The COVID-19 coronavirus crisis has placed franchise brands all over the world in an unprecedented time of turmoil and uncertainty. However, franchising as an industry has a distinct weapon that is unique to its business model—the franchise community. In the midst of much panic and fear, franchisors and franchisees who avoid finger-pointing and choose to support and defend each other will come out of this crisis stronger and more resilient than ever before.
Here are a few steps you can take to help your franchise system come together during the viral crisis:
1. Be there for your franchisees
As small businesses, franchise owners are feeling more vulnerable than ever before. It’s easy to talk values and principles during times of prosperity, but the true character of your brand is showcased in moments of adversity. Use this time to support your franchisees and partner with them through their individual solution paths. Show them how you’re taking the extra step and prove that they made the right decision investing in your franchise brand.
2. Equip and overcommunicate
Help your franchise owners cut through the noise by aggregating relevant information they need regarding emergency loan options, real estate negotiations, payroll best practices, crisis communications, etc. Provide them with tools, such as a cash flow forecast and analysis, so they can have a better picture of where they stand and how much runway they have during this time. And overcommunicate with them—at minimum weekly, or even daily—so they know that you’re on the ball and constantly looking for ways to help.
3. Hone in on your brand
In a sea of your competitors, how will your brand stand out to potential franchise owners and customers both during this crisis and afterwards? Here’s a chance to demonstrate what you stand for as a brand and culture. Every step you take during this emergency will be remembered by people for years to come. Will you be known for being supportive, generous, and gracious to your franchise owners and customers? Or will you be remembered for dropping the ball, being unprepared, and enforcing measures of austerity?
4. Start looking ahead and seize opportunities
To tweak Warren Buffett’s maxim on investing: Be fearful when others are bold, and be bold when others are fearful. With many forecasts projecting that the economy will pull out of the immediate downturn and back into growth in the latter half of 2020, it’s never too early to start looking ahead to see how you can position your brand to take off running, especially when your competition is pulling back and looking only at the short-term.
Use this opportunity to plant your brand in potential franchisees’ and customers’ minds by telling powerful and relevant brand stories while taking advantage of dramatically lower marketing costs. Many digital marketing channels, from search to social media, are seeing discounts of up to 50% as businesses left and right reduce or cut out their marketing budgets. Their loss is your gain.
Set the path for your brand
This is a unique opportunity to define your brand and dictate the path that your system—from corporate office to franchise locations—will take for years to come. Franchise brands need to show courage as well as the way forward during these difficult times. Those who do and act first will be seen as true leaders in their industry as their competition lags behind.
For more guidance and advice for navigating the crisis with your franchise, watch our webinar recording on “The Franchise Battle Against COVID-19” featuring the IFA, franchisors, franchisees, and investors. Access the recording and full transcript here.