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Emerging Franchisors: What it Takes to Attract Multi-Unit Franchisees

Securing strong multi-unit franchise partners can help catapult an emerging brand and exponentially increase the new store development pipeline. Appleton was able to sell 29 franchises in the company’s first 13 months of franchising by focusing on multi-unit operators. However, the real question is, how does an emerging franchisor get sophisticated, well-capitalized multi-unit franchisees interested in investing in the brand?
Franchisees with the capital, infrastructure and ambition to purchase multiple territories and a commitment to aggressive development schedules are also the franchisees that will do the most due diligence when evaluating a franchisor. These highly coveted franchisees will see right through glossy brochures and flashy PowerPoint presentations. If a developing franchisor wants to get their attention, the business also has to be ready to undergo their scrutiny.

Love Your Product
As is always the case, if a company doesn’t have a great product that it loves, it will be very difficult to succeed. Before a franchisor can expect someone else to love its product, the franchisor has to make sure that product is loveable. Is the product unique? Is it attractive, and if so, to what types of people? Who will fall in love with this product? These are the questions companies should be answering when they examine their product in preparation for franchising. The best franchise prospects will have their choice of brands in a large array of categories. The brands that catch their attention are the ones whose products are attractive to the franchisee. To stand out, a company has to have a great product that it loves and then know how to get the franchisee to fall in love with it too. Franchisors, of any age or size, can never lose sight of the fact that the product is the first and most powerful hook for customers and for franchise partners.

Think Big
Emerging franchisors can’t wait until they have 100 units in the pipeline to think big. They have to start out thinking that they have those 100 units under way and prepare to support that system. When franchisors start out thinking big, they are able to anticipate the challenges that a larger system will require and then create the infrastructure necessary to support that larger network. Savvy multi-unit operators will want to see that the franchisor has the infrastructure, or at least that the franchisor has thought through the infrastructure necessary to support a large network. It may not be as simple as “build it and they will come,” but if you don’t build it right, they (multi-unit prospects) will definitely not come.
The better a franchisor’s support system, the more attractive it will become to savvy franchisees looking to invest.

Focus on Support
A franchisor’s number one responsibility is to support the franchise partner in being successful. Franchisors should develop a system that focuses on support. Think through the challenges that franchisees (particularly multi-unit operators) will face and develop a solution to those challenges before they ever take place. The franchisor’s systems, people and culture should be one that centers on driving the franchisee’s success. The better a franchisor’s support system, the more attractive they will become to savvy franchisees looking to invest.
Do Your Homework
A smart franchisor does a lot of homework before they ever sit down with a prospect. For example, it is a good idea for an emerging franchisor to identify key markets for growth and do all the leg work necessary to prepare for opening in that market prior to having a prospect in the market. Demographic analysis, market research, competitor profiling, preliminary site selection, and more are all things an emerging franchisor should do in the markets in which it hopes to find multi-unit partners. Not only does the franchisor benefit by gaining insights into a key market, but it also positions itself to impress multi-unit operators in that area. When that prospect does eventually come, the franchisor is educated, prepared and ready to wow the prospect with its intimate knowledge of the key factors for success in that market.

Public relations and media attention are also key ways of gaining the interest of multi-unit franchisees.

New Can Mean Valuable
Being a new concept can present some obstacles in attracting multi-unit operators, but it also has the potential to be an opportunity for differentiating a brand. Who wouldn’t have wanted the opportunity to buy into, say a Five Guys franchise in its early days? In Five Guys’ case, it quickly sold out of territories in the United States and Canada. If someone wasn’t lucky enough to have gotten in early, then he likely missed the opportunity to be part of this highly successful brand. The list of successful brands that have either stopped selling new franchises or have very few territories left is a reminder of the value that can come along with being “one of the early guys.” Emerging brands that have done their homework, developed a sophisticated support system, are thinking big and have a great product shouldn’t be afraid to turn their emerging status into a premium opportunity for smart franchisees. “Don’t miss this chance” should be the prevailing rally cry at Discovery Days. If franchisees love the product and see the writing on the wall for company success, they will want to secure the rights to it in their market before someone else does.

Go Where They Go
Franchisors who want to attract multi-unit franchisees have to go where those multi-unit prospects will be. Attending conferences, trade shows and expos are great ways to get networked into the franchise community. Emerging brands have to make a concerted effort to get their name, and their product, in front of multi-unit prospects. In addition to getting involved with the franchise community, franchisors have to be involved in social media and build relationships with prospects through that powerful medium as well. Public relations and media attention are also key ways of gaining the interest of multi-unit franchisees. Smart franchisors spend a lot of time figuring out how to drum up media interest in what they are doing and get their company’s name in magazines, newspapers, websites, blogs and so forth. To be noticed, new concepts have to make sure they are keeping the brand “out there” for people to see.
For an emerging franchisor, attracting qualified multi-unit operators isn’t magic and neither is it luck. Attracting those prospects is all about having a great product, doing a little homework and building a great support system. Then it is just a matter of letting them know you are there and the rest will follow. Multi-unit operators are out there right now looking for new opportunities to bring to market. If new franchisors want to attract their attention, they will have to be ready to provide a lot more than marketing packs.
Glenn Clayton is CEO and president of Appleton Learning, which provides academic coaching, test preparation and academic testing and assessments for students of all ages, based upon each student’s learning personality. He can be reached at Glenn.clayton@appletonlearning.com.

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