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How can franchisees benefit from community relations?

By Shawn Saraga 

If you are a brick and mortar business, offer your space for use of a fundraiser, charities are always looking for venues to host events and raise money.
If you are a brick and mortar business, offer your space for use of a fundraiser, charities are always looking for venues to host events and raise money.

Nothing supports a franchise business like its immediate community. Previously, business owners would rent a space, hang a sign, and people would walk in the door. Now, there is much more to attracting customers and more avenues to do it. As technology has created a more personalized world, franchisees must compete in a more personalized marketing space. This can be via social media, the chamber of commerce, local sports teams, high schools, hospitals, or local charities. Many more options exist to add to this list.

It is not impossible to see sales increase 10 to 20 per cent consistently and annually based on community involvement compared to locations that do not participate in their local community. Indeed, this is a hallmark of a great franchisee.

However, this raises questions such as, Where does one begin?” What are the best platforms to use? How do you tie your message to the people you are trying to reach? Here are three simple community outreach programs to get you started.

Sponsor local sports teams

Whether it’s a kid’s soccer team supported by an ice cream shop they will visit after every game, or a beer league team sponsored by a sports apparel store, team sponsorships can go a long way to build brand loyalty in the community. The cost is reasonably low, the exposure of the business logo to families in the community is great, and the brand is associated with the team’s name and repeated often by residents. It appears in social media pictures taken by families, and gives a direct conduit to offering specials or incentives to the teams’ family.

The chamber of commerce

Joining the chamber of commerce shows the community a franchisee is serious about doing business. It can help attract more families and business clients and offers exposure to communities they will not get access to without joining. The chamber usually offers annual local events such as community fairs, golf tournaments, and other marketing opportunities to take advantage of. They also hold regular get-togethers where a franchisee can meet other like-minded business owners and build relationships that can turn into sales. It is a low-cost option and has a huge impact on recognition in the community.

Hospitals and charity fundraisers

As a business owner, supporting local charities is a social obligation. Choose a local charity and either donate products or offer to sponsor an upcoming event. For brick-and-mortar businesses, offer space for a fundraiser as charities are always looking for venues to host events and raise money. If a franchisee can strike a good relationship with that charity, getting status as a supporter and using the charity’s logo allows them to promote their cause in your marketing material, and in turn, people in the community will know the franchisee supports that charity. The opportunity is a win-win and feels great to be a part of it.

Community outreach should be a consistent and ongoing part of a franchise’s marketing budget. Most franchisors budget a percentage of sales to local marketing initiatives, and it is usually at the franchisee’s discretion on how to spend it. Franchisors will normally give suggestions or toolboxes with ideas on what to do with that money. Take these programs seriously, as the impact on business is immense. In today’s hiring community, it is also appealing to employees when they are working with a company that is supportive of the community.

Building these solid relations has a ripple effect felt for years to come in building a business’ success. Take advantage of speaking to customers as well and ask them what local initiatives they are interested in. Get feedback from the community. Having a community board where people can post local initiatives is another great free way to tie the business to the community as well and letting franchisees know what matters to their customers.

Remember, community outreach is not just a number on the franchise document to pay into, it is a vital part of a
successful business.

Shawn Saraga has been a franchise and real estate development professional for 16 years and has assisted in opening more than 800 franchises of various brands during his career. He is also a public speaker at conventions and guest lecturer at universities and colleges across Canada. He currently serves as VP of global development for barBURRITO Restaurants Inc.

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