Aspiring small business owners may overlook the possibility of franchising, assuming that the uniformity of the model will prevent creativity and self-expression in managing the business. But while the franchise model thrives on standardization, that doesn’t mean that local owners lack opportunities to put their own stamp on their business. Here are six tips to personalize your franchise and make it shine in the crowded marketplace.
1. Localize It
One of the most effective ways of personalizing your franchise is to make the store relevant to the local market. For franchise owners in San Antonio, which at 9.5 percent boasts the highest percentage of franchise businesses in the country, aligning products or services with themes appropriate for Texas is a great way to help their business stand out.
An example of this dynamic is self-serve frozen yogurt shop Yogurtini, started in Tempe, Ariz., which now has 17 locations in six states and the Middle East. Founder Natasha Nelson began by serving flavors that local students liked, but as the business expanded she started encouraging franchisees to appeal to local tastes with their offerings. In Doha, Qatar, Yogurtini offers flavors like saffron, banana, pistachio and chai, while in Phoenix, there are flavors that are more kid-friendly and familiar to American palettes: country vanilla, “chocoholic,” salted caramel pretzel and “cheesecakealicious.”
2. Give Back to the Community
Along with localizing business operations and offerings, franchisees can tap into the local landscape by giving back to the community via philanthropic ventures, sponsoring local groups, providing scholarships, hosting events, and more. The International Franchise Association encourages such engagement via its annual Franchising Gives Back awards ceremony and annual volunteer service event.
Such endeavors not only help franchise owners build authentic relationships with the community and garner goodwill; they also provide a great opportunity to distinguish the local location of the business as an entity with its own personality and unique leadership.
3. Hold Events
Events are inherently locally oriented, so they provide a natural opportunity for franchisees to customize their outreach and engagement. Ice cream company Häagen-Dazs advises franchisees to host community fundraising events during evenings when business is slow. For example, a franchisee might use the company’s Free Cone Day promotion to create a fundraising event for a local community school or sports team.
Get Your Franchise Funded Now
Some franchise businesses models depend on local events. Each franchisee of Just Between Friends, a children’s clothing consignment business, holds at least two large pop-up consignment events each year where local families consign used kids’ clothes. These events embed each franchise firmly in its location and create an organic community among consignors and shoppers. And while the events are core to the business model, franchisees are able to put their personal touches on the sales in their areas, such as a Denver franchisee emphasizing “gear” to attract those looking for used ski and sports equipment.
4. Wow Your Customers
Any business, franchise or not, can stand out by providing every customer with excellent service. Ideally, your customers should walk away thinking, “Wow, that was a good experience!” A franchise location where service is friendlier and more helpful than local competitors will easily gain a loyal following.
Good customer service can look like friendly interactions at the cash register, helpfulness on the phone or responsiveness on social media. According to research data from Twitter, customers who had reached out to airlines on Twitter and then received any kind of response to their outreach were willing to pay $9 more to that airline for a future major purchase than customers who had received no response.
5. Market Creatively
Marketing campaigns are a prime area where franchisees can make a personalized mark on the business. For outreach to be most effective, it must be targeted to and reflect an understanding of the local community. Franchisees should think about the most applicable and appealing messages, as well as how to be creative in attracting attention.
Franchisees can often exercise this creativity within the confines of brand marketing directives; good franchisors will provide franchisees with vetted messaging and formatted imagery, as well as clear parameters about brand values and voice. As long as the activities are approved by the franchisor and comply to brand guidelines, franchisees may be able to run promotions or giveaways, advertise in local media, engage in locally oriented social media groups, hand out fliers at community events, or send direct mail to area residents.
6. Have Personality Online
Social media is a powerful marketing tool in part because it works by speaking to customers directly and in real time. This means that businesses that bring personality and a special voice to their social channels will be most successful in grabbing attention and inspiring engagement.
While franchisees must stay within the messaging and marketing guidelines established by the larger brand, the granularity and volume of social media engagement allows for a lot of creativity and flexibility within that framework.
Be Yourself to Excel in Franchising
Just because you’re part of a larger business with standardized operations and branding doesn’t mean you lose your unique personality and individuality. The best advice for personalizing your franchise location is to simply be yourself while following all the rules and guidelines laid out by your franchisor.
If you love sports and want to sponsor local teams, make that a mainstay of your community engagement. If you have creative ideas for marketing or events, pay attention to them and follow through. If your natural voice on social media is funny and relatable, let it shine and show your fans that there’s a fun person behind the brand.
Katherine Gustafson is a finance and business writer. Her work has appeared in finance and business publications such as MagnifyMoney, Student Loan Hero, Forbes, and Business Insider.