FranConnect, the leading provider of franchise management systems, is the first franchise management company started by someone with a technical background. Founder Amit Pamecha holds an MS in Robotics from Johns Hopkins University and a B. Tech from IIT Delhi; he also holds patents on public key infrastructure and metamorphic robots.
As a start-up in an industry with other well-established players, Amit figured out a way to outperform the competition despite being a newbie to the franchise world. The company has enjoyed 20-30 percent increase in its customer base each year for the last eight years, and has grown to become the world’s largest technology provider to franchise systems, with more than 450 franchise brands as customers.
FranConnect has just launched a solution to the age-old marketing challenges experienced by franchisors and franchisees. The new management system — Zcubator™ — is a single platform that gives franchise systems the ability to easily manage and evaluate the effectiveness of multiple marketing channels, all with a single login.
Franchise Chatter (FC): Can you give us a brief history of FranConnect, the franchise management systems company that you started in 2003?
Amit Pamecha (AP): FranConnect was started in 2003 based on our experience with the challenges faced by franchisors in managing their operations and sales, and the lack of an enterprise software platform that allowed franchisors to manage all aspects of franchising. When we looked around, we found that most franchisors either had silos of data and software across different departments or had home-grown desktop software applications that could not be utilized by the field or leveraged by the franchisees.
The FranConnect product suite was built from the ground-up as a web-based solution that can be used by franchisors and franchisees to help them support their sales, marketing, and operations.
Since 2003, FranConnect has become the largest provider of franchising solutions in the world with more than 450 franchise brands as customers. FranConnect solutions are used by some of the largest franchising brands in the world like 7-Eleven, UPS Store, Dominos, as well as fast-growing startup franchisors.
FC: Can you walk us through some of your most important software solutions for franchisors?
AP: FranConnect solutions can be broadly divided into four focus areas:
- Operations and franchise management
- Franchise sales and lead generation
- Franchisee and consumer marketing management
- POS solutions for service based franchise concepts
FC: What type of franchisors (in terms of size, industry) do you typically cater to?
AP: FranConnect solutions are designed for use by both larger franchises (LaQuinta, 7-Eleven, UPS Store, Dominos, etc.) to fast growing start up franchisors with as few as 1-10 units. As a web-based solution, it easily scales to support thousands of users and franchisees. Larger franchise systems gain tremendous benefit in productivity and visibility across the entire organization by using FranConnect solutions, and younger, smaller franchisors are able to leverage our technology to award more franchises and improve their marketing efforts.
FC: What is Zcubator and how can it help franchisees manage their local marketing efforts better?
AP: With our experience having 450 brands as customers, we found that local marketing was an ongoing challenge for franchises. On top of running a business, franchisees were struggling to keep up with the very activities that drive business — advertising, print and email campaigns, search engine optimization, social media, etc. Therefore, we developed Zcubator to integrate and centralize all local marketing for franchisees with one dashboard and one login. Rather than mastering and logging into disparate programs, they can literally run their entire marketing plan from one platform in 4 steps or less.
FC: Can you tell us about the suite of nine applications included in Zcubator?
AP: The nine applications in Zcubator cover every aspect of marketing:
- a library (to store all marketing assets)
- contact manager (integrated from all channels, includes consumer purchase history)
- email and print campaigns
- marketing shop (order apparel, business cards, etc.)
- ad builder (customizable ads from corporate)
- customer surveys/feedback
- local website builder
- social media
- reports and analytics
The comprehensive suite is designed to engage the customers you have, attract new ones, and simplify the entire process so franchisees can market effectively.
FC: How can Zcubator help franchisees with their social media marketing efforts?
AP: Most franchises recognize the vitality of having a social media presence, and yet many brands have as many different looks as there are locations. Zcubator creates a unified look to prevent brand dilution and yet enables franchise-wide posts and marketing.
FC: What kind of training and support do you offer your customers to help them enjoy the full benefits of your software?
AP: With every client, we schedule a kick off meeting for the product and to introduce them to their personal account manager. Their account manager provides 24/7 support and ongoing online training. Clients can also subscribe to weekly training tips and blogs for additional system best practices.
FC: How much does it cost to use Zcubator?
AP: It depends on the client’s request but for some of our clients, Zcubator serves as a replacement for their existing costs and they still save about 35% on what they spend with other disparate providers.
FC: What is your assessment of the current state of the franchise industry? What do you think are the biggest challenges facing franchisors and franchisees today?
AP: There is a lot of optimism in the franchise industry right now. All segments of the industry projected job growth in 2012, and according to the International Franchise Association, the number of franchised units are expected to rise this year as well. That said, challenges do
remain. Tight lending conditions and weak consumer spending pose challenges, both at the corporate and store levels.
Much of our success can be attributed to the fact that franchisors are looking to become more efficient, organized, and impactful, and we’re providing them with the tools to streamline their processes and ultimately become more profitable.
FC: What are your business goals for 2012 and beyond?
AP: We are looking to help franchisors increase the unit performance/same store sales of their franchisees by 20 percent or more through improved and automated lead generation and marketing efforts based on FranConnect’s Zcubator platform.
We believe that many franchisors are struggling because franchisees are finding it tough to grow their revenue in this economy. By helping them grow their business, FranConnect can become an integral part of their success and in turn become even more successful at what we do as well.