When you’re responsible for the marketing of your company at a regional, national or even global level, you have hundreds of stores, business owners and staff members relying on you to get it right.
You can never know for sure how successful your marketing campaign will be, but thorough testing can help you to iron out any kinks. Not only that, but if done correctly, testing can also help get franchisees on board and ensure that your campaign rolls out smoothly across all locations.
The Importance of Testing Your Message
Whether it’s a marketing campaign, a business idea or a new product, everything should be tested before it’s introduced to your audience, marketing writer Tara Horner says. ”By market testing your idea or product, you will save yourself from both too much expense and even bad PR, should it not be popular or required.”
It’s all about managing risk, says Microsoft’s Chad Sanderson. “Would you rather move forward with your multi-million-dollar campaign strategy with the foundation for success resting on nothing but a hope and a prayer? Or would you feel far more confident in a massive business initiative if you’d already found enormous success within a test sample?”
A poor marketing campaign can also hurt your future franchise sales. FranChoice CEO Jeff Elgin writes that potential buyers should ask existing franchisees about their network’s marketing to get an idea of how easy it will be to succeed in the business and to “separate the great franchise opportunities from the marginal ones.”
Major changes are only beneficial when they are welcomed by customers, says 1851 Magazine’s Chris Zois. That’s why conducting customer research is so important. But it isn’t just consumers whom you should be testing your messaging on. “Vendors, marketing partners and unit owners are also instrumental in the decision-making process. When brands present their proposed changes to these groups, they’re able to get valuable feedback that points them in the right direction.”
It can cost both time and money to test your promotions, writes Ph.Creative founder and CEO Bryan Adams, but doing so can save you money in the long run. However you approach testing, you’ll need to get feedback that confirms your message is clearly understood and accepted before you move on with the rollout. Don’t worry about negative feedback, either, Adams says. “The negative feedback will help, as it allows you to make improvements that might have been detrimental to the effectiveness of the campaign.”
Involve Franchisees in Testing
Once a franchise has decided to make an operational change like a new marketing message, the next step is often to decide whether the change needs to be communicated to franchisees before implementation, says Franchise Grade COO Ed Teixeira. “There are some changes to a franchise program that may be presented to specific franchisees or franchisor field staff in order to gain their feedback and assist in implementation. Other changes that have minimal impact on franchisee operations can simply be introduced.”
The vast majority of franchise agreements will contain a clause allowing franchisors to make changes to the business, says Chad Finkelstein, franchise lawyer at Dale & Lessmann LLP. But just because franchisees are obliged to make your changes doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. Indeed, it can take years for some changes to be adopted throughout franchise networks.
Clear communication and consultation with franchisees are key if changes are to be adopted successfully and quickly, Finkelstein continues. Soliciting feedback is also important — from a legal standpoint as well as a business standpoint.
Forming a franchisee advisory council is a great way to gather feedback and speed up rollout, says management consultant Lori Karpman. This is a council created and run by franchisees who vote for other franchisees in their region to represent them. “Each representative is responsible for the two-way communication between the Council and its constituent franchisees, relaying their questions, comments or concerns.” Rather than being the last to know about changes, franchisees can consult on new branding, messaging and services within that council framework, Karpman says. That input helps them react more quickly and be more willing to initiate changes as a result.
Franchisees are also a source of untapped market knowledge, Franchise Advisory Centre founder and director Jason Gehrke says. They know better than anyone what it takes to get a message out and have an intimate understanding of what your customers are really like. They can also help get new campaigns over the line, continues Gehrke. “Marketing managers who engage with franchisees via their system’s franchise advisory council, marketing committees or other similar groups indicated that they had fewer difficulties in receiving acceptance for new campaigns.”
How to Test Your Franchise Messaging
Message testing can be as focused or as broad as you want, HubSpot VP of Marketing Meghan Keaney Anderson writes. “Message testing can scale all the way from an individual conversation with a handful of different people in your target audience, to a large-scale research effort involving surveys, competitive analysis, and focus groups. The key to getting message testing right is asking the right questions and making sure your questions aren’t inadvertently shaping the answers.”
Keany Anderson suggests asking yourself a few questions upfront:
- Does your message focus on the right things? There are normally a number of features or benefits that you can highlight when crafting a message. What you think are the best features may not be the ones your customers love.
- Does it differentiate your brand? You need to highlight what makes your brand different or better from your competitors.
- Will consumers view the message as consistent with the rest of your brand? People have come to expect certain things from your company. A new message, product or service should align with those expectations.
There are several ways of finding out what people think of your messaging and your marketing, writes National Marketing Federation owner Kim T. Gordon. “Depending on what you plan to market and your budget, you can use formal focus groups (or simply host roundtable discussions with members of the target audience), employ online research or mall intercept studies, or distribute your product to a select group of users for testing.” The important thing is that you finalize your marketing only after testing has been completed.
Don’t be led by your gut, warns ThirdLove CEO and cofounder Heidi Zak. You may have dozens of potential messages that you could use. “Usually, one option will jump out as the clear winner. The results may surprise you, but that’s why it’s so important to test. It’s the only way to discover which messaging matters most.”
Be careful about how and where you conduct marketing tests, warns marketing and product growth expert Myk Pono. “It’s okay to test new messaging ideas in the field, but anything that impacts the brand as a whole needs to be done incredibly carefully. Perception about your product and company aren’t easy to change.”
Don’t Just Involve Your Franchisees. Support Them.
It’s not enough to involve your franchisees in the testing of your messaging. You must also support them when the time comes to roll out your new message. “A franchisor will have higher chances of implementing changes with ease if they provide their franchisees with full support,” writes the team at Synuma.
This is the final hurdle before rollout. Don’t let your creativity and testing go to waste by failing to support franchisees during the rollout.