8 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your New Franchise LaunchBeth Thouin
Congratulations! If you are reading an article about how to make the most of your new franchise announcement, you’ve already come a long way in your enterprise journey. Now you just need to get the location launch right, and you’ll be well on your way to success.
While it is possible to recover from a less-than-optimal launch, it does make things harder. And it’s not too hard to get it right either. That’s the beauty of owning a franchise – you’ve got a proven business model, a proven way to run the business, and a proven way to launch it, too.
So let’s get this franchise announcement piece knocked out so you can get back celebrating this launch milestone!
What to Do Before You Even Start Planning Your Franchise Launch
Of course, while it’s important (and super-exciting!) to plan your launch, don’t get too far ahead of yourself. Don’t start planning your launch until you’ve finalized everything with your franchise.
Make sure you have every required permit, license, or type of insurance required. Don’t hesitate to make a few calls just to be triple sure that some city inspector isn’t going to show up and ask for some document you don’t have.
Hopefully, your franchise manual will have ample information on this, but remember: Some localities have “unusual” rules. Better to find out about those rules sooner rather than later.
Once all the legal, financial and insurance obligations are tied down… then plan your big splash. Here’s how to do that in just eight steps!
1. Figure Out Your Budget
Hopefully, the franchise you bought comes with an operating budget, and launch recommendations, and maybe even a launch budget. If it doesn’t, it’s up to you to figure out a launch budget.
You can do all the local promotion tactics we suggest below alongside your franchise launch, even with a modest budget. Just scale them up or down depending on your available funds. For example, if your launch budget is $2,500… that pre-launch party we mention is Step 8 is going to have to be catered by you, not by the premiere catering company in your town.
A $2,500 budget may also require that you skip the expensive business memberships and stick with free business listings we mention in Step 4. And in Step 7, you may have to trim your postcard launch campaign down from 3,000 postcards to just 500. But if you’re creative, it’s all still doable – even with a tiny budget.
If you’re struggling to figure out how much you should allocate for your launch, pin point another location that’s had a successful launch. Get in touch with that location’s owner or marketing team and see how much they spent and what type of activities they planned in and around their launch day.
2. Plan Out Your Launch Calendar
You’re going to be busy in the next few months. Very busy. Even with the structure of a franchise, you’re going to have to manage a ton of moving parts.
So let’s get you organized from the onset. Use whatever calendar system you like, then choose your opening day. From there, figure out when you want all your pre-launch events or marketing communications to take place. Then plan backwards, making time to each do-to item and step along the way.
Then, of course, build in a couple of buffer days. That way if a delivery is late, or you just can’t get an email out in time, your whole schedule won’t blow up.
3. Warm Up Your Social Media Accounts or Even Advertise
Open a local version of your franchise’s social media presence if you’re able. Start posting on these new social media accounts. It doesn’t have to be every day, but start publishing updates about your upcoming franchise, sharing updates from head office’s social media or even early bird discounts for when your store does open.
Here are a few more ideas for what to post on social media before you launch:
- Teaser photos of you getting your store ready
- Photos and short introductions to your new staff members
- A post about why you started your business (this could be a series of posts if you’ve got multiple reasons)
- Photos of new equipment or special deliveries
If you’re not getting much traction on social pre-launch you can always advertise. For example, if you have the budget, use Facebook’s local awareness ads or Instagram. Consider offering a small coupon or a welcome gift on your launch ad to increase engagement (everyone loves a deal!).
Don’t forget to swap out the offer and graphics on your ad once opening day has passed though!
4. Set Up and Standardize All Directory Listings
Google My Business listings are free and up to 75% of people check local search results before they walk into your business 24 hours later. Check out this Google My Business Listings Guide for a walk-through of how to set these up – the sooner the better!
The same is true for other free directory listings and even paid ones. Yelp for example offers a directory listing service for small businesses. There are an amazing number of local business directories you can get your new business listed on. HubSpot has a good resource on this, as does Synup.
And while it may be too soon to have any reviews on your Google My Business listing or other directories, you can fill out critical information like your address, contact information and store hours. Here is an example from Loblaws. While the corporate brand has a good presence on Google, individual locations have filled out their local business profiles:
If possible, try to get a few photographs of your business posted to these accounts, too. Just make sure the quality of the photos is good – you don’t want to make a bad first impression.
If you have the budget, also consider a Chamber of Commerce membership. This will also allow you to have a listing on their website. Links from authority sites like that can help your website’s search rankings, but they often also get a respectable trickle of new business. Small Business Development Centers may also have a links section.
Not sure what to include in a local business listing? There’s a good list of suggestions here.
5. Install a “Coming Soon” Sign
People are always interested when something changes in their neighborhood. Make that curiosity work for you by hanging a banner or sign near your location or right over the new location’s door. Let people know what your business does and approximately when you’ll open with a nice big sign.
Once again, you’ll already have the benefit from being part of a known franchise, like the Starbucks example above. It’s likely that at least some people may recognize the name of your business. Immediately, they’ll know what you do, and something about the quality of your products and services. You may find the neighborhood gives you a warm welcome as soon as they see your announcement sign. Who can forget the 2001 Krispy Kream Donut franchise launch in Mississauga that had record-breaking sales of $465 000 opening week?! That community was arms-wide-open for that franchise launch!
6. Get Your Website Up
Setting up social media and local business listings are good first steps to create an online presence about your local franchise launch, but a more concrete medium is a website. Even a simple website may be enough. If you’re taking that minimalist approach, just be sure your website includes:
- A few good photos of your store from the street, you, and your products
- Your store’s hours and contact information
- A page about what you do or sell
- A bit about you (the owner!) and your key staff members
For more information about what to include on your website, see our blog post, “What the Best Small Business Websites Have in Common.”
Your core franchise may already support your location’s website creation, it may in fact be an extension of their main site! In lieu of an actual website, many core franchises will support location launches with an announcement on the main website. Here’s an example from A&W:
Whether it’s the core franchise website, a site specific to your region or even one for your individual location, having a website will not only support your launch day, it will support your entire business!
7. Consider a Postcard or Email Campaign
Your franchise company may be able to help you find or buy a list of targeted local consumers. Ask local publications, too – sometimes they have list rental opportunities that are less expensive than what a national data firm will charge.
Once you’ve got the list, spend some time crafting a really great welcome message, and perhaps a really great welcome offer. Again, your franchise manual may have some recommendations for what to offer, or even what to say.
Whether you send postcards or emails is up to you. Think about what your ideal customers are more likely to respond to… are these internet-savvy people, or people who still prefer the analog world? And don’t shirk off postcards as “snail mail” – so many businesses are obsessed with digital marketing now that email inboxes are full and a really clever postcard actually has a chance of standing out.
If you happen to have already started building your email list, and you happen to be using MailChimp for that list, they can send postcards to your email list subscribers very easily.
8. Host a “Family and Friends” Pre-Opening
A pre-opening party is a nice way to say thank you to the people who supported you along the way. It’s also an excellent opportunity to test the training your new staff members have been given.
Set up your pre-launch party to mimic what normal business operations would be like as much as possible. Think of it as a themed party if you will, but the theme is your business. This means your staff will basically get a dress rehearsal of doing their jobs – everything from their uniforms, to how they greet customers, to how they will do each of their individual jobs.
This is, of course, a limited test of your employees. But it does give you an opportunity to review many of the things that will be happening in your business. If you see anything amiss during the launch party, fix it over the next few days. You’ll have more fixes to do later, but even a three-hour party is usually enough to turn up several things that need to be fixed. Launch day is going to be busy enough – why not iron out as many of the kinks as you can before then?
But don’t stop there. A pre-opening event is also an ideal opportunity for some media exposure. If you can get a couple of local bloggers to come, or someone from the local newspaper to show up, that’s a major plus. Getting even a short article about your new franchise location published in the local newspaper can help you establish yourself in the community. And don’t hesitate to invite a couple of people from the major business organizations in your community, either. They can be helpful allies in the years to come.
Happy Location Launch Day
You budgeted for it, you set the launch date and you planned out all the details in between. Now it’s time to execute! Get your store location information organized and standardized so you can set up social media, local listings and maybe even a website. Having this online presence gives you a place to share store and launch information, while giving you a head start with online marketing. You can also advertise on social media or through traditional means such as a local mail campaign or a simple “Coming Soon” sign with the main franchise logo.
Again, your community may already have a strong desire for products or services from your franchise brand and may surprise you opening week. Set that bar high and push for perfection as you approach launch day by having a party! Schedule a pre-launch party with your closest network to iron out any kinks before your business goes live. Or if you’re sure you’ve already perfected everything ahead of time, schedule a high-profile, pre-launch party with selected local influencers, business leaders or franchise association members (you can still invite family and friends too!).
Good luck with your local franchise launch from the Web.com Enterprise team, may it be a total grand-slam success!