Is marketing your franchise the elephant in the room?

Most franchisees will get a lot of help with marketing from Head Office, whether it’s through national TV campaigns, listings on websites, or adverts in the local press. 

But there’s so much more you can do for yourself that will build upon that and make a huge difference to your franchise’s visibility as well as to your bottom line. 

Sometimes it can be as simple and effective as taking an initiative. 

Willie Forsyth, a franchisee of The Wheel Specialist in Aberdeen, saw his direct-to-consumer business drying up temporarily due to market conditions, so took his offer direct to the automotive trade, turning up with a refurbished wheel as an example of his work and going from door to door on an industrial estate until his trade soared astonishingly.

It can also be as simple and low-tech as a leaflet-drop in an area where you’d like to do more business. 

Rather than expecting the leaflet to do the whole Dragons’ Den for you with every possible reason the target customer should use your services, think of the leaflet as a two-sided poster whose job is to catch people’s eyes when it lands on their doormat, whichever side up. 

Keep the message simple – a big, bold headline they can take in in one go – and make any image instantly appealing. 

You want your message to go into their thoughts, not their bin, so think yourself into their shoes and write something that would really convince you if you were them. 

Sharing your expertise on social media goes down well, too, and does wonders for visibility. 

If you’re a chimney sweep, for instance, you could write hectoring or scaremongering Facebook posts telling potential customers they’re endangering their loved ones by not having their chimneys swept regularly – and you might well be right – but you’d get a far better response and engage with more people if you wrote personal posts talking about your own experiences at the other end of the brush-handle. 

“You’d be amazed what I’ve found up chimneys,” you could write, with a 100% certainty that people would want to read on, “though I’ve yet to find Santa stuck up there.” 

Approach your local newspaper (if you’re lucky enough to still have one) and suggest to the Business Editor that he or she might write a day-in-the-life piece about you which could be accompanied by an eye-catching pic and stand out a mile from the rather drier fare that fills most business pages. 

If the piece appears, ask the paper for a PDF of the page (which will be high-definition, perfect, and highly photocopiable), and use a thumbnail of it on your website with a link to the full story on the paper’s website. 

You can post about your moment in the spotlight in Facebook posts, on Twitter and Instagram, on your blog, and in e-mails or newsletters you send to your regular or potential clients. 

Who knows? Your local TV station may decide to film an item about you, as what you do is very televisual – and if you suggest it to them, they’re even more likely to do so. 

As an insider who’s worked in TV newsrooms, I know that it’s worth persisting if you send in a suggestion about filming you and they don’t respond. 

Assuming your story actually is interesting (and it is!) there could be several reasons why the TV station doesn’t pick up on it immediately. 

There’s usually one poor bugger whose job it is to wade through all the e-mails that come in every day, and that can often be a different person each day of the week. 

So if one picks it up on a Monday and thinks “Chimney sweeps! Who cares about them?”, it’s worth sending it in again on Wednesday because the person doing the e-mail trawl that day may be genuinely concerned at the possibility that Santa might one day be genuinely stuck in a chimney, or be under pressure to find a story – any story – to fill a gap because the big interview that was meant to fill half the evening programme has been cancelled. 

Yes, TV companies get a lot of suggestions from people wanting to be on air, but they can also get famines or be told by the network at almost no notice that they, and each of the other regional BBC stations, need to run an item on a local tradesperson in an unusual job – that evening – with the chance that one of them will be chosen for national exposure on The One Show. 

That’s called being in the right place (or the right Inbox) at the right time – and so many people who’ve ended up with a seemingly disproportionate amount of fame or publicity owe it all to such serendipity. 

If you’re running a car wash and have a safari park or zoo near you, they might let you wash an elephant (elephant permitting, of course) which would make a fantastic pic for the paper and, again, quite possibly an item on your regional TV news. 

Whichever approach you take, it’s all about standing out from the crowd. How many of your rival car washes have ever washed an elephant? Exactly! 

And how many chimney sweeps have voiced their concerns for Santa or spoken to a fascinated public about the things they’ve found up there? 

The same principles apply to almost every type of franchise you can think of. The secret is to be imaginative, be convincing, and think how tempted you would be if you were on the receiving-end of the message. 

NB: No elephants have been hurt, soaped or even dampened in the writing of this article.