Customize Your Franchise Without Compromising Your Brand: Part II

Author: E. Cotner Date: September 23, 2011

The second article in this two-part series focuses on effective collaboration between franchisors and franchisees to develop new products and services that retain brand identity.

Customizing your franchise’s products and services helps ensure your business will appeal to more customers in the markets you serve.

To create unique offerings for each market, franchisors and franchisees must collaborate to create the most appropriate products and services. “When you make consumer variances to a brand or product line, it needs to be done carefully,” says Marc Plaisted, founder and CEO of Brandchise, a franchise consulting firm in Lakeland, Fla.

If you’re developing products and services for new markets, follow these tips for effective collaboration between franchisors and franchisees:

Share Ideas

A good franchise system has a defined process for idea sharing between franchisors and franchisees. This could start with an online form in which franchisees can submit ideas, or you can use a virtual roundtable. Plaisted suggests franchisees get franchisor approval before implementing their ideas, otherwise “you risk moving toward brand confusion and not brand enhancement,” he says.

ExtraInnings, a baseball training franchise based in Middleton, Mass., that has 40 locations in 19 states, features retail stores inside its training facilities. The company created ExtraInnings Locker Room after potential franchisees said they’d like to open a retail store, but not a training facility, which costs more. The new model trains children at schools and public fields rather than inside a facility. “You get into this idea that the franchise is tried and true, it’s a blueprint,” says Mark Andrews, ExtraInnings’ vice president of franchise sales and operations. “You need to keep trying new things and giving customers more and more.”

Put Ideas on Trial

Franchisors and franchisees should develop a method to test new ideas. Franchisors shouldn’t allow franchisees full liberty to introduce new products or services without vetting them first. Determine whether customization enhances the brand and consumer traffic–and boosts your bottom line. Testing the ideas in one or more franchises can help the franchisor determine if they can succeed in other markets. “Don’t do anything dramatic, and do it in such a way that it’s not something permanent,” Plaisted says. 

Tap into External Resources

Franchisors and franchisees should not only work together, but they also should use the resources around them to enhance and improve products and services. Harold Enger, director of education for Spring-Green Lawn Care Corp., a franchise that offers lawn and tree care services nationwide, says the company relies on its network of vendors, universities and research facilities to help it refine its lawn-care products and programs. This has allowed the company to improve products and procedures for services like fertilization and weed control. "It adds credibility to our professionalism,” Enger says.

Related Resource: The Best and Worst Franchise Sectors

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