Guest columnist Brian Miller advises franchisees and franchisors to hone their technology skills in 2012.
With a large variety of brand categories and many different sized companies, franchising is hardly constant throughout. However, one immutable agent of change is currently affecting the entire industry: technology.
According to a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, the percentage of American adults using the Internet rose from almost 50 percent in 2005 to nearly 80 percent in 2011. Advances in technology means one thing for franchise companies hoping to be successful in 2012 and beyond — they must adapt.
Fifteen years ago, a prospective franchisee would have been drawn to a franchise by its potential for growth, brand power or geographic proximity to other like franchises. The individual would have called an inquiry hotline and been faxed or mailed information about opening a location. Furthermore, business would have been handled over the phone until the potential franchisee met with executives, prior to being awarded a franchise.
In May 2011, 92 percent of Americans using the Internet used search engines to find information and the same amount used email, according to a different poll by the Pew Research Center. Prospective franchisees are going to look for and find information on the Internet. There is a new breed of franchise candidates who may not even want to talk to a person in the early stages of their franchise search. So, how do franchise companies adapt?
Now more than ever, franchises must do their best to control what is found online, which means investing in search engine optimization (SEO) and becoming active in social media. Both are valuable tools franchises should be using to disseminate information and manage online presence. The most successful franchises in 2012 will be those that are easiest to find, based on information found on the Internet.
Successful brands must also adapt their franchise award process to include ways for prospective franchisees to investigate the brand on the website. That includes uploading interactive media, brief but informational videos and links which allow people to begin exploring the opportunity. This messaging must be compelling enough to encourage people to continue the process.
Eventually, of course, all people do need to speak to a live person to validate the model; however, adapting to this new breed of candidate will help franchisors engage a larger number of people and, in turn, open more locations.
Advances in technology also relate to the existing franchisee. The ability for a franchisee to access corporate through online tools is paramount to the satisfaction of that franchisee. The happier the franchisee, the better the word of mouth advertising.
The franchisee of 2012 will be more tech savvy than ever before, and as they continue to adapt to emerging technology and the Internet, so too must franchisors. Their ability to succeed depends on it.
Brian Miller is a 22-year veteran in franchising and the COO and president of The Entrepreneur’s Source®, a career and franchise business coaching company. Miller can be reached at brian@FranchiseSource.com.