FranTech designed with franchising in mind

When it comes to franchise technology, very few systems are geared for our industry, or the unique franchisor/franchisee relationship. Adam Knight thinks franchisors – you – deserve better 

During our many (many) years of working with franchisors from every possible industry, the team here at Coconut has gained quite a unique viewpoint. Based on our knowledge, areas of expertise and useful insight, we’ve become a port of call for Franchisors, with all manner of technology issues, as well as being trusted partners for marketing.

Although our primary focus has always been marketing related, particularly with our Franchise Recruitment work and, in recent years, Digital Advertising on behalf of whole networks, we’ve developed a deep understanding of how the entire franchise network operates. Obviously the mechanics of marketing have become more technical over time, and strategies have come to rely on a considerable amount of technology, in recent years.

Almost every time we’d worked with someone on these types of projects, the solution seemed to feel as though we were just trying to find an answer with the smallest amount of compromises. Other times, we would have to rig multiple different systems together. Although this solved the problem, it required a substantial amount of maintenance and management, to keep everything running smoothly. Quite time consuming, and frustrating at times for our clients.

What is FranTech?

An excellent question! Since we started helping franchisors, we’ve seen every piece of technology innovated and implemented across a number of functionality-use cases, from CRM, class bookings, secure messaging, and social media management. All provide good solutions for business, but as soon as you add in the franchisor/franchisee relationship to the mix, they start to fall apart or require considerable of customisation. This invariably can end up being extremely costly. Sometimes this is in the literal cost, other times in the scope of what was actually required from the solution.

At one point, a franchisor told us they were so embarrassed by the franchise management solution they ‘d signed up to, and how it looked because they were asking me to design a user interface to sit over the top, and make it look and feel more professional.

So, from our point of view, FranTech is modern and flexible software built specifically with franchising in mind.

There are a number of tools being sold as ‘for franchising’. However, these are blatant repackaging of software made for other use cases, and shoe-horned into franchise networks with some inelegant and glaring issues. Big software companies don’t see franchising as worth the huge investment it would take to build modern and flexible solutions, because of its relative size compared to the global industry based markets. Despite the fact the UK franchise industry has a net worth of £17 billion!

So, franchisors are left with these poor (and often expensive) solutions, and put up with them, because there doesn’t seem to be an alternative.

We think Franchisors deserve better!

Which is why we redesigned the future

In 2018, Coconut began running Google Ads for a large network of franchisees. We’d been running ads for networks before, but not at this scale. We needed a system to administer this activity. Smoothly and easily. It would need to be able to take payments, provide invoices, deliver monthly updates, and report on the actual performance of the Google Ads activity. As you can imagine, doing this manually would have been a huge amount of work. So, we systemised, centralised and organised and as soon as we were done, it instantly became obvious we had the skeleton of a system which could solve a large amount of our clients’ problems.

We started talking to our clients, asking them what problems they had with running their networks, and made a list of everything we could solve through our system. Almost every issue our clients spoke to us about, revolved around administration, centralisation, access control, content management, knowledge management, and internal communication. This formed the basis of Franchise Cloud and our Franchise Relationship Management platform. So that is the history of how Coconut created Franchise Cloud. The thing we are really interested to talk about is the future.

Can Franchise Cloud really help?

The way we’ve approached this is quite unique. We have built solutions to all of the issues we have seen over the last 20 years in franchising. But, wherever a decision needed to be made about how a certain function would need to work for a particular customer, in their real world usage, rather than hard-coding our assumption of how we think it needs to work, we’ve left it open and customisable.

For example, three different franchise businesses working in children’s activities, share the same organisational structure but work in hugely different ways.

The way marketing is handled across different networks is also radically different. Where one may handle everything at HQ, another expects franchisees to handle their own marketing entirely. This is why we believe it’s important for your management software to not only understand these fundamental differences, but be able to handle them without skipping a beat.

Through Franchise Cloud, we believe we have achieved this. However, the only way for you to really know whether it can work for your brand and network, is to talk me through how you are currently working, and what you need/want. I can then demonstrate how Franchise Cloud can meet your requirements.

So, what exactly is Franchise Cloud?

If you could find one platform where you could organise and manage all your franchise resources, why wouldn’t you use it!

As your franchise brand grows, you may start to come across niggly little issues, which if not dealt with, can lead to bigger problems. Especially when it comes to centralising marketing for a growing network of franchisees or controlling the often numerous informational resources. Here at Coconut, we understand franchising, and we understand how to help you achieve your goals, whether this is for recruitment, marketing, or keeping your franchisees on track. Which is why we have people in the team who are now working at resolving your system problems… not quite around the clock, but definitely at times when the rest of us are asleep!

Have you met Adam Knight, AKA Big Ad? He is passionate about helping you resolve issues you’ve shared with us, some of which you may not yet be aware you have. “We’ve been working on Franchise Cloud for 18 months, it started as a system which would allow us to work with whole franchise networks, not just with a franchise’s Head Office, for things like digital marketing and reporting. When someone is running online advertising for hundreds of franchisees, for example, we’ve experienced how difficult it can be to easily administer payments, issue reporting and regular network wide updates instead of email/telephone calls for each separate franchisee.”

So frustrating!

If you’ve also encountered this type of issue with your network, you’ll know, first-hand, how frustrating it can become. Which is why Adam, and the team, set about finding a solution. “We’ve created a system which allows Head Office to easily manage all of the resources the whole network needs to be successful, but also empowers franchisees to login, communicate with HQ, access anything they need and see their personal reports. They can also direct questions to HQ or the Coconut team as a marketing partner if we’re working on their campaigns, to ask for changes, without Head Office having to act as a go-between. Franchisees can also manage their payments, and receive regular updates on how their campaigns are performing, comparing data from across the network.”

Wait, there’s more!

We quickly realised Franchise Cloud could offer clients even more! As a hub, you can upload your operations manual, marketing collateral and templates, manage your franchisees’ websites or even their email marketing campaigns. “This isn’t some off-the-shelf software,” Ads continues. “Because we understand franchising, we know how unique every brand is. So, we tailor your Franchise Cloud to your specific needs. We use a franchise-aware, user-permissions system, to drive what people in your franchise network need to see and do. This ranges from Head Office to franchisee staff, to your marketing partners. Every module within Franchise Cloud can understand the various roles and relationships which make-up your business.

Your problems, our solution

We love franchising, which probably sounds twee! But, it’s what inspires us to never just be a supplier to our clients. “We aim to become a trusted expert partner,” Ads continues. “So, we see and hear directly, the problems which come from running a successful franchise system. The key issues we kept hearing were around centralisation, organisation, and controlling access to confidential information. There were also issues around permissions and how to, for example, share training videos in such a way they can’t be saved or shared outside the network. By building additional functionality within our internal client management tool, we believe we’ve empowered franchisors to keep control over who in your network can access any single piece of content.”

But, we’re not quite done!

As you can imagine, software is always being developed and improved, as new technology is created. “We’re currently recording a host of tutorial videos which will show exactly how each part of the system works,” Ads explains. “These will also show you how you can easily manage your content within the system, and how to manage some of the administrative tasks involved with keeping a network organised and successful, from within Franchise Cloud. There’s so much scope with Franchise Cloud, to bring you an efficient system which enables you to operate your franchise the way you need to, without any compromises. This is our ultimate goal.”

To find out more about Franchise Cloud, take a look on our website, or give us a call to arrange an in-depth discussion around your needs.

Content trends for attracting audience attention

In our Whiteboard Weekly #44, Adam highlighted the trends we’re seeing in Google for franchise recruitment. To help focus your content, Steph offers insight into how to aim it at what audiences want.

When thinking about what content to create it would be great – though a bit weird – if we could read audiences’ minds to know what they actually want! Sometimes, it can feel discouraging to create what you think is amazing content, to then check the post’s performance and realise literally no one has engaged with it. Am I right?!

However, by observing consumer trends, we gain valuable insight into what’s important enough to people for them to engage with. It’s important to be aware of these things, rather than sticking rigidly to a content plan you developed at the start of the year. If you can hit a “hot topic” whilst staying on brand – hit it hard, with passion, and gusto!

Reading your audience

In Coconut’s workshop at the bfa conference, I shared details about what consumers are currently attentive to. It determines the kind of content are search for and look at, because it’s forefront in their minds. It comes as no surprise to know we’ve seen a massive shift, likely a result of the pandemic. Right now, people are most attentive to content around:

  1. Health: Protective of their health (& family’s), choosing to be safe, and minimise risk
  2. Planet: Seeking to minimize their impact on environment
  3. Society: Working together for the greater good
  4. Experience:Living in the moment to make the most of life

What this means, as you think about content for your recruitment and core marketing, is how you can create content people will want to see. It’s not quite mind-reading, but it’s the next best thing.

So, because we know people are more protective over their health – physical and mental – focus content within this framework. Because we know people long to have a positive impact on the planet and their communities, use this angle to highlight how they can. And because we know, people want to enjoy life after lockdowns, by living more in the moment, show them how it’s possible.

Is your creative mind thinking, yet?

When I first saw this list, my brain started thinking about the what we could create for our clients. Maybe, yours is firing off left, right and centre in the same way?

If not, here are some ideas for the kind of content you could produce:

  1. For a number of years, franchising was unique because franchisees could enjoy work-life balance. This hasn’t changed, but it’s no longer unique. Use case studies, vlogs, photos etc. to show this isn’t just words; talk about the real life health and wellbeing benefits your franchisees and/or customers experience.
  2. Businesses are encouraged to aim for net zero. For some individuals, it’s also about being a responsible person, and doing “my bit for the environment”. Within your brand, you’re likely using systems, strategies, services etc for greener, cleaner living. Talk about them. Talk about the benefit to the environment. Talk about what running a business with you achieves.
  3. During the pandemic, stories emerged of the kindness of humanity. Delivery drivers checked on isolated customers, pausing to have a chat, companies and individuals made-up care packages for those in isolation, and people donated food parcels. But, these stories aren’t restricted to the pandemic. In January, one of our clients connected me with five of their franchisees, all giving back to others. These stories hit a chord with people, inspiring them to do the same. Share them.
  4. Living in the moment can be hindered by employment, sometimes! Talk about the kind of experiences you and your network have. Working from a campervan whilst touring the UK? Working from a beach in the middle of winter? Dreamt of racing a yacht around the Greek Islands? These are real stories I’d written for clients. Tell yours; inspire your audience.

Show, not just tell

I love words – I love writing them, I love reading them… but I’m conscious of the fact a picture is worth a thousand of them. Your content should include all mediums on your social media channels. Photos and videos “in the moment” shared to stories and reels, as well as pre-recorded, scripted videos, and photoshoot images.

They should be real, they should be vivid, and they should demonstrate the reality of you, your brand, and your network. Authenticity has become more than an online buzzword, it’s become the key to engaging your audience.

Curious about where to find your stories in your network? Speak to us about a Coconut strategy day.

Whiteboard Weekly #34 – Using Video Marketing During COVID-19

Without even noticing, we have all become video marketers in the past few weeks! This may have only been a Zoom call with colleagues, but it shows that during this time, video communication is the number one way to deliver your message.

I believe that the businesses who communicate via video through this crisis, and continue to be ‘visible’, will have a stronger audience to show for it! In this video, I talk over the new importance of video marketing ‘now’ and some ideas on the types of videos you could be creating.

Whiteboard Weekly #33 – Franchise Recruitment Update (COVID-19)

In my last franchise recruitment update in January, I spoke about how post-Brexit we could be seeing a better year for overall interest in franchising. Cleary the events of the last few weeks have changed any predictions made for this year!

At this very moment, things are tough, no doubt. However, there is plenty of evidence to show that what’s to come could be very exciting for franchise recruitment!

Insights from the PR Industry

Can the franchise industry benefit from the type of content the PR industry are publishing?

Just as we see spikes in Google searches, there are spikes in the type of content journalists – on and off line – produce. The journalism trends below, show the types of articles and PR, journalists are currently publishing.

What you might not expect to see, because of the prevalent focus on “Coronavirus” and “Covid-19”, is an increase in published articles about “Franchising”, “Run a business” and “Work from Home”.

At Coconut Creatives, we’ve always maintained, based on our knowledge of Google Searches during previous economic uncertainties, how well franchising does at times like this. Now, based on the PR industry, you can see this to be true at this current moment.

“Work from home”:

“Run a Business”

“Franchising”

What this means for you?

This the opportune time for you to raise awareness of your brand, and support your local journalist. Source good news stories from within your network. For example, I know of franchisees who are supporting the NHS, supporting people in isolation, or rushing PPE/equipment to hospitals. 

These real life stories are exactly what your local journalists are looking for. It is a great way for your brand to be named, and people will remember it, when this is all over.

Not sales: brand awareness. Now is not the time to push your brand or your key messaging. Now is the time to show how you and your network are actively supporting the fight against Covid-19. If published, the journalists will come back to you after all this, to ask for other stories – which will be your time to share more of your brand’s key messaging.

For further information on how to do this, email steph@coconutcreatives.co.uk

 

Source: MuckRack