Over the years I have been asked many times why I chose to start an agency within the franchising industry and my most common response is - “Why not, I did it the right way.”
Before LT Network was created we wanted to achieve two things:
- Work with distributed work forces from all over Australia and potentially, the world
- Work with those who have a positive impact on mental health (i.e. health and fitness)
In order to achieve the above, it seemed franchising - especially within the fitness space including the brands, associations and teams within this vertical would allow us to meet those objectives.
So, what did I mean about entering this market the right way?
Before formally entering the franchise market and actively pursuing business opportunities within fitness, I asked for a single fee from each of the brands I was talking to. For the sake of this article let's assume it’s $10,000.
This fee would then allow me to conduct research and learn more about each business within the franchise network and more accurately, the different personalities within each individual franchise brand. There were so many questions I wanted answers for.
- Is this a single brand with all the locations doing the same thing?
- Do all the owners have the same business ethics and belief system?
- Is the willingness to participate in campaigns the same?
- What is the education level and passion of each store owner?
- How price sensitive are the decision makers in this space?
After undertaking a research piece and speaking to many franchise owners and hundreds of employees within the space, I got to understand the franchise game and to be honest, it was a rude awakening.
Just because they operate under the same brand, it does not mean they operate locally in the same way.
This is the single biggest misconception of franchising - especially when it comes to marketing.
Large agencies, and small agencies that don’t do their homework and feel they can support a brand by throwing a blanketed solution across the entire group assuming it will lead to local area marketing stardom. It would be nice if that were true but it's the complete opposite.
The only way to enter this market was to create a range of products and services to achieve some sort of economies of scale which would then be enough to keep some cash in the bank whilst we evolved over a short term game plan and longer term strategy.
The financial impact was the first hurdle. The second, which a lot of people don’t like talking about, is the politics of franchising.
As with every large group of people - you are going to have differences in opinions, marketing approach and general attitude. That is normal for society and the same applies to franchise networks.
So, how have we stayed at the top of franchise marketing for seven years and become one of the most successful franchise marketing agencies in the world? Here are just some of the keys to our success, which I will further expand on in the coming months.
Conduct, act and develop based on research
Building a suite of services and products which would meet the needs of our first vertical (fitness) and translate to any vertical in the franchise industry.
Build a team of franchise marketing experts
This was done through countless recruitment campaigns, interviews, training, hiring, firing and nurturing the right people that had the skills and desire to be part of the company's vision.
You need to release services to the market but it's the processes you put around this that makes the difference. Franchising is a brutal combination of brand investment, one to one store marketing and month to month campaign shifts (for your brand or your competitors).
Processes and systems which are proven are crucial to working in this market and ensuring your team can manage the workload whilst delivering results.
This is not just about the people. It is about the feeling you get when you walk in the front door of our office and how you talk about the business to friends. This is constantly worked on and considered at each point of the business.
Brand and cultural alignment
Your business goals and teams need to align with your clients. You can not continue to work for something who does not care about their own business more than you do. You can not continue to work with someone who constantly questions your model.
Be prepared to let them go and introduce them to another agency, no hard feelings, not everyone gets along.
Long term partnerships
Having intimate knowledge of franchising, recruiting a highly skilled and passionate team, sticking to proven systems and processes, cultivating an amazing culture and ensuring your values are aligned with the brands you work with allows you to create the one thing that has led to the success of LT Network: long term partnerships.
A client's success is your success and a long term partnership is the greatest testimonial you will ever receive.
Not just any agency can do franchising. You need to achieve all of the above, not just one element in order to stay in the game long enough to build a business which can grow and continue to share its success with other businesses, all whilst enjoying the ride.
Today, we have been in the franchise game for just under a decade and developed an agency which is a true specialist in franchise marketing. We’ve also released a range of franchise specific tools which are now used in over 20 countries around the world and in as many languages.