A Guide to Controlling Your Franchise Brand

28/04/2018 14:00 | Start a business

Controlling your franchise brand

Franchising your business is a great way to grow rapidly and cost-effectively, but it does come at a price. You have to take the scary step of handing over the reputation of your brand to your franchisees. You will have worked hard to develop and build your brand, so it's essential that you know how to control it without over-controlling your franchisees.

Here is a quick guide on how you can ensure that your franchise system, brand and quality of service are consistent from one unit to another.

Develop clear brand guidelines

Creating detailed guidelines for your franchisees helps them to understand everything they need to know about your brand. How your logo is positioned, the colours that should be used, and what font needs to be applied; your brand identity should be very specific and leave nothing to chance.

During the initial training that your franchisees receive, be sure to include a section on the importance of brand and what activities they will be responsible for. Educate franchisees on how to achieve the consistent look and feel of your franchise which is so crucial to its success. No matter what location a customer is in, the experience with your brand should be positive and consistent; and brand guidelines can make this happen.

Provide pre-approved marketing templates and content

Because the consistency of your brand is so crucial, make sure you cover all eventualities. Develop a collection of pre-approved content for your franchisees to use. What you provide is up to you but the more you include, the less likely it will be that franchisees will feel the need to create their own content.

Templates make it very easy for franchisees to adhere to your brand guidelines. These can then be used for local promotional activity to support the more extensive, nationwide marketing campaigns that you produce. However, don't fall into the trap of being overly prescriptive when it comes to local marketing activity. The responsibility is with your franchisees to provide local marketing collateral, and while most will be appreciative of your support, others may feel like you're overly controlling.

The way to overcome this issue and to achieve the right balance is to provide franchisees with the freedom to create localised content, but on the basis that you will perform regular checks on all marketing materials. Your franchisees should understand that this is the only way that you can ensure brand consistency across your franchise network which is in their best interests.

Protect your brand

Franchising your business puts you in control. The franchise agreement reflects this and gives you the right to terminate the contract if any franchisee jeopardises the franchise system by failing to adhere to brand standards.

But just because the terms of the franchise agreement state that you can enforce strict penalties on noncompliant franchisees, it doesnt mean that you should. The legal processes involved in enforcing your brand can have negative implications for you, your brand, and your reputation. However, this doesnt mean that you shouldnt take action either.

You need your franchisees to understand that there are consequences if they breach the brand guidelines. Failing to acknowledge that franchisees are deviating from the brand, or worse avoiding the issue to prevent confrontation and conflict, then youre sending out a message to all other franchisees. This may open the gates for other franchisees to take advantage of your lack of action by also deviating from the brand which will ultimately lead to the collapse of your franchise system as a whole.

Alternatively, franchisees that do stick to the rules may accuse you of not providing adequate protection of your brand, which has a knock-on effect on their franchise. After all, its the reputation of your brand which probably attracted your franchisees to invest in your business in the first place and without this, youre devaluing their franchise.

Choosing whether to go down the enforcement route is a tough decision to make, and so each breach should be thought through carefully before any action is taken. But generally speaking, termination of a franchise agreement should be only be considered if no other course of action is viable.

When a breach does occur, it's an excellent opportunity to review your processes and to ensure that your brand guidelines are as robust as they should be. Is the training that franchisees receive clear enough? Are the templates you provide accessible and usable? Is the operations manual up to date with regards to the use of the brand? If there is an issue in any of these areas, then the fault may be more down to you than the franchisee.

Recognise and reward franchisees that maintain brand consistency

When youre franchising your brand, you rely on your franchisees to maintain the uniformity of your brand. To encourage consistency within your franchise network, regularly recognise those who continually adhere to brand guidelines. The incentive doesnt have to be anything substantial, but a simple thank you and occasional rewards go a long way.

Its the age-old debate of what works best: the carrot or the stick? Although the threat of legal action for non-compliance is always present in the franchise agreement, the use of rewards and recognition are often far more effective. So, offer your franchisees brand related objectives to work towards and then reward them when they achieve those goals. Take time to appreciate those who are doing a great job and use their stories as a benchmark to encourage other franchisees.

Controlling your brand isn't always easy, but if you're fair and you treat your franchisees with trust and respect, they will view your actions as vital for the protection of the brand, rather than a dominating force applying unnecessary rules and restrictions.

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