How Franchise a Business

How Franchise a Business

Do you own a business and dream of franchising it one day?  Franchising can be one of the fastest and least capital intensive ways to expand a business, but it's not without its challenges.  Many businesses have collapsed in financial ruin and destroyed their reputation by franchising their business before they were ready.

When franchising, you are using someone else's capital and commitment to open expand.  These new “franchisees” do not have your experience or expertise and need you to teach them how to be successful business owners.  You basically need to take everything you do to run your business and all of your experience and teach others to be as successful as you are.  That's a tall order that requires a lot of planning, training and commitment.

Franchising also involves many legal challenges as well, which we won't be discussing here.  Here we will be focusing on the business challenges involved in getting ready to franchise your business.

If you dream of franchising your business one day, you need to make sure you are prepared before you start.  Below are some important things that you need to have in place before you decide to start franchising.

Create a Flagship Location That Proves The Model Works

You wouldn't believe how many franchises get launched today without being able to show a single profitable location.  Some franchise concepts  launch without ever creating a location, just selling an idea.  If you want to build a long-lasting, successful franchise system, you need to be able to know the business model works.  If you as the founder of the business can't make it profitable, what makes you think strangers will?

A flagship location (most likely the founder's own location) allows you to develop your business model, learn from mistakes and to refine your processes.  It is here where you create your systems, fine tune your marketing and figure out what your customers really want.

Having a proven flagship location also makes it much easier to sell your franchise concept to would-be franchisees as you don't have to explain how it works, you can show them.

Most likely you have been running your own business for a few years and have a good idea what your business model is.  But are you profitable?  And if so, how profitable?  You have to remember that with a new franchisee, they will not have the same expertise you have and will also be paying an ongoing royalty fee to you (that's how you make your money), so you need to account for these things when looking at your franchise model.

If your business depends on you, you don’t own a business—you have a job. And it’s the worst job in the world because you’re working for a lunatic!”
― Michael E. Gerber, The E-Myth Revisited

Create and Document Processes For Everything In Your Business

The majority of small businesses rely on the owner of the business for everything.  They are the ones with all of the knowledge, expertise and experience to run the business.  Employees look to them for guidance and to make decisions.  Do you see why this is not scalable and why most business owners experience burn out within a few years of starting their business?

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If you ever hope to franchise your business one day, a written operations manual is a must.  Written documentation on how you run the business is the only way others will be able to run a successful franchise location since you won't be there to tell them what to do and to answer their questions.

For a franchise, you will need a very detailed and thorough operations manual that answers every question a franchisee might have about the business, from daily operations to marketing to finance.  You need to show franchisees how to hire and train people, how to clean the facility, how to order supplies…..basically every single thing you do to run your business each day.  All of this needs to be written down and organized into a comprehensive operations manual that will become their bible when starting and running their business.

Most modern franchise operations manuals are housed online and include interactive media like video and audio files.

Create a Marketing Plan That Others Can Replicate

Creating customers and sales are the lifeblood of any business.  Without a repeatable way to generate new customers, your business will soon wither and die.  Marketing is what attracts these potential customers to your business.

If you are going to franchise your business, you need to create a marketing plan that anyone can execute, is scalable and is repeatable.  Somebody buys into a franchise system so they can hit the ground running and in order to do that, they need an excellent marketing plan to generate sales right off the bat.  When it comes to marketing, your job as a franchisor is to show them how they can generate customers and sales on demand.

Look at your current marketing plan, are you a one trick pony?  Do you rely too heavily on a  single marketing source for your business?  Worse, are you relying on contacts and relationships that took years to establish to generate the bulk of your business?  Your marketing mix needs to be comprised of a range of marketing activities, some paid and some free.  But the important thing is that franchisees need to be able to replicate it.

When a franchisee evaluates your business opportunity, they will want to see how successful your marketing is and need to feel confident that they can replicate your success.

Create a Training System For New Franchisees

Most people who buy a franchise have little prior business experience.  They buy into a franchise system to get the support and training they need to succeed inside a business model that has been proven to work.  There will be lots of hand holding, training, and communications required in order to get a new franchisee ready to start their own business.

Poor training and support can lead to disaster for a franchise.  The basic concept for a franchise is to have each and every location look and feel the same.  The food should taste the same, the service should be the same and the branding should be the same.  Whether you like McDonald's or not, if you eat a burger in California or in Kentucky, it will taste the same.  You can only do that with high-quality training and support.

Initial and ongoing training is essential if you want to each of your franchised locations to look, act and perform similarly to your own business.  The good news is that you can use technology to deliver most of your training.  Webinars, video chat, email and video are all great ways to communicate and train franchisees remotely.

Create a Plan For Growth

As you add franchise locations, you will need to scale the support for them.  Your growth strategy needs to be in place before you grow, not as a reaction to growth.  You will need to make sure you have the appropriate support staff, training resources, and finances in order to ensure your growth doesn't become a problem.

What resources will you need to have in place to service 5 franchise locations?  What about 10 or 20?  While you don't have to start making these investments now, you do need to think about how you can add them quickly and efficiently when the time comes.

 

Are you ready to start franchising?

Franchising your business can be a fast way to grow without having to make large capital investments in your business.  But it also means that you need to be much better at training, communication, and marketing as you won't be directly involved in the running of each location.

Take your time and make sure you have your own efficient, profitable business going before you look to start franchising.

Conversion Optimization For Business Growth

Conversion Optimization For Business Growth

When you’re looking at your business’ website statistics, the first thing you’re probably interested in is the amount of traffic you’re getting.  How many hits?  How many repeat visitors?  How many minutes are they spending on the site?  You check these stats because you want to know what’s successful and what needs work.

 

Your site’s conversion rate is even more important than the number of hits it receives.  “Conversion rate” refers to the percentage of visitors who take some sort of action while visiting your site (for example, ordering a product, signing up for a newsletter, or downloading a program).  Your website could receive a million page views, but if no visitors purchase your product, there’s something wrong.

“Conversion optimization” or “conversion rate optimization” (CRO) is the process of improving the ratio of visitors who take some sort of action on your site to those that merely view it.  Your goal is to “convert” viewers into participants.

 

How can you find out your site’s current conversion rate?  Pull up your stats and divide your total number of conversions by the number of site visitors.  If your site has had 1000 visitors, and 10 of those visitors have taken the sort of action you want them to, then your conversion rate is 1%.

 

How do I improve my conversion rate? 

So, here’s the question of the hour:  How do I improve my conversion rate?  It’s not a simple answer because the solution differs depending on all kinds of factors, such as the source of your traffic, your target viewer demographic, the action you are trying to get them to take – but here are a few basic areas to examine:

 

1 – Call to action. Is the next step visible and quickly understandable to the viewer?

Call To action Graphic

2 – Proof. Do your customers have a reason to trust you?  Sure, you’re telling them it will benefit them to make that purchase, but they’ll be more likely to bite if you include testimonials from previous customers.
3 – Clarity. Can your users quickly find what they’re looking for?  Is it intuitive?  Study elements of other web pages to see where they usually occur.  A “Log In/Sign Up” button is usually located in the upper right corner of the page.  The business’ contact information should be at the bottom of every page.  How many clicks does it take for the user to reach their goal?
4 – Aesthetics. This should be obvious, but too often it’s the reason a potential client leaves the site before doing anything.  They google what they’re looking for; a link to your site is the first result; they click it, and there’s something wrong.  It doesn’t even have to be a glaring problem, like red text on a red background.  Elements like the colors you use, the placement of the CTA and other important aspects of the page can affect how that page converts.

It could be something as minor as a header bar someone coded incorrectly, which is now too short for the content, so a few words are off.  That’s all it takes to destroy someone’s trust and quickly go back to the search to check out your competitor.  If your site doesn’t look clean and competent, you won’t get conversion results regardless of how high your search engine rankings are.

 

This is just an introduction to conversion rate optimization: what it is, why your business needs it, and a few things the process involves.  The next step is to dive a little deeper into the process: You can learn from a tutorial, download a conversion optimization program to give you relevant statistics, or even find a specialist to provide guidance for your individual case!  The journey will be different for everyone, so get creative and enjoy it!

Nick Rojas applies his entrepreneurial experience as a business consultant for startups. He marries hands on expertise with a passion for marketing, sales, and financial growth strategies to help business owners achieve new heights. Follow Nick on twitter @nickarojas

Running Successful Online Advertising Campaign

Running Successful Online Advertising Campaign

Are you spending money on online advertising and seeing little to no results?  If you're like most business owners, you were told that online advertising has a much greater ROI than traditional advertising, yet after several months and thousands of dollars, you still can't seem to make it work.

Online advertising does offer a much better ROI than traditional advertising, as long as it is done right.  Just like any advertising you pay for, if you execute it poorly then you will most likely see poor results.

No matter what advertising platform you are using or how much money you are spending each month, one or more of the mistakes below will usually lead to a poor outcome for your online advertising campaign.

No Strategy In Place

This is why most advertising campaigns fail, both online and offline, there is no strategy from the get go.  Before you spend a dollar on advertising you need to know what outcomes you want from your ad campaign, who you want to target and what you want to offer them. Map out every step of the ad process from who you will target, the ad itself and where you will send them after they click on an ad or call your business.  Each one of these steps is an opportunity to lose a potential customer and they all need to be working together in order for your ad campaign to generate leads.

Why do people buy from you?  If you don't know that then it'll be hard to craft an effective ad that makes people want to contact you.  Most businesses end up creating generic ads full of meaningless superlatives (we are the best!) that couldn't convince your mother to contact you.  Know what is important to your customers and include them in your ad copy.  It could be a guarantee, trust signals like reviews and awards, or upfront and transparant pricing.

Poor Research

Once you know what your plan is, then you can start your research.  Most businesses don't take the time to find the right ad platform, the right advertising channels or what type of budget is needed in order to run a successful ad campaign.  The problem for many businesses is that they don't understand online advertising and an advertising salesman will sell a solution to a business without regard if it is the right fit for that business.

Many traditional print advertising mediums now use their sales teams to sell online advertising solutions to small business and many of these businesses rely on these salespeople to put together an effective ad campaign for them.   It rarely works.  Why?  Because they are salespeople, not marketing strategists.  They get paid to sell you something and have the same advertising plan for every single business they sell to.

You need to spend the time (or pay someone) to find the right advertising channels that will allow you to get in front of your ideal customer.  If you are using a Pay Per Click ad campaign like Google Adwords, then you will also need to research what search terms people use in Google in order to find a business like yours.  If you use an advertising platform like Facebook, you'll need to research the right demographic and interest targeting options available.

If you don't do your research or rely on a salesperson to coordinate your ad campaign, it will most likely not produce the results you are hoping for.

Lack of Cohesiveness

Online advertising, and online marketing in general, will work best when you take a layered approach.  A great online advertising campaign will use several advertising options to reach their ideal customer multiple times, using multiple mediums.

An example would be mortgage broker running a Pay Per Click search campaign on Google Adwords where someone typed in “best mortgage rates in Charlotte” and triggered their ad.  That person clicks on the ad, visits the mortgage website and then leaves without contacting the mortgage broker.  But the mortgage broker is also running  Remarketing campaigns on Google Adwords and Facebook and now has additional opportunities to engage with that person after they leave the website.  In this example, 3 different ad campaigns were used together in order to try and convert a single visitor into a lead.

All of your online advertising campaigns should be working together with a common message and goal.  The beauty os online advertising, and online marketing in general, is that they overlap and complement each other, allowing you to reach the same potential customer across several online mediums.

Budget Not Spent Wisely

Poor budget management can kill even great advertising campaigns.  You may be spreading your budget too thin across too many advertising channels or you may be spending too much on poor performing campaigns and not enough on your winning campaigns.

Think of it like being in a casino.  You lose $10 on a hand of blackjack and move to another table and do the same thing.  If you only play one hand of blackjack at each table, you may never win a hand.  You are much more likely to win more if you stay at a single table and play multiple hands.  If you have a limited budget, don't spread yourself out too thin, focus on the ad campaigns most likely to have the biggest impact and expand to additional campaigns later.

One of the big advantages of online advertising over traditional advertising is being able to use analytics to track and measure ROI.  If you are not tracking the results of your ad campaigns then you will never know which campaigns are making money and which ones are not.  Tracking the results of your ad spend is the only way you will make smarter decisions with your money going forward.  All online ad platforms

Most online ad platforms provide robust analytics reporting.  When you combine this data with your website analytics and your own lead/sales tracking data, then you will be able to see what ad campaigns are working and which ones aren't.

Weak Offer/Landing Page

What is the purpose of an ad?  To generate interest, or for an online ad, to generate a click to a landing page (either on your website or a standalone web page).  You may have done a good job getting someone to click on your ad, but now that they are on your website, what now?

Your ad will generate interest, your landing page will generate a lead.  You can create the best ads in the world, but if it takes them to an underwhelming landing page then most likes you have wasted your money.

Many salespeople selling advertising solutions won't talk about this, but the landing page you send people to is what is really going to sell that person on your business.  So if you don't spend as much time (or even more) on creating a compelling reason for people to contact you once they arrive on your landing page, then your ad spend may be going to waste.

An effective landing page should continue the message you had in the ad that person clicked on.  It should also have a compelling offer or reason to contact you.  On the landing page you will want to expand on why you are the right choice.  You'll also want to add supporting evidence like customer reviews, industry awards and other signs of trust.  You want people to feel good about contacting you.

Have a plan in place before you start

Before you spend a dollar on advertising, you need to make sure you have done your homework and have considered all of the necessary pieces of the puzzle in order to make your online advertising campaign work.  Do your research to make sure you are targeting the right people in the right places.  Consider a layered approach so you can reach your potential customers across different channels. And create create great ad copy, an engaging landing page and an irresistible offer, all of which will help you run a successful and profitable online advertising campaign.

How Much Does SEO Cost

 

How much does SEO cost?  That's the first question that comes to mind for people considering hiring for an SEO campaign.

The problem is that when you start searching online or start calling SEO agencies, pricing is all over the map.  A company in India will quote you $150 a month and promise you the moon while an SEO agency might quote you 2K a month with no promises of SEO glory. So how do you make sense of it and know who has the potential to deliver a lot of SEO value for your business and who is just full of crap?

The term, “SEO”, or search engine optimization is a loosely used term.  Wed designers claim to do SEO on your website when they are designing it, social media experts will claim they are doing SEO for you when they work on your  social media campaigns, even online directories like the Yellow Pages will sell their listing to businesses as an “SEO solution”.

Are all of these offerings actually SEO?  Partially, but not really.  The search engines use hundreds of different factors in determining how a given page will rank in the search results, so only focusing on a few of these factors will likely return poor to mediocre SEO results if other factors the search engines use are not being considered.

So today we are going to discuss what SEO really is, how pricing works (at least for me), and what you should know when looking to hire for an SEO campaign.

What is SEO?

SEO is when you work on optimizing your website or web pages in the hopes to rank them high in the search engines results when someone searches for a given search term.

So how do you do this?  In a nutshell, SEO is 3 things.  I like to call it “TLC”, which is a simple explanation.

Technical – The technical part of SEO is having clean code on your website so the search engines can find things easily and your website loads nice and fast.  It is also optimizing meta data on your site (information usually only the search engines tend use) like you Title Tags, ALT Tags for images and structured data markup language.  You probably don't know what most of this stuff is, but a good SEO does and will optimize them according to the SEO strategy that has been set.Links – When another website links to your website, the search engines look at this as referral or trust signal.  The more quality the site linking to you, the more credibility

Links – When another website links to your website, the search engines look at this as referral or trust signal.  The more quality the site linking to you, the more credible your website becomes in the eyes of the search engines.  Links to your website is the #1 single biggest ranking signal the search engines use.  It is also the single hardest SEO activity to do well, which is why many people selling SEO services disregard it completely.  Links can be from blogs, the media, social media, local organizations, etc.

Content – Your written content, your blog, service and category pages, will most likely make up the bulk of your content.  But content is also video, images, PDF documents, etc.  The more content you create for your website, the more opportunities you have to rank in the search engines.  A good SEO person or agency will have a good understanding of what type of content needs to be created as part of your SEO strategy.

So the way I usually explain “TLC” is like this.  A good piece of content will give that page an opportunity to rank in the search engines.  Links will help boost that page towards the top of the search engine results and the technical aspects will make it easy for the search engines to find and index your content as well as giving your web page a boost in the rankings if you have optimized your page with proper meta data and structured data markup formatting.

And what brings all of this together is having an SEO that has experience, knows how to do research and can formulate a proper SEO strategy for your business.  Otherwise, you may spend all of your time and resources barking up the wrong tree, which happens quite often and why many people feel that SEO does not work.

How SEO is Priced

SEO can be priced in a few different ways.

Monthly Retainer – You pay a set fee each month for an SEO agency to deliver agreed upon work each month.  It usually encompasses a range of SEO activities that you have agreed upon to be delivered each month as part of your SEO strategy.  This is usually how most comprehensive SEO campaigns are priced since an SEO campaigns will likely last at least several months and involve lots of different kinds of work.  You may not start with this payment structure right away, but reserve it once you trust your SEO agency and are ready for a longer SEO campaign.

Hourly – I hate metering my time, I find it ruins the client relationship when they are always watching the clock and I am always having to keep track of time.  You find this less and less as an SEO pricing model, but some still use it, especially when it comes to SEO consulting projects.  You may choose hourly if you are brining someone in for a specific purpose and you have an idea of how long it will take to complete.

Project Based – This is when you have a specific SEO project with a start and stop date in mind already.  The price would be based on the entire project, start to finish.  Maybe you just opened a new location and need someone get it some local SEO visibility, you may agree to a customized  3-month SEO project for a set price and specific deliverables.

Contract Services – This is where an SEO agency offers a set list of deliverables for a fixed price.  An SEO agency might offer a Website Auditor Competition Analysis report, for a fixed price.  Usually these offerings are smaller parts of what would make up an SEO campaign, not a full SEO campaign.

How SEO Pricing is Determined

I can't speak for other SEO agencies, but in general, this is how I price my SEO services.

The first thing you have to understand is that you are buying time and expertise.  SEO is time-consuming, technical and tedious.  It also requires good strategy as it is easy to waste a lot of time and money if you are focusing on the wrong things.

These things are taken into consideration when it comes to pricing SEO.

Your Market – Are you looking to compete worldwide, an entire country or just a region/city?  Is it a major city like New York or Toronto or a smaller one?  There will be big differences in competition and the work involved depending on what market you are looking to compete in.

Your Goals – What are you looking to improve?  Specific products or service offerings or are you looking to improve everything?  You may have 10 different services you want to rank #1 for but only have a budget to optimize 1-2 of them.  SEO involves optimizing individual pages on your site, not just your website as a whole.  So when you say you need SEO, you have to think in more specific in terms than your website as a whole.  An ecommerce store might focus on certain product categories or a law firm may focus on specific legal services they offer.

Your Competition and Your Website – How well are your competitors doing from an SEO perspective?  If they have been optimizing their websites for several years and you are just starting out, it will require a much larger budget than if you were all starting out brand new.  Think of it like a race.  If your competitors started a marathon and are running a 10-minute mile and you start 2 hours after them, how long will it take to catch up to them if you are running a 10-minute mile as well?  Or worse, a 12-minute mile?  Exactly.  So if your competitors have been doing SEO for 2 years now and spend 3K a month with a quality SEO agency, your 1K budget may not get you very far.  You may have to scale down your ambitions so that 1K a month can get you results.

Your Industry – Some industries are much more competitive than others.  If you are in the finance or legal industries, competition is fierce and you will usually have to pay top dollar for quality results.  Everything is in relation to your competitors and how your website stacks up against them.  Some industries spend lots of money on SEO in general, while others may not.

Pricing Examples

These are just some examples based on previous projects and speaking to business owners who pay for SEO services.

Plumbers – A plumber in Toronto might pay 3-4K a month for local SEO while a plumber in Columbia, SC might only pay 1K a month because the city is much smaller and with less competition.

Mortgage Brokerage – A national mortgage brokerage might pay 12-20K a month for SEO services for a nationwide campaign while a local mortgage broker in Boise, ID might pay 2K a month for that city.

Physical Therapy Clinic  – In NYC, you may be paying 2-3K a month for SEO services but 1-1.5K a month in a smaller city like Providence, RI.

These are just some examples, but you can see that industry and the size of your market play a role in costs.  SEO agencies also have different pricing structures, so you may have to get a few quotes to get an idea on pricing, just be sure the deliverables are similar.

Some Questions to Ask

What exactly do you plan to deliver as part of the SEO campaign and can you show me examples of your work?

This will give you idea of what type of work they will be delivering and give you a chance to ask questions you may not have thought of. Ask to see an example of a monthly report if possible.  Will they be doing link building?  Will they be creating content for your site or will you?  Will they be fixing the technical issues on your site?  Find out exactly what they will be doing as part of their SEO services.

Who will be working on my SEO campaign?

While they may not be able to tell you the exact person who will be handling your account, you should get an idea of how they structure their SEO operations and will give you an idea if entry level hires (and sometimes interns) will be working on your account, or more seasoned SEO veterans.  This usually has to due with the size of the SEO agency you hire as well as your budget.  A small monthly budget with a larger agency usually means you will be stuck working with a new hire that knows little more about SEO than you do.

What will communications and reporting be like?

Will you receive a monthly report with little insight or will there be monthly or quarterly phone calls to discuss strategy?  Communication is a big issue and one of the main reasons people become dissatisfied with their SEO agency.  If you are having trouble with communications before you sign on, it may not get any better after.

What will success look like?

You should agree on what metrics will be used to determine the success of the SEO campaign.  It might be organic traffic growth, keyword rankings, or a combination of user metrics and rankings.  Just have an idea so you can monitor progress.

Things To Keep In Mind

Seo takes time.  It is not like paying for advertising, you most likely will not see immediate results, but when the results do come, they will be long lasting.  If you decide to invest in SEO, you need to commit for a minimum of 6 months, but 12-24 months realistically.  SEO is a long term strategy that can bring long-term results.

SEO is not cheap.  You pay a pretty penny for good SEO because it can return some serious ROI once it gets going.  The cheapest option is almost never the best option.  If you are planning on spending $200 a month on SEO, do yourself a favor and spend that $200 on a fancy date with your spouse or loved one, you'll get a much better ROI on your money than paying for garbage SEO services.

SEO is not a mystery.  It's not rocket science, but it is doing a lot of little things right on a consistent basis.  Make sure whoever you work with isn't a one trick SEO pony that only does social media or only writes content, these are components of SEO, but it is not SEO.

 

Still have questions about SEO?  Contact me here.