Running a franchise (or any business) can be a daunting task. Often we hear about local startups that fail within the year. But then there are the success stories. The small one-man companies based out of garages that turn into multi-million dollar corporations are the stuff of legend.
But what is the difference between the companies that make it and the ones that don’t? What sets apart the failures from the successes? I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that there is truth to be found right at the source. There are many lessons to be gleaned from the successes of others. After all, we are all standing upon the shoulders of giants. Here are five things all business owners can learn from the successful franchises:
Find a Niche
To get ahead in the franchise world, you have to distinguish yourself from other businesses. In other words, you have to find your niche. The key is to identify a need in the market that is not currently being met and fill it. One successful example of this can be found in the restaurant chain, Smashburger, started by entrepreneur and CEO, Rick Schaden.
Schaden recognized the popularity of burgers and fast food and saw that there was an opportunity to create a restaurant that specialized in gourmet, sit-down burgers. He realized that no one had taken advantage of this niche—quick, gourmet burgers in a casual dining environment. Today, Smashburger boasts a quality dining experience found in over one hundred franchised restaurants around the country and over two hundred locations worldwide. Talk about the power of finding your niche!
Offer Widespread Appeal
The key to any successful franchise is widespread appeal. While it is important to find a niche, if you don’t also cultivate a business with appeal to many types of people, you will limit your opportunity and potential for growth (the whole point of franchising).
McDonald’s is probably one of the best examples of a franchise that has mastered the art of widespread appeal. With over 34,000 restaurants worldwide and 1.8 million employees, McDonald’s knows how to gain the support of people across countries and cultures. How do they do it? One way is by tailoring their products to fit many molds.
For example, though McDonald’s has primarily been known as a fast food joint (and not praised for its nutritive qualities), they made the shift to include healthy options on their menu. With the rise in popularity for health foods, this evolution has helped McDonald’s remain relevant, competitive, and appealing to the health conscious and others. If you want similar success in your franchise, look for ways you can market and tailor your product to appeal to the many and not just the few.
Tell a Story
Another important factor in franchise success is the ability to tell a story. As human beings, we connect with one another through stories. That is why having a story to tell is such a powerful tool in business. One great example of this is Subway. Though the popular sandwich chain already had a steady rate of progress, it wasn’t until it harnessed the power of storytelling that its success really took off.
I think we all remember Jared? Subway ingeniously found his story and used it to market their product and connect with their customers. By creating a narrative around their product, Subway suddenly had a way to relate to their consumers and personalize their brand. Further, they were able to use this story to promote the healthy side of their product, appealing to an entirely new niche in the market. To find success in your own business, look for ways you can tell a story. How you narrate your history will tailor your brand and determine much of your business identity.
Connect with Your Customers
Think about your favorite businesses or franchises. What sets them apart from other companies? Chances are, your favorite companies are adept at connecting with their customers. With social media, connecting with your customers is easier than ever. From Facebook to Twitter to blogging, there are numerous ways companies can reach out.
One mistake many businesses make in online marketing and social media is focusing too heavily on direct sells. Rather than using these social platforms to connect with their consumers, they become simply extra venues for promoting their products. However, Starbucks, the popular coffee franchise, has mastered the art of social media and customer relations.
For example, through Twitter, Starbucks frequently provides updates on company events, highlights of new drinks, and even holiday haikus (every coffee joint needs some poetry, right?). If you check out their Twitter feed, you will notice that there is very little shameless self-promotion. Instead, Starbucks uses this platform to interact with their followers (customers) and essentially “share the love” for coffee with others.
If you want similar success, look for ways you can personalize your business and connect with your customers. Give them value, not just sales pitches. They will reward you with loyalty.
Create an Experience
Have you ever gone into a restaurant, eaten the food, and left, feeling bland and unfulfilled? My guess is you probably have. Contrast that with another time you went into a restaurant and were pleasantly surprised by the quality service, unique atmosphere, and perhaps even creative dishes to tickle your fancy. I bet I know which one you would recommend. So what was the difference? The experience.
Many successful franchises work to customize their own unique experience for their customers. One example is Pizza Hut. Pizza is a fairly universal food these days, but one way Pizza Hut differentiates themselves from the rest is through personalizing the experience for their customers.
For example, they have created an app that allows consumers to make their own pizza right on their phones. Customers can participate in each stage of the pizza making process, from rolling out the dough to choosing toppings. In this way, Pizza Hut makes you, the customer, a part of the eating experience from start to finish.
If you want to set your franchise apart, give the people an experience. This will set you, and your products, apart from the crowd. Anyone can provide a quality good or service, but it is the experience that truly distinguishes your business from your competitors.
Nina Hiatt runs her own architectural landscape company and loves writing articles to help people find balance and beauty in their personal space through landscape and interior design. In her free time, Nina blogs about many of her interests, which include gardening, technology news, and business.