Franchise Tip #10: When introducing a brand to a region or territory, build additional marketing into your business plan.
There are iconic brands, start-up franchises, and just about everything in between. Each brings with it a set of pros and cons. Naturally, iconic brands are seen as somewhat safer for investors because their longevity and usually strong national advertising efforts can be hugely advantageous when establishing a new unit. On the other hand, an iconic brand might leave some limited choices in location, especially if the company has already saturated a market.
Start-up brands, particularly those making a big impact on a sector, might be more exciting for certain investors who like to be in on the ground floor and introduce something new to the market. However those, too, have their drawbacks. Brand awareness may be very low at first; it may take time before franchisees can rely on a big national advertising campaign. And, in some cases, the franchise plan might not yet be fully developed.
Franchise Chatter has talked to numerous franchisees of young brands who were the first to open a unit in their market and some felt as though they were flying by the seat of their pants because not all systems were refined.
Here’s advice from some start-up franchisees who introduced a brand to a region or territory:
Rose Colarossi might be a glutton for punishment; she introduced not one, but two relatively unknown brands to the Dallas market. The first was an Egg & I franchise that she opened in 2008 with her husband Rob.
“It was a time when consumers were not going out, they certainly were cutting back on eating out, and they were sticking with brands and concepts that were familiar to them. So, we had our work cut out for us,” Colarossi said. “We opened back when it was a really young brand. It was great. It was right on the ground floor. But, of course, we learned through all the trials and tribulations that go with that.”
They now own two Egg & I locations and last year signed a deal to open 14 Mama Fu’s Asian House restaurants in Dallas and Collin counties, Texas. It’s another brand totally unknown in the market, but Colarossi said she learned from her Egg & I experience.
One of the most important things after deciding to be a multi-unit owner, she said, is to expand and grow the number of units quickly to create brand awareness in the market.
“In order to permeate a market, you do need that brand awareness,” she said. “I feel that it’s key and we learned that with Egg & I. We were the first ones in the market. You don’t just want to pop up one and then wait a year or two, you really want to be aggressive.”
Tim Boswell, one of the first sweetFrog frozen yogurt franchisees agreed. He was one of several investors who opened six stores in Jacksonville, Fla., over the course of a year.
“It sure gets people looking when they feel they’re being invaded,” Boswell said, noting that numerous openings not only build brand recognition but the activity piques customer interest as they see several locations opening around town.
“I think it brings up a lot of curiosity and that will bring people in,” Boswell said.
Rich Ryan had his work cut out for him by opening the first Menchie’s in Pennsylvania.
“We were opening in a market where people had never even heard of Menchie’s,” Ryan said. “We had to really create that awareness first and then focus our energies on generating trials.”
One of the first things they did on a local marketing level was form a partnership with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs minor league baseball team affiliated with the Philadelphia Phillies. Ryan did some sponsorship nights at the ballpark, prior to opening his first store, and distributed about 55,000 buy-one-get-one coupons during 10 sold-out games. The free yogurt promotion was highly successful.
Such promotions and early marketing efforts are not just important in food service. Massage Envy franchisee Darren Groteboer introduced his brand to his markets with a direct mail campaign that hit 50,000 residents in each market monthly.
“In our community there was zero brand awareness,” Groteboer said. “I think for me the thing that works is targeted postcards in certain demographics. Also hitting them over and over again. You can’t just send one postcard and expect it to work.”
The marketing team of a franchisor will usually have a plan to make a big splash in a market when a new unit opens.