Sarah Carlile is a regular contributor to Franchisor News on the subject of franchise recruitment. She is the Founding Partner of Coconut Creatives, the BFA’s only accredited marketing company that offers 1 to 1 franchise recruitment projects and group franchise marketing workshops for franchisors.
In this feature, Sarah discusses the use of social media and its impact on franchise recruitment, how it should be combined with offline activities and how franchisors can use it to train their franchisees to be more successful.
There is a great synergy that now exists between on and offline networking. If you learn how to harness this for your franchise, you’ll recruit more franchisees and you will be better equipped to train your franchisees to become more successful.

How should online social media be used?
The most obvious use of social media for businesses is to create and build a number of ‘raving fan’ networks across various platforms such as FaceBook, Twitter, YouTube and Linked In. These end up being networks of people who know you, have met you or know someone who recommends you and so they will listen to what you have to say, as long as you keep it brief, interesting and non-salesy.

Many people become so focused on utilising the different social networks online that they attack it in a rather hap hazard way: posting updates and tweeting messages that haven’t been thoroughly thought through. We say integrate it into your marketing. This way, you will know what you are going to say and when and you’ll also have a better handle on whether it is working for you.

By making social media an official part of your marketing plan, you can measure its effectiveness, just like having a listing on a franchise recruitment website and measuring how many leads it delivers. The first step to doing this is to assign a ‘Social Media Keeper’. This can be any person within your company that has 30 minutes a day or more to devote to updating your social network mediums. You pick the message and they send it out via the various channels you want to use. You can even hand over business cards you acquire through offline networking and exhibitions and get them growing your networks online for you by adding the details. By doing this you bring offline, online in a better structure. But where do you start to make it effective?

The perfect intro
When people find you or look you up for the first time, is it clear what you do? Is it clear how you do it and who your customers are? Your profile and key information should be planned and thought through carefully. We always work with franchisors in the morning session of our marketing workshop on their ‘perfect intro’ which is initially to support franchise recruitment through introducing new prospects to the franchise in under 1 minute. It seems ideal though that this perfect intro, once created, is used in many other places. This keeps your messaging consistent (one of the fundamentals of good marketing). When writing your perfect intro, you want to aim for about 200 words, broken down into 4 key areas (feel free to email me for a template example):

1.    Clearly state who you are, followed by:
2.    What you do and for who, followed by:
3.    Why you are credible, different and trustworthy, followed by
4.    An example of how it has worked for a customer – this gives credibility and believability.

It is definitely a good idea to spend quality time creating this and getting feedback on how it comes across and then edit it accordingly.

Once perfected, this introduction can be used again and again. It is my favourite phrase – “create once and use many times”! Integrate it into magazine features and show guide listings, use it on your website, on leaflets and literature, as long as you follow the 4 stage format and tweak the length, it will work every time.

Smart franchisors also choose to utilise their perfect intro as a training tool for the people they take along to help them on their exhibition stand at shows and events. By doing this, you suddenly increase the consistency of the way prospects are dealt with. You increase your success rate as people grasp quicker what it is you do and why you are different.

Regional use of Social Media by Franchisees
Just like you, your franchisees will be keen to use social media. Some will have a better idea than others how this can be done. The important thing to emphasis, is how to use it to aid sales. It is vital that you provide a good steer on which media to use and how to create their pages on platforms like FaceBook. We have seen cases where a franchisee has successfully (and unintentionally) taken over the franchisor’s network size and voice on a social media platform which then creates confusion for customers trying to locate their local branch and also for potential franchisees trying to locate the franchisor.

Linked In, FaceBook, Twitter or any other online tool should be used in conjunction with three other key areas when operated on a regional/ area specific basis. These are:

1.    The franchisees community network
2.    The franchisees professional network
3.    The franchisees immediate network (family and friends)

When networking is explained in this way, franchisees start to clearly see the role that their chosen online medium can play for them to support sales. It also identity’s the other, sometimes offline areas that also need attention and integrating in with online. For example, if a lead source for a franchisee is to attend business breakfast networking events to build relationships for future sales, these people should also be networked with on Linked In.

It is also highly likely that a franchisee will have a number of potential customers within their own community network (such as fellow golfers, children’s parents and so on). By using online channels to softly inform them of their service, they keep business online and pleasure offline which, when integrated in this way, often results in additional sales as awareness increases.

As tools on and offline expand, we need to utilise many more of them to maintain business growth. Franchisors need to consider the impact of these tools on their franchise network and customers and how they can control and monitor their growth to support sales all round.

To find out other ways to improve your franchise recruitment, attend a Franchise Marketing Workshop with Sarah Cook, Sally Butters and the rest of the Coconut team. Email info@coconutcreatives.co.uk or call 01725 511673.