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Technologies Help Manage Growth in Young Franchise Marketing Departments

Growth in marketing can happen with or without an increase in sales, often leading to frustrations in executing projects, managing budgets and motivating staff.

It’s no secret that marketing departments are usually shortchanged in budgets, technology, personnel and many times, proper management. Marketing departments in both the corporate and franchise world spend significant time working “in the problem” versus working “on the problem,” leading to missed deadlines and potentially unmet directives. As marketing departments for franchise and multi-location companies grow, it is critical to view the department as a support function, addressing the question: “How can we deliver sales-generating items to our investors and local offices to ensure success?”

Within franchise operations of one to 20 locations, we continually see marketing operations reacting to the requests of the franchisees versus setting a clear support plan for the locations. Often, this practice has led to disjointed brand communication in addition to a potentially chaotic marketing workflow.

When a company begins the franchise process, the legal and procedural items typically take precedence over marketing, which is entirely understandable. Would you rather focus more on marketing and less on process and procedures, leaving gaping holes in legal concerns? Probably not. However, once the critical items have been established, which programs can you put in place to help ensure the success of your franchisees? Many franchise owners are great business people − fully aware of how to run the business and create profit. However, not all great business owners are great marketers.

As many small franchisors struggle with just keeping up, it leaves little time or budget to create solid marketing programs geared for their franchisees. Additionally, many companies face scenarios where sales are growing too slowly, and need additional marketing support, but do not have the budget to afford additional staff. That said, cloud-based technologies are frequently being used to enhance and grow marketing programs for franchises small, medium and large. In fact, these cloud-based tools, paired with a marketing plan, allow companies to put their marketing support programs on autopilot, leaving additional time for higher-priority tasks.
Whether your marketing support programs include signage, mailings, brochures or digital items such as email and social media, investments in cloud-based marketing technology can deliver significant value and return on investment to not only you, but your franchisees.

Yes, technology can be daunting, frustrating and overwhelming. Many partners in the franchise community understand this and have geared their services to ease the burden when using these tools. In fact, the days of paying pricey, upfront fees are declining, allowing subscription-based services that fit more in line with a growing franchise’s marketing budget.

What Types of Tools Are Available?

Most marketing support programs for franchises include both print and digital components. Typically, a franchise’s primary print needs include business cards, tri-fold brochures and some type of sign or banner. In the same regard, a franchise’s digital efforts include email, social media and a website. Often, companies need to hire two to four additional experts to accommodate this need. Let’s take a look at simple tools that can streamline marketing efforts.

  • Web-based Printing. Submitting and managing printed items online, including large-format signage, can save 30 percent to 40 percent on the overall print expense of an organization, plus reduce the amount of time involved managing the process. Most of these savings occur when a franchise sets up a specific website with a preferred printer, enabling it to store frequently used templates online, available for customization by the local franchisees.
  • Email. As interesting as the name sounds, Mail Chimp, or services similar to that, does a great job at helping young franchise brands manage and communicate through email. Many of these services have a free version which provides basic, but useful tools to send email communications to customers and prospects. For a nominal monthly fee, users are given many more options to manage email for multiple locations and create brand consistency. Additionally, many of these services have excellent reporting, allowing marketers to view who, what and how long someone has viewed your content.

As many small franchisors struggle with just keeping up, little time or budget is left to create solid marketing programs, geared for their franchisees.

  • Social Media. It’s hard to keep track of your message and your audience when operating social media pages for multiple franchise locations. That’s where tools such as HootSuite and Buffer come in, enabling you to monitor conversations about your brand online and easily view all of your social media accounts from one page. These tools also allow marketing teams to create and review content, schedule when messages should be automatically sent, and provide detailed information about user engagement so that your brand can continually improve how you reach your audience online.
  • Websites. Depending on your business and approach, it may be required that each franchise has a “versioned” website, localized for its market. In the past, this has lent itself to large investments in website developers and designers. Today, tools like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal support a multi-site environment, enabling easy launching and management of versioned websites for your brand. These tools simply use a pre-built theme (skin), designed by your team or outside partner, which is uploaded and can be used across your network of websites.

As the demands of franchisees rise, it is very easy to get overburdened with requests, leading to poor productivity and results. The marketing technology tools discussed here are designed to be an extension, not a replacement of your marketing team.

These tools are really the vehicle of your strategy. However, the vehicle can be the most cumbersome aspect of the marketing plan. Similarly, as your company grows, you will want more control over the brand identity, ensuring that printed graphics use the right colors, consistent verbiage across all media and protect your company from the self-proclaimed marketer.

Ryan Crist is the former director of marketing at Cockrell Enovation, a Fort Worth, Texas-based printing and marketing technology company. Find Cockrell Enovation Vice Pres. John Cockrell Jr. at http://fransocial.franchise.org/Home/ via the directory.

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