Franchise marketing: What you need to know

Nicky Tatley looks at the varied marketing provisions on offer for prospective franchisees

One of the most attractive things about investing in a franchise is that you know you are buying into an existing brand which has already been marketed successfully.

However, the level of marketing support you receive in the long-term differs from franchise to franchise and it’s worth doing your research before you sign on the dotted line.

The ultimate success of your new franchise will depend a great deal on consumer awareness on a nationwide and localised level so you need to be sure of what your franchisor is offering you.

If you have years of marketing experience that’s great, but most prospective franchisees aren’t so well equipped and will have to rely on resources from the franchisor and/or their own bright ideas.

It should be a given that your chosen franchise uses all the usual social media platforms but you should also try to find out how else the franchise is maximising its (and your) web presence.

On a more general level the franchisor should have a digital marketing solution that handles brand control and SEO practices but many will offer resources that help you engage with your local community.

Different marketing methods

Some franchise networks have a central fund for marketing that all franchisees pay into on a regular basis whilst some simply offer initial training, promotional materials/resources and ongoing advice.

• Centralised funds

With a centralised fund, franchisees usually have more say in how marketing is undertaken in the franchise as a whole; members of the franchise network form a committee and then decide how the money should be spent.

If your chosen franchise uses this model, key things to look at are if the marketing is actually working (i.e. attracting customers), how the money is actually split in terms of administration, production of advertising materials (flyers/direct mail) and T.V./radio ads and purchasing the media placements.

Ask existing franchisees if they feel happy with how the marketing is run and if feel they have a voice.

Two examples of franchises who use a central marketing pool are Revive! Automotive repairs and Pet Pals.

At Revive! franchisees have recently used the central marketing fund to sponsor British Touring Car Champion racing driver Andrew Jordan whilst Petpals’ group finances support website development for its individual franchisees.

Both these franchises offer on-demand access for franchisees to external PR as part of their central marketing fund contributions.

So, while it may seem that these types of franchise cost more, in essence a centralized marketing fund is a good deal – with the added benefit of safety in numbers.

• Initial training and resources

Given that the very nature of a franchise means that many of the basics of marketing will have already been taken care of, it’s perfectly reasonable for franchisors to offer an initial marketing ‘leg-up’ to a new franchise owner and let the existing brand do the rest of the talking.

Most franchises will have protocols in place that suggest where advertising should be directed, how to use social media, profiles of your ideal target customer, the best price points and tried and tested sales techniques.

For example, Sport Works – the award-winning provider of sport, exercise and educational programmes – offer franchisees a robust marketing support package:

‘The materials and marketing strategies which we know work in the sector have enabled our franchisees to develop profitable businesses.From unique client management software to our library of online and offline resources, you have all the tools to quickly establish the Sport Works brand in your locality.’

They also offer guidance in maintaining attendance levels, choosing venues and sourcing good staff. On a broader level, the brand is fully supported:

‘Our central marketing efforts include social media, telemarketing, website content and our carefully designed tendering and contract documentation.’

Window to the Womb – who offer 4D pregnancy scanning for expectant families – are another rapidly growing franchise network who offer great marketing support. Founder franchise partner, Mark Witter, explains that the company likes to keep things simple:

‘We strongly believe that the simpler the payment model is, the more likely it will be that the franchisor will avoid potential 'conflict' with its franchisees as the business develops, expands and matures.’

To that end, Window to the Womb charge a fixed monthly fee to all franchisees, irrespective of the size of their turnover. Marketing is included in the charge and support is ongoing.

‘Whilst we do not make any additional charge for our marketing support, it is the area in which we work most closely with our partners.’ says Witter.

During the initial set-up period, the franchisee is provided with ‘print ready’ artwork for all advertising collateral as well as the set up of social media accounts, digital media campaigns, a home page on the main website and full marketing training.

After this, ongoing support is offered in terms of website development, the company app, management of the central social media account (updating franchisees via Hootsuite) and furthering relationships with ‘key partners’ (retailers, charities etc.) that franchisees can take advantage of locally.

As franchisees find their feet, they can take the digital marketing into their own hands if they wish but can access support at any time.

Witter firmly believes in franchise family values, and it shows:

‘We work with our partners as they develop other local marketing channels and we share best practice around the organisation.’

Not all franchise opportunities will offer such extensive marketing support – so when shopping for a franchise, make sure you are confident that the package on offer is well suited to your needs as well as offering good value for money.

Interested? Take a look at our wide range of franchises.

Nicky Tatley

About the author

Nicky contributes articles to all titles in the Dynamis stable, primarily, and and is a regular contributor to other business publications including Talk Business, and NuWire Investor.