Leveraging your B2B relationships can act as a catapult for the success of your franchise.
By Brian Hutto
Leveraging business-to-business relationships to grow your franchise can expand your reach and accelerate your results. Whether you are an established franchisor or only beginning, a few tactics for leveraging these relationships can lead to huge success for your business.
B2B relationships are like building blocks. You start with the foundation, then building on that foundation, you add another layer. Obviously, the advantages of the second layer are in the gains of accessing the first layer. B2B relationships can work in the same way for franchisors and franchisees.
Companies have been built on referral marketing campaigns. And referral marketing happens on its own, whether you do anything about it or not. Whether you are moving into a new market, or you have been in that market for some time, your involvement in the community will speak to potential customers. Get involved. It builds trust. It increases your brand awareness. Both good things. A key example would be joining a local Chamber of Commerce to make other local businesses aware of what you do and who you are. Get to know other local business owners and build personal relationships with them. Many of these owners may have a lengthy history of doing business in the area, and by building a relationship, you will enable them to send business your way through word-of-mouth.
Furthermore, more importantly, through the Chamber, you can join formal leads groups. These leads groups formalize the sharing of leads with other Chamber businesses. You’ll agree with one another that as you are working through opportunities with other businesses, should you find one that fits another business, you will refer and pass the lead back to your colleague business within the Chamber. It gives you insight to leads and new business that does not come directly through your sales team.
Building on your Chamber involvement with local businesses, strategically identify companies that would have adjacencies with your product or service. Ask yourself if there are companies, in your franchise area or in the Chamber, that do not have scale that your business has? Or a business that does not have all the skills that your company can provide? And if so, what can your franchise do to enhance their business? Target those adjacent businesses. Determine if any of the Chamber businesses are working with a local business that is relevant. Once you identify that, ask that business for a referral. Doing so may even lead to building strategic partnerships.
Joint Market Agreements
Establishing yourself in the local market (and having identified the adjacent opportunities) can help you further identify opportunities to position your franchise business in a position for growth and new market expansion.
Look at the non-traditional ways your product can reach your intended customer. Where you don’t directly compete, take the time to understand if you can widen the reach of your product or service without adding more sales people and outside of your traditional store or retail location. Identify the opportunities to establish a joint market agreement with another business. In these agreements, you would agree to jointly service or share a customer with your partner business. It would actively sell your product or service to its customers — perhaps under its name. It can bring immediate franchise value and accelerate your growth. Occasionally, these joint market agreements can be bi-directional. The point is to be sure your view includes those who could sell for you, or the opportunities where you can sell for others.
Another way to look at your opportunity is to identify the businesses that have a national footprint. These companies can provide scale immediately when you sell into their organizations — scale that would take your sales team a very long time to negotiate. These points of distribution may even allow you to have standing business in an area before you even open the franchise doors. The bigger the reach, the greater the increase.
Direct Selling Relationships
Selling directly into an organization can multiply the gain. You are trying to drive business to your franchise owners, and when you can directly sell to a large entity, you may pick up a benefit for multiple franchise owners with the one executed sale.
This scale doesn’t have to be at a national level. It can even be regional. The key is to find the multiple opportunities within the one sale. An example would be selling your product to a company that has a presence in five cities state-wide. Without having to sell to the other four, you just expanded your sales.
Build your prospect list, look for people who could use your products. Build offerings that benefit a business that has more scale. Then you go after those with concerted effort to execute a deal, and get that scale. When you are prospecting, and building a sales pipeline, a rule of thumb would be to cast a wide net. Target building your pipeline two to three times the amount you need to close. Typically, one can expect to close 10 percent to 20 percent of a solid pipeline.
There is a trickle-down effect with the three above tips. Each time you sign a B2B deal, your brand gets more recognition. And it is faster than growing your business one customer at a time. With each executed deal, you have broadened your access. Ways to leverage this would include offering employee discounts for your customer’s employees on your product or service, or annual rebates to the company for purchases of your product by their employer. Employers typically have portals that their employees can access to purchase products at a discount. There is an endorsement, or unspoken referral, of your product that occurs when you are presented to the employee base.
While that approach is partnership-based, you can also expand your offering to large affinity groups or associations. Opportunities may include military affiliated organizations, retirement affiliated groups or even local unions. As with other growth initiatives, offer members of these organizations a discount on your product or service.
These affinity arrangements afford access to customers you may not reach otherwise.
Overnight success isn’t often the standard; however, leveraging your B2B relationships can act as a catapult for the success of your franchise. B2B relationships take an organized approach and concerted efforts to capitalize on the impact of these relationships. By building on a base of referrals, aligning with strategic partners that can bring scale to your franchise, establishing joint market agreements that allow others to actively sell your product or service, selling directly into large entities to expand your reach, and reaching customers you may not normally through an affinity approach, you can drive and increase the value and business to your franchise owners.
Brian Hutto is CEO of Staymobile, a service company providing electronic repair, accessories and protection for businesses and consumers. The company currently has more than 45 locations across the U.S. Learn more at www.franchise.org/staymobile-franchise.