Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

Have you ever heard the phrase “It’s the little things that count?” I have found this not only to be true in life but also in business.

Recently I had four people try to name all 50 states in 6 minutes. The thing I noticed is that people forgot about the smaller states (Delaware, Rhode Island, Vermont, etc) I found this ironic because a lot of these were the first states that were organized and the first ones we learn about in school (the 13 colonies) And yet, these smaller ones are the ones that slip out the mind the most. Often times when people are starting a franchise, they have the big stuff in mind, but they forget about the little things that are important and effective too.

When starting a franchise, often times the little, important details are forgotten. Things like “Who am I going to hire for this position? When will I officially be open? How many years can I see myself doing this?”

Remember that the little things are just as important as the big things in franchises.

 

Remember in school how you could have big plans for the weekend but then the teacher gives you a paper to write that is due on Monday? I am sure at some point in time most of us have been tempted to skip a homework assignment to go out and do something that was genuinely more exciting than sitting around doing repetitive reading and writing.

Opening a new franchise business can be compared to that teacher and the class can be compared to regular, 9-5 job.  During normal working hours, you can study page after page for advice and tips on what to do, but once “class” is over, that is where your homework begins. The difference is that now, blowing off your homework could potentially cost you money, not just grades.

When opening a franchise business, it’s important to do your homework so you know what exactly you are getting into and how to solve problems that may come up.  Do the research! Decisions that are made when you first start out can affect the long-term results of your business. According to entrepreneur.com, some decisions to consider include:

Know Your Franchisor- Study them. Learn their background, ask what their five and 10 year plans are and find out if their short, and long term goals agree with yours.

Financing- Understand your financial commitments. Ask yourself questions like: “How long can I stay in debt? What are my expectations for Return On Investment? What sales tactics can I use to reach these expectations?”

Location and Lease Negotiation- Do your homework. Have a professional look at your lease.  Look at the demographics for successful locations in the brand and try to duplicate that in your own search.

Don’t overburden yourself by doing too much homework for your franchise business at once.  Remember, your teacher didn’t give you all the tests, midterms and finals in the same day! Spread it out and take time to learn the material.

 

Do you remember the first time you took a 10-meter dive? I still catch myself reliving that moment. My stomach bunched in knots, and I felt all shades of fear while doubt whirled around my head. Taking the plunge for the first time can be petrifying. But there are those who dive from great heights with ease, turning it into an art. Both my mind and my muscles confirmed that my first dive was far from perfect.

 

You don’t have to be a novice diver to empathize with the sensations “AHHHHHHHHH!” and “WHAT WAS I THINKING?” Life alone offers enough opportunities to take the figurative dive, especially when you open your first business. Just like with diving, there are techniques first time businessowners can keep in mind to get their business off on the right foot, despite the accompanying sensations of an emotional free-fall. 1. Ready. Are you ready? The best way to answer this question is to interview fellow business owners who survived the plunge and study how they did it. You need to wrap your mind around the paradigm shift of working for the man to becoming the man. Are you ready for people to depend on you for a paycheck? Are you ready for long hours and sleepless nights? Owning your own business holds great potential for fulfillment and financial success. However, business ownership will also be one of the most difficult things you will ever accomplish– are you ready for it?

2. Set. The next step is to ensure your business structure is sound and plan how you’ll launch it. When you’re diving, you must choose your landing: a belly flop, a pencil dive, a swan dive, or flailing around and hoping you won’t break something. This is comparable to structuring your business because it determines how you “land” once you’re serving customers. People often turn to franchising because they are investing in a business whose structure has been tested and proven successful. And there are a multitude of industries and sectors to choose from, so they can still own a business they are passionate about. Also, buying a franchise resembles hiring a personal trainer coach you on diving like a pro before your feet ever leave the rock.

3. Go. Once your feet are over nothing but air, remember there is no going back. From this point on, you need to be wholly devoted to landing your figurative dive. Have you ever seen a diver float back to solid ground after falling 5 of the 10-meters? Launching your business is no different.

As someone who’s been starting and growing businesses for the past 20 years, I can say it is the most difficult and most satisfying thing I’ve done (that includes my 10-meter dive!). If you would like to discuss starting your own business, feel free to contact me at @DScottAbbott or sabbott@fivestarfranchising.com.

 

I have five kids. That should say it all for this blog post shouldn’t it. Every single one of my kids went through a phase of asking me why to just about everything in life. Some people may find that annoying, but I always enjoyed giving as intelligent a response as possible, only to hear why? again. Eventually I would give in and simply respond with – why not?

Its the cop out answer isn’t it, but one thing I have learned is that people can get stuck in asking the why questions for so long that there is no decisive action, and they are left in inaction, forever analyzing but never progressing. I was never too fond of those philosophical course I had to take at college, I have always been interested in action.

A number of years ago we had a board meeting to discuss methods of expanding our franchise concept, and we discussed many of the traditional as well as nontraditional channels we could use to get in front of the kinds of candidates we seek to award franchises to. We had the good fortune of a board that was stacked with intelligent and very experienced and successful entrepreneurs. During this discussion one of these respected board members, in response to asking if we should risk a lot of money on a unproven advertising channel, asked – Why Not? – we are all a bunch of entrepreneurs, what are we afraid of? I loved that response, and as well as the challenge that it presented.

Sometimes you have to do things you don’t know will work, you have to venture out into the unknown because if you don’t then you will never know what you could have had if you hadn’t simply asked the question -Why not? that’s what entrepreneurs do.

Just do it!

The best marketers will tell you that money comes most easily to those who understand the wants,
wishes, and needs of your customer. If you are selling watches to active adult men, it doesn’t make
sense to give them ribbon bands with ponies and unicorns on them, right?

The funny thing is, many companies have begun making their product offering so generic, they really
aren’t targeting anyone at all. They offer the plainest, most generic items available, usually with black
or grey color schemes, and expect them to move like hotcakes on the market.

The less specific a marketer or business owner targets, the more likely it is that nobody will be
interested in buying the product. It is vital to understand that you are not creating your widgets or
service to be thrown into a magic pit from which money comes out. These products are going to
people who purchase them to solve a problem or improve their lives in some way.

In Og Mandino’s classic treatise on salesmanship “The Greatest Salesman in the World”, the first scroll
suggests that a salesman walk among his customers for thirty days and repeat to himself the words “I
love you” to everyone he passes. Try doing this for a single day, and see if you feel any different about
your own product. Would you sell it to someone you love? Would someone who loves you sell it to
you?

The phrase “It is not personal, it is business” is an outdated concept. All business must be personal if
a lasting relationship with a customer can be built. They must know you, like you, and trust you if you
intend to do business with them. So ask yourself, Where’s the love?

Offering a top quality service or product is a key aspect of business. Conrad Kolba offers some great
thoughts on quality in his blog. Click here to read his artticle “On Quality”.

One of the life bloods of franchising is lead flow. Not much different than another of our franchisees business, or any sales and marketing company; you need to be bringing in new blood all the time. At Five Star we are constantly measuring lead flow, sales cycles, velocity, close ratios, and other various metrics to make sure we are on track. Recently, in a sales meeting we discussed two things that we could do to increase our franchise sales.

1) Volume. This can mean so many things, but it can start at the very beginning of the sales cycle – impressions, or in the middle – leads, or in the end – contracts signed. The reality is that you need to be constantly reviewing ways to increase the volume of people looking at your concept, so, that they can express interest and enter into the journey of learning if your franchise concept if the right fit for them. Here are a few ideas on ways you could amp up the volume:

a. Cast a wider net. For example, if you are advertising for the word painting franchise, why not consider something like home based business, or service industry franchises in your online advertising. Some people know what they want, and others have an idea.
b. Use different channels. Online advertising is a fantastic tool that can be approached through SEO, Pay-Per-Click, affiliates, directories, and on and on. However, what about trying something different like Career Builder, or Monster.com? Business brokers is a channel that many franchisors use to get in front of candidates, and many of them use these techniques themselves. Why not try your hand at marketing to the right candidates directly?
c. PR. Public Relations is a tricky tool that few are able to wield effectively. I have approached this different ways for different concepts. The key is that if you aren’t using PR in your marketing mix you should think about doing it now. Have no money to hire and expert you say? Well then pick up the phone and pitch your cool concept yourself until someone gives you the time of day. You need some independently written articles by a quality publication saying your cool instead of that testimonial from your grandma.
d. Social Media – yes, believe it or not I have had people contact me through my blog, Facebook page, and twitter account to request information about one of our brands. So how do you find the time? Well its 12am right now, so, now you know.

2) Efficiency. Getting more eyeballs on your web page is your first mission. Your second mission is to get them to click that submit button. Marketing is scientific, so, please, don’t make this about guy checks. Yes, you can start there, but measure, tweak, measure, tweak, measure, tweak until finally you can tell me you are at 25% conversion rates. 5 years ago I would have told you it wasn’t possible, but, today our team has moved the virtual mountains and now enjoy the results. This is something you can never stop thinking about. Here is a quick example of what we have done over the years.
Go to www.fivestarpaintingfranchise.net this site is our old franchise site. We have tweaked this site dozens of times, and it runs at about a 10% conversion rate. If you go to www.5starfranchising.com you will find very cool information and well-designed research site. This site is below 1%. Now if you go to www.fivestarpaintingfranchise.com you will see our main franchise site for Five Star Painting. I have many times shared these sites with people and have asked the question of which one they prefer, and which one they though would do best. Please remember, that the goal of your franchise site is to generate enough interest to get someone to click the submit button and begin the dialogue.

Of course there is more to franchise lead generation than this. So, with that being said: what do you do that works?

Ten percent of workers feel that their productivity suffers during rainy and cold conditions. Also, employee absenteeism is higher on rainy days with twenty-one percent of workers admitting to calling out sick to avoid facing the elements. Ultimately, it depends on every business. For example, when there is a snow storm a landscaping business can’t complete their jobs, whereas ski resorts are flooded with business.

In the painting industry we see an interesting trend. When the sun shines, people go outside and see what the winter, spring, and fall have done to their home and make a phone call to find out what it will cost to repair. It’s difficult to do an exterior paint job when the temperature is below 40°F. Most customers recognize that cold, wet weather means painting will have to be put off. If we were to compare the number of calls we receive during a sunny week vs. a rainy one Five Star Painting’s phone rings twice as much when the sun is out. Also, interestingly enough, our phone always rings the most on Monday.

Years ago I used to be involved with a winter festival in Winnipeg, Manitoba called Festival du Voyageur. This festival was insane enough to run in the height of winter and provided heated tents with entertainment, ice sculptures, and dog-sled racing. All in all it’s a great time, but I can assure you that this outdoor festival would in some years experience -50°C (-58°F) weather. I acquired some research and did a plot chart of the average temperature to the festival attendance. The correlation was staggering, yet expected. The colder the weather the less tickets sales we would have.

How does bad weather affect your business? A few disadvantages of running a business when the weather is bad can be overwhelming traffic, delayed shipments, tardy employees, and the list can go on. Most businesses have to take risks and try to force through it. Surprisingly, 75% of restaurants report a sales drop of at least 10% due to undesirable changes in the weather. BlueskyLocal.com mentions that if you are in the restaurant industry, this may not surprise you too much since many accept it as a way of doing business. Simply stated, if weather is bad certain businesses suffer. Click here to read my blog post on fishing. It would make sense to avoid direct mail in December to market painting a home and try to do it in the spring as the days get longer, and the sun starts to come out.

When running a business, how can you take advantage when the sun is out? Usually in the springtime, people are more willing to do spring cleaning, clean out everything, and organize. AnnArbor.com states that a Farmer’s Market in Kerrytown, MI decided to take advantage of the sunny skies and warmer temps, and ended up having great success. The mood was festive around the market, shoppers were enjoying the weather and the vendors were happily selling their wares. Many merchants, who said sales were up, credited the boost to the good weather.

Even the best weather professionals get it wrong, so how can an entrepreneur get it right? Before you start marketing take a look into what your environment experiences historically during the months you are going to be marketing, and go with the highest probability plays. You won’t always get it right, but sometimes the stars align and your marketing program will hit the week of sunshine you are looking for.

Subscribe to D Scott Abbott
Copyright© 2009