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What technology should you expect from your franchisor?
Written on the 1 July 2011 by Tracey Voyce
Technology and the Internet has really revolutionised the franchise market. It’s changed how franchisees promote themselves and get customers and it’s also had a big impact on the way they operate their business.
A professional website
Research indicates that 78% of consumers research products and services online before they buy, so your brand needs to have a website that can capture this market. It needs to look professional and match your branding and be regularly updated with the latest information. It also needs to be technologically up-to-date, user-friendly and functional so customers can do more than just read sales spiels about your products (educational articles, case studies, free whitepapers, competitions etc.). If the franchise doesn’t have a good website, it could cost you customers.
An online knowledge base
Some franchisors may call it something different, but an online knowledge base is just a place where information and resources for franchisees are stored. For example, a secure location on the franchisor’s website where things like product manuals, sales guides and marketing templates are available for franchisees to download any time they need them. This type of system is probably only being used by the most technologically advanced franchisors, but every franchisor should at least have important information and documents in electronic form that franchisees can access easily.
Streamlined online systems
The Internet has advanced to a level where it is so much more than plain brochure websites. Franchisors can now have their entire business system operating using online software so franchisees can log in and access everything they need, such as quoting, inventory management, customer management, invoicing, point of sale, support, communication with head office and marketing. Systems like this will vary greatly from franchise to franchise, but the common features should be that they are online, user-friendly and streamlined – so instead of getting bogged down in paperwork and long-winded internal processes, you can focus on doing what makes you money.
Email marketing software
Staying in touch with your clients is essential, but it can be time-consuming and costly, so it sometimes drops to the bottom of a franchisee’s to-do list. However, if your franchisor provides you with an email marketing system, you can quickly and easily communicate with your database of contacts – send them everything from monthly newsletters and special offers through to feedback surveys and birthday ecards, all with the click of a button. In the most functional systems, you can even automate emails, like welcome letters and payment reminders so you can set and forget. Email marketing builds relationships, increases loyalty and gets customers to buy more from you, and the return on investment is far higher than other forms of marketing. Your franchisor should be able to offer you software like this and also provide templates and content.
Social Media know-how
There's always going to be some skepticism about the value of social media in the business sphere, but for many franchises, the proof is in the pudding. Unlike traditional marketing, social media actively engages your target market, helping to build brand ambassadors from your very own customers. Whether they're "liking" you on Facebook, following you on Twitter or fighting to become your mayor on FourSquare, social media has created a brand new platform that allows your market to interact directly with you. Franchises with a social media know-how are already reaping the rewards of this new marketing technique, and proving to others that they are forward thinking and willing to be at the cutting edge of technology to ensure their business sustainability.
Customer Relationship Manager
Keeping track of your leads is absolutely crucial for your business. A Customer Relationship Manager (or CRM) will help keep track of your incoming leads as they move through the sales process and become clients. It will help you manage call cycles, allocated leads to your sales people, and even estimate your potential income from the leads enabling you to budget more effectively. All franchises should be able to suggest a professional and powerful CRM to their franchises.
All the hardware you need
In today’s business world you will almost definitely need a laptop computer, mobile phone and a PDA to run your business. In most cases, these things and all the other hardware you need for your business will be included in your franchise fee. If it’s not, the franchisor should at least be able to help you source and set up the right computers, networks, phones and other equipment. In order to provide great service to your clients and run your business effectively, you will need the latest technology and this is definitely something you should expect from your franchisor.