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Technology Solutions Take Center Stage at Inaugural FranCamp 2013

These are just a few of the insights that attendees tweeted and posted on Facebook, LinkedIn and FranSocial during FranCamp 2013, International Franchise Association’s Digital Marketing & Technology Best Practices Conference.  More than 150 franchise company CEOs, franchisees, digital marketing managers, cyber-security, IT directors and legal experts attended the conference to hear the latest do’s and don’ts regarding digital marketing, security and how technology is changing everything.

“The IFA’s Board of Directors has made technology – both the building of our internal infrastructure and communication platforms, and providing our members with help in this fast changing arena – one of the association’s top priorities for 2013,” said IFA Chairman Steve Romaniello, CFE, FOCUS Brands chairman and Roark Capital Group managing director, who opened the conference.  “Based on the growing demand from our members for information and best practices using new digital media and technology to market to consumers, as well as target prospective franchisees, the IFA Technology Working Group recommended this conference as one way we can help our members.”

Here are a few highlights.

Keynote speaker Jenya Denissova, Google head of channel sales, traditional media and franchise, North America, said that we all know that everyone and everything is now online; today, only 2.5 billion people are online but in the next 10 years, they will be joined by an additional 5 billion people.

That is 5 billion more customers.  Now is the time to understand the current tools and the upcoming trends so your brand can stay relevant and allow you to focus on your customer. Her advice is to win the moments that matter to your customers by using all the tools available to meet the needs of your customers.

Chel Heler, Google strategic partner manager for Go/ChannelSales, said 85 percent of the U.S. Google traffic is for search.  He recommends that to reach your target audience, use Google’s enhanced campaigns so you hit the right people, with the right tools from Google.

A panel that included ElementsLocal CEO Jeremy LaDuque, CFE, Service Brands International Interactive Mktg. Dir. Brandi Kloostra and Franchise Payments Network CEO Tom Epstein, CFE, told attendees not to fear the cloud. In fact there were many advantages to point-of-sales systems that are cloud based in terms of speed and collaboration. As technology and devices become better, this will only increase. Technologies on the horizon, like near field communication, will make it easier to consumers to spend at your business. Every franchise needs a mobile strategy so make sure yours focuses on your business fundamentals. As you are developing your strategy consider how it fits with your customers and employees.

Secure Ideas CEO Kevin Johnson shared best practices on how to keep your franchise system secure. First, he said, realize you are never secure; your brand is always under attack.  You need to make it harder for the hacker to attack your brand.  Simple, but overlooked best practices that can help include installing anti-virus/malware and updating it regularly. Segment your POS system from the free Wi-Fi that is offered in your units.  Educate your employees and franchisees about security threats and best practices − 39 percent of data breaches are from employees.

The PCI compliance process assists businesses by guiding them through the process.  To be secure, all systems from the corporate level down to the unit level must be compliant.  Make sure your POS equipment hasn’t been tampered by taking a picture of it, pull it out every month and compare the two.  If it looks different, someone has tampered with it.  For further guidance, download the PCI checklist developed by IFA’s Technology Committee at http://bit.ly/16wWP4W.

Other panelists’ tips include: make sure your vendors have secure systems and consider including the requirement in your contracts; consider cyber-security insurance, which is a growing market. Because security is a team effort, include your human resources, IT, legal and other departments in your planning and response plans.

Darnell Holloway, Yelp manager of local business outreach, dispelled a few myths about Yelp. More than 100 million unique visitors a month make Yelp one of the most popular sites on the web. What’s more important for business is that 64 percent of Yelp users come from households with incomes in excess of $100,000.  Restaurants are not the largest segment of business reviewed on Yelp. They’re actually No. 2 behind shopping and retail. And not all Yelp reviews are bad.  Seventy-nine percent of reviews are three stars or higher. Holloway provided some helpful tips. Be sure to claim your business on Yelp as they provide some great analytic tools. Even if your business doesn’t have a physical location, you can still claim your business as an area of service. After you claim your business, you can enhance your Yelp listing by adding content like photos, hours, price and deals/gift certificates. Photos are especially important. People spend two-and-a-half times more time on pages with photos. Don’t forget to add your Yelp link in your email signature and you can download stickers for your business at http://www.flickr.com/photos/yelp/sets/72157623054478330.

From left, Glass Doctor Pres. Mark Liston, CFE, Tortal Pres. and Ingage Consulting Partner Cordell Riley, CFE, Glass Doctor of Atlanta franchisee Jim Bernstein, and ShelfGenie CEO Allan Young covered a variety of ways to engage franchisees, including doing an internal audit to see the different ways you interact with your franchisees. As a franchisor, how do you reach your customer? Email? Phone? Text? Skype? Intranet?  There are lots of tools available today. Find the best one(s) for your audience and use them.  Young suggested examining Convo as a private Facebook between franchisors and franchisees. Understand that a community is anywhere people come together to discuss personal or professional life. When you’re engaging your franchisee, it’s a place to be more personal and conversational. If you build a private community for training, are there options available 24/7? Can you track what people are doing there to make sure they’re getting the training they need?

Social media presents many opportunities – conversations, relationships and brand culture exposure – things you can’t do traditionally. Be careful how much you’re doing.  Ninety percent of all digital matter was created in the past two years. If you don’t have quality, you shouldn’t have quantity. Match the platform to your business and choose the one that matches your target market to be sure you get the highest return. Make sure your brand ambassadors are people who identify with your company mission, purpose and values

FranConnect CEO and Co-Founder Amit Pamecha, CFE; Merry Maids Vice Pres. of Mktg. Stefan Figley; and Marco’s Pizza Vice Pres. of Mktg. Peter Wise covered ways that franchisors can help their franchisees successfully market their businesses. While most franchisees are outstanding operators, many of them are not strong marketers. The panel examined customer relationship management software that allowed the franchisor to service the franchisee as a marketing client. They also detailed other tools that were effective, including email and texting. Budget and effective reporting were among the keys for any of these campaigns to be effective.

From left, The Panel of the Pros included WSI Pres. Doug Schust, SproutLoud Managing Partner Sandy Lechner, CFE, Wired Magazine UK Editor David Rowan and Edible Arrangements International Inc. Vice Pres. of Operations Frank Garrido, CFE. The panel discussed questions from the audience in detail and reinforced many of the topics heard through the event. Responsive web design is critical. Be responsive and transparent. Measure, but be sure you are analyzing the numbers behind that measurement. Understand what real engagement is and don’t be concerned if those numbers don’t seem as big as the likes and tweets. Be more concerned with building the relationship with your customer and providing them with useful data to build brand loyalty.

Keynote speaker David Rowan, WIRED magazine UK editor, examined some of the trends in technology that are affecting global communications. The number of mobile devices exceeds the number of desktop computers. The speed of adoption of these new devices is accelerating. It took laptops 15 years to reach 50 million units. Cell phones took seven. Tablets have reached that point in only two years. People are using these devices to consume. PayPal mobile payments were $141 million in 2009 and $750 million in 2010.  In 2011, that figure increased to $4 billion and growth continues to accelerate. The entire concept of social/local/mobile will only increase. As people continue to use these devices, they become more ingrained in their lives, giving companies access to a staggering amount of data. Processing power is now cheap enough that companies can afford to analyze this data. Companies that can take big data and leverage it with smart software will have an advantage. Booz Allen Hamilton believes social commerce will be a $30 billion industry by 2015 and that could be a conservative estimate. This will only increase as the digital world moves into the physical world.

Alisa Harrison is senior vice president, communications and marketing; Dan Gibson is senior director, marketing & digital communications, and Jason Yusko is director of information systems for the International Franchise Association.  Harrison can be reached at 202-662-0775 or aharrison@franchise.org, Gibson at 202-662-0769 or dgibson@franchise.org, and Yusko at 202-662-0797 or jyusko@franchise.org

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