Lean on Me, When You’re Not Strong
There are a number of reasons a person chooses to invest in a franchise versus starting their own independent business. The most obvious reasons are typically the established business model, the company’s brand reputation, and the support that is offered. However, far too often, franchisors overlook that support as a key selling point that should be touted in marketing and sales materials.
A well-developed training and support program helps to position a franchise offering among its competitors, as well as ahead of the independent option. Concepts that are able to set themselves apart from the competition by offering complete, comprehensive training programs are poised for long-term success. And, before that training even begins, it is important to communicate to the potential franchisee exactly what these training and support services are, and the inherent benefits to leveraging them as the franchised business grows.
I have things you need to borrow
Selling a franchise is a lot of work and requires some savvy salesmanship. In most cases, selling a franchise requires convincing a prospect of four things: that they should go into business for themselves; that they should enter a specific industry; that they should invest in a franchise rather than go at it alone; and, that they should absolutely buy this franchise.
Start by creating a highly-proprietary operations manual, the authoritative how-to guide of a franchise system. Many franchisors think that they can simply find a boilerplate manual online, revise a few things here and there, and call it a day. But, that couldn’t be further from the truth. A cookie cutter approach to operations offers no differentiation or uniqueness and can be detrimental in establishing a consistent and relevant brand and operational standards. Moreover, depending on how it is written, it can create significant third-party liability for the franchisor. In the competitive franchise market, franchisors need every edge they can get, so it’s worth the initial expense to hire professionals to help develop an operations manual that is highly customized to the franchisor’s brand and value proposition.
I’ll be your friend
Once a franchisee understands the ins and outs of the operations manual, it’s time to initiate the specialized training program, often hosted at the company’s headquarters. Here, the franchisee will get to know the business – sometimes in a prototype setting that is designed specifically for training – and receive classroom training from the franchisor’s training team.
The first step to utilizing this corporate-based training as a sales tool is packaging the training program in a way that catches the eye of prospects. A number of studies have shown that franchisees retain more information when the instructor uses various training methodologies that combine visual, auditory and tactile learning techniques. Mixing various teaching formats like video, lecture, group discussion, exercises and hands-on work (such as product preparation) creates an inviting training environment for franchisees and encourages lasting learning – benefits that can definitely be used as selling points even before the franchisee signs the agreement and schedules the initial training session.
I’ll help you carry on
While each element of the franchise training program is sellable in one aspect or another, none may be as influential as on-site training. One key objective during on-site training is identifying and prioritizing the franchisee's greatest needs. When a franchisor can identify where the franchisee needs the most support, they can tailor ongoing training to best meet those predefined needs.
And, what could be more attractive to a prospective franchisee than knowing he or shell will receive truly customized training and support? Of course, it will be difficult to specifically detail customized training in general marketing materials, but even during the initial sales touch points, needs can be uncovered and insight can be gathered to both help shape the marketing messaging, and ultimately, the training program for when franchisees do sign the agreement.
Call on me, when you need a hand
There are few people who can speak to the quality of a franchise as well as the franchisees themselves. And just about every book or article on “how to buy a franchise” will encourage prospects to interview franchisees. In fact, there are entire franchise ranking systems that base their criteria on franchisee testimonials. Organizations like FRANdata and Franchise Business Review identify top-rated franchises by their “willingness and ability to provide support to its franchisees,” (according to FBR) among other things. So, making sure those individuals maintain their happiness throughout the course of their franchise agreement is crucial.
In turn, those satisfied franchisees become valuable marketing tools. Research shows that around 90 percent of consumers read online reviews when making purchasing decisions. It’s foolish to think that prospective franchisees – who are paying well more than $29.99 for a product on Amazon – are not doing the exact same thing.
Of course, franchisees are not always likely to go out of their way to praise their corporate headquarters on franchise review sites. So, be proactive in leveraging their satisfaction for the growth of the brand. Franchisors can create their own testimonial videos or incorporate written franchisee testimonials in their marketing materials to help spread the word.
In the end, franchisee success is the key to your success as a franchisor. Help your franchisees succeed in business and you will achieve success as a franchisor. Fail to do so, and you do so at your own peril.
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