After graduating from Georgia Tech with a computer science degree, Chris Spears held software development roles at Turner Broadcast Systems, Soltech, and Harry Norman Realtors. While at Turner, he met Eric Stoll, whom he eventually partnered with to found Arke Systems, LLC in 2005.
Arke Systems, an Atlanta-based marketing technology agency, recently acquired FRM Solutions, a leading provider of relationship management solutions for franchisors. FRM Solutions offers customizable services that allow franchisors the ability to better manage franchise sales, marketing, location and store development, contact management, compliance tracking, and more.
Franchise Chatter (FC): Can you tell us about your recent acquisition of FRM Solutions, a leading provider of relationship management solutions for franchisors? What attracted you to the company?
Chris Spears (CS): FRM Solutions is a natural extension of our existing franchisor customer-base. The acquisition introduces new features to our existing Franchise Relationship Management (FRM) product, creating a more powerful solution for our customers. Beyond new software capabilities, FRM Solutions customers now have access to our marketing, design, strategy, integration, and other franchisor-specific solutions.
FC: What exactly is CRM (Customer Relationship Management), and how can it benefit franchisors?
CS: CRM is a way for businesses to use technology in order to organize, automate, and streamline business processes. FRM Solutions is built on the industry-leading Microsoft Dynamics CRM system and enables franchisors to track everything related to their franchise – tracking franchise sales, distributing marketing materials to franchisees, providing support services to franchisees, tracking location and store development, managing contacts, and tracking compliance. Where franchisors really benefit with this solution is in the reporting dashboards and the sales and development pipeline analysis.
FC: How widespread is the adoption of CRM software in the franchise industry today?
CS: Out of all the technology pieces in play for businesses today (including websites, social media, marketing technology, etc.), franchisors have realized the importance of, and seen the most value from, a CRM tool because it allows them to have a comprehensive view of their franchisees. We typically see CRM act as the backbone for all franchise information management, as the tool touches every piece of the business. CRM also reaches consumer business by enabling franchisors to roll out marketing campaigns and collateral through the tool, which allows the franchisees to, in turn, better understand their customers.
FC: Can you give us some examples of how franchisors are using the software of FRM Solutions to better manage their business?
CS: The Franchise Sales module is a highly utilized piece of FRM that allows the sales team to fully engage and track a prospect from lead to franchise agreement and beyond. By integrating with the website, inquiries on the site can be automatically imported into FRM and assigned to a salesperson. The salesperson can then easily track correspondence with the lead while advancing them through the sales cycle, keeping track of important milestones such as FDD delivery. FRM also has tools for creating email marketing campaigns for nurturing leads.
Simple and seamless integration with Outlook is a major convenience and the familiar Microsoft interface cuts down on training and boosts user adoption. The reporting functions in FRM are crucial for executives, as it gives them a better understanding of their business and how/where to improve. FRM’s reporting gives them insight into their sales pipeline, lead source effectiveness, development pipeline, revenue per store, and much more.
FC: Do you have customized FRM packages available to franchisors, or is this a one-size-fits-all solution?
CS: FRM Solutions’ franchise management software is an out of the box solution, but it can be easily customized to fit each client’s needs. FRM is sold as a pay-per-seat solution and franchisors have the ability to establish a hierarchy of access levels from the beginning, in order to distinguish between system admins and general users.
FC: How affordable are your CRM solutions? Do you have solutions for franchisors who are just starting out, or have less than 10 franchisees?
CS: FRM Solutions is extremely affordable. With a pay-per-seat model, franchisors have the flexibility to determine how many users they want using the tool. Whether you have 10 or 100 franchisees, you can make the product as scalable as you like. We have a wide range of franchise clients in terms of size, from emerging franchises with several locations to large, multi-brand groups with thousands of stores worldwide. Our costs are competitive and the solution is customized to fit your business, unlike others.
FC: What kind of training and support do you offer franchisors who purchase your software?
CS: We custom tailor our training methods for each franchise that implements our franchise management system. Historically, we’ve done in-person training with users, videos, webinars, built custom training manuals, and have even trained internal IT help desks on the solution. For support, we have a team of dedicated engineers who are dedicated to our FRM Solutions customers. They are accessible via email, phone, and a customer portal.
FC: How do you plan to integrate FRM Solutions with the rest of your organization?
CS: Fundamentally, our organizations were already well aligned in terms of structure and process. However, we are immediately extending the customer service and account management options to all FRM Solutions customers. These offerings include a self-service customer portal, and onsite envisioning and strategy sessions with all of the customers. So far, the response to these services has been positive and we look forward to building great relationships with every customer.
FC: What are your growth targets for FRM Solutions, and how do you plan to scale the business to achieve these targets?
CS: Our goal is to become the most widely-used franchise management software in the industry. This means extending our reach to all of the largest franchisors and also providing a full stack of services to the industry. Our service is predictable and consistent and we believe we stand out amongst our competitors with our outstanding customer service and attention to detail. We believe our success is dependent on our customers’ success and to that end, we invest in our customers to achieve those results.
To learn more about FRM Solutions, visit their website.