Take Care of Your Franchise with a Good NAP

 

You want to list your local franchise in every directory you can find. Before you do, the first step is to determine your local business information which is called your NAP (name, address and phone). This should be used the exact same way in each local listing.

A consistent NAP online will help you rank in local search. You want many quality websites, including local listing directories, to display your NAP the way you want it to be.

Name – How is your franchise name written? Is it PCA Store 225 or Postal Connections, Mechanicsburg? Determine the name of your business based on how many customers will search for you using it. Keep it simple and use one name for everything.  

Search for your business name online and see how Google views it. If Google sees your business name a certain way, you might want to consider using that as your brand name online.

Address – How will you write your address? For example, will you use “Avenue” or “Ave”? This may sound nitpicky but you need your address to display consistently across the internet.  

See how Google lists your business address. Consider using that as your model. If Google currently sees you at “4500 West Irving Park Road” and you’re ok with that, use that address everywhere online, website included.  

Phone – Some local business listings require that a local phone number be used rather than an 800 number. Select one main number for your local business information.

Local Business Rankings

Appropriate listings make it easy for Google to identify your local business. In fact, it is the primary method they use to rank local businesses in Google + Local.  This is important because about 40-50% of mobile search and 20% of PC-based search is related to location and local information. That’s why it is critical to claim, update, and improve all online information about your business. Otherwise, you might struggle to be found in search results.

Claim It

Many local businesses are still unaware that they can claim and optimize every local listing that their business is entitled to. This includes claiming on sites like: 

Claim these and get on all of your local directories with a consistent NAP today!

What Does Customer Relationship Management Mean to You?

We Build Relationships Concept

Customer Relationship Management or CRM means software developed to store and manage your customer, prospect, leads, business partners and business contacts information. CRM is generally tied to large companies, though software including Zoho CRM , TeamSupport, Pipedrive, Prophet and more claim to work well for smaller companies.

The advent of CRM solutions means that consumers expect companies, no matter what size, to understand the relationship they want and meet those desires. Consumers expect any brand to meet their expectations although, many companies do not.  Often, companies are good at capturing data like gender, age, income and maybe even matching customers with purchasing information. Companies like this may think of customers as resources to upsell or cross sell to rather than as individuals seeking meaningful interactions.

Customer Relationships

B to C companies often blunder when relating to customers. They may treat those seeking a simple exchange of money for goods or services like a friend and interact with a customer wanting to be treated like a friend as a transaction.

Blow are examples of three firms that used CRM data, yet made relationship mistakes:

·       A loyal on-line retail customer was frustrated by a policy of requiring signatures for home deliveries occurring while she worked. Managers were not flexible to her concerns and one blew it by offering her a $200 gift card. She promptly canceled a $7,000 order.

·       A plus-size clothing store repositioned itself to be more relevant to younger, thinner customers only to find themselves alienating established customers who felt disrespected and betrayed.

·       A dedicated customer of a grocery delivery startup sent in suggestions to fix operational glitches. However, the only responses he received were promotional emails urging him to order more frequently. The customer cut back his patronage believing the company did not want a relationship on his terms.

29 Customer Types

One research firm identified 29 distinct types of buyer-company relationships which is more eye-opening and more valuable than demographics. For example, there is the customer that likes the basic exchange. They seek product / service dependability and don’t want to think too much about it. Another is the customer wanting recognition as a business partner. These types want to work with the company long term to solve problems. The buddy customer wants an interaction but doesn’t want to be tied into a close relationship that limits freedom.

It’s up to the business owner to figure out which type matches the customer by developing “relational radar” to hone in on customer signals and then deal with them accordingly.

Fred franchises Postal Connections of America stores: http://www.postalconnections.com/

Franchise Forecast 2016

The International Franchise Association’s (IFA) state of the industry report for 2016 suggests a positive outlook for the franchise industry.

Growth forecast concept up

The report, compiled by IHS Economics, a well-known forecasting firm, projects that the franchise sector will outperform the overall economy next year by posting a 5.1% gain against a projected US gross domestic product increase of 3.1%.

Out of the 10 major franchise sectors IHS tracks, the following six will see the most growth:

         Personal Services: This includes businesses such as spas, childcare, tutoring, hair salons and specialty niches like learning-to-paint franchises. The growth is tied to the growing disposable income of the aging population.

         Lodging: With travel increasing because of the improving economy, many of the major hotel and motel chain franchises are expanding across the US.

         Business Services: Business services including tax franchises, staffing companies and pack and ship stores are also in a growth mode fueled in part because of the increasing number of self-employed workers who do not operate out of offices.

         Fast-Service Restaurants: Consumers are looking for better quality food served quickly. Franchises in this sector include Panera Bread and many of the fast food chains. This category is responsible for 40% of franchise employment and has 20% of all franchisees.

         Retail Products and Services: Stores including 7-Eleven, Pearle Vision and GNC are all niche stores that are posed for more growth in 2016 because of the country’s economic growth.

         Residential and Commercial Services: Along with the increase in business in general, places that service businesses like Service-Master will also grow.

2016 appears to be another good year for the franchise sector. Along with the built-in advantages of the franchise system, franchising might be the right choice for many aspiring entrepreneurs.

Why Sign Up as a Franchisee

Joining a franchise system might be the best thing for you if you want to be a business owner but not from scratch. A franchise might work if you:

  • Are drawn by the security of having an already-branded business with proven services or products.
  • Like the idea of an operation that has already done the hard trial and error work of establishing business operations and building a demonstrated support system.
  • Are comfortable with following franchise guidelines.
  • Already have or can get the franchise fee and startup costs.
  • Are willing to part with some of what you make in the form of monthly royalties, advertising fees and other costs.
  • Know it will take a lot of work and are willing to do it.

                                                  But Beware of These Franchises

If you’re considering a franchise and are performing your due diligence, be cautious of franchises that:

  • Do not offer a proven business concept coupled with a successful operational system.
  • Lack brand recognition.
  • Have a history of litigation or continual strife with franchisees.
  • Offer minimal startup help and little ongoing training and suppo
  • Offer minimal startup help and little ongoing training and support.
  • Advertise very little if at all.
  • Balk at territory exclusivity
  • Are reluctant to give you a list of former and current franchisees.
  • Use franchise fees to pay for selling new franchises.
  • Obligate you to purchase services, inventory or supplies from their approved vendors (or the franchise itself) at inflated prices.

No matter what, it’s a good idea to hire an attorney that specializes in franchising to help you see it all the way through.

Offer minimal startup help and little ongoing training and support.

Ten Things to Watch for with Franchises

Don’t Have a Big Idea but want to be on Your Own?

Joining a franchise system might be the best thing for you if you want to be a business owner but not from scratch. A franchise might work if you:

·        Are drawn by the security of having an already-branded business with proven services or products.

·        Like the idea of an operation that has already done the hard trial and error work of establishing business operations and building a demonstrated support system.

·        Are comfortable with following franchise guidelines.

·        Already have or can get the franchise fee and startup costs.

·        Are willing to part with some of what you make in the form of monthly royalties, advertising fees and other costs.

·        Know it will take a lot of work and are willing to do it.

Even if you’re okay with these factors, it’s a good idea to hire an attorney that specializes in franchising to help you see it all the way through.

Ten Things to Beware of from a Potential Franchise

If having a franchise does appeal to you, be wary of franchises that:

·       Do not offer a proven business concept coupled with a successful operational system.

·       Lack brand recognition.

·       Have a history of litigation or continual strife with franchisees.

·       Offer minimal startup help and little ongoing training and support.

·       Advertise very little if at all.

·       Balk at territory exclusivity

·       Are reluctant to give you a list of former and current franchisees.

·       Use franchise fees to pay for selling new franchises.

·       Obligate you to purchase services, inventory or supplies from their approved vendors (or the franchise itself) at inflated prices.

Being a franchisee can result in a fruitful work life. Just make sure you perform proper due diligence.

Four Business Skills Needed to be a Successful Franchisee

Every American has the right and opportunity to become a business owner. It’s a huge part of the American Dream and if you have the drive and desire to own a business and create income you can do it, too. It’s a dream that people from other parts of the world continue to risk life and limb to acquire.

The benefits of the franchise model are reduced risks to achieving that dream. Postal Connection offers a proven business model and systems in place to help franchisees become as successful as their dream requires.

Skills Needed to be a Good Business Owner
However, It helps to understand a few of the basic tenets of business when embarking on business ownership whether it be an independent business or a venture with an established franchise. While attaching yourself to a franchise can help, you still want know the basics of the following four areas:

Sales: Learning basic salesmanship is essential since sales is what makes any business run. This means knowing how to satisfy your customers, creating appealing offerings and knowing what people respond to in relation to what you offer.

Marketing: This is related to sales but it’s more about understanding where your customers and prospects come from and figuring out how to attract them to your business. A good franchise system can help enormously with this.

Accounting: Basic knowledge of your revenue streams (where they come from and how you can get more), your expenses (and how can you reduce them) and how revenue minus expenses equals profit which every business needs to survive.

Strategic Planning: Usually, when running a business, you find yourself planning 3 to 6 months ahead under an umbrella of a 1 to 5-year overarching strategy. You create these strategies and plans. You also have to be flexible in your thinking and know when to stick with, alter or even jettison a strategy/plan if it’s not working.

A strategy would be something like this: The goal is to increase revenue by 10% in 2016. A plan to achieve that might be that you will introduce high margin products into your mix of offering in 2016.

You don’t have to be an expert in each one of these areas but acquiring some basic knowledge of them will help your business run smoothly. Many community colleges offer useful workshops in these and other business disciplines.

Being Your Own Boss

Be Your Own Boss card with beach backgroundA recent Gallup Poll indicated that 79% of all Americans still list business ownership which included franchise ownership, as a dream. The best thing about that stat is that the dream lies within your grasp!

The second best thing about business ownership is what comes with it- you are the boss of the whole enterprise. No one to answer to but yourself. It’s a liberating feeling, especially if you’ve spent time in the corporate trenches with less than desirable bosses.

If that sounds appealing to you, the next step is to consider these four questions:

  • How much sales, marketing and management experience do you have? If you have been involved as a manager or sales/marketing rep in any size company, you most likely have a solid foundation for business ownership.
  • How motivated are you to strike out on your own? This is a key question. If a dream of being your own boss has kept you up at night and occupies your thoughts during the day, it may be a sign you are ready to venture out on your own.
  • What level of financial acumen do you possess? Having the ability to understand cash flow, how timely bill paying can save money, how to purchase and where you can get the best returns on your money will help you carry out the most important functions of funding your business.
  • Are you truly driven to use these and your other talents to compete and succeed? The possession of an inner drive, cannot be underestimated. Running a successful business means you will be investing in a sustained period of hard work. This needs to match with your personality.

Business and franchise ownership is a life altering decision. It’s best to invest in some soul searching while taking a realistic inventory of your talents, skills and experience prior to starting an any type of enterprise.

Deciding on a Franchise Product or Service to Sell

It’s a big decision deciding what you want to sell, what business or franchise product or service speaks to you and will also make you money when you decide on what type of franchise to buy or business to own.

Private Or Public Directions On A SignpostHave you ever thought about why stores in your neighborhood sell what they sell? For example, a Postal Connections in Islandia, New York, is an agent for U-Haul and a store in Redmond, Oregon, sells greeting cards and locally made gifts and crafts.

How did they and how do other local stores decide what they want to sell and what would also work in their markets? Here are 15 points to consider when making this decision:

  • Do you like the product you’re considering selling to the point that you would buy it yourself?
  • Would you champion it to a friend or family member?
  • Does it look like the product or service has staying power…will it still be moving over the next five to ten years?
  • Can the product be advertised and sold for a reasonable COGS (Cost of Goods Sold)?
  • Can you make money selling it?
  • Is there a demand for the product in your local area?
  • What problem does the product resolve for your customers… how does it improve their life?
  • Who will you be selling it to…what are the demographics?
  • Do you like the customers who will be using this product or service?
  • How will the product or service by promoted and sold?
  • Does the need exist for the product?
  • What is the guarantee, service process or replacement procedure?
  • Name three ways the product is superior to its competition in the area.
  • Is the product priced lower and/or of better quality than similar products?
  • How is the product or service manufactured or produced?

To sell a product or service, everything has to be right: price, timing, demand, supply and especially your contentment in selling it.

Five Paths to Franchise Financing

businessman pressing button virtual screensYou’ve found the ideal business in the thriving world of franchising and are ready to live the dream of business ownership where you are supported by the strength of a national franchisor.

As you ponder how to pay for it, there are several sources of funding that you may want to look into:

  • Home Equity: If you own enough of your home and feel confident about your business decision, you can take a second mortgage or set up a line of credit with your lender. You will not need a business plan for this type of financing so this method can often be the simplest route to business ownership.
  • Small Business Administration Financing: SBA backed loans can be a great source of funding especially for those who may not quality for traditional financing sources.
  • Traditional: This is where you go to a bank and get the money. You will need a pretty good credit rating, a solid business plan and some on-hand liquid capital. However, the rates can be very competitive if you meet all of the criteria and your franchisor might even help with your business plan.
  • IRA Money: You can roll your IRA money into a business loan. The advantage is that no penalties are associated with this conversion and you will not need a business plan or good credit because it’s your money.
  • Franchisor Programs: Some franchisors offer in-house financing or have established partnerships with lending companies. Because the lending company has confidence in the concept, it can be easier to get a loan.

You can also borrow money from family and friends. If you have built up good credit, you might even be able to get a loan online or quality for an unsecured business credit line.

The point is that there are several alternatives to franchise financing. Find the one that works best for you.

The importance of Pre-qualification to a Franchise Investment

Postal Connections

Similar to buying a home, it is vital that a perspective franchise buyer has realistic expectations, preparation and know cash flow capabilities to make a franchise investment.  For years, mortgage companies have pre-qualified borrowers to establish a price range for the home they would lend to.  The benefits are many, including a pre-qualification provides tremendous buying power and the right guidance on lending ratios—debt to income level, for example. This knowledge gives the buyer confidence for making purchase decisions.

Investing in a franchise is very similar.  The amount financed to own a franchise is an important consideration—debt service is a fixed cost that must be paid every month. Realistic business expectations, solid revenue and cost estimates, are critical to purchasing a franchise opportunity. The Franchise Disclosure Document [FDD], a FTC filing, is where you’ll find this. With this Document and your current financial records are what’s needed to easily achieve a funding pre-qualification.

Once a franchisor knows you have the financial capabilities, the more eager they will be to advise you in many areas such as site selection, space lease payment levels, potential sales territory and marketing plans even before you join their network. At Postal Connections we are able to guide people to funding sources and offer advice to make qualifying easier.

Here are some simple tips:

  • Be able to prove your financial status (Borrowing from your rich uncle, unless documented is not a serious financial status)
  • Be prepared to have funds available buy the franchise, run the franchise for several months and pay your bills at home.
  • Work with the Franchisor to understand financial requirements from signing an agreement (most franchises require payment of a fee), installation cost for the business, marketing cost from Grand Opening to reaching break even.
  •  Use borrowing or leasing to an advantage. Borrowing can get you into business now and interest rates are at historic lows. Leasing does not impact your credit scores and if “closed-end” you own everything after the last payment.
  • Have enough money to advertise. A start-ups always need funds to build awareness and advertise incentives to try your business.
  • Understand how to use leverage and avoid over-extending. This aspect is very important and your chosen Franchise should be willing to give you straightforward and specific advice.

We’ll help you determine the best match for financing and cash management.  Franchising is an active investment that requires ongoing work and capital.  But the rewards are tremendous, as long as you finance properly based on thoughtful business expectations and a realistic plan for paying back the borrowed money.

Alan George, Postal Connections Franchise Development