How Franchise Managers Can Best Differentiate While Conforming to Franchise Standards
It does’t matter if you run a fast food restaurant or a hardware store. A franchise owner gets the opportunity to experience entrepreneurship. But this happens without the higher risk levels generally experienced in traditional startups.
However, running a franchise gives several advantages. For example, you get less room for innovation than in a startup. The brand has an image that it needs to maintain, and that means that you won’t have the ability to make decisions regarding things like the product lineup, signage, décor or uniforms.
But it’s still possible to differentiate your location without jeopardizing your commitments to the franchisor brand. By improving your management skills and fine-tuning your approach to your local market, you can cultivate the sense that your business has something special to offer, while still delivering the standardized experiences that attracts people to do business with franchises.
3 Local Franchise Marketing Tactics
It’s a tricky balance. Here’s how you can pull it off.
Service Comes First
Most franchises live and die based on their ability to provide quality customer service. In fact, research from Gartner reveals that 64 percent of shoppers place greater value on the customer experience than the price they pay. This is especially pertinent for franchise owners, who often rely al-most entirely on in-store purchases and pickups – and who might not even have the option to differentiate with price points. As a result, creating a positive company culture that puts the customer experience first an absolute must.
A key part of this is delivering on the expectations customers have come to associate with your franchise. As Seth Lederman, founder and CEO of Let’s Franchise, explains, “If you walk into any of the 30,000 Subways or McDonald’s around the world, you’re guaranteed your meal will be the same (or nearly) no matter where you are. That’s the franchise proposition of uniformity and replicability. Customers know this and seek out the reliability and familiarity of their favorite brands, which have been established over years or decades.”
You don’t want to deviate from these expectations, but you can – and should – differentiate your franchise by training employees on how to engage with customers. From responding respectfully to an upset patron to having the know-how to address questions, these employee interactions are often key to creating a positive impression with your target audience.
Make sure your employees are well versed in the franchise’s product lineup and any brand guide-lines for customer interactions. You may not have much room to alter your products and services, but you will play a direct role in how good of a job your employees do at addressing the needs of your customers.
Get Involved in the Community
Your local community is what will ultimately make or break your business. As such, the best way to gain the goodwill of your community (as well as attention in the press) is to get involved.
One example of how a franchise’s community involvement can make a difference is the Ace Hardware franchise located in Maricopa, Arizona. In 2019, the franchise won the city’s Business of the Year award for the third year in the row, as well as a Retailer of the Year award for its legislative district.
A big reason for these awards was its community involvement. According to Maricopa Monitor, the local franchise collects monetary donations for the Phoenix Children’s hospital and provides materials to the hospital to make holiday wreaths, while also hosting Girl Scout cookie sales, veteran’s events and other community activities. The franchise even sponsors a youth baseball team.
Such outreach efforts spur additional engagement between the franchise employees and the community. It gets the brand’s name out in public on a consistent basis and generates goodwill with local customers.
Enhance National Campaigns with Local Franchise Marketing Efforts
Franchisors play a significant role in managing the marketing efforts for their franchisees. The U.S. Small Business Administration explains most franchisees pay ongoing monthly marketing fees to the franchise. And franchises typically base this off your monthly revenue. And your payment for the nationwide campaigns benefits all franchisees.
This helps alleviate some of a franchise’s marketing burden. But this doesn’t mean franchise owners get off the hook. Grow your presence. You must enhance these national-level efforts with your own localized marketing. Get involved with community events and sponsorships. A strong social media presence remains the place franchisees have the greatest autonomy.
Most franchises encourage individual locations to manage their own social media profiles. But lay down rules regarding the type and tone of the content. Carefully review these rules. Make sure you don’t say or post anything that would damage the brand’s reputation. Or you jeopardize your status as a franchised location. Keep posts relevant to your business and the local community.
Caitlin Bagley notes in Digital Examiner, “A steady flow of ‘corporate’ content makes it easier to update local Facebook pages regularly, while still allowing time for crafting posts that are tailored to each location’s footprint and following. Create events and promotions specific to the foot-print, associated with the local franchise’s Facebook page, to increase awareness with local clientele. Take advantage of direct access to engage with your location’s following.”
Building a Successful Franchise
Ensure your day to day operations run smoothly. This remains most important. But this makes up only one part of your job as a franchise owner. Use these and other methods to help your location stand out in your community. Thus you differentiate yourself and gain a loyal customer base.
This article, "How Franchise Managers Can Best Differentiate While Conforming to Franchise Standards" was first published on Small Business Trends