Excitement, anticipation, hope and ambition, as well as trepidation and nervousness: the swirl of emotions going through a new franchisee’s mind as they take on their new business.
Disappointment, isolation and regret: the three you’re looking to avoid being in the mix just after they’ve done so.
When you’re already in the sector, it’s easy to forget that for the majority of those that do it, starting a franchise is a step into the unknown and their first taste of self-employment; a journey from the security of a company and colleagues, to the buck stopping with them when it comes to putting numbers in the income column.
That’s why the launch is so important. It sets the tone for their journey, for the franchisor-franchisee relationship. A successful start will relax nerves and extend the honeymoon period. One of the main reasons someone has invested considerable amounts of their money into your brand is because of the support you promised them, and first impressions really count.
As with so much of business, planning and communication are the bedrocks of a successful launch. With a strategy in place and a process to follow, combined with your expertise on knowing how to attract the right kinds of clients or customers, new franchisees will feel well supported and confident. Here are a few areas that can help them get off to a good start.
While there are exceptions, in my experience most franchisees aren’t digitally-minded and just want everything set up and working the way it should with minimum hassle for them. A checklist of activities ensures nothing is being missed, and keeps the franchisee informed about how you’re helping them get off on the front foot.
Their website, email account, any social media accounts, review platforms and Google My Business listing should all be set up well in advance of the launch to ensure maximum visibility online – and help make things feel ‘real’ for the newcomer!
And if you or an approved agency handle AdWords for your franchisees, a quick guide to highlight the strategy and reasons behind it, without technical jargon (unless it’s asked for!), keeps information flowing without taking them out of their technology comfort zone.
A picture tells a thousand words
While many people don’t like having their picture taken, getting good images is an essential part of the franchisee launch experience.
They’re going to be used on some or all of the franchisee’s website, social media, PR and digital footprint, along with your franchise recruitment marketing, newsletters and website… no, a thumbnail image grabbed off LinkedIn isn’t good enough!
Whether you arrange a photo shoot with each franchisee or simply take some snaps on your phone, images matter, for both party’s sake.
PR & case studies
A press release in the local media can help get some great launch promotion. You’ll need a hook to the story, a strong image and a dose of luck to get published, but the sense of pride and gratitude a story in the local paper or news site can achieve is still hard to match elsewhere.
This is also a good time to get a case study written: having just gone through the start-up process, people talking about their experiences have a connection with prospects who might be teetering on the brink. Use that to your advantage.
When it comes to printed materials, having a centralised portal with a trusted print partner is the way to go. The idea is that you as the franchisor set up a series of templates on all collateral that a franchisee uses, such as flyers, business cards and the like, with contact details and images interchangeable.
The print company loads these templates into an online portal, with each franchisee given their own login. When franchisees need marketing collateral, they simply add their contact details and images to the template (if applicable) and place an order directly.
Such a system ensures seamless production, gets the franchisee involved in their own local marketing from the outset and, crucially, gives you complete visibility and brand control without having to micromanage the process. Even if you make the arrangements from head office directly for a new launch, these portals save so much time and resource.
It’s good to talk
It’s often said, though not always practiced, that communication is central to a successful franchisee-franchisor relationship. Never is this more true than at the outset of the business, when franchisees need more handholding and look for guidance than at any other time. Having systems in place that mean regular contact through calls, Skype and in person thankfully mostly go without saying.
It’s sometimes overlooked though how nice it is if some of that contact comes from the person handling your recruitment, who has worked with the franchisee through a long process and gained trust. There’s a reassurance in hearing a friendly voice or seeing a familiar face, and the fact that the person cares what happens after the franchisee’s money has cleared the account reflects extremely well on your culture.
When you’ve seen enough of them, it can be easy to think of franchisee launches as automatic, systemic; and to some degree they should be, certainly when it comes to the marketing.
But it’s more important to remember that at the heart of it all is a person who’s taken an enormous leap of faith in you and your business. How did you feel when you started yours, or on day one of your current job? Never forget about that new franchisee swirl of emotions, and make sure it’s the excitement that lingers rather than any regrets.