When franchisees can’t rely on their name alone, small-business marketing strategies can help them stand out, according to these franchise owners.

Being a franchise business owner can offer certain advantages in developing marketing strategies. But a lot of those small-business marketing strategies and concerns, however, can vary from franchise to franchise.

Denise and Tilmon Smith have been the owners and operators of Pump It Up inflatable parties in Waldorf, Lanham-Bowie and Elkridge, Maryland for the past 12 years.

When they opened their first location, the Smiths were the only Pump It Up in the area. This presented a unique challenge: They didn’t have the brand recognition that is typically associated with franchised operations. Thus, in their early days of business ownership, their small-business marketing strategies were very similar to those of a single business entity.

“We had to develop relationships with local child care centers, after-school programs, community recreation centers and others to create brand awareness about this new business,” says Denise. “Our strongest small business marketing strategy was very grassroots. In 2005, while we never missed the opportunity to place ads in parenting magazines, word of mouth was the biggest thing we did. We found that turning guests of one party into hosts for the next would be our winning strategy.”

Recently, Verelyn Gibbs Watson entered into the world of entrepreneurship through the Nothing Bundt Cakes  franchise. Watson, who came from a marketing rather than baking background, was given a sample of the cake to try at a work  function and she was hooked. She enjoyed the franchising model of being in business for yourself but not by yourself.

Consider applying strategic marketing efforts that will personally resonate in your specific region.

Like the Smiths, there weren’t any other local Nothing Bundt Cake franchises on the East Coast when Watson sought to become a franchisee. Because of that, “relationships and the community” were the hallmarks of her small-business marketing strategies, she says. She also “appreciated the collaborative” marketing products that her franchise offered.

Both Watson and the Smiths used a number of small-business marketing strategies to stand out from the competition and make a name for their franchise. Here’s how they capitalized on some of the opportunities that exist for franchisees:

1. Develop strong relationships with the franchisee community.

“As the franchise grew, there was definitely increased opportunities to interact with other franchisees,” Tilmon Smith notes. “We had annual conventions, as well as online community boards that help us talk about innovative marketing efforts.”

Participating in the franchisee community allowed the couple to understand and implement franchise best practices used around the country.

2. Take advantage of centralized software systems.

Denise said that one of the biggest small-business marketing strategies that she uses in the business is having a centralized software system.

The centralized software system is provided by the franchisor and provides all the processes the franchisees uses to operate their store. This proprietary system allows for reservations to be made online, which also gives the Smiths their email capture function.

In turn, they are able to use pre-designed marketing blasts (i.e. holidays, slow-day discounts) that corporate sends.

3. Use strong marketing collateral provided by the franchisor as one of your small-business marketing strategies.

One of the reasons why potential owners buy into a franchise model (and pay its fees) is because of the abundant marketing collateral. Website design and updates, coupons, frequent flyer programs, in-store launches of programs… These can all be developed by corporate.

“The royalty model with [Nothing Bundt Cakes] provided that a percentage of the royalties would go back towards my marketing budget,” Watson explains. She also appreciated that her website and marketing collateral were provided by the franchisor, as well as her social media was also maintained nationally.

She can also incorporate and post any local announcements or PR notes herself.

4. Capitalize on strong brand recognition and trademarks, if they exist.

Strong franchises have grown because of their easily identifiable brands and trademarks. It may be easier to capture new clients by incorporating that goodwill into your own outreach programs based on the intellectual property you’re licensing.

5. Strategically apply unique campaigns that will resonate with your exclusive, protected territory.

One of the advantages to being within a franchise business community is that you can have an exclusive territory that allows you to operate free of competition from another fellow franchise owner.

Consider applying strategic marketing efforts that will personally resonate in your specific region. For example, if you’re on a college campus area in Miami, your marketing efforts should be geared more toward that population. Same thing applies if you’re in North Dakota with a population that primarily has government employees—make sure your small-business marketing strategies speaks to your audience.

Owning a franchise can take some of the guess work out of originating new marketing concepts. However, an owner still must analyze factors such as location, length of time in business and the strength of the brand when developing a winning strategy. Keeping these tips in mind just may help.

Photo: Getty Images

This article first appeared in www.americanexpress.com

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Nic Cober

Nic Cober, Esquire Contributor, Cober Johnson & Romney

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