By Patti Hone
Once someone makes the decision to become a franchisee, their focus should be on driving business to their location. Franchisees have been given a territory—a community in which to do business. So how does one get people in the door? Build a loyal customer base? Make the cash register ring? The answer is to start locally, as this is where franchisees can really shine.
Marketing locally needs to begin, well, locally, at the store, restaurant, or office. The marketing message needs to appear wherever appropriate, specifically where a customer comes in contact with the business. Franchisees need to ensure the message they want to send is being read loud and clear.
Think of a time you have experienced great customer service. Maybe the owner of a store you visited remembered your name or your last order and asked if you would like the same thing? It could even be as simple as greeting you with a big smile and a “Hello, welcome, how may I help you?” Acknowledged and welcomed, chances are people will be a repeat customer. Loyal customers are the best marketing tools a business can have. They spread the ‘good word’ about the business because they have been able to assist them. If franchisees look at their existing customer base and their spending habits, typically, loyal customers outspend other customers by approximately 10 to one, therefore a small increase in customer loyalty could increase your bottom line substantially.
Word of mouth or personal referrals is one of the most powerful advertising tools available. It costs nothing and is the most well received or ‘believable’ form of marketing. Business owners can encourage word of mouth referrals with vouchers, frequent buyer discounts, family and friends events, and any other way to encourage customers to spread the word on their behalf. If people are speaking positively about a business, it will be top of mind when they need the product or service in the future.
Get to know your neighbours
Visible, tangible involvement with the community is key to becoming ‘well known.’ It is also very effective advertising, especially for small businesses. Think about joining forces with other businesses to increase advertising power and marketing reach. Find a business in the neighbourhood that, if paired together, could create a great synergy. Not only will the combined marketing efforts make a bigger splash than individually, but each business are also adding to each other’s customer base and supporting each other. This is a true community outreach program.
Networking contacts and introductions are a cost-effective marketing method for any consumer or business-to-business service or product. A variety of networking opportunities exist in all regions and neighbourhoods, including trade associations, chambers of commerce, clubs, breakfast, lunch, and dinner events for business owners, or anywhere that potential customers would gather to communicate and socialize. Use imagination and be enthusiastic about your business and that will translate to that next customer.
Local marketing efforts need to permeate the local community on many levels. Franchisees want to keep their message fresh, exciting, frequent, and strong. Put together an internal marketing calendar and work with staff on generating a new reason to talk to customers every week. It could be as simple as promoting a new service offering, or the business’ patio is now open, or celebrating an anniversary. If the event is newsworthy, contact the local newspaper and city officials. Find out who runs the local BIA and make sure they are present for support and exposure.
All media are looking for news, especially local papers, magazines, radio, and TV stations who are constantly searching for community news. Contact the local editor/producer, get to know them, and try to establish yourself as a source or ‘an expert’ to be contacted for comments or quotes on subjects the journalists may be writing about. Submit press releases when having news to share. If possible, include a photograph, as photos improve the chances of being published. Remember that press release publicity is free publicity, so do not be shy but be timely. The media wants to know what’s happening before it happens, so give them plenty of lead time so they have a chance to send a reporter or camera crew to cover any events.
To be part of a community, franchisees need to show they support it. Find a local charity, school team, or a community event to get behind and raise money for or volunteer some time, products, and services to help. By showing concern about the people and needs of the community, customers will recognize and appreciate the business for doing so.
When consumers gravitate to a business, their decisions are rarely based on marketing messages alone. Consumers rely on their own experiences. They choose to stay loyal based on what they have personally experienced. As a result, devote the bulk of marketing efforts to the steps that lead up to the sale. Target customers and ensure the product line meets their wants and needs and communicate offerings in a way customers can relate to. If this is accomplished, then when the customer is ready to buy, simply facilitate the exchange and they will not feel like they’ve been sold anything. Never underestimate the power of the relationship. Customers may choose to buy from your business over another simply because they feel better when they walk through the door.
Be vocal that you are local
Local marketing is about building strong, lasting relationships with people and groups. By being a valuable resource and ensuring the business objectives support the community’s needs, franchisees can create a win-win situation for everyone. When supporting the community while growing a business, owners will garner loyal customers, an enhanced reputation, a strengthened awareness, and ultimately increased sales. Local marketing and community relations and support is a must for the success of any franchise.
Establish yourself as a source or an expert to be contacted for comments or quotes on subjects journalists write about.
Find a local charity, school team, or a community event to get behind and raise money for or volunteer some time, products, and services to help.
Think about joining forces with other businesses to increase advertising power and marketing reach.
Patti Hone is president and creative director of As You Like It Marketing & Communications Inc. Patti is an award-winning author and speaker who is popular at conferences, tradeshows, and industry events. Her enthusiasm and over 25 years of real-life experience in franchise marketing translates into an entertaining and informative program that is sought by companies across North America. For more information contact Patti at firstname.lastname@example.org