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How to build a do-it-yourself resource for franchisees

Restaurant franchisors know the internet can be an effective local-store marketing tool. But how do they extend the capabilities to franchisees without surrendering a dangerous degree of control?

Jack in the Box shared its experiences during a case-study presentation at the Restaurant Leadership Conference. Regional marketing director Christine Willis took the audience step by step through the chain’s development of an online marketing resource available to franchisees.

The website built by the home office was intended as a 24/7 marketing weapon for the field operators. The notion, Willis explained, was to provide capabilities governed by “guard rails.”

Jack in the Box plunged into the effort with five design criteria: Clear navigation, ease of operation, turn-key capabilities, the potential for extensive customization, and a long life-cycle. “We didn’t want it to be obsolete a year from now,” said Willis.

The resulting local-marketing website had sections or “buckets” addressing five issues, said Willis:

  • Sale building;
  • Competitive intrusion;
  • Re-imaging and grand openings;
  • Community involvement; and
  • Sports partnership.

Each was packed with flub-proof methods that franchisees could use to market individual units.

For instance, in the Re-imaging and grand opening bucket were documents touting individual units. Franchisees could select one, decide on the variables, and have it ready for printing in a matter of minutes.

Incorporated were a number of safeguards to protect the franchisee and brand from making embarrassing mistakes. The grand opening templates, for instance, can be completed without any information having to be typed in.

“We set it up so they never had to enter a letter, they never had to enter a location,” said Willis. “I’m able to click on a restaurant, and it populates the location for them. The date is populated through a calendar.”

The approach averts the common problems of information being mis-entered or an opening date being pushed back because of unforeseen delays.

In Jack’s pre-web days, “You’d create these flyers to promote your grand opening, and then the date changed by a few days,” said Willis. “So you’d have to re-do them, sometimes as a rush. Those were wasted dollars.

“We put in some guard rails,” she explained.

Once a document is ready for printing, franchisees can either send it to the home office for the press time, or find a local printer. “We have some vendors they can order from,” said Willis.

Either way, the website guides the franchisee through the process of downloading a .pdf proof.

“What used to take five to 10 days can now be done in a matter of minutes.”

The closed-access website went live in January 2009, and “it’s been incredibly well received,” said Willis.

Jack in the Box is already considering enhancements, including metrics that alert the franchisees to what sort of results they can expect from a particular marketing effort, and how they stack up against fellow franchisees in fulfilling promotions.

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