The beauty of investing in a franchise is the system, training, guides, and support that are provided to help franchise partners make their business a success. “It’s a business in a box,” one franchisor said. “All you have to do is follow the directions.”
A franchise plan covers everything from operations to marketing. Typically a franchisee pays a certain percentage of revenue, 1 to 4 percent, to a marketing fund for the franchisor’s national advertising efforts that build brand awareness and support special system-wide promotions. But nothing precludes a franchisee from employing local marketing strategies that are most important in building a business, increasing sales, and garnering new customers.
Local Marketing is Crucial
Often those local marketing methods involve engaging the community in a host of different ways: sponsoring a Little League team, inviting local charities to stage fund-raising events at your location, or providing discounts to employees of nearby businesses to get them through your doors.
The list goes on. Many of the strategies are the same from franchise to franchise, but there are some worth noting because they are the result of thinking outside of the box. Here are three clever marketing ideas that might give you some ideas for your own franchise:
Rock Your Goal
January can be a big month in the fitness sector as people start an exercise regimen or diet plan to tone up and lose weight. Anytime Fitness franchisee John Spence, with about a dozen units throughout Ohio and Indiana, takes advantage of the time of year and his close proximity to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland to stage a special promotion to sign up new members.
The so-called “Rock Your Goals” promotion encourages members, old and new, to set fitness goals at the beginning of the year, working out at least 12 times a month; and if they follow the plan, they are rewarded with a chance to win trips.
Some members journey to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, while the grand prize winner goes to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Spence’s clubs hold a big party with music and food in April to award the prizes and he usually sees about 300 new members show up to an event. He uses the occasion to promote his clubs’ services with personal trainers leading exercise sessions in the parking lot.
All participants are given a T-shirt with the Anytime Fitness logo that is made to look like a shirt you would buy at a rock concert and the back resembles a listing of a band’s tour dates—but instead they are dates that Spence opened each of his Anytime Fitness clubs and their locations. That way, he’s creating walking billboards for his businesses. Franchisees might adopt Spence’s idea by taking advantage of their own local landmarks and attractions to stage something similar.
A Twist on Pretzel Promotion
At Auntie Anne’s, the next generation of customers is always important. That’s why the company supplies franchisees with a special kit to host field trips for students and student organizations such as Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
Participants are invited to make a special trip to a store to learn about the history of pretzels, the history of Auntie Anne’s, and to have a go at rolling and twisting their own pretzels. They also receive a card for a free pretzel on a return visit.
“For groups to come in and be able to put their hands in the dough and make something for themselves, it’s fun,” said Andy Kmiec, associate vice president of real estate for Auntie Anne’s. “They’re becoming our future customers. They then go out and become ambassadors for the brand.”
Because most of the brand’s units are located in shopping malls, the company aims to provide a unique experience for children so the next time they are shopping with their parents, they will want to return to the place where they had such a good time.
And it’s not just for kids. Adult groups can book a special outing at the store as well, Kmiec said. In addition to learning about the business and potentially becoming regular customers, it’s possible that someone might become a future franchise partner.
“For the few dollars that it costs, think about the loyalty and the benefits that come from it,” he said.