A Cut Above the Rest: Five Ways to Differentiate Your Franchise
Creating a brand promise, streamlining the sales process and developing industry leading technology are all unique ways a franchise can stand out from the crowd.
By Matthew Eichhorst
Successful franchise brands begin with a unique vision and follow a plan to achieve it. Offering a distinctive service or product is one way to separate your franchise from the rest, but what other initiatives can you consider to rise above other businesses in the same category? Below are five ways to leverage what makes your franchise business unique.
1. Maximize your brand.
Being able to clearly articulate how a brand defines itself is crucial for any company that wants to stand out in the crowded franchise space. Creating a “brand manifesto” from the bottom up is one way to accomplish this goal. Expedia CruiseShipCenters has developed what we call our brand promise. Within this promise there are six supporting statements that succinctly communicate all that we stand for. This promise has helped our 180 franchise partners and 4,000 vacation consultants understand their common purpose as “Navigators of spectacular vacation experiences.”
To develop our promise we partnered with a strategic branding company to get an outside perspective on what makes our company unique. The branding company advises that brands need to refine their strategic positioning platforms to better attract target customers and drive optimal organizational behavior.
In addition, by developing a refreshed brand promise based on research outcomes and supporting it with compelling internal and external communications, it is possible to enhance a brand’s strong positioning in the marketplace. In addition to the external point of view, it is also important to gather input from internal stakeholders about how a brand should be positioned. Everyone in a franchise organization needs to be marching to the same beat, and building your brand manifesto together is an important first step in achieving that unity.
2. Systemize your sales process.
One of the biggest benefits of joining a franchise is the opportunity to leverage the proven systems that have been developed and perfected by the franchisor. Systemizing the sales process for a high demand product will help any franchise succeed. For example, Expedia CruiseShipCenters created an internal online system that eliminates the need for additional software to leverage the growing demand for cruise vacations and in turn, has achieved greater sales. When a cruise line has a special promotion to roll out, we have an established system in place for communicating it to our vacation consultants, marketing it to our customers and booking it through our proprietary CruiseDesk software.
3. Help franchisees become sales leaders.
We place a big emphasis on helping our franchise partners become exceptional sales leaders. To make this happen, we created a comprehensive program called The Navigators Approach to help our franchisees train their vacation consultants to sell travel the brand’s way.
“The Navigators Approach training has been extraordinarily useful,” said Matt Velure, Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchisee in Eugene, Ore. “You can’t put a dollar value on the benefit that we’re getting from the tool. It goes beyond sales numbers and leads. It’s truly making people better at building their business.”
It is also crucial for the franchise development department to know which qualities to look for in a potential franchisee. Identifying a particular skill set − such as people who are excellent nurturers, trainers and motivators who will drive results − will help a brand succeed.
4. Recruit individuals who are passionate about your product and your brand.
People who are ambassadors for your brand and the product you sell will help bring your franchise to life. Those who love what they do, also love to talk about what they do and that excitement is infectious. Our franchise partners and sales consultants not only want to build a successful business, they also want to enjoy the rewards of travel – both planning it for others, and experiencing it for themselves. “About 15 years ago a close friend and mentor told me ‘if you truly want to be successful, you have to believe in what you are doing and who you are doing it for.’ If you have those chapters set, the book writes itself,” said Tracey Codd-Lorenz, Expedia CruiseShipCenters Cruise sales manager in Port Charlotte, Fla.
5. Evolve with your industry and its technology.
It’s hard to imagine, but 30 years ago computers were a household rarity. Today, mobile technology platforms like tablets and smartphones are essential to our everyday communication.
Given the incredible pace at which technology advances, companies need to recognize the importance of keeping up with current trends and having a very strong online presence to provide as many ways for customers to connect with them as possible. The internal technology system we use to communicate, report, market and sell includes a button in the platform called “Feedback.” We often receive 200 to 300 pieces of feedback from the distribution channel in a single day, and all of that is tracked and monitored by our support team. In 2012, we incorporated about 800 of those suggestions from the field into improving the system. Our technology is continuously influenced by the distribution channel. Not every email that comes in gets met with ‘Hey that’s a great idea!,’ but every person in the organization has a voice. The reason for this is not just feel-good propaganda. Their feedback helps us make the system better and more effective for all.
Sometimes, success cannot solely be measured on sales, but on investments made for the future. It is imperative to be constantly looking at how a business can advance itself in the marketplace and continue to grow. Initiatives like creating a brand promise, streamlining the sales process and developing industry leading technology are all unique ways a franchise can stand out from the crowd.