If you run a franchise system, you’ve probably noticed that you aren’t only a franchisor — you’re a people pleaser.
Granted, every business owner has a lot of people to make happy — including customers, employees, vendors and investors. They’re all important. Still, when you run a franchise, you have all of those people to please … as well as your franchisees. And if they aren’t happy and successful, you don’t have a franchise.
While there are numerous ways you can keep your franchisees happy and thriving, from offering plenty of support to keeping lines of communication open, I’ve found that one of the most important is helping them grow by bringing in as many customers as possible.
After all, they’re busting their tails in local markets by serving up amazing products and consistently delivering incredible customer service. It’s the franchisor’s job to create or evolve the in-store experience so each franchisee can wow their customers. And what’s one of the best ways to do that? Customer promotions.
Here’s what I mean.
Use limited-time offers.
Restaurants are famous for doing this, but any industry can use them. You could own a T-shirt shop or a tax franchise and still promote your business with limited time offers. What is a sale, after all, but a limited time offer? If you don’t put a limit on how long you’re having a sale, you’re lowering your prices permanently.
But a limited time offer doesn’t have to be a sale. Maybe you could offer a special service or product for a while and then when demand dies down, stop offering it. (But obviously, if it’s a hit, you can bring it back or make it permanent.)
And you could make the limited time offer, or LTO, extremely limited. For example, you could hold a flash sale where you only offer a product or service for a day or a few hours. Especially if you’re well connected to your loyal customers or guests on social media — or through a restaurant app — a very limited-time offer may work out just fine.
LTOs, whether they’re special or unusual products or services that you’re providing, can work well for a business in two ways. First, they can create a sense of urgency for the customer. They know that if they want this cool thing, they’d better act soon or it will be gone. Second, they give you a chance to stop offering the item if it’s labor-intensive or it simply isn’t selling well.
Go big, or they may go home.
That could mean holding a contest to win free products or services, doing something related to popular culture (like the bar in Austin, Texas, that “dressed up” for Halloween to look like Moe’s Tavern from The Simpsons) or coming up with a zany limited-time offer or offbeat marketing gimmick.
For instance, in 2016 for the holiday season, the Domino’s in Japan tried to deliver pizzas using reindeer. You must give them points for creativity. I kind of wish I had thought of it. Well, maybe not. As the Domino’s Japan soon discovered on a test track, reindeer don’t really like pulling sleds full of pizza.
But the point is — if you want a customer promotion to be effective, do something that will get people’s attention. My company once did this by serving cricket milkshakes.
And it doesn’t have to be seriously crazy. For instance, you could hold a “not going out of business sale.” It would be a regular sale, but you could have fun with the marketing copy. Feel free to take that idea and run with it. If it goes well, you’re welcome. If it doesn’t go well, you didn’t see that idea here.
Get your customers engaged.
If you can get your customers to post photos of themselves using your product or service to get a discount on your products or services, that’s always a win.
The goal isn’t to bribe people to do advertising for you, even if it sounds that way. You’re trying to generate excitement over your brand, and who better to be brand ambassadors for your business than your customers? Even the people who don’t participate in the type of promotions where you post a photo or comment on social media are at least seeing your brand as one that is trying to interact with its guests or customers.
You don’t have to stick with social media, either. You might try getting people to come inside your brick-and-mortar business (assuming you have one) to do something cool. That might mean holding a contest at your business or offering a customer appreciation day or a free product to mothers on Mother’s Day.
If you think about it, many promotions are about urgency and engagement. You want the people who are fans of your brand to feel like they need to participate in a promotion or they’re going to miss out.
And if you can create a brand that feels like part of the family, your guests and customers or fans will be more likely to come in your doors, even if a promotion is occasionally somewhat of a misfire. The main thing is that your customers or guests see you trying.
Look, if you have loyal customers, you’ve already won them over. A promotion simply shows your customers that you’re not taking them for granted. It shows the franchisees the same thing. If you’re often producing interesting, exciting customer promotions, you’re creating word-of-mouth among the public, which is great. But you’re also doing that with your franchises. When people are thinking of buying your franchise, you want them to talk to your franchisees — and for them to say, “This is a great company. The franchisor is always generating revenue for us by offering new and innovative customer promotions.”
In other words, if you aren’t offering appealing customer promotions, you’re advertising a message to your franchisees – and believe me, it probably isn’t a good one.