Building the Brand with Conversion Franchising
A smooth rebranding process can create significant benefits.
It’s a familiar sight across the country – the mom-and-pop convenience store or gas station that converts into a branded operation, such as a 7-Eleven or the tax preparation business on the corner that becomes a Liberty Tax Service. Local-business owners are often faced with the choice of rebranding as a franchise, and many choose to do so for a variety of reasons. Franchise rebranding can be a risky proposition; approaching the process with the correct strategy is crucial. If executed properly, the rebrand can be a winning move for all involved.
OrderUp, a digital online food-ordering franchise, recently transitioned several of its locally-branded sites to the national, unified OrderUp brand, including its flagship market, which for years had generated the most revenue of any market nationwide. Today that market is as strong as ever, and stakeholders across the board benefited from the change.
Like any major business decision, the planning stage is crucial, and should commence as early as possible. Once the decision has been made to rebrand, a business owner must consider several key steps.
1. Communication: This is the most important aspect of a rebranding. Communication must begin early, continue throughout the rebrand and be as clear as possible. Customers should be introduced to the rebrand as early as possible. Months before the official rebrand, the business should begin integrating the new brand into communications with customers, allowing them to become more familiarized with that brand. This can be as simple as including a quick social media brand mention in an update.
During the launch of the rebrand, the business should deliver a very clear message to customers about the change via a variety of channels: direct mail, email, social media and feet-on-the-street efforts. Businesses should be extremely vigilant about social media chatter and manage it on as close to a real-time basis as possible. There will always be customers who spread misinformation or express frustration, and those sentiments must be addressed quickly and effectively. If customers are interested in learning more, the business should make it very easy to access additional information.
2. The Message: As critical as communicating clearly to customers is the content of that message. Customers should know that neither the business owner has changed nor the team running the business has changed. It’s important for customers to understand that the business is still at its essence a local one – owned by, operated by and employing local people – customers’ neighbors and friends. Ideally, customers will see the rebrand as the same team with a fresh new coat of paint.
3. Timing: A rebrand in the middle of a business’ busiest period is ill-advised. A relatively quiet time of year is the best time to launch the rebrand. For example, if a business operates in a predominantly collegiate market, the rebrand should take place during the summer, when most students and staff are off campus. Customers could be introduced to the rebranding at the beginning of a new school year as they are getting accustomed to other changes, instead of an abrupt mid-year change when customers were set in their routines.
4. The Product: The customer’s experience with the product or service must be the same or better than under the previous brand. Customers return to good experiences. Every effort must be made to ensure that the customer’s experience is as pleasant and as hassle-free as possible. The product should be as clean and easy to use as its predecessor. If applicable, customers should be allowed to use the same payment methods and credentials with the new brand, keeping the transition as easy as possible.
5. All Stakeholders: Businesses undergoing a rebrand are right to focus on their customers above all else, and make sure that they understand the rebrand and want to continue patronizing the business. However, businesses must remember all stakeholders in the rebrand. For example, businesses should ensure that communication to vendors is clear and begins early, and any logistics that need to be taken care of, such as new agreements, are dealt with in a timely manner.
6. Franchisor Requirements: Franchisors have a system, and to achieve success as a franchise unit, franchisees must adhere to this system. This is something franchisees hear many times throughout the franchise development process, but it cannot be said enough. The system can include everything from presentation of product to a marketing budget. Franchisees learn the system in-depth during training, and franchisors should provide support to assist franchisees in following the system as they grow under the brand. However, it is the franchisee’s obligation to be ready to go from the first day. The franchisee must ensure that he is fully educated on the system, and ready to execute as soon as the new brand launches. Concerning communication, a franchisee should be in close touch with the franchisor as the launch approaches and throughout the process to ensure that everything is in place to be able to effectively carry out the franchisor’s system.
Once the launch takes place and the franchisee is officially a member of the franchise system, he will receive the same benefits as do franchisees of most successful franchise systems. The franchisee should have access to a proven support system. In certain industries, the franchisor will provide support not only to the franchisee in the operation of the business, but also direct customer support.
Access to an experienced support team can be of great value to the franchisee, as well as to customers seeking assistance. The new franchisee will also likely benefit from the franchisor’s marketing expertise. Often, the franchisor employs sophisticated marketing campaigns to drive business to its franchisees. Franchisees should be able to enjoy savings on equipment and supplies from group ordering. The business can also benefit from attracting customers loyal to its franchise brand, and all customers will enjoy the consistency and quality control imposed on franchise operations.
If a business follows the steps outlined above, it should be able to undergo a smooth rebranding process and enjoy the significant benefits of operating under a national brand.
Cullen Newton is vice president of OrderUp Franchising. Find him at fransocial.franchise.org via the directory.