The franchising industry has often been resilient, and 2020 was the latest, and perhaps greatest, example. As COVID-19 caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and ravaged our economy, franchises from various sectors found ways to adapt, survive, and in some cases thrive.
So how do we do it again in terms of franchise development in 2021 – despite more economic uncertainty ahead? At some point later this year, hopefully, thanks to vaccines, we can put the pandemic behind us. But what can we learn from last year’s trying circumstances, how can we apply those lessons this year, and what should we consider adjusting or doing differently? Here are five tips to help your franchise development and keep it ahead of the curve as the economy tries to recover:
Extend your digital marketing and communications. This includes building out your social media, including YouTube, for immediate, consistent, and far-ranging reach. Accentuate your message with video and posts geared to solutions for your target audience. Join neighborhood Facebook groups to connect with your company’s demographics. The pandemic took digital technology to another level as companies saw upgrading it as a necessity, incorporating Zoom calls with employees, franchisees and clients. Stay on top of the ways technology can connect your franchise with customers and make operations run smoothly.
Open a career path for the unemployed. With unemployment still a big problem due to the recession caused by COVID-19, entrepreneurship has become a more attractive option for those seeking work. For franchisors, a larger pool of potential franchisees and people whom franchisees can hire is available. Franchisees can be drawn to the freedom, growth potential, company support, and other attributes that their former career didn’t have. Entrepreneurs of any age can turn to franchising to build their own legacy while still having the support of an established brand. Another selling point: with low interest rates, entrepreneurs are in a better position to receive the funding needed to start a franchise business.
Find different ways to expand your in-person grassroots efforts. Obviously, door knocking isn’t as easy in COVID times. But we find that partnering with HOAs is a good way to attract new customers. Also, you can host local events and organize giveaways, or set up a booth at such events to inform the community about your business. Combining this old-fashioned kind of networking and marketing with the digital approach can help fill your pipeline.
Give back, and create good will. In these challenging times, giving back to the community has taken on heightened importance. Get involved with your community, show that you can be used as a resource, and for more than just your service. For example, one of our Mosquito Authority franchisees is giving 100 free treatments per week to frontline COVID workers. And after the hurricanes in Louisiana this year, our franchisees treated work camps for utility workers who were helping to restore power. Good will goes a long way and leads to customer loyalty.
Be a dependable means of support for franchisees. Most people starting their own business don’t have the built-in benefit of company support. That reassurance and reinforcement in myriad ways certainly aided our franchisees during the challenges of 2020. Across the country, franchisors in our business and other sectors stepped up to help. Whether it was financial restructuring or providing infrastructure, supplies, or employees in a pinch, franchisors learned how doing these things strengthened franchisees and their commitment and the companies as a whole. Keeping this mindset of always being there for their franchisees is a crucial piece of the overall development plan.
There is a lot of promise in general for franchising in 2021. Technology has provided the tools and new ways to do business. Many talented, enterprising people are eager to seize new opportunities and reach their potential. People are trying to help each other more in trying times, and franchisees not only fill needs, they are all about reaching out. Finding and maintaining business success is never easy, but a development plan geared to different times, and the discipline to stick to it, can make the journey fulfilling and rewarding.
Chris Buitron is president and CEO of Mosquito Authority® (www.mosquito-authority.com), a nationwide leader in mosquito control with franchises serving communities across the U.S. and Canada. Buitron has an extensive background in franchise industries. He was chief marketing officer for Senior Helpers, vice president of marketing for Direct Energy (home services division), and director of marketing for Sunoco Inc., where he supported the company’s 4,700 franchised and company-owned rental facilities across 23 states (over $15B in annual revenues).