the marketing that is relevant to their territory. Quite simply, franchise marketing has a lot more to it than the standards of a clear message, a good promotion or a very creative concept.

How is marketing a franchise different from a team perspective?

If we look at franchise marketing from a functional perspective, it can have a very broad set of tasks to be undertaken by the marketing team. The marketing team is expected to shine in the development of the brand, consumer research, local and national strategy, product, PR, promotions and channels.

The problem is, it doesn’t finish there. Marketing staff are also responsible for all the implementation tasks including planning logistics, budgeting, purchasing, communication to franchisees, production management, delivery and freight.

Based on this, the team needs to be highly skilled in strategy development, responsive to tactical or implementation needs and then resourced to handle the significant amount of admin work which falls out of this marketing process. It is important for management to recognise the variety of skills required so they can recruit the right staff.

How is marketing a franchise different regarding implementation and logistics?

In the same way that there is complexity in what the marketing must achieve, there is a lot of segmentation at the implementation level too. The marketing department of a franchise network has to handle agencies, printers, distribution to multiple outlets and, of course, different versions within each marketing activity to suit each outlet or territory.

The danger here is that the team can be buried under a huge amount of administration tasks such as consolidating requirements, getting prices from printers, fixing errors, responding to individual requests from franchisees, tracking courier deliveries and more.

This is common in franchised chains and when not supported by adequate systems not only gets marketing people overworked, it also has an impact on the performance of the business by taking up too much time, reducing inputs to the more important strategic tasks. And that affects how well a franchisee can do their job.

Symptoms

Here are a few signs of a marketing department in need of a shift:

• Marketing staff are constantly running behind, working long hours and still not catching up with the daily tasks. There is never enough time for big picture tasks or analysis and reporting and the team feels the need to constantly make excuses

• Other staff from the chain have the perception that the marketing team is not delivering and you hear comments suggesting they are out of control or they can’t organise so much as a single campaign

• Errors and last minute jobs are a daily occurrence

• Franchisees complain about the lack of support received from marketing

• An agency underperforms due to late briefs and carrying the lag of the internal marketing team, affecting the sales generated by campaigns and often missing deadlines so the message is not reaching consumers.

How a franchise system remedies its marketing deficiencies will vary. What's important is to know that the business you invest in will be well-supported by its marketing department — however large or small that may be. So how can a prospective franchisee pick out the good marketers among franchise brands?

Franchisees need a marketing team that supports their business from both a strategic and an implementation perspective and gives them the right tools to be able to market the brand.

Top 10 requirements to successfully manage franchise marketing

How does your prospective franchise system stack up?

• Strategic capability — a strategic thinker to put together a big picture plan

• A great agency or the capability to develop campaigns in-house

• Staff skills — a team with a focus on strategy and logistics, depending on the size of the chain this might be one person, multiple people, separate teams or an outsourced model

• An effective system to manage and track campaigns, ideally developed for franchised chains including features such as territories, pricing tier management, planning tools and reports.

• Strong communication strategy that ensures franchisees understand the direction and possibilities provided by the franchisor. This could include promotion guides, implementation tools and newsletters

• Franchisee buy in — experience shows the most successful campaigns are those which are supported by franchisees

• Support from an operations team to ensure successful rollout of new products and promotional products. Execution is key and can affect the effectiveness of marketing more than you imagine.

• Administration support or an outsourced solution to manage the logistics of marketing collateral, delivered to franchise outlets

• A team attitude of involvement and collaboration with franchisees

• Reliable suppliers

Paolo Tanner is director of marketing firm Fuse Franchise Partners

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