Zipcast Episode 11: Communication Best Practices from Franchise Leaders at FMLC

Texting for franchises

Like any system, franchise systems need to communicate efficiently with every component to keep things running smoothly. As email inboxes grow more cluttered and the spike in spam calls dissuade people from picking up the phone, how can a modern franchise communicate not only with their end users, but the franchisees they work with?

In this episode of Zipcast, host Scott Heimes sat down with three franchise leaders at the 2019 Franchise Marketing Leaders Conference to discuss the strategies that modern franchises are using to better communicate with their franchisees, vendors and customers. One of the easiest? Integrating two-way texting, a high-priority medium that these leaders can capitalize on for speed and accessibility.

Listen below to learn communication tactics from the following franchise leaders:

Ashley Shuetz, vice president of marketing at Massage Heights
Katherine LeBlanc, chief marketing officer of Painting with a Twist
Brooke Budke, vice president of marketing at TITLE Boxing Club

Tune in each month for the latest episodes of Zipcast. Don’t forget to follow us on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySoundCloud and Spotify. If you have a suggestion for the show, feel free to text us at (206) 582-3740 or email zipcast@zipwhip.com.

Full Transcript:

Scott: Welcome to the Zipcast, where we talk about the latest trends in texting for business, customer communication strategies and technology. I’m your host, Scott Heimes, chief marketing officer at Zipwhip, and thanks for tuning in.

Scott: Welcome to the Zipcast, Ashley. It’s great to have you here.

Ashley: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Scott: Can you tell us a little bit about what you do?

Ashley: Sure. I’ve been with Massage Heights for seven years, and I started working with the franchisees on anything and everything from local store marketing, and over the last seven years I’ve worked my way up to then formulate co-ops and field marketing, take over eventually then the national promotion strategy, packaging, brand positioning and messaging as the vice president of marketing.

Scott: Got it. That’s exciting.

Scott: So we’re here at the Franchise Marketing Leadership Conference, which is all about marketing to the franchisee, and franchisor and franchisee communication. Any insights that you’re learning at the show, anything new that’s popping up that seems interesting and trend-oriented?

Ashley: For myself specifically, I was in the CMO and CEO Summit yesterday, the first morning here, and loved it. It was all surrounding communication, which we throw out tactical elements, I’m in a local store marketing panel here in just a little bit, and it’s all typically geared around digital marketing, digital tactics, paid tactics, whatever it may be, but the idea of communication is different, because it generally does fall under marketing. So we had a three and a half hour session that was all around how you communicate with your franchise system, what works, what doesn’t work.

Ashley: Because essentially, it doesn’t matter what we do, if our franchisees don’t understand it, they don’t buy into it, then it ultimately fails. So in my opinion, that was one of the largest takeaways from this was ultimately communication, which goes hand in hand with marketing, but is almost separate. So the fact that I got it from a marketing conference, but ultimately it’s been a huge takeaway for me so far.

Scott: What were some of the tactics that you discovered really are working out there that you might want to explore?

Ashley: Well what’s interesting is I found that nothing, not one thing really works that well.

Scott: It’s a collection of the whole, right?

Ashley: It is, yeah, absolutely. We do quite a few different things. We have, ourselves, I feel like we do a lot, and still we feel as if we don’t do it to the best of our ability or that we could, because ultimately people receive information in all sorts of different ways. And that first goes to whether or not they’re paying attention, and then if they are, if they’re actually receiving it and understanding it and buying into it, were able to ask questions. So I think the two-way communication was probably one of my largest things and takeaways there.

Ashley: We do monthly … we call them franchise update calls … with all franchisees. They’re able to ask questions at the end. We do weekly newsletters and all sorts of other things. But one of the biggest pieces that we do that’s a differentiator is we have an internal podcast.

Scott: Oh, cool.

Ashley: It’s audio and video, and we release it. Our founder, our president and our co-founder launched it at the beginning of this year, and she started with some of the executive team such as myself, and we talked about our overall plan and vision for the year, and tried to get people excited and bought in for what’s to come in 2019. And then since then, she interviews our franchisees, some of their team leaders for best practices, lessons learned, things like that.

Ashley: And we found that to ultimately be something that our franchise system really enjoys listening to. Because what’s interesting is it’s not how you’re saying it, it is who is saying it that’s almost even as important, and the communication method, because I can say, and I found I can say the same thing 25 different times, but if a franchisee or a marketing partner gets up and says the exact same thing, it’s a whole different reception.

Scott: Way more weight associated with that, huh?

Ashley: Exactly. They want to hear from their peers. So completely understandable, but so shame on us for not including our franchise system better. I think everyone has a better opportunity to do that. So whether it’s putting them on a platform through our podcast or speaking on a best practices call on the monthly call or an article in the newsletter as a case study, whatever it may be, we need to leverage our own system, which sounds so easy, but people I think overlook it, because myself, we tend to just want to do it. We feel it’s our role, it’s our job. We want to be able to message it. And by relying on other people to help us get that buy-in or the message heard and across, I think it’s ultimately going to be pretty successful for us.

Scott: Getting unit leaders and other peers to actually be the messenger of the core messages really makes a difference.

Ashley: Mm-hmm. Absolutely.

Scott: That’s interesting.

Scott: I was talking to another system earlier today, and they were sharing some of the same kind of approaches, webinars and leveraging podcasts and other types of tools to communicate to their system. And I’ve found that applying business text reminders to the front end of that really gets higher attendance at the monthly webinar, for example. And I know you’re just now leaning into piloting business texting. Do you see some other ways that texting might play into your communication strategy?

Ashley: Absolutely. So I have to be honest and tell you that at first, when we first started having conversations with Zipwhip about text message communication, I just thought consumer facing. So naive in the sense that, for me, because that’s all I thought that my mind just went to that. But I’m glad you brought it up. That was one of my other takeaways from the CMO-CEO Summit is no one was really utilizing text message to the best of its ability.

Ashley: And we had a former franchisee stand up and say, “I want to let you know it’s not that you’re not doing good job, it’s just that as a franchisee, we have too many things to worry about.” And he had said, “If I would’ve gotten it, just a simple text message reminder, maybe that would’ve helped.”

Ashley: So it was the idea of possibly not only utilizing text message communication for consumers, but yeah, utilizing it in the business as well. And what’s funny, within that summit, I had two or three different franchisees within the first 30 minutes text me on my phone. Because they do all the time. Whether it’s email, phone call, texts, but they do all the time. I get text messages. And so it was interesting is why aren’t we leveraging that kind of platform and communication, because the read response rate, all of that, the open rate is astronomical compared to emails. So why are we still being narrow-minded and only utilizing email marketing if everyone, the majority, there’s like 96% or 99% of people, communicate via text message.

Ashley: So it’s interesting. That was a big eye opener for me in that communication summit that I just quite honestly had not even thought about it from a business perspective.

Scott: Yeah, that’s cool.

Scott: All the research that we’ve done, and we’ve got lots of it, just points to texting being the preferred medium for communicating between businesses and their vendors. It’s astounding. People just don’t open emails anymore. It’s just become such a spam channel. And even voicemail now with robocalling, just don’t answer your phone unless you recognize the contact.

Ashley: It’s too noisy, people stop paying attention to the noise. You’re absolutely right.

Scott: That’s so true.

Scott: Talking about use cases for applying it inside the system and with franchisees, have you given any thought to how you might market the fact that you have business texting solutions on the franchisee level?

Ashley: Not to the full extent. I had started, funny enough, text messaging some of our field personnel, because they would be the early adopters for it, to figure out how we could do it. And I think ultimately having a system that allows us to do all of the things that we need to, as opposed to … franchisees say it all time, “I can’t keep up. We have one vendor here, one vendor here,” this and that. And that’s just marketing. They have their whole business and operations and payroll and everything.

Ashley: So to simplify it and potentially have a solution that works for both, but ultimately it would be our field personnel that would be the early adopters, and that I would want to leverage to help get that communication out there, and really just start, it would be with the people who are most engaged, and utilize that, because then the responsiveness and the two-way communication would be there, and it would be easier for the early adopters to help other people buy in.

Scott: Yeah, that’s 100% true.

Scott: I think a lot of our customers find that text-enabling that existing business landline that’s already being promoted in the market, just simply getting into a cadence where you’re promoting text or call this number in every step in the store, in the unit experience, really makes a difference in terms of actual usage.

Ashley: It does. Whether it’s consumer facing or business facing, we all lead such busy lives. I myself, I hardly ever pick up the phone and call to book an appointment. Whether it’s before a massage at the brand I work for, or whatever it may be, we want to … my hair, whatever it is … we go online or we text. And it is that simple. We’re okay with receiving text confirmations, because I pay attention to that much more than I would pay attention to an email. So why wouldn’t we just utilize that for whether it’s consumer or business facing, it’s makes everything so much more simplistic. Because it goes to the notion of fishing where the fish are. That’s where the fish are swimming, so might as well be there.

Scott: Well said. Ashley, thank you so much for joining the Zipcast today.

Ashley: Thank you, I appreciate it. It’s been fun.

Scott: Welcome to the Zipcast, Katherine.

Katherine: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Scott: So tell us about Painting with a Twist. What is that all about?

Katherine: Yeah. So Painting with a Twist is a paint and sip concept. So you come in, you get to exercise your creativity a little bit while enjoying a glass of wine. And really what we cater to is women who are looking to have a fantastic night out with their girlfriends, something to do that’s not necessarily the bar scene, but still lets you imbibe on your favorite beverage and then have a little fun while you do it.

Scott: Right on. What’s your role there?

Katherine: I am the chief marketing officer.

Scott: Got it. So you run the marketing org and help drive the communication strategy for the business, right?

Katherine: That’s right.

Scott: As well as the system and the franchisees?

Katherine: That’s right. So I’m over marketing, over our R&D department, and then also our IT department. So really all the revenue centers are under my umbrella.

Scott: Got it.

Scott: So we’re here at the Franchise Marketing Leadership Conference in Atlanta. Any insights that you’re seeing? Any new things you’re learning?

Katherine: Yeah. So it’s my first time here, excited to be here, excited to be around the leaders in franchise marketing, as well as getting introduced to different vendors that are at the vendor show. It’s always interesting to walk that floor. And I think the biggest thing I’m hearing is about data and about how do you use data to then make influential decisions for your franchisees. So how do you bring them in, how do you get the buy-in, and then how do you use the data and the numbers that make the most sense to them?

Scott: And also drive personalization, right?

Katherine: Right. Well of course, yes.

Scott: To the communication experience all the way through.

Katherine: Segmentation and automation and personalization are all things that are key right now. And something I think that a lot, especially in the franchise industry, we are a little bit slower to capture, is that that automation, that customization and the segmentation. But I think we’re coming around. There are some unique tools out there that allow us to do that.

Scott: How about communication strategies in general? There’s a lot of interesting challenges between franchisors communicating with the franchisees, and then marketing to the end user customer and how that all kind of comes together in the right coordinated system. What are some of the unique challenges around it?

Katherine: Yeah, so in franchising, it is unique because you have two customers. You have the end user, and then you have your franchisees. And you have to go through your franchisees sometimes to get to your end user, and then sometimes you go through your end user to get to your franchisees. And in that communication portal, it’s pretty traditional. You have email marketing, which has been around forever. You have the storefront and the traditional advertising tools. And people are still, I think, trying to figure out how do I get to guests where they are, and we all see where they are, it’s on their phones.

Katherine: So you had the emergence of apps, everybody had to have an app. And now you have the saturation of apps, where you really have to stand out in order to have that. I think something we’ll talk about today is in the text communication world, is how do we break the barrier with our guests, be where we want them to be without being intrusive, and we see them using more and more messaging apps and text messaging in order to communicate not just with their friends but also with brands.

Scott: Yeah. Well business texting is obviously what we do at Zipwhip, and we’ve got dozens of systems and thousands of franchisees using our solution. What are some of the opportunities that you see around business texting in your system?

Katherine: Well we have just launched with Zipwhip today, actually. We’re so excited. So what we’re hoping to see and what we are intending to see, especially from what we found during the pilot of the program, is that we are going where guests want to be communicated with. And specifically, we are anticipating and seeing an impact in the party planning side. So talking to guests and getting a quicker response so that when they are looking for something to do or looking for something to plan, that birthday party planning becomes seamless and less frustrating for the end user. And then for the franchisee, it leads to a quicker booking window and the ability to meet their guests where they are.

Scott: Yeah. Which has some great advantages. It’s just so true today that email is getting harder and harder to reach people via the email channel, because it’s become so polluted with spam and they just don’t read it as much. And then the phone, voice, with robocalling now on the cell phone, few people will even open the call unless they see the contact in their data set. So texting really does work.

Scott: When you break those two down, the franchisor and the franchisee, what are some of the different use cases that you’re seeing there for business texting?

Katherine: So as I mentioned, you have two guests. You have the franchisee and you have the end user. For us, we have implemented a number of new communication tools to reach our franchisees. We have a weekly email that goes out, we have a weekly webinar that we do on different topics, we have a monthly town hall webinar that we do. And what we found was that while franchisees communicated that they wanted these tools, we weren’t necessarily getting the traction we wanted or the participation that we wanted.

Katherine: So working with Zipwhip, what we did was we started implementing a texting program where we text them reminders of when to join the Wednesday webinar, when to join the monthly town hall, and we’ve seen our participation numbers go up, which means that the information that we want to get to the franchisees is actually getting to the franchisees. We’re actually experimenting with Zipwhip right now on driving conference registrations. So conference is coming up, we want people to register, we’re planning and working our butts off in order put on a fantastic conference, and we want to use all the communication channels available to us to get in front of them to then create action.

Katherine: For the franchisees, the way that they’re using it is they’re decreasing the booking window for private parties, and they are responding more quickly to private parties, and in that, increasing the number of private parties that are coming into their business.

Katherine: The next iteration that we will likely add on is the transactional text messages. So with transactional emails, we’re able to do reservation confirmation, reminder, thank you. We want to incorporate texts in that as well, because email is a fantastic tool and an important part of your communication strategy, but when you can layer on text, then you have a greater chance of that person seeing the message, whether it’s in their inbox or through text messaging.

Scott: Got it.

Scott: Do you intend to incorporate that via API or via our software?

Katherine: I think that there are … so Painting with a Twist has a custom proprietary point of sale system. And so anytime we can, we try and make it easier for our franchisees to operate their business. And in that, that transactional email, that auto send is a feature that we’re working on, and we definitely want to incorporate texts in that as well.

Scott: Got it.

Scott: How are you gonna market the fact that you have business texting to the end user customer?

Katherine: I think the most unique thing about Zipwhip that really sets the company apart is the fact that you can use your business line. So I don’t have to communicate to the guests that, “Oh, here’s another phone number that you have to use, and why don’t you save it so it’s easier to text me.”

Katherine: It’s the same business line that I have, whether or not you’re going to call me directly or whether you can text me. So right now, what our franchisees are doing, is they’re simply leaving that on their messaging, voicemails.

Scott: Text or call me.

Katherine: Yeah. If you don’t want to leave a message, go ahead and send me a text.

Katherine: And then we also have more traditional in store POP, and then we’ll also likely do a social media campaign, and then some awareness on the website.

Scott: Got it.

Scott: Well those all sound like really great strategies, and thank you for being a customer, and thanks for taking some time to talk about business texting and marketing and communication and franchise today.

Katherine: Thank you for having me. It was a pleasure.

Scott: Well, welcome to the Zipcast, Brooke. Great to have you on.

Brooke: Thanks for having me.

Scott: So tell us about the Title Boxing Club franchise system and what you do there.

Brooke: So Title Boxing Club is a 11-and-a-half year old brand, and we were founded by a professional boxer and an entrepreneur in 2008 that wanted to bring the greatest workout and training that ever lived to the everyday person. And I’m the vice president of marketing, so I’m head of the brand, and essentially my team services the franchisees, the consumer, the franchise development, and the new category of Title Boxing Club on demand.

Scott: So we’re here at the Franchise Marketing Leadership Conference in Atlanta. Anything that you’ve learned here from the show, any new insights that you want to test back in your own system?

Brooke: They had a new award category for innovation, and I by and large learned the most from learning how other brands are innovating, because I think sometimes when you’re networking with your franchisees and internally in your office, you lose sight of the vision of what innovation can be, and innovation can be as simple as solving your biggest pain point for your customer, or it can be a new technology, it can be thinking about things different in terms of experienced PR.

Brooke: So for me, my biggest takeaways have been how do we form an innovation lab and include franchisees, but also include big thinkers from outside of the franchise industry who can help us really shake up what and how we can evolve in the coming years. I know technology is never ending and ever changing, and so how can we continue to stay true to our core values, but also evolve and innovate in a way that is not only award winning, but you win awards because you’re recognized by your audience and the consumer for recognizing and meeting their needs.

Scott: Well speaking of innovation, how has franchise communication changed over your tenure at Title Boxing Club? How have things evolved?

Brooke: In terms of how we communicate with our franchisees?

Scott: Interested in both how you communicate with your franchisees and how your franchisees are leveraging communication channels to reach customers.

Brooke: Oh, sure. Yeah.

Brooke: So in our case too, with franchisees, we do a lot of emails and webinars and trainings and rollouts and e-magazines, brochures, guides, etc. However, what I came back from was doing something that you’re doing. So I’m going to start doing a podcast to communicate to franchisees in ways that they can relate and listen to it in their car when they’re getting gas.

Brooke: Our brand is actually very loud, so we have music playing all the time, and it’s not as convenient to send webinars to people that are listening to them in the club when they’re also servicing clients. So I’m constantly thinking of how do we communicate differently with our franchisees.

Brooke: Conversely, our franchisees with technology are texting, emailing, calling, tweeting, messaging, Facebook messaging, Instagram messaging, Instagram stories. The ability for an audience person to reach us and our consumer is actually quite difficult for a franchisee to manage today. So we do a lot of training on the importance of checking your Facebook messages and checking your Instagram stories and checking your Instagram messages. And do you need Twitter for business? I don’t really think you do at a local level. You do maybe at the national level.

Brooke: But all the different ways you can communicate with your audience, plus then you think what has the biggest ROI. For us, email marketing has the most significant ROI, and I think they get $44 back … or every $44 invested, they get a new lead to member in our brand with email marketing. So we know we can track that.

Brooke: Some of the other stuff that’s a little harder to track, but in terms of communication with our audience, we also have gotten smarter and asked them, do you prefer text, email or phone calls. Because some people are searching when they’re at work and can’t take your call, or they’re looking at fitness in the middle of the night because they can’t sleep, you certainly don’t want to call then. So we’ve gotten a lot smarter with how we communicate.

Brooke: I think the old adage in marketing you have to reach them 13 times before you connect probably is still true, it’s just all the different ways they find you now.

Scott: Got It.

Scott: It’s great to hear that you’re using a business texting, because we obviously believe that’s a pretty important part of a comprehensive communication plan. How are you leveraging texting to connect with customers. Is it primarily during the signup process for membership, or is it also once they become members to alert them to different events or other things that are going on inside the location?

Brooke: Probably both. We have 56% of our system that are using Zipwhip for text message marketing. I think it’s two ways, primarily. The first is going to be our biggest conversion we want to track is our lead to our first time guests. So when somebody is interested in fitness, let’s say you get roughly 150 to 215 leads a month, how many of those will you convert to actually be first time guests is based on the efficiency of how you follow up. So for us, texting is something that has been efficient.

Brooke: I also know and teach that somebody needs to be standing at the front desk smiling at the guests and not on their cell phone. So I think the importance of texting through the computer programs or through the apps or different things helps the franchisee also to inspect what different people are saying, they can track and see who has the best conversion rates to get them into the club to try a class.

Brooke: And then once they’re in the club, people love the workout, it’s pretty addictive and fun and different than anything they’ve done before. So our first time guests and member conversion is rather high. And from there, they use text messaging to alert if, for example, there’s inclement weather or if they’re having a charity event and they want people to stop in and sign up, or if they’re doing a workout challenge and they want to tell people that’s another nice feature as well.

Scott: Cool. Yeah, those are great use cases.

Scott: Any final tips for other systems that are considering texting for business as part their communication mix?

Brooke: So I was recently at our … actually it wasn’t recent, it was our 2016 national convention, and we had a speaker from Google, his name was Sheldon, he was amazing. And he was talking about micromoments in people’s lives. And he spoke on the fact that every day when people are searching for you, in our case they’re at a stoplight, and they think gyms near me, or they’re thinking boxing workout classes, or they type into Google, new fitness concepts near me. And people are searching for things that you might not think of for your brand. So these micro moments are so important, because it gives people the ability to find you.

Brooke: Second question he asked, he said, “Everybody in the audience, raise your hand if you prefer to receive a phone call,” and about a third of the room raised their hand. And then he said, “Raise your hand if you prefer to receive an email.” And again, about a third of the room raised their hand. And he said, “Raise your hand if you would like to receive text messaging only,” and about a third of the room raised their hand. And he said, “So the point is you must do all three, because you never know which one somebody prefers until you have a way of tracking that.”

Brooke: So we know for sure you must have text message marketing as part of your strategy, as well as email marketing, as well as great phone calls. The one thing that I would like to recommend that I know that we need to evolve in as well is scripting for those texts and phone calls and emails. We just rolled out a new email platform and technology and email service provider this past fall, and it’s nice because we know that the messaging is consistent to the consumer.

Brooke: What I don’t know is what people are texting inside of the club every single day. So creating efficiencies of if-then scenarios, if they text back, send this, if they don’t text back, send this. So the workflow and the intelligence behind that, I want to get smarter at this year, with the scripting, because it’s still, yes you need text message marketing, but it’s still in the hands of, in our case, a entry level, sometimes high school or college student employee who is working the front desk, and they may or may not know the best practices or read the book Good to Great, or 10 Techniques in Selling, so how do they know what to say to get somebody in? So in our case I say yes, you need text message marketing. Second is how can you always improve upon it and provide scripting and best practices.

Scott: That’s some solid advice, Brooke. Thank you very much. The importance of texting in your overall communication mix is really clear, and it sounds like you guys are really pushing the envelope in a lot of ways.

Scott: Thanks so much for joining us on the Zipcast today, Brooke. I really appreciate it.

Brooke: You’re welcome, and we’re happy to be on the cast and thank you for being great partners of ours, and we look forward to the future.

Scott: Thanks for joining us.

Scott: Hey, if you haven’t heard, Zipwhip recently published the ultimate guide to texting your customers. Whether your business is considering texting or you’ve already adopted a texting tool, this new ebook has all the info you need for a successful texting strategy. For a free download, just go to zipwhip.com/ultimateguide. Until next time.

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