MARKETING DURING ECONOMIC DOWNTURN: WHAT FRANCHISEES SHOULD KNOW WHEN PREPARING FOR A POSSIBLE RECESSION
By Jordan Rideout and Curtis High, WOWorks (Saladworks and Frutta Bowls)
It was 2007 when we opened our first business — a Saladworks in central Pennsylvania. We couldn’t have been more excited about the opportunity, but as we headed into the new year, we quickly realized that our high hopes were in jeopardy.
Within just a few months of becoming full-time entrepreneurs, we were facing the biggest obstacle of any business: a recession. As people everywhere are preparing for an economic downturn, we’re reflecting on the lessons we’ve learned over the last 15 years — especially the 2008 recession and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Boost Your Marketing Efforts
When business slows down, your first instinct may be to cut costs wherever possible. Your marketing budget, however, becomes more important than ever.
During the 2008 recession, we used our experience working at Home Depot and Yum! Brands to take a big gamble. We knew that the best thing we could do for our business was market like never before.
People always have to eat, and those who were previously dining at full-service restaurants were turning to fast-casual concepts for more affordable, quality meals. We used discounts, print and radio ads to build awareness and get more customers in the door — and our risk paid off big time.
Diversify Your Marketing Efforts
One of the biggest marketing mistakes entrepreneurs make is putting all their money into one marketing platform. This exclusivity can limit you from reaching more customers.
Marketing is all about spreading the right message at the right time and place — and your diverse customers spend their time consuming all different types of media.
We like to refer to this as, “approaching marketing with a broad brush.” When the pandemic hit and suddenly 80 percent of our orders were for takeout, we partnered with third parties like GrubHub to market our restaurants. We also boosted our radio advertising, continued with print ads and turned to social media to reach as many target customers as possible.
As new platforms are created, you must remain open and flexible. Most recently, TikTok has been at the forefront of social media marketing, and if you don’t hop on the trends soon enough, you just may fall behind. Our mix of traditional and non-traditional media allowed us to appeal to all sorts of customers and our businesses came out of the pandemic stronger than ever.
Most recently, TikTok has been at the forefront of social media marketing, and if you don’t hop on the trends soon enough, you just may fall behind.
Invest in Your Community
One of the best parts of entrepreneurship is making a difference in your community. It’s also a rewarding way to market and brand your business.
Through our various partnerships with No Kid Hungry, the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, we’ve raised money to send children to camp, collected donations at our Point of Sale, invited customers who donated to get their names hung on our walls and created incentives and friendly competitions between our locations to see who would raise the most money.
In doing so, we’ve gotten more people to support these organizations and have stayed true to our “people-first”, community-centric brand.
Trust Your Franchisor
Since opening our first franchise location, we now operate 11 additional Saladworks and Frutta Bowls locations. As economic conditions and marketing trends have changed, we’ve worked closely with the WOWorks team to learn and grow together. As WOWorks continued to add more brands to their umbrella of Better-for-You franchises, they also expanded their support team to help us in areas like marketing, operations and hiring.
Being a part of a franchise has provided us with invaluable resources and opportunities, and the WOWorks team is always there to communicate marketing tactics that are working well in other areas. Relying on your franchisor for guidance is an excellent way to set yourself up for success during uncertain times.
Think Outside the Box
Speaking of the diverse WOWorks brands, having multiple franchises under one parent company has provided us with unique marketing opportunities. By co-branding Saladworks and Frutta Bowls — two health-focused brands that pair so well together and share many of the same ingredients — we’ve been able to use the same systems and strategies to capitalize on our investment like never before.
We’ve even gotten creative with our marketing — creating “2-for-1” coupons for both brands and dual menus to send out in the mail.
Most recently, we’ve invested in Store-Within-A-Store (SWAS) concepts, partnering with Giant Food Stores, a major grocery chain, to open four Saladworks and Frutta Bowls locations. The SWAS model is a reliable way to test out new markets, offering a lower investment and expansion opportunities down the road.
It’s also opened the door for direct marketing opportunities, putting us in front of thousands of customers each week. When they use Giant’s platform to order groceries for pickup or delivery, they can select from our products, too.
Finally, we’ve utilized a Hub-andSpoke model, installing Grab ‘n Go stations within our SWAS locations and within the grocery stores themselves. These units make it possible for customers to buy our pre-made products even without us physically in the store, and we plan to have our products in 10-15 more grocery store locations by the end of the year.
Keep Moving Forward
It can be easy to get caught up in the obstacles of an economic downturn, but don’t forget what motivated you in the first place. Your big marketing push shouldn’t stop after your grand opening — you have to be constantly investing money, time and effort into putting your name out there.
After all, awareness is the key to growth. From crossing state lines to building and purchasing a dozen locations throughout Pennsylvania and Delaware, we’ve come a long way with WOWorks — and it’s still just the beginning. No matter what may lie ahead, we’re relying on our strong, diverse marketing efforts to spread our mission that “healthy can taste great” to communities across our area.
Jordan Rideout (right) and Curtis High (left) are multi-unit franchisees at WOWorks — Saladworks and Frutta Bowls. For more information about IFA franchisor member WOWorks, please visit franchise. org/franchise-opportunities/saladworks.