Franchisor Advice Article written by Coconut Creatives Head of Media, Sally Butters:

Too often, companies forget that they need to take action to manage their reputation. They could have very happy customers but very few people really know about how great their products are or how superb their customer service is. How can you grow your business into new regions or markets without shouting about the great reputation you have? How will you attract the best franchisees?

The Chairman of the Institute of Directors, Neville Bain explains:

“Organisations need to apply more attention to managing reputation. Firms with strong positive reputations attract better people. This gives rise to a virtuous circle of greater efficiency, better relationships with customers and suppliers, and enhanced legitimacy in the eyes of society as a whole.

“In the absence of a good reputation, the ability of a company to create value is severely impaired. Boards need to be aware that reputation, like trust, takes time to build but can be lost in the blinking of an eye.”

In its most basic form, a franchise is a business opportunity that should already have a track record of profitability and market need which means that a franchisor just needs to help that good reputation become known to prospective franchisees.

In the Natwest bfa franchise survey 2011, word of mouth is top spot on how people first find out about franchising and specific franchise opportunities:
“When asking franchisees how they first heard about franchising, it immediately becomes apparent the extent to which word of mouth is key, both in terms of hearing about franchising in general, and about specific franchises. Friends and relatives are the most mentioned single source (24%) of initial awareness.”

Whilst the survey continues to evidence that people use a variety of sources and online and offline media in their research phase of the journey to becoming a franchisee and confirms that a franchisors should take a multi-channel approach to franchise recruitment, it is clear that testimonials are a must have in a franchisor’s marketing kit. This is confirmed within the decision-making process of a prospective franchisee:

“Again, as with the initial awareness of franchising, we see the importance of the personal touch in this industry, with high proportions citing a reason as ‘liking the people’ and ‘recommendation from existing franchisee’.

“Franchisees make careful decisions. Unsurprisingly given the personal and financial investment involved. On average franchisees said they had sought advice or made checks with 6 different sources prior to signing their franchise agreement.
Judgements relating to the franchisor offer and the impact of running the franchise on their lives are the most frequently made assessments, In terms of external consultations, contact with existing franchisees is crucial in terms of assessing profitability and their opinion of the franchisor.”

So, it is clear that franchisors need to take the time to review the reputation of their franchise business and how they manage it. I would recommend building this in to your marketing plan on a monthly basis; your advertising copy, online profiles, press release, video blogs, and internal communications. Every member of staff should be aware that everything they do can impact on your reputation and ultimately, the future of the business.

Here are a few tips:

  1. Take time to collect and review customer and franchisee feedback – quickly acting on poor feedback turns a bad experience into a good experience.
  2. Keep an up-to-date bank of testimonials
  3. Update your online and print marketing materials on a regular basis with your latest testimonials
  4. Take time to train staff and franchisees in your ‘perfect pitch’ – you have 90 seconds to explain what you do, how it can benefit who you are talking to and prove how it has benefited others
  5. Make your franchisees your ambassadors; take them with you to networking meetings, exhibitions, and discovery days.

A consistent message is king; communicate this in everything that you do and a prospective franchisee will feel confident in building a relationship with you!