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The warden in Cool Hand Luke is right, we have a failure to communicate. Unlike the warden however, we do not want to resort to violence to get the point across. Internal marketing is an often overlooked and crucial piece of a franchise system. In most companies, messaging to employees does not treat the target audience as intelligent or as the brand ambassadors that they are. Most external marketing assumes that the target audience is intelligent and desires what the brand is promoting. This goes doubly in this world of franchising where franchisors are always trying to ensure that they and their franchisees are on the same page.
Many companies, especially in franchising, view their internal marketing as manna from heaven and their employees as hardcore believers that are lucky to be able to receive this message. This happens more with large franchise concepts (stage three and above) who begin to see their franchisees as employees, thus their internal marketing begins to reflect this. There is a shift in messaging away from franchisees and franchisors working together to promote the brand to trying to convince the franchisee that the brand really is worth promoting.
Internal marketing should then be seen as relationship marketing instead of consumer marketing. Relationship marketing focuses on building a foundation of mutual trust, respect, and even affection between the sender and the receiver. There are several things that franchise systems can do to elevate their internal marketing.
1. Ensure that franchisees know their role in the bigger picture.
It is important to communicate that your franchisees are invaluable to the organization. The marketing material that goes out around this needs to be focused on the franchisees role in the bigger picture of the organization. The marketing should have a “We are all in this together” kind of feel. This, along with all of the other internal marketing, should start as soon as they purchase the concept and during their ramp up. Reinforcing the franchisees’ role is especially important during the ramp up phase.
2. Target better internally.
Specific targeting is always a key part of any marketing campaign and yet is often overlooked in internal marketing. Your internal target market is most likely very different from your external target market. Franchisors should consider doing internal market research to see which types of messaging and promotion will resonate most with their franchisees. This can be as simple as sending out a survey to your franchisees yourself or as complex as hiring an outside company to do the internal targeting and positioning for you.
3. Align your internal and external marketing goals.
It is always disconcerting to hear one thing and see another. The messaging for internal and external marketing does not need to be the same but it must follow the same theme. An example of this not working would be a retailer that externally says that quality customer service is their primary goal and internally tells its employees that they will be evaluated based on how fast they deal with customer issues. These two messages do not line up and can make the company look dishonest, as well as frustrating employees. When this happens it makes it much less likely that your employees and franchisees will be good brand ambassadors.
4. Trust your Franchisees to be brand ambassadors.
In the best case scenario you have franchisees who are happy to talk about your brand and how wonderful it is. Let them! Encourage them to talk with others about the brand and allow them the space to do so. Many large franchisors have so many rules in place that the franchisees are hesitant to openly discuss the brand, and when they do the discussion is negative! By allowing your franchisees to freely discuss anything about the brand you promote trust and goodwill.
Let's go back to Cool Hand Luke for a moment. The full quote by the warden in that scene is “What we've got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can't reach.” I disagree with that. I believe that you should be able to reach everybody with your communication, especially as a franchisor. I urge you to take a look at your internal marketing and ask some hard questions about targeting, messaging, and communication. I am sure your franchise system will be better for it.
About Chris Morrison
Chris Morrison is the marketing manager of Zoracle Profiles. He strives to help franchisors create relevant and meaningful content and strategy using the suite of customizable psychometric assessments that Zoracle offers. Zoracle’s SpotOn! meta-analysis provides insight no singular profile, survey, algorithm or assessment can. Our SpotOn! science determines franchisee-franchisor compatibility and predicts performance. Zoracle reduces recruitment and support costs while increasing franchisee validation and performance.