Using your network of existing franchisees for recruitment marketing is one of the best and most effective ways for you to continue building your franchise network, explains Sarah Carlile, Founding Director of Coconut Creatives.

Referrals from existing franchisees have proven to be one of the most successful ways to generate new leads and recruit new, successful franchisees. Referral candidates are more likely to be seriously interested in a franchise opportunity because they have seen first-hand, the benefits of owning a franchise because they are a customer, friend or family of an existing franchisee.

To increase your chances of gaining referrals it is important to make sure that your existing franchisees are satisfied with the training, support and service you provide to them. Referrals are much better leads because people feel more comfortable with investing a large amount of money into something that has been recommended to them by someone they know and trust. Referrals are warm leads because there has already been a certain degree of interest, comfort and credibility established between you.

Engaging your franchise network

Implementing a formal referral system to reward your franchisees who recommend your franchise is a very worthwhile activity but do spend some time explaining this system to your franchise network otherwise you will only get a few ad hoc referrals. Let them know how beneficial a referral system is to the franchise network as a whole. Expansion provides the whole network with greater brand recognition and greater market share for individual franchisees. When individuals within the franchise network are productive, everyone benefits.

Your best-performing franchisees are most likely to bring in the highest quality leads. Referral candidates often share the same values, skills and experience as the franchisee that referred them. The basis for most referrals is often not an incentive provided by you but pride in their brand and joy in sharing their success story with friends and family.

Understanding top performers’ characteristics

Look at your top performing franchisees and identify characteristics or interests that they have in common in order to narrow down your target market for franchise recruitment. You can then tailor suitable messages and use relevant media to target similar people and generate new prospects. When asking existing franchisees for referrals, let them know the type of person you are looking for. For example, if you find that many of your top performing franchisees once took a managerial position within a service industry and enjoyed team sports, ask your franchisees to talk to colleagues within their business networks who share those characteristics.

Supporting events

Another way to use your franchise network for recruitment purposes is to take existing franchisees with you to exhibitions and events. This has a two-pronged effect; it will show prospects that you value your franchisees, their opinions and input into the franchise system and it also gives prospects the opportunity to talk directly to someone who actually has been through the franchise buying process.

Building trust

These activities are all trust-building exercises during the franchise recruitment process but franchisors can also build this in to all of their franchise recruitment collateral – online and print. Keep an up-to-date bank of testimonials from your franchise network to use in your collateral. Create franchisee case studies so that you can drip feed these throughout the recruitment process – always providing a realistic view of your franchise network, how it performs financially and how the culture of the business can benefit the prospect.

Ultimately, using your franchise network as your brand advocates will strengthen your position as a reliable franchisor and, in turn, support your franchise recruitment targets.