Recently, I was speaking with a business owner who was part of a marketing fund with the other businesses in his development. He was lamenting that he was paying a lot into the fund but didn’t believe he was getting much value from it. As a restauranteur, he delivers quality, high-touch content to his customers through social media every day — at a much lower cost and with far better returns than the one-size-fits-all marketing his development’s plan provides.
By contrast, over the years our team has worked with hundreds of franchise owners that are thrilled with their marketing funds. For them, being part of the fund has allowed access to effective, professional marketing strategies and implementation at a reasonable cost for a small business owner.
When used well, a marketing fund can be a tremendous asset to a group of businesses, whether they are part of a franchise network, or otherwise. Some of the advantages they can offer include:
- Scalable pricing
- A unified and consistent brand identity
- Individual access to proprietary research and other costly resources
- Step-by-step guidance
- Professionally-created materials
- Crisis strategies
- Media training
- Media relationships
- Complementing social media strategies
- More layers of accountability
Where marketing funds tend to fail is when they only cover a few bases. For example, they may be great with periodic events or initiatives, but fall down on day-to-day items like social media – or big things like crisis management. Or, they provide a comprehensive “PR in a box” strategy, but they expect the owner to have the time and the local media relationships to execute it.
In order for a marketing fund to work effectively, it’s key that everyone’s on the same page from the very beginning in terms of what it will do, and what’s up to the individual owners. Is there flexibility? Are the fees the same for all businesses, regardless of size and type? Is everyone getting equal representation?
It’s also important to assess what’s really needed from the fund. In the case of the restauranteur, for example, the development might assume all crises would be the responsibility of the individual businesses and therefore crisis management isn’t part of the fund. But wouldn’t they want a consistent, managed message if there was gas leak or another incident that impacted several businesses in their location?
Finally, the individual owners are an integral part of the process. They know best about their market and what their customers need or want, so their input should be part of every major decision (in the case of larger networks, this might be a committee of owners).
After all, if a marketing fund doesn’t work for the business owner, who is it working for?