Quick. In three words, define your franchise opportunity.
This time last year, average unit volume, top-notch training, and world-class support may have highlighted your franchise sales pitch. These notable franchise opportunity messages will always make a prospect’s checklist, but as we continue down the path toward a post-pandemic reality, the race to reach quality franchisee candidates with the right message may require some fresh self-reflection.
We checked in with Lorne Fisher, CEO/managing partner of Fish Consulting, for his view on refining a value proposition. The resident brand strategist for the leading South Florida-based franchise public relations agency says franchise sales success has everything to do with — as you’d expect — your brand’s success.
Communicating what you stand for — and it’s not pizza, plumbing, or a workout regimen, by the way — must be clear.
“It is important that franchisee prospects clearly understand what benefits a brand will provide – not only to them as franchisees, but the community at large,” notes Fisher. “It’s not just about selling their services and products, but there is a purpose to why they exist. People are scrutinizing value propositions a lot more than ever before.”
To win over the hearts and minds of franchise prospects in 2021, consider these three differentiators:
For better or worse, the pandemic has put a laser focus on the importance of a brand’s performance, says Fisher. What those results look like will depend on the industry, the franchisee and its sophistication of operations, and credit markets. The brand story of high performers—think home services—will look different from those in hard-hit industries, such as casual dining restaurants and hospitality.
Sharing these results will show how you shined during an economic crisis unprecedented in its scale. It can also inspire franchise candidates with your resiliency to bend but not break and then rebound during the darkest of times.
For smart franchisors, the lessons learned over the past year will guide all future business strategies — including franchise development.
Ability to Pivot
Pivot, shift, adapt. Whatever term you use, what you did during and after the great lockdown of 2020 becomes a tremendous asset in franchise development. Everywhere you look, franchisors had to adjust whip-fast to survive or die.
Your future franchise owners will want to know the ways you reinvented revenue streams, developed new delivery systems or created franchise-friendly supply lines to meet changing consumer demands — and how these shifts translate into long-term sustainability.
“If I’m a prospective franchisee looking for a business opportunity, I’m looking at how did they survive? What did they put in place, and was it successful? And, what is their strategy going forward?’” outlines Fisher. “Brands that just go back to where they were don’t get it.”
Trust and transparency — always considered core values — are even more important when times are tough. Strong franchisor-franchisee relationships are cemented through trust and communication. The care and quick response given to owners in those early days and tireless ongoing franchisee support reveal plenty about a brand’s character.
Asking your franchise partners to install new technology, market an app or buy redesigned to-go containers requires trust. The way franchise partners jump in to embrace those plans shows faith in the brand. These kinds of genuine, mutual trust experiences, relayed via a franchisee testimonial, allow prospects to see the heart behind the franchise.
Again, trust should be a given for success in franchising. For would-be franchisees, whose world may have been turned upside by the impact of COVID-19, trust is paramount.
Franchise buyers invest in what their life will look like if they own your business. Along with the financial rewards, don’t forget to reinforce the intangibles to align the value proposition with what your franchisees seek in the way of quality of life, purpose, and commitment to the community.
Franchising historically expands after economic downturns, as entrepreneurs look to be their own boss or pursue the American dream. But in a painful year that saw not only layoffs and furloughs, but entire industries decimated, people are looking to franchising with an additional sense of urgency that must be considered.
“Individuals do not want to put their families’ future in the hands of someone else,” Fisher says. “The emotional reason to become a franchisee should be included in the communications when brands are marketing to these prospects. It’s no longer just how ‘we did’ as a franchise, it’s how your future and your family’s future can be a part of this particular brand.”
Crafting and communicating your value proposition requires an integrated, exhaustive approach using all the tools in the toolbox — public relations, digital marketing, and email, among them —at a time when franchise discovery days remain more virtual than physical.
With franchise sales predicated to be 40% higher or greater, compared to pre-pandemic level, speed-to-the-lead has never been more critical for franchisors. Our FranConnect Franchise Sales Index 2020 found 85% of the leads that resulted in deals were those that were contacted within the first four hours of their inquiry. Start strong with a core value proposition that counts.