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Creating a marketing program for your franchise system

Written by : Townsend, Drue

Creating a marketing program for your franchise system

Marketing is critical to the success of most businesses. Corporations that own their locations create annual marketing plans that involve both national and local components, with the local implementation being done by the store or regional marketing managers. In the multiunit world of franchising, a franchise system that assumes this "corporate" role and is able to create programs that promote the brand and make unit-level marketing easy to implement for the franchisee, does both the brand and the franchisee a great service.
The process of developing a comprehensive marketing program for a franchise system can begin by forming a national advertising board comprised of a handful of elected franchisees (ideally five to nine depending on the size, geographical coverage and age of the franchise system). This board should work with the franchisor's marketing department and executive management team to do a variety of things including:

  • Provide strategic marketing direction (based on current and assumed furore buying needs and trends),

  • Offer a real-world perspective,

  • Seek input from their constituents (other franchisees in the system),

  • Help determine marketing program objectives and ways to measure them,

  • Help develop a budget (or work with the funds allocated contractually in the franchise agreement),

  • Help develop an annual marketing plan

  • The First Task

    Gaining consensus on the marketing objectives is the first task. What are you trying to do? Launch a new product? Sell more to existing customers? Steal market share from a competitor? Build awareness? Know what you are trying to accomplish.
    Understand your budget. What should and shouldn't it pay for (legally, ethically, contractually)? If a franchisee falls behind in advertising fee payments, do they continue to get the benefits of the marketing programs? If your budget is funded periodically or monthly through a percentage of sales, but your marketing strategy is to front-load your advertising to cover a key selling season, how will you pay your media bills? Play it safe; have a percentage of your fund in reserve and carried over year-to-year to safeguard for emergencies or to cover changes in marketing strategies.
    Once the direction and goals are determined, the marketing department can research options--advertising and merchandising options (print, outdoor, broadcast, web, events and promotions), sales tools (telemarketing companies, direct mail campaigns, 800 numbers, contact management programs), networking opportunities (organizations. sponsorships, trade shows) and marketing research needs.

    Consider the Tactical Components

    Careful consideration should be given to the tactical components early in the program development process. Are the programs fair to all who are participating or contributing? Who will execute the programs? Which ones will be implemented by the marketing department (or outside agencies under the marketing department's direction) and which ones will require franchisee involvement? How much time will it require? What is the negative impact to the system if a franchisee doesn't execute his portion as requested? Are there measurement tools ill place, and if so, are they easy for the franchisee to use? How will feedback be obtained from the customer or from the franchisee? How will the programs be communicated to the system initially, and then re-communicated with enough frequency to make sure that they are implemented? How will all of this information be used to plan for next year?
    Once the team has thought through all of the program objectives and considerations, the actual marketing plan should be created. The marketing plan should have two or three levels--national, co-op-regional (if such exists in your system) and local. The plan should include a variety of advertising, promotions, sales and networking programs to reach all of a franchise system's audiences, and it should include tasks that are executed by the marketing department on the franchisee's behalf, as well as things that the franchisee can choose to participate in (and maybe even be subsidized for doing).
    The marketing department, with the blessing of the franchisor's executive management team, can then present the marketing plan and budget to the elected national advertising board for review, revisions and eventually, final approval.

    Roll Out the Program

    The tools to communicate the program to the system can then be created and sent to each franchise location--in our case, a printed marketing calendar, a written planning guide, on-line tools, program order forms and a video. Members of the marketing department offer help to individual franchisees and co-ops by visiting their market and hosting half-day roll-out meetings, calling and discussing the programs by phone, and e-mailing questions back and forth. The marketing department should also work with other corporate departments (primarily operations and training) to help them understand the programs and to enroll them as the second line of defense for marketing program implementation. Once rolled out, the marketing department should continue to promote the programs internally and with the franchise system with e-mail reminders, share success stories and track what can be tracked.

    Involve, Plan, Evaluate

    The franchisor that provides the "corporate" marketing plan adds value to their system in so many ways--by creating a consistent message, by targeting the desired audience and by making it easy for the franchisee to implement sales and marketing plans locally. It can also be a selling point for your franchise sales team. When creating a marketing plan, remember to involve many, plan early, and evaluate often.
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