How To Learn From Franchising

5 Lessons Your Business Can Learn From Franchising

 

Franchises, you either love them or hate them.

Some, like Michael Gerber (The E-Myth), love the systems-oriented philosophy of them, the ability to build a well-oiled machine that can be replicated over and over again.  Others, like Seth Godin, see them as a path to eternal mediocrity, never to produce anything beyond “ok”

How about a middle ground?

You can have set processes and systems in your business and still retain your originality.  Why not take the best parts of franchising for your business and leave the less desirable parts behind?

I like that idea.

For most businesses, the biggest bottleneck to growth is the business owner.  All of the experience, the knowledge and know how are forever trapped inside their head, only leaking out in trickles in the form of unorganized employee training and knowledge transfer.  It's never enough to satisfy the standards the business owner has set, so in frustration, he resorts back to doing everything himself. That is the day his business stops growing and begins to die.

Eventually this leads to burnout, disappointment and growing frustrations with the business.  The business owner gets tired and worn out from bearing the never ending burden of doing everything himself.

Franchises have the ability to grow and replicate themselves for the sole reason that it's success does not depend on the owner of the business to succeed.  It depends on a system, a way of doing business.  It is the system that is implemented and improved over time and the people in the business need to learn how to work the system as efficiently as possible.

Take a look at 5 things your small business can learn from franchising and see if you can apply some of these concepts to your business.

A Written Plan

Ever play the game “Telephone”?  It's when you whisper a message in someone's ear, and that message gets repeated along a line of people…..until the person on the end has to recite the original message.  It's almost never the same message at the end as everyone along the chain gives their interpretation of the original message, often with humorous results.

When you don't have a written plan for your business, that's what you're doing, playing telephone with your employees.  Your verbal instructions are not remembered, interpreted differently, or just forgotten…….leaving your employees with varying levels of understanding.

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Do you see the confusion here?  Do you see why everyone does the same activities …differently?   Some may do a great job, others a mediocre job.  That's not fair to the customer who gets the mediocre customer experience, it's not fair to the employees who are expected to perform without proper training, and it's not fair to you, the person who busts his butt trying to build a business.

Having a written operating manual for your business can help to standardize your best practices.  Every employee has access to the same knowledge, the same method to perform the duties that make up their position.  With a written plan, you take the time once to lay out the way you want things done.  This gives every person in your business the same view of how you want things done.  Much easier on you and easier for your employees to understand and reference as needed.

It also allows others in your business to train new hires as the way your want the business run (your system) is now on paper, in an organized fashion for everyone to see.

It's nice not getting a call on a Sunday morning because your employees were able to go through your step by step guide on how to reboot the credit card terminal because it froze.

Strong Branding

Whether you like them or not, when you see the “Golden Arches”, you know exactly what's in store for you.  I'm not a fan of eating fast food, but when you're driving cross country with 4 kids in the car, spotting those golden arches on the horizon is like finding an oasis in the desert.

Wouldn't it be great if people saw your logo and got all warm and fuzzy inside just thinking about their last visit to your shop?  A strong brand can do that for you.  Franchises understand the importance of branding.  Every customer touch point is carefully designed to remind you of who they are as a company and what their brand stands for.

You won't see a good franchise substituting black and white brochures they made on their laser printer because they ran out of the color ones.  But I've seen that countless times from independent business owners who thought it was no big deal to cut a little corner like this.  Letting your phone always go to voicemail, closing earlier than your posted hours, not responding to customer communications, these are all little things that slowly eat away at the quality of your business.

All of that little “corner cutting” turns into a deterioration of your brand.  Keep your branding strong, even if it hurts the pocketbook in the short run.

Consistent Marketing

Franchises understand the need to constantly feed that machine that is your business.  Without new potential customers coming through your door, you're business will eventually wither away and die.

Most business do the same thing.  When things slow down (revenue), they cut everything, including their marketing.  Henry Ford Quote on Marketing

Franchises understand that even in tough times, you cannot save money by cutting your marketing budget.  This is something independent small business owners do all the time.  In tough times, they look to save a few dollars here and there, and it's easy to not place that ad next month or to freeze your Pay Per Click campaign for a month or two.  You don't see the results of you decision until several weeks later, when you realize that the phone has stopped ringing and nobody new is walking through your door.

oops.

Never stop marketing.  Never lose sight that even if you are busy now, if you stop marketing, the pipeline will run dry.

Most franchises mandate that their franchisees spend a certain % of their revenue on marketing activities because they understand the importance of constant marketing.  They also know if they don't mandate it, it's very easy for a franchisee to decide to save a few bucks one month and cut their marketing spend.

Even if it hurts in the short run, don't turn off your advertising and stop marketing, it'll hurt you even more in the long run.

 

Standardized Training

When you hire a new employee or train your staff on a new product or service, how do you do it?  If you're like most business owners, you do it verbally, and when the owner feels like it or when someone screws up.   It might be a team meeting or one on one, or just a “watch what I do” kind of training.   What happens to the employee that was away that week, or the new employee you hire next month, do they receive the same exact training?  Probably not.

Good training can be exhausting.  Often, after you've done the same training for several employees, you start to cut corners, leaving out little tid bits of insight that might be crucial for a new employee to “get it”.

This is also why the your employees do the same activity, differently.  They've all received the training, only it was slightly different, and left to them to fill in the blanks with their own interpretations.  This is why your business lacks consistency.

It's important to write things down so you don't forget the important stuff.  It also allows you to train a manager or key employee to help with the burden of training everyone yourself.

A good franchise will have a detailed training manual so the employee hired today is trained the same exact way the employee hired next month will be.  The next time you set out to train a new hire, bring along a pad and pen and document everything you do so you can refer to it again for the next hire.

Understanding Of Key Metrics

Do you know what your KPI's are?

If you're not sure what these are, you're playing darts in the dark.

Your Key Performance Indicators (KPI's) are the key metrics that you look to measure of success for your business.  It's a “snapshot” you can look at and get a quick feel if things are going well or if trouble is potentially brewing.  Every business has different KPI's, but everyone has them.  Examples of KPI's are:

  • The number of  leads generated each month
  • New customers acquired each month
  • Number of sales calls made each month

Franchises know their key metrics cold.  They have the advantage of amalgamating the metrics of hundreds or even thousands of individual units and gaining a deep understanding of what metrics are important and where they should be for a successful franchise location.

Find out what your important metrics are and write them on a whiteboard in the office so you and your team can see them every day.

What else can you learn from franchising?

As you can see, having your processes and training in written form will go a long way in creating consistency for you business. It'll also allow you, the business owner, more time to work on the bigger things for you business.  Keep your branding strong and your marketing consistent to avoid pitfalls many small business owners make.

Don't slack off or cut corners, even when you think it's not a big deal.  A strong business and brand takes a long time to build but can be ruined by poor decision-making and training.

Conducting Market Research

11 Questions To Ask When Conducting Market Research For Your Business

 

Before you start a business, you need to be sure that the marketplace wants what you are offering.  Nothing sucks more than pouring your heart and soul into a new business venture only to find out that people just aren't interested in what you have to offer.

Conducting thorough market research also opens up additional questions you may need to answer about your business and may reveal opportunities in the marketplace that are not currently being met.

Before you start any kind of marketing or advertising campaigns, you'll need to conduct some market research first.  It doesn't need to be a seven-month-long process or a 100-page document that you create, but you do need to ask yourself some questions and do some work to find out the answers.

Without a thorough knowledge of the marketplace and existing businesses, you may be putting yourself in danger before you even start. The following questions will help you to identify some important issues in your marketplace, and it will help you to double-check if there are crucial issues that you may not have considered before you start your new business.

Market Research Questions

1- Are there other businesses similar to yours that are currently operating in your market? Existing businesses like yours is not a bad thing, it means there is a market for your business.

2- How do these businesses appear to be doing?  Do they look like healthy, thriving businesses?

3- What are these businesses doing well?

4- What are these businesses doing poorly?

5- What could you do to compete with these businesses?  How would you stand out?  Is there an opportunity to create a competitive advantage here?

6- How much competition is there?  Does the market appear to be saturated?

7- If yes, are there ways that you can alter your business plan to suit a niche market?

8- What kind of people would want to buy your product or pay for your service?  What's your ideal customer profile?

9- Are there enough of these types of potential customers living in your community to support your business?  Where are they located?  Will they frequent the area you plan to be in?

10- Can the economic profile of the community support your business?  Are you selling a premium service with prices to match?  Can the community support this type of business?  Be sure your product or service matches the economics of the community.

11- Are these people the type of customers who are likely to become repeat customers? If so, why?

Market Research for Small Business Quote

Summary

Don't think about the above questions as a way to rule out starting a business, they may actually lead you be become even more creative and innovative about your new venture.  usually what happens is that answering these questions opens up new insights and potential opportunities for you.  To get some further insight, have someone you trust answer these questions too, they might have some suggestions you never thought of.

Once you have finished answering these questions, make up a list of additional questions that may have arisen during this research and find answers to them.  Armed with this information, you'll be able to make better decisions and help minimize mistakes that could have been avoided.

Once you have completed your market research, you can start working on your marketing research.  You can read a previous post titled, Five Steps to Conducting Great Marketing Research for Your Small Business

 

Jim Rohn Quote-You Must Either Modify Your Dreams or Magnify Your Skills

Small Business Toolbox: October Ninth

Jim Rohn Quote-You Must Either Modify Your Dreams or Magnify Your Skills

Each week I like to post useful tools and resources that you may be able to use for your business.  The resources I post here are either free or available at a low cost.I don’t go into much detail here, so feel free to check them out yourself and let me know what you think.  If you know of any great tools and services that will help small business owners, please share them in the comments below.

Power BI – A free tool from Microsoft that allows you to take your data from Excel and turn it into a highly visualized format.  Great for gathering insights from your data and for reporting.

Periscope – A new video platform from Twitter that lets you broadcast live video from your mobile phone.

Have questions about the best tools to use for your business?  Contact me with your questions and you can rest assured you will receive a response!  Contact me here

How Remarketing Work

What Is Remarketing and How Does It Work?

 

Heard of remarketing as a marketing tool but not sure how it works?

Remarketing can be a very effective advertising tool and something that can help give you more bang for your buck across all your marketing efforts.

What is Remarketing?

Remarketing (also called retargeting) is when you continue to market to one of your website visitors after they have left your website.  You have the ability to follow and advertise to them as they surf the internet and to keep your company top of mind.  You can also use forms of email remarketing where users receive an email after taking a certain action, like shopping cart abandonment emails used by e-commerce sites, but here we'll be focusing more on ad based remarketing.

How Does Remarketing Work?

In order to start a remarketing (also knows as retargeting) campaign, you would need to sign up with a company that offers remarketing services.  Google Adwords and Facebook are two of the biggest companies offering remarketing services, though other platforms like Twitter also offer remarketing.  You can also use a third party platform like AdRoll to manage your remarketing campaigns and will also give you access to multiple remarketing platforms.  Sharpspring is a popular example of a marketing automation service that ties in with your email marketing.

If you're new to online marketing you can also hire a web marketing company like 3Bug Media to setup and manage your remarketing campaigns across multiple platforms.

1- A visitor comes to your website.  When they arrive on your website, the remarketing code you have on your site drops a tracking cookie onto their computer and can now track them after they leave your website.

2- Once they leave your website you now have the ability to serve ads to these users as they surf the internet.  The ads can be in the form of text ads, banner images or even video.  You can also use marketing automation that triggers emails to visitors based on actions they take (or don't take) on your website.

3- Where the ads show depends on what remarketing company you signed up with.  If you signed up with Facebook, you can serve ads on Facebook as well as third party platforms they have partnered with.  Same with Google Adwords, you can serve ads across Google products as well as thousands of partner sites through their Google Display Network.

4- A recent visitor to your website sees your ad, which reminds them of your company and why they were there in the first place, and a percentage of them click on the ad and return back to your website.

What is Remarketing

How Does This Help You?

Visitors that come to your site are added to a remarketing list, which is determined by the parameters you set.  You may want to build a list for every visitor to your site or maybe people that visit certain pages of your site.  You can customize your remarketing lists as you like and set how long you would like to remarket to them.

Once you have these lists created you now have a second chance to turn some of those visitors into customers through targeted advertising.

You may offer a discount offer on a product, a reminder of the product or service they were last viewing on your site, or just a reminder of your brand so you can stay top of mind.

The nice thing about remarketing is that it doesn't matter how the visitor got to your website, you now have a second chance to convert those visitors into customers.  Remarketing is a great way to squeeze some extra ROI out of your existing marketing activities.

While remarketing isn't a highly scalable because it depends on previous visitors to your website, it typically offers a better conversion rate and ROI that other online marketing

How Do You Get Started With Remarketing?

If you want to create a remarketing campaign for your business you can either sign up directly with a company like Google or Facebook or you can work with a web marketing company like 3Bug Media to setup and manage your remarketing campaigns across any of the remarketing platforms you would like to use.

If you have questions about remarketing for your business and how to get started, you can contact us here.

Small Business Market Research

Five Steps to Conducting Great Marketing Research for Your Small Business

Small Business Market Research

We all know that conducting market research is crucial to a strong, well thought-out business and marketing plan, but with the plethora of information out there it’s tough to establish where to start and what to look for. Luckily, the marketing research process can be broken down into five simple and manageable steps:

Define the Problem and Establish your Research Objectives

Before embarking on your marketing research, you must define the problem and your research objectives. This step is the most important and you should set aside a decent amount of time to think about it. Start off by asking yourself the following questions: what’s the issue to be addressed/ problem to be solved? What do I need to learn – and more importantly, why? How will I use that information? Answering these important questions will help you focus your research and save you time.

Develop the Research Plan and Design the Project

 When it comes to this step, you need to think about questions such as: who can answer my questions? Who can answer them best? What must I ask each group – specifically? You should also start thinking about what type of research you will be conducting and what sources you will look at. Although online data are plentiful and free, don’t limit yourself to only this type of research. Other great research methods include: observational, focus-group, survey, behavioural, ethnography, and experimental. Secondary data sources include: internal sources (customer databases, sales stats, service teams, etc.), government publications, periodicals and books, commercial data, on-line associations, on-line business information, and etc.  Always do qualitative research first. Qualitative research is much more in-depth and will help you make better sense of your findings.

Collect the Information

 Good marketing research is scientific and creative. What I mean by scientific is research that it is process based, conducted in a controlled environment with variables that can be clearly identified and controlled, and has results which can be replicated. Creative marketing research comes in handy because some people may be reluctant to answer questions.  People don’t always tell you exactly what they really think and some may have difficulty articulating ideas or feelings well. Make sure that your questions are neutral enough for people to want to answer (for instance, if you are asking whether a person is a leader versus a follower, make both options sound good.) Strong marketing research is also non-biased, examines data in the correct context, uses multiple methods, realizes the interdependence of models and data, and maintains a “healthy” skepticism.

Analyze the Information

 Study the information you gathered carefully. What trends can you see? Where does the information point you? You may discover that some of your initial assumptions were completely off. This is not a bad thing! Don’t try to make your research fit your assumptions, and instead let it guide you to making new decisions regarding your business. I also recommend getting the input of other people in your company at this step. They will be able to look at your research with a fresh perspective and point out anything you may have overlooked.

Present the Findings

  Now that your marketing research is complete, it’s time to apply it to your business and marketing plan. When done correctly, your research will prove very useful in developing your business strategy (pricing, markets, etc.), developing and improving your product or service, determining a market segment, improving operations (internal, supply chain and distribution channels), as well as with employee motivation.

Conducting marketing research is not as difficult and tedious as it may seem – in fact it can even be fun. Remember to take it one step at a time, determine exactly what you need to find out and why, get the input of others, and analyze your findings carefully. Happy researching!

Mortgage Broker Lead Generation

5 Things Mortgage Brokers Can Do To Generate Leads Online

 

Online lead generation for mortgage brokers is hard.  Between the banks, mega-affiliate sites like Lending Tree and thousands upon thousands of competing mortgage companies, it's no wonder most mortgage brokers can't find success when it comes to online lead generation.

Many mortgage brokers resort to buying their leads from online lead gen sites, typically paying between $50-150 per lead.  And that is usually for a lead that is also being sold to several competitors.  How can they charge so much money for a poor lead?  Because they know the average mortgage broker has no clue how to generate their own leads.

If you want to find success online and eventually generate your own leads, you'll need to create a long-term and layered online strategy for your business.  The suggestions below do not cover everything when it comes to a great online marketing strategy, which would include SEO and a comprehensive PPC/Conversion strategy, but they are great places to start and well within the reach of any mortgage broker ready to start getting serious about online marketing.

Connect with Real Estate Agents

Let's face it, real estate agents are the primary gateway to the homeowner for a multitude of services.  They are usually the first point of contact for a home buyer and can be influential as to what home-related services they use throughout the process.

But they are usually not easy to connect with and get inundated with pitches from other real estate related services.  So what do you do?

The first thing is to not ask for anything, that's the fastest way to get tuned out, especially if you don't already have a relationship with that agent.  What you want to do is to promote and market them to the point where they feel the need to get to know you better.  Or just feel so back for all of the work you are doing for them that they feel the need to return the favor.

Here are some things you can do

Social media.  If they are active on social media, make a point to Like, Retweet and post their content on your own social networks.  They most likely won't have many people sharing their stuff so it's pretty easy to become a standout in their eyes.

Your blog. Ask to interview them for your blog or to add an expert comment on an article you are writing.  In the blogging world we call this “Ego-Bait“, to give someone all the limelight in the hopes they will share your content on their own networks.  Better yet, ask the top 20 agents in your area to share their best tip for home buyers and create a roundup blog post. Now you will have 20 real estate agents eager to share your post because they were highlighted as an expert on your blog.

Give them content.  Most people love the idea of blogging but most business owners hate the actual blogging part.  It's time-consuming and even for seasoned writers, will often leave you with writers block when you actually sit down to write.  Create mortgage-related content in the form of a PDF guide, infographic or even a guest blog article they can freely use for their own website.  Even offer to co-brand the PDF with them, they will be much more likely to use it if their name is on it as well.

Add them as a resource.  Ask if you can add them as a resource on your own website and create a profile page for them on your site.  We did this with a mortgage broker client and they managed to get connected with 20 new real estate agents who loved the idea of getting free advertising, 5 of which became active lead referrers for them.

The common theme to everything above?  Give (and then give again) before you ask for anything.  Actually, if you do it right you won't have to ask.

Remarketing

What is remarketing?  Remarketing is when you advertise to someone online after they have visited your website.  So when someone visits your website, a “cookie” will be placed on their computer, that will allow advertisers to track and follow that visitor after they leave your website.  This is done across various sites that have advertising agreements in place and can be in the form of text ads, banner images or even video.  Yes, it is creepy, but it's used by most quality online advertisers and works great.

Why it's good.

It's good because it allows you to get extra mileage out of every visitor to your website, regardless of how they got there.  Since the majority fo people “rate shop” when looking for a mortgage, it allows you to stay top of mind during this process.

Google Adwords offers a remarketing product that will give you the broadest reach across the internet, being able to show your ads across thousands of websites.  Facebook also has a great remarketing platform that allows you to advertise to your website visitors inside Facebook with an assortment of advertising options.

Marketing for Mortgage Brokers

Facebook Ads

In addition to the remarketing options we just discussed, Facebook is a golden opportunity as an advertising platform.  There is no other platform that knows its customer's interests and behaviors better than Facebook.  They encourage you to Like, Share and Connect for demographic gathering reasons for their ad platform, not because they really want you to re-connect with your high school sweetheart.

If you have a solid understanding of who your potential customers are or want to target a specific audience, Facebook is great.  You can create a targeted audience based on age, sex, location, interests and behaviors and advertise directly to that audience.

If you have an established email list, you can also create a custom audience using your email list and advertise to your list via Facebook.

The ways Facebook is willing to use  information for advertising purposes never ends.  I forgot who said this, but it's true, “When you use a service for free, your are not the customer, you are the product”.

Google My Business

Originally called Google Places, GMB is a free Google listing for businesses.  You will see it show up when a local search is triggered in Google, which means the map shows up along with pin icons showing local businesses on the map.  These listings do not happen because of your website but from your GMB page.  It's a free page and you may already have one, but you should spend some time reviewing and editing your page to make sure it is complete and accurate.

Most searches are now local, meaning the local search results and the GMB listings show up very often.  Since they tend to show up above organic search listings, good rankings for your GMB page is just as important as your website.

So what do you do?

Log into your GMB listing (or create a new page if you do not have one) and make sure it is filled out complete and accurately.  If there a place to add information or an image, do it.

Get reviews for your page.  Google reviews are one of most important spots for customers reviews online as it's often the first review they see when they do a Google search.  Not only will reviews help with ranking your GMB page, lots of positive reviews will greatly increase the amount of clicks (and conversions) you get from your listing.  A recent survey by BrightLocal found that 92% of consumers now read online reviews for a business before making a purchase.  Yes, reviews are important.

Inside your GMB page is also where you can use Adwords Express, which is a lighter, easier version of Google Adwords, meant for businesses trying to advertise on their own without the help someone experienced with using Adwords.

Local Customer Reviews are Important

LinkedIn

While linkedIn is mostly a BtoB platform, it is fueled by individuals, most of which will need a mortgage at some point.  The thing I like best about LinkedIn is that it has the most detailed and up to date user profiles out of any social platform because people use it to promote themselves and their accomplishments.

We recently worked with a mortgage brokerage where we wanted to offer special mortgage deals to specific industries.  We had offers and landing pages made up for dentists and used LinkedIn ads to identify and target the offering directly to them. The nice thing is that we were able to do this for several industries, creating specific offerings for each one.

For a longer term strategy, LinkedIn groups are a great source for potential customers as well.  Posting thought leadership content to groups, actively engaging in discussing, and keeping your eye out for mortgage related questions is a great longer term way to pick up new leads.

 

Use a layered marketing approach

Using more than one of the approaches above helps to create a layered online marketing strategy for your mortgage business.  Things like Google My Business, blogging and online ads can help drive targeted visitors to your website.  Some will convert but most won't.  From there you can use remarketing strategies to continue the engagement process after they leave your website and the opportunity to convert more of those original visitors you worked so hard to get in the first place.