In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, you may be wondering how to best support your franchisees. Well, I’m of the firm belief that it all starts with understanding the critical role you play as a franchisor in helping them get through this difficult season unscathed.
As most of you know, I'm an avid NASCAR and INDYCAR fan. OK, not entirely true, but the analogy works. Walk with me for a few minutes...
The importance of the pit crew
If you know anything about racing, you know that the pit crew is key when it comes to the success or failure of the driver. While the driver is the one behind the wheel making all the maneuvers to get to the finish line, they wouldn’t get anywhere without all the behind-the-scenes work of their team. The racer who is only focused on speed and never makes the necessary pit stops to get tended by their crew will never succeed.
The same holds true in the world of franchising. In the context of your brand, your franchisee is like the driver who is ready to forge their own path forward and build a thriving business. However, forward motion in itself isn’t the answer to their success—they require the support of a dedicated team to help ensure they’re set up with everything they need to achieve their goals.
In the scenario, your brand CEO serves the function of the crew chief. The crew chief makes the race strategy decisions, guides the pit crew on the changes that are needed, and coaches the driver. Similarly, the brand CEO guides the big-picture brand strategy, helping to direct their franchisees and ensure they’re on the right path for sustained success.
Meanwhile, your brand’s marketing team (the brand’s Chief Marketing Officer, marketing department, external franchise marketing consultants, etc.) serves the function of the full pit crew. The pit crew implements the strategy determined by the crew chief and ensures the driver’s vehicle is properly tuned up and ready for optimal performance.
This crew is critical for setting up the driver to winning or losing the race. In the same way, it’s the job of your brand’s marketing team to ensure that each franchisee has a strong and healthy presence in their local community, seeing to it that all the moving parts work together like a well-oiled machine that is going to get the franchisee where they want to go faster (increased business and revenue and long-term success).
When the unexpected happens during a race (or in business), this is when the pit stop is mission-critical, and the pit crew’s function becomes more important than ever. As your franchisees’ pit crew, you need to make sure your brand is ready with an action plan to help them get back on track.
The coronavirus has left franchisees spinning out of control
For just about every business across every industry in the US, the coronavirus pandemic has been a complete game changer for 2020.
While some businesses have been more prepared than others to deal with a direction change of this magnitude, everyone has had to make adjustments to some degree in order to stay in business and stay on the minds of consumers.
Fortunately for your franchisees, they don’t have to figure it out alone—they have YOU.
So, what does that mean for your franchise brand? It means it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty with the right business and marketing solutions to keep your franchisees in the race.
As a trusted marketing partner to franchise brands that encompass thousands of franchisees all across the US, we can share with you what we’re advising our own clients…
Three quick pivot-maneuvers for your franchisees
1. Stay visible on social
Some industries that have been hit harder than others. Therefore, your franchisees might not have the cash flow to continue advertising during this crisis. Fortunately, there are less cost-intensive ways they can stay in front of their target customers, including bolstering their presence on social media.
With people having more time on their hands and being forced to isolate themselves from friends and family, there have been considerable spikes in social media activity. According to data that Facebook gave us directly, usage on Facebook was 53% higher than ever in March, which is when stay-at-home orders started being implemented in cities and states across the country.
For a low-cost way to stay top-of-mind for consumers, your franchisees should:
- Post helpful content on their social media accounts, including videos, which tend to drive the highest level of engagement.
- Respond to users who comment on their content in order to keep them interacting with their businesses
- Dedicate a small budget for boosting posts or running social media ads to reach a larger and more targeted audience.
If your franchisees have the ability and means, advertising on social platforms is a winning solution, and we’ve seen costs drop as more and more competitors drop out of the advertising space, allowing them to stretch their ad budgets further. In the current climate, capturing mindshare and engaging new and existing audiences is more cost-effective than ever.
2. Talk to customers about what’s changing
In times like these, your franchisees’ customers have a million questions. They may be unsure how they can still access your brand’s products and services, if at all. Rather than going quiet, this is the time for your franchisees to make their voices heard and provide the answers people are looking for.
Coach your franchisees on the best ways to communicate with their prospective and current customers. Here are a few things they should be sharing with their target audiences:
- Changes to business hours and contact information (make sure these changes are reflected on the website and all Google My Business listings, as well as other online listings)
- Changes to how products and services are being delivered (drive-thru and take-out orders only, curbside pickup, virtual meetings, etc.)
- Additional safety procedures and protocols (more frequent sanitation of the business site, increased use of personal protective equipment (PPE), etc.)
- What the individual franchise location and the corporate brand are doing to support the local community (e.g., donations, special discounts, waived fees, etc.)
- What customers can expect once stay-at-home orders are lifted and what the new “normal” will look like
There are a number of ways to spread the word, including social media updates, blog posts, website content, videos, email communications, in-store signage, and more.
3. Be authentic
Remind your franchisees that these are sensitive times and consumers can sniff out opportunism a mile away. With that being said, your franchisees should focus on being genuine when reaching out to their local communities. This may entail using more personal forms of communications, such as a video with a message directly from the franchise owner, or charitable efforts that focus on a need specific to their community. And they should make sure they’re always maintaining a tone of compassion and care for their customers and employees.
Additionally, here are a few best practices to follow for producing quick and authentic-looking videos for social media:
- Shoot the video with a smartphone—there’s no need for high-tech equipment.
- Speak naturally—try not to sound too scripted or use fancy language.
- Be genuine and vulnerable—put yourself out there to your community and let them know you’re in this together.
Keeping your eye on the finish line
In the chaos of COVID-19, the key point to remember is this—the brands that are creative with their offering, culture, and communication are the ones that will win. While consumers might not be in need of products or services at this time, they will remember your brand if you’re strategic about staying out in front of them. And your franchisees need to be active participants in that effort—their livelihood depends on it.
So, make sure you’re doing whatever it takes to support your franchisees in their marketing efforts. Not only is this essential to the stability of your franchise network, but it’s also critical to the overall health of your brand and its ability to pull through the current crisis.
Now’s the time, Crew Chief. Here we go, Pit Crew. Time to get everything tuned and filled up. The race is roaring back and your driver needs you!