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A big takeaway from the IFA

March 7, 2016

The franchise sales problem franchisors never talk about: Do we have a lead generation problem or a value creation problem?

I hope everyone had a great time at the IFA Convention in San Antonio and took away some valuable nuggets. The passion that franchisors have for building great businesses, and for creating opportunity, is always exhilarating. As I’ve walked the halls and engaged in conversations over the last 15 years, I’ve heard franchisors asking the same questions and struggling with the same problems over and over, mainly: How do I generate more and better franchise candidates? But there’s one question I never hear people ask.

It’s time to ask yourself, What is the real problem with lead generation? What’s the ever-present, always-lingering, below-the-surface problem which creates the lead generation challenges we always talk about?  And most importantly, how do we solve our lead generation problems once and for all?


Value creation, not lead generation

Mike Wein, who teaches marketing and franchise entrepreneurship at Georgia State College, led a session devoted to developing a “Specific Edge” — a unique combination of traits and expertise that makes brands stand out in the marketplace. His recommendation: Find three facts about your business that distinguish you from competitors.

He also emphasized that when defining what makes your brand different, use facts, not just unsupported claims. For instance, say you’re a fast casual pizza franchise like MidiCi.  The wrong way to communicate your value: “Sink your teeth into the $46 billion dollar pizza category! There is plenty of dough to be made in pizza!”  

The right way is to show (not just explain) through video, photos, and testimonials how MidiCi restaurants are carefully designed to become a dominant neighborhood social gathering space. MyMidiCiFranchise.com shows images, videos, social media posts, reviews, and smiling faces in every direction.  

We don’t use a cheesy sales pitch to fabricate success, we just describe what’s already occurring. In less than one year, MidiCi’s pilot unit has almost 500 5-star ratings and 100 4-star ratings on Yelp. Customers and franchisees love it. But why?

It isn’t enough to say, “MidiCi has good food.” It’s a restaurant; it’s supposed to have good food. But that’s not why MidiCi franchisees are joining at record levels. MidiCi franchisees want to create a gathering place where friends reconnect and new friendships are formed. They want to make a difference in their little corner of the world.

The result? MidiCi has already recruited almost 100 top quality franchisees in under a year.

As a general rule, franchisees of every system want a total value package capable of delivering their version of success, which would include such things as income, wealth building, significance, making a difference in the community, engaging in meaningful work, scalability, sustainability, and work-life balance.  

The #1 job of any franchisor is do everything within their means to help franchisees win according to their own definition of winning. As the franchisor builds its reputation as a winner, lead generation takes care of itself.

A 40-year overnight success

Marco’s is another fast-growing, primarily take-out and delivery pizza chain that took almost 40 years to get to 350 units and only five years more to get to 700. How did they do it? They created an aspirational corporate culture which attracts solid corporate citizens who work together for the betterment of the brand and the community.

The culture and quality of Marco’s leadership and rank-and-file employees were showcased in a recent episode of CBS hit show Undercover Boss. Having worked with the chain on multiple levels for over five years, I got to know the major players well. In the Undercover Boss episode, viewers saw the real Bryon Stephens, COO of Marco’s. You saw the real employees. They are hard-working, low drama, high integrity and possess a no-nonsense desire to get the job done. There is a seriousness and sense of purpose to Marco’s you just don’t find in other chains. It’s attractive. It calls to franchise buyers. They get it. It’s missing in their lives and they want more of it.

I saw Bryon Stephens’ episode of Undercover Boss with my wife and my 17-year old son Casey. After the episode aired, Bryon called my son Casey and told him that guys like his dad stay in the background and help other people like him win. He told my son that Marco’s wouldn’t have been featured if it weren’t for the work FPG had done with Marco’s. Whether the personal praise was justified, I don’t know. But the fact that Bryon would pick up the phone and call my son speaks volumes as to the culture of the company.  

When my daughter Taylor was in college, she took a summer job working the phones for the Marco’s franchisee in our town. On a late Friday night, after her first day on the job, I told Taylor, “watch this.” I snapped a picture of her in her Marco’s hat and T-shirt and texted it to Marco’s CEO Jack Butorac with the caption, “Marco’s newest employee.” Within 3 minutes he sent back a text welcoming Taylor to the Marco’s team and said how happy he was that she would be a part of it. Keep in mind Marco’s has tens of thousands of part-time workers across the United States.  But he found the time to reach out to her immediately. This speaks volumes to the quality of the individuals leading the charge.

Difference between push and pull demand


The push me-pull you creature from the 1967 film ‘Dr. Doolittle’ is the perfect illustration of the conflict franchisors face between push demand and pull demand.

Push  demand

Ordinary lead generation is a function of spending advertising dollars and jockeying for position within the broker community. Franchisors compete for the attention of a finite number of franchise buyers.

Pull demand

Worthy, iconic brands generate their own leads based on their own brand merits. Buyers seek their attention. Pull demand is the Holy Grail of franchisee recruitment.






Maybe your lead generation problem is really a franchisor worthiness problem

The franchise model is about discovering what works, systematizing it, and replicating it all over the country. Therefore, franchisors are brilliant copycats and replicators. As a general rule, they don’t invent or innovate. They replicate and improve.

McDonald’s didn’t invent the hamburger and Subway didn’t invent the sandwich. They branded it and gave it scale.

Most franchisors aren’t going to occupy the “first to market/mover and shaker” market position.  They have to differentiate. MidiCi isn’t the first pizza parlor in the United States. It’s THE LAST!  It’s been open less than a year. But it is different — it has a heart and soul, and the market understands what they’re doing and rewards their efforts.

In contrast, I can’t tell you how many of the following conversations I have had over the last several years.

Me: “How are you different than other franchisors in your crowded category?”

Franchisor: “We have more available territories than the big guys.”

Me: “So your key point of differentiation is ‘the leaders are sold out.’ That’s not a value proposition. That’s admitting defeat. You are telling the market, ‘My competition is better, smarter, faster, more established, and quicker to market than we are. We are late-to-the-party laggards who are trying to cash in by riding the coattails of the market leaders. You just told me your brand is unnecessary, and unnecessary things eventually find themselves in the franchisor landfill. Smart money knows this.”

Franchisor: “I beg to differ….”

Think about this. If you were a franchise candidate, which brand would be most worthy of your attention — the franchisor that brags about having large tracts of available territory, or the franchisor that produces great results for franchisees, highlights its core purpose in the marketplace, and is guided by an already successful leadership team?

Who is Franchise Performance Group (FPG)?

FPG are thought leaders and experts in the arena of franchisee recruitment. We specialize in franchise lead generation, franchise sales process design, outsourced franchisee recruitment and franchisee finance, as well as franchisor growth strategies. We wrote Street Smart Franchising, Creating a Franchise Sales Breakthrough. Guaranteed, Developing Peak Performing Franchisees, and The Franchise Sales Tipping Point.

around the table at ifa

Around the table, from left to right: Taylor Mathews (Franchise Sales), Joe Mathews (CEO), Lynne Mosman (Business Development), Ellen Margulies (Content and Brand Journalism), Dan Hieb (Head of Content), Tony Bifano (Strategic Advisor), and Abby McKenna (Strategic Advisor). Missing from the picture but with us in spirit are Frank Morrison (Franchise Sales), Danielle Kimble (Franchise Sales), Chad Wright (Franchise Sales), Shawn Mathis (Executive Assistant), and Don Welsh (Franchise Finance and Strategic Advisor). And our videographer photographer Steve Harman, who, as always, was taking the shot.

If you have a worthy franchisor and you need a franchise sales breakthrough, reach out to us.

We want to know who you are.