This quieter time of the year is the ideal time to put your brand overhaul plans in place. Here are six business image boosters to give your business a professional facelift. 1. Assess your brand attributes The first step to any brand overhaul is to understand what you want to be and how you want your brand to be perceived, says Dan Ratner, managing director of branding and communications agency, Uberbrand. “Organisations are often so wrapped up in their own feelings about their brand that they often lose sight of how it is actually perceived by their customers. If there is disconnect between the brand perception an organisation wants to convey and how the public actually sees it, there is a problem,” Ratner says. You need to consider strengthening or changing your brand strategy if a group of the public is asked to describe your brand and they all come back with different answers. Or, if staff has different perceptions of the brand, an overhaul could be the answer. “If people within the organisation have differing perceptions of the brand, it makes it impossible to communicate consistent messages externally that will help build your brand equity,” he says. 2. Get your website right Look at your website objectively and ask people to give honest opinions of it. Also, compare it with the competition,” says Joe Fox, marketing director of web development and digital marketing agency Studio Culture. “There are countless businesses out there – what are you doing that’s different?” he asks. Consider if the language on your website is easy to read, if the site is cluttered, and if there’s room for an online store. Also, consider if users would feel safe making a transaction through your site and if not, how to fix that, he says. “The position of a button, the colour of text and the subjects of your imagery have all been known to influence purchases online, so conduct thorough testing,” Fox says. Using social media effectively is also crucial for anyone in business, Fox says. “Use the right tools for the right market and create a story about your brand that people want to listen to and appreciate – don’t just sell, sell, sell.” 3. Assess your marketing footprint It’s a great time to assess everything that represents your business brand, including your voice mail message, website and business cards. Also assess eNewsletter templates, new business presentations, company profile documents and make sure any testimonials you use are up to date. Be sure these areas represent your business well and cater to the preferred style of your audience, says Phoebe Netto, of PR and consulting firm Good Business. Good or bad, businesses are constantly creating impressions about their business to others. “Often it’s the seemingly small aspects of their business brand that create a lasting impression, such as business cards, phone manner, email signature, staff uniform, presentation of invoices and proposals. “Ensure that your unique selling points and key values come across simply and clearly, and that it’s obvious that your business addresses a need or desire that your ideal customer has,” Netto says. Story continues on page 2. Please click below. 4. Clear out the communication pipeline Take a step back and map out your current communication process that includes the standard points of contact that someone might have with your business, from making an enquiry through to having an invoice followed up, continues Netto. It’s important to ensure there are deliberate steps in place with templates and consistent standards, she says. “Identify any roadblocks that make it hard for people to do business with you, or even make it difficult for people to give you more business,” Netto says. “Also, look for any gaps in your communication and areas for improvement. For example, decide how many hours or days someone will have to wait receiving a response to an enquiry made through your website, and set a standard of what that response will include.” Netto adds that lots of business opportunities are lost simply by ignoring customers after they have made a purchase. “By documenting your communication process, you can address any bottlenecks, missed opportunities and weak spots before your customers and potential customers experience them.” A secret shopper experience could be valuable during the assessment process, she says. 5. Play customer for a day Putting yourself in your customers' shoes is the perfect way to identify what needs to be done in your business to improve it. Stan Gordon, the CEO of Franchised Food Company, says business owners need to step away from their business for a day and see what it’s like to do business with your firm. “Read over your website and marketing materials with fresh eyes, dine in your restaurant, call your phone number as someone else, test your email address and response time, Google yourself and walk through the customer entrance. Then, do the same for your competitors.” Learn from this experience by listing areas you can improve on, he says. “Decide what you can do to make the experience better, easier or more exciting,” Gordon says. 6. Give yourself a business retreat All the major Australian corporations do it via planning time away from the office or national sales meetings, so why shouldn’t your business? A business retreat gives you and/or your team time to assess the year ahead and put plans in place to achieve your goals. Professional organiser Karen Koedding of A Little Elf recommends booking an office off-site, or better still, a house in the mountains or down the coast for at least two full days. If you book an office in town, book a hotel to stay in overnight as well, so you’re thought pattern is different, she says. “Bring all of those ideas you’ve had over the past year, those articles you never read, your financial reports showing results and details of your top clients and plan out your year. “If possible, turn off the phone and the internet. Allow yourself to think, dream and plan. Do this at least twice a year,” she says.
Franchising is on the rise again in Australia, with food franchises continuing to be popular with prospective franchisees. Stan Gordon, chief executive of the Franchised Food Group – which manages NutShack, Pretzel World and icecream brands Cold Rock and Mr Whippy – told StartupSmart food franchises are performing strongly despite the wider retail industry flagging. “While we have some fashion retailers closing down, the food guys, especially the more sophisticated ones are doing pretty well,” Gordon says. “Food can be recession-proof because three things will always sell in the world regardless of economics – products for children, sex and food, because people have to eat.” Gordon says profit and loss fluctuations between 5% and 10% are standard across the industry, and new franchisees should invest in sustainable, sophisticated systems. Be aware of the franchise system growth danger zone “I do unfortunately think larger systems are better. Systems need to develop critical mass. Fifteen to 30 stores is the serious danger zone for franchisors and, therefore, franchisees,” Gordon says, explaining the overhead costs escalate and eat into the profit margin at this stage. The Franchised Food Group, which supports over 150 stores nationally, is currently in acquisition negotiations with several systems that have reached the 15-plus store point and struggled. “The infrastructure required at that size becomes cost-prohibitive. The compliance levels and the support team and admin overhead becomes crazily expensive,” Gordon says. Choosing a system with fewer stores which operates on a shared platform can avoid these challenges, as the overhead costs are shared across growing franchises. Be realistic about returns Regardless of franchise size, Gordon says franchisees should expect to make a return on their initial investment within a few years. “It takes about three to four years to get return on your investment. If it’s much longer it’s a problem, and if it’s much shorter it’s a problem because the system is underpriced and your business will struggle to have value,” Gordon says. The Franchised Food Group buy-in prices range from $100,000 to $300,000. Gordon says for every dollar you pay in the upfront cost, you can expect to make 30 to 40 cents on that dollar in the first few years. Follow the system to make the most of your investment According to Gordon, the best thing a franchisee can do is pick a good system, follow it, and add a bit of flair to the personal service. “If you follow the franchise system, it works because franchise systems that last have made all the mistakes and learned from it. That’s the best benefit of franchises over your own small business,” Gordon says. Gordon says the franchisor’s role is to provide the tools and support not to make the same mistakes earlier groups have made. Not following and using the system is the biggest mistake a franchisee can make. “So often, after learning the system, franchisees think they can do it on their own and try things that we’ve proved don’t work multiple times,” Gordon says, adding this is especially pertinent for franchisees exploring marketing opportunities. “Your focus is rightly on your store, so franchisees don’t see the big picture business, that’s our new job,” Gordon says. Retailing really is the make-or-break skill The most significant area a franchisee can add value to their franchise is customer service, Gordon says. “Not everyone can become a retailer and you need to really develop those skills. You don’t need to be loud with a big personality, but you have to make the experience in your store or van memorable and special,” he says. Most franchise systems will manage above-the-line brand marketing campaigns and supply franchisees with tools to manage their local marketing. Gordon says smart franchisees know they’re marketing every time a customer walks into their store. “The best kind of marketing you can do is to give customers an experience in your store. Retailers tend to forget that one negative experience snowballs, and you don’t want that. You want the customer to feel they are the only person in the world,” he says. But ultimately, Gordon says if someone is going into franchising, “have fun”. “If you take yourself too seriously, it won’t work.”
Wise entrepreneurs put systems in place from the onset to ensure customers come back again and again.
An expert has highlighted some of the challenges of hiring immigrant franchisees, after Retail Food Group said more than 50% of its successful franchisee applicants over the last six months spoke English as a second language.
Stan Gordon’s business mantra is to make money and have fun. And with four well-known food brands under his belt, Gordon is definitely doing both.
MasterChef’s George Calombaris has been accused of “bullying tactics” after becoming embroiled in a legal dispute with Mr Whippy over a dessert served at one of his Melbourne restaurants, St Katherine's.
OzSpy Security Solutions is the latest franchise to heavily discount its start-up fees, reducing the establishment costs by $50,000, as recruitment issues continue to plague the industry.
Three Cold Rock Ice Creamery stores have been placed in administration after their two franchisees attempted to rebrand the stores within weeks of ending their franchise agreement.
Fast food franchise Souvlaki Hut has been placed into voluntary administration, despite being named as one of the fastest growing franchises in Australia just 10 months ago.