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by Mark C. Siebert

While some franchisors seem to be continuing their winter hibernation, smart companies know that this is the time for bold, positive action. Disillusionment with the stock market, with the improprieties of America's upper management and a national air of uncertainty has created legions of corporate executives and others who yearn for more: More freedom. More family time. More control over their destinies. And more fulfillment than they can ever achieve working for someone else.

It Starts with the Story

So how do you go about creating the marketing pieces that will jumpstart your franchise sales efforts? It starts with the story. You need to create a powerful brand story that is compelling on both an emotional and logical level. It must both inspire and motivate the prospect to action, as well as answer questions such as 'What do I get for my money?' and 'Why do I need you?'

Once the story is crafted, it should be communicated consistently through a number of essential methods, including:

The franchise brochure
Despite living in the digital age, the franchise brochure still remains the undisputed king of franchise marketing materials and the one absolute essential. Not only does the franchise prospect pour over every inch of it, this brochure will be scrutinized by their spouses, lawyers, accountants, landlords, investors and their know-it-all brother-in-law Jerry. And forget the cheapo folder with the chopped-up inserts. Go four-color with quality copy and design by a company that knows franchising, use excellent photography and printing stock. Good brochures can cost $4 - $5 per piece in quantity, but are well worth the price. Consider a printshop with digital printing capabilities, if you prefer a shorter print run (under 1000).

The mini-brochure
The "mini-me" of franchise marketing, print a tri-fold rack brochure for use as trade show handout, direct mailer, or in-store promotion. Printed in quantity, a four-color mini brochure can be produced for as little as 30 cents per piece, making it much more economical than its big brother.

The web site
The obvious digital essential, the franchise web site is part franchise advertisement and part promotional material. Its purpose is both to generate franchise leads and to promote the franchise to people who already know of the opportunity. A good web site is the cost of entry these days - franchisors without a professional looking web site will lack credibility. A tip: do not provide too much detailed information on your web site unless you require the prospect to provide contact information to view it. Your goal is to prompt contact and harvest leads, not answer every question.

The franchise e-brochure
Often designed in a Flash format, e-brochures are about the same size and dimensions as a standard business card and are designed to run in the CD-ROM or DVD drive of most computers. The message can be compelling and can even include video clips and voice-over narration. Production costs of under a dollar per piece make them an economical way to deliver a tremendous amount of information in a small package, but they have the disadvantage of requiring a computer in order to deliver that message. E-brochures can double as a franchisor's web site, and can even require some data capture in order to access them. Some franchisors will even use these e-brochures as e-mail attachments for more immediacy. Not an essential, but a strong piece that demonstrates that you are state-of-the-art.

E-mail response messages
The Internet can create a massive amount of unqualified leads to sift through. To solve this problem, we recommend a system of customized auto-responding follow-up e-mail messages that encourage interested prospects and filter out unqualified inquiries without wasting valuable staff time. The appropriateness of this strategy varies from franchisor to franchisor.

The franchise sales videotape
An 8-10 minute, professionally produced franchise sales videotape is hard to beat for effectiveness. With sound, music, narration and vivid videography, a quality video draws the prospect into the franchise experience like no other medium. It is also great for Discovery Day and group presentations, for sending to distant prospects and enables you to deploy the most powerful secret weapon of franchise sales: enthusiastic testimonials from happy, successful franchisees. And from a production standpoint, the development of this video allows an easy transition to the e-brochure, which is less expensive than the $3 per piece cost, per tape.

The difference between franchise and consumer marketing

The other day, I saw a beautiful brochure from a hair salon franchise - glossy finish, heavy stock, full bleed four-color photos. And on the cover, there was a photo of a pristine salon in operation: three barbers standing shoulder-to-shoulder, just waiting for me to get my hair cut. As a consumer, I was thrilled. I could simply walk right up in this immaculate operation and in minutes have one of these three barbers cutting my hair - no waiting!

But this brochure illustrated the franchisee's worst nightmare! What if I open this business and nobody comes? The prospect, at least subliminally, is thinking, I am paying those three barbers. And there is no one in those chairs. When creating marketing materials, franchisees want to see the fur flying. Consumers in the chairs. Cash changing hands. Marketing to prospective franchisees is very different than consumer marketing.

Also unlike most consumer marketing, franchise marketing is sometimes subject to legal constraints as well. Nine states (CA, IL, MD, MN, NY, ND, RI, SD, WA) require ad copy be approved by state agencies, and they may not let a franchisor get away with language that most consumer marketers would use without hesitation. Basic terms like "success" and "profit" may not pass muster with state regulators and will probably raise an eyebrow or two from the attorneys - so franchise marketing materials must always be designed with the lawyers in mind. In fact, we always recommend that franchise marketing materials be reviewed by your lawyers prior to their printing or use.

On a related subject, since your marketing materials must be consistent with the information contained in the UFOC, changes in the franchise offering will dictate changes in your marketing materials. Given the expense of printing brochures or producing videotapes, it is imperative that these materials are developed to be timeless.

Brochures should avoid discussion of material contract terms or costs that may be subject to change. Instead, this information should be contained in separate inserts that are often contained in a dye-cut pocket. And in all your materials, avoid references to dates, numbers of units, or events with a specific reference in time.

In short, savvy franchisors recognize that it's boom time for franchising. They are putting a fresh coat of paint on their concepts, rallying their troops, and boldly communicating their optimism and excitement. They're producing fresh corporate marketing materials, and getting them into the right people's hands.

First Published in Franchising World. All reprint rights reserved by the author.
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Mark Siebert is the Chief Executive Officer of the iFranchise Group, a management consulting firm specializing in franchising and franchise marketing.

During his 20-year career, he has personally consulted with over 30 Fortune 1000 companies and over 250 start-up franchisors.

Ph. 708-957-2300


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