Choosing the Right Franchise

5 Marketing Questions to Ask before You Choose a Franchise

When you’re working to identify the ideal franchise business opportunity for your specific needs, your mind may be on costs and how you’ll prepare to become a franchisee. You may be thinking through the typical day of a franchisee in a particular industry, or considering your options for locations and staffing.

Marketing may seem like something you don’t need to plan for until you’ve decided on the franchise for you. Once you’re up and running, you may figure, you’ll have plenty of time for thoughts of marketing.

There are some questions you should ask as you’re making your decision, though. Just as you consider what kind of management style you’re comfortable with and what kind of work you’ll enjoy doing, you should give some thought to the kind of marketing style you prefer.

  • What is required? Many franchises collect a marketing fee from every franchisee. They pool the funds together to pay for things that would be hard for individual franchisees to fund, such as national TV ads or professional marketing pieces everyone can use. Other franchises require a certain amount of local marketing spend, sometimes in addition to a group marketing fee. If you’re not interested in marketing, you may appreciate having this chore done for you. If you’re the guerilla marketing type and you’ll resent paying out a certain percentage of your revenue in marketing, you may not be happy with this arrangement. At the very least, make sure you understand how the fees are spent and what you must do to participate.
  • What is allowed? Maybe you’re excited by marketing and you have lots of ideas of your own. Or you might have strong feelings about particular approaches to marketing and want to be sure that you can put all you want into inbound marketing or direct mail or sponsoring local beauty pageants. Franchisors can sometimes be strict about these things, though. In order to maintain their image, they may not allow you to use that local celebrity endorsement, to create your own website, or even to use social media marketing. Finding out after the fact that marketing plan is forbidden can be very frustrating; it’s better to know up front.
  • What does it take? Ask other franchisees what kind of investment they made in marketing and how well it paid off. In movies, it’s common for the cupcake baker to become a local celebrity or the retailer to strike it rich with one perfect billboard. Real life is different. Successful marketing usually requires work or money or both over a fairly long period of time before you see results — and you have to keep it up if you want to continue to see those results. If you’re considering a franchise that doesn’t have marketing requirements, make sure you budget for it realistically.
  • Who will do it? Your franchisor will often provide ad slicks (the graphics you need for ads) or commercial scripts, but you may have to do the media buying, record the radio ads, and set up the grand opening event. You may be provided with a web page on the corporate website, but be expected to write your own marketing copy and provide your own photos. Once again, knowing this ahead of time is the key to success.
  • What about sales? Often, a franchise business will say up front that their ideal franchisee is someone who loves sales. Just because they don’t say it, doesn’t mean the job won’t require sales skills. If you don’t have those skills yourself, do you have a partner or key employee who does? Are you willing to work on improving your sales skills? Sales and marketing are not the same thing, but even a franchise that does a lot of marketing for their franchisees usually won’t take care of the sales. If you’re not ready to sell yourself, look for franchise business opportunities that tell you up front that they will take care of sales for you. These opportunities will often say, “No sales” in their descriptions.
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