Most franchisees sign on with you because they believe in the power of your brand concept—and are aiming to build a strong business with its support. So, it stands to reason that franchisees would be eager to comply with brand guidelines and rules.
But in study after study, franchisors have said that brand consistency and brand integrity are two of their most intense and enduring problems. Franchisees, meanwhile, chafe under oversight that they feel is an impediment to the most important thing of all—sales.
Why are franchisees such a difficult bunch to corral into supporting the brand? Our experience with hundreds of thousand of CampaignDrive users has revealed three main reasons.
1. Franchisees are entrepreneurs.
As such , they have great confidence in their ability to do just about anything, and do it right. Make a full-page print ad? Can-do. Create in-store signage for the big spring promotion? Piece of cake.
That do-it-myself mentality is a big part of what makes franchisees successful as business owners. But it can also lead them to blaze their own marketing trail when they would be much better served by sticking to the look, feel, and voice of the brand.
And this is where you come in. You want to manage franchisee marketing efforts, without micro-managing them. Give your franchisees a brand framework, and provide freedom within those boundaries, so they can react to opportunities and competitive threats in their local market.
There are all sorts of different ways to accomplish this balancing act. If you're an emerging franchise brand, with just a few locations, you can set up a simple file-sharing tool and refresh it regularly with Word and PowerPoint templates that are easy for franchisees to edit. If you've got more than a couple dozen locations, you may want to upgrade to a distributed marketing platform that provides dynamic templates with brand-compliance built right in.
Whichever path you choose, here's a rule of thumb. Give your franchisees a touch more freedom than your comfort level dictates, and then monitor activities to see what they do with that leeway. For some examples of a great balance, see some case studies.
2. Franchisees are in a hurry.
There's a reason why we talk about franchisees "running" a business. That's because they're always on the run from one priority to the next. So even though they know that marketing is a top priority, they usually can't afford to give it their attention for more than a few minutes a day.
That means, as franchisor, you need to help ensure those few precious minutes are spent on tactics and activities that add to brand equity, rather than detracting from it.
This isn't just about brand compliance (see above). It's about following a disciplined brand strategy that delivers on the larger brand promise. Franchisees need to quickly and easily pick the right tactic for their immediate needs, from a well-controlled range of appropriate alternatives. Sometimes, this means every franchisee will participate in a seasonal promotion. Other times, individual stores will pick and choose from a range of "ever-green" promotions. HQ's job is to make sure the menu is always ready, and always rich, without being overwhelming.
How can technology help? First, your franchise-brand portal (you do have one of those, right?) can make it easy for you to deploy content to franchisees based on region, market, sales-volume, or other key criteria.
Second, the portal can empower you to provide brand-approved content-alternatives to standard promotions, so that franchisees can tailor each execution to their individual needs without having to put their fingers on the keyboard.
Third, your brand portal can deliver real-time reports on asset and template usage, so you can see which franchisees are activating the brand message, and which are falling out of step. For field marketing teams, this kind of insight can be force multiplier at a time when staffs are thin and every promotion counts.
3. Franchisees have their own brand story to tell.
Franchise brands almost always have great start-up stories to tell. These tales are a great way to capture the brand voice and essence, and to communicate key values. That's why most almost all great franchise brands feature a founding story somewhere on their website.
But how often do we give franchisees the chance to tell the story of their unique founding?
Not often enough, it turns out—and that's a huge missed opportunity.
Every successful brand portal has one or more "gateway templates." These are tools that the franchisees use and reuse, again and again. Think about creating a template that allows franchisees to tell their founding tale. You'll be impressed by how much it gets used. And be sure to deliver the franchise founding story in every medium you can—print and online, social and beyond. Most times you'll find that by empowering franchisees to tell their founding story, you're giving them the opportunity to strengthen and reinforce the brand's story as well.
As a franchisor, you know that your brand is the key to success for you and your franchisees. By knocking down a few obvious barriers that prevent your franchisees from capitalizing on the brand, you can turn their local marketing activities into deposits in your brand equity "bank"—the kind of deposits that can pay off in dividends for years to come.