Get the right mix of ingredients to recruit franchisees

Rik Hellewell

Rik Hellewell

Of all the issues that arise for both would-be and existing franchisors none come higher up the scale than franchisee recruitment. Rik Hellewell, founder of Ovenu, explains the elements you need to consider.

A modern day Wiki definition would probably suggest something along these lines for the phrase – recruiting  franchisees – ‘A sure fire way to invest copious quantities of time, effort and money with the potential outcome of nil’.

However, in an attempt to help you see at least a modest return on your investments, here is some practical and heart-felt advice for you.

We will assume that you already have a good idea of the type of person you are looking to recruit into your network, along with their requisite skill sets, and have successfully run a couple of pilot areas to determine these attributes and to simultaneously put your profit and loss projections to the test.

We will also assume that you have a ‘solid’ drafted franchise agreement and a well-informed franchise specific lawyer at hand.

Please do not embark on any franchisee recruitment without having undertaken the above. We live in the ‘Prove it’ society and you will need every shred of tangible evidence you can provide to prospects in order to recruit with any degree of success.

Recruiting franchisees has always been, and always will be, based on a high-visibility ‘no tell, no sell’ strategy. Simply put, the more people that know you have an opportunity available, the more likely you are to attract enquiries and subsequently recruit franchisees into your network.

So where do you start – online, offline or a combination of both?

The somewhat glib answer to this, and the answer given by the majority of ‘experts’ in the franchise recruitment arena, will be to promote your offering using every media opportunity known to man.

I suggest glib as this retort assumes that the franchisor has a bottomless pit of financial and other resources readily available. The reality however suggests that this is rarely, if ever, the case.

My considered opinion is that you should set a modest initial recruitment budget based on the average cost of recruiting a franchisee, as suggested by various surveys across numerous sectors. Then, set-up the most rigorous monitoring system that you can lay your hands on.

You need to know exactly what leads are being generated from which media, along with the cost per lead and the resultant outcome from each and every lead acquired.

Failing to have these checks and balances in place before you start your recruitment activity, could well come back to haunt you and leave you unable to make any informed buying decisions in the future.

Social media platforms
In the modern digital age (and with the ‘Prove it’ culture, becoming increasingly prevalent) that we trade in today, you will need to be present and active on the major social media platforms before you commence your recruitment activity to the wider audience.

Prospects may become mildly suspicious of a franchisor if they do not have, as a bare minimum, a Facebook Business Page, a LinkedIn profile, a Twitter account and, naturally, a well        presented, recruitment specific, fully responsive website.

Social media platforms should not necessarily be seen as sales platforms per se. Use them more in the early days as ‘comfort blankets’ for prospect reassurance and credibility purposes.

You may wish to test their viability for targeted geographic lead generation at a later date but please be aware – these  platforms also need to survive financially and will quickly and effectively relieve the uninitiated of their cash with the ultimate aplomb.

It is also sensible to mention that your business is a franchise opportunity on your consumer facing website.

You will be surprised at how many franchisors either do not bother to mention this fact or, if they do, it is a tiny, almost inconspicuous link hidden in some text or buried in the footer of a page. Rather daft in my opinion, given that your consumer facing pages will probably attract significantly more traffic (prospective investors) than your recruitment specific site.

However, please note this when contemplating promoting your franchise online. Unless prospective franchisees either know you exist and are, therefore, searching online for you specifically by name, or you have a franchise opportunity available, the chances are that they will find you and your offering almost by accident. That said, there are ways to be found more by design and I will come onto those options later in this article.

This ignorance surrounding the existence of the franchise sector as a whole in the UK is a rather sorry state of affairs but it is a fact and, regrettably, this is not going to change any time soon.

Recruiting franchisees using the ‘traditional’ offline media was always a minefield and, with the advent of the internet, came an extra media platform offering a plethora of additional opportunities to part you from your money.

There have always been many self-proclaimed ‘experts’ surrounding the franchise fraternity, all keen to help in one way or another and all predominantly keen, willing and able to help you divert your profits in their direction – some wholly justifiably, others certainly not so.

But now with the internet, things have been taken to a whole new level. A new breed of ‘helpers’ has emerged, online plagiarism is rife, copyrights are breached daily and web searches are dominated by Google.

So what does all of this mean to you looking to recruit franchisees?

In a nutshell – you are going to need significantly more of the two commodities that are scarce enough already in your early days of looking to develop your business – time and money. And you are going to need to make some very serious judgment calls on how to allocate each of these resources to achieve your goals.

How much of what is needed, can you do yourself? What are you going to need help with? Here are just a few questions you need to address:

(1). Can you write a good press release?
(2). What does a well-designed magazine advert look like?
(3). Can you negotiate with publishers and advertising agencies confidently?
(4). Should you exhibit at a franchise exhibition?
(5). Is it worth joining a franchise trade association, now or in the future?
(6). Do you understand Google Adwords and/or Analytics?
(7). What is your patience threshold?

And the reason behind asking the first three questions is this – the offline media is a significantly beneficial way to drive traffic to your recruitment specific website and this is done by design rather than by accident.

Granted, the likes of Google Adwords (other search engine products are available) could play a similar role, but the whole Google machine is wired to make Google money – your money.

Undertaken in a professional way, there are visitors out there in cyber land who can be steered towards your website using a ‘Pay-Per-Click’ system. Done in an amateur fashion, the only beneficiary will be the likes of Google.

Printed media
People still like to read the printed word – be that in a daily newspaper, a magazine or even a book. These tangible media are equally as portable as a mobile phone or tablet.

Now, before you dismiss this theory completely, take a close look at your own buying habits and that of your family as a whole.

Do you still buy a daily newspaper or maybe subscribe to a monthly magazine? Have you recently read a book?

If you have answered ‘Yes’ to either of the above, rest assured, you are not alone. There are millions of folk who do exactly the same and here are a few angles to ponder:

  • Many paper publications will provide you with complimentary space to tell your story, by way of an editorial piece, if you place a series of adverts in their particular newspaper or magazine.
  • A press release or article about you in a magazine has a lot more credibility than some online content providers.
  • Newspapers and magazines have significantly less ‘noise’ than the on-line alternatives. Respected, reputable magazine editors do not publish blatant lies in their titles.
  • Advertising costs are more likely to be negotiable these days as others flock towards the online media.
  • Circulation and readership figures are easily accessible to aid your buying decisions.
  • You also have the option of using different adverts and styles to suit the demographic of the readers.

Exhibitions
Questions (4) and (5) of the previous list are completely subjective. Both have  merits, both have downsides.

Exhibitions give you the opportunity to meet people face-to-face. Meetings with prospects at an exhibition venue can be arranged beforehand and this can be especially helpful if your own ‘Head office’ is not yet at the stage where you would be comfortable hosting an initial meeting.

It is fair to say that franchise exhibition organisers do their fair share of promoting the event to the public at large. They benefit from economy of scale promotions – something you are unlikely to be able to afford at an early stage of development.

The quality and status of those attending franchise exhibitions varies enormously and so do the exhibitions themselves. The best advice here is to obtain a free ticket online before the event and see what is what for yourself and take a view thereafter.

Make an informed  decision on cost versus value. Plus, many of the franchise specific magazine publishers hand out free copies to exhibition visitors.

Trade associations
Being a member of a franchise association generally implies that you have undertaken the necessary steps to prove on paper, that you are bringing a moral and ethically structured business model into the franchise sector at ‘day dot’. However, as with many things in life, this is no guarantee that the business owners will continue to operate within the confines of the original accreditation boundaries.

It should also be noted that there are many very successful, moral and ethically operating franchised businesses that have either never been members of a franchise association or, perhaps were members and decided to leave for their own valid reasons.

Question (6) needs to be answered by you with a huge amount of conviction and honesty, and here is why.

You will no doubt be inclined to invest some of your franchisee recruitment budget towards driving visitors to your recruitment website via third-party means. You may also decide to generate leads from the myriad of online ‘franchise directory’ offerings currently in the market.

Before you embark on either of the above, you need to know how to check, monitor and test. I would also strongly advise you to check the validity of website visitor numbers being claimed by suppliers. If you are not sure how to do this, find somebody who can help, as some of the figures I have seen banded around are pure fantasy at best.

Third-party lead generation portals vary a lot. Some will provide quantity, others quality – rarely, in my opinion, both.

Patience threshold
Now the last question (7) might seem odd to many, but here is the reason for asking. A huge factor that the internet has brought to the table is anonymity. Couple this to prospects’ insatiable appetite for non-committal information and you will quickly appreciate the problem.

Most established franchisors will tell you that the dwell period from initial marketing to sign-up has extended almost immeasurably over the past few years. This is not a real surprise, when you consider the volume of information available to prospects these days.

It takes a prospect days, weeks or even months to sort the wheat from the chaff, work out what is fact and what is pure fantasy – and that is assuming they have half an idea of what they are looking for in the first place. You will need to be patient and have a solid system in place to handle and nurture those all-important leads.

To conclude, every bit of marketing you do will generate leads, some good, some poor and some indifferent. However, over time and with the right analysis tools in place, you will quickly be able to calculate what works best for you in your specialist niche.

And if you are looking for the silver bullet for franchisee recruitment, check under your pillow every morning to see if the tooth fairy has left it for you.

About the author
Rik Hellewell is the founder of Ovenu, the UK’s largest oven cleaning franchise network. The Ovenu system also operates in North America and Australasia, with almost 300 outlets worldwide.