Franchise System Marketing For New Franchisees and Referral Networks Considered

Every good solid franchisor that has been in business more than a few years knows that their very best franchise buyers do not come from advertising and marketing, or from the Internet for that matter, rather they come from referrals from friends and families of those who already own franchised units. Therefore, it makes sense that all franchising systems set up referral networks so they can tap into this great inflow of new potential franchise buyers.

The most important thing to do to get this going is to tell all of your franchisees that you would appreciate any referrals that they could send you, because you wish to build a brand name strong and have a close-knit family. After all, the franchisee/franchisor relationship is much like a marriage, and you might as well keep it all in the family. Tell them of the importance for only great qualified buyers, thus, weeding out non-viable buyers for you.

As a former franchisor, I often ask our franchisees to hand out flyers at their locations for new franchise buyers. After all, I had always believed that if a franchisee gave good customer service, that not only helps them to more business in the future and referrals, but it also strengthens our brand name, in the minds of all the consumers, clients, and customers. Why shouldn’t his customers, be our customers, and vice versa? Indeed, we are all operating under the same brand name.

The franchisees use the brand name to get people in the door to buy products and services, and we used our brand name to attract high quality franchise buyer prospects. I often encouraged our franchisees to discuss the business with other people, as long as they were not competitors, and if someone was interested, to have them call me first, and introduce the potential future team member.

One thing I would warn about this strategy is that if you plan on paying referral fees to franchisees for those qualified leads that you have to disclose that to the franchise buyer, and therefore, you should list the franchisees that are helping you in this way in the FDD or Franchise Disclosure Document. If you are unsure how to do this you should contact a specialist in the franchising industry who is an attorney. Please consider all this.

Homecare Services – Selecting a Senior Homecare Specialist

Homecare services are a critical sector of the healthcare providers across the country. Selecting a reliable caregiver for the seniors in your life is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. Getting an impression of a senior homecare specialist over the phone is nearly impossible. Take some time to do additional research so you can be confident in the quality of the care your loved ones receive. To save yourself a considerable amount of time and frustration, follow these guidelines when sorting through service providers in your area.

1. Determine your own level of involvement. Homecare providers range from full-service to referral agencies, while others put you in touch with private caregivers for hire. If you don’t have time to screen potential employees, work with a company that can match you with a reliable specialist who can meet your needs.

Full-service homecare services are ideal if you can’t be a hands-on employer. They will check caregiver references, handle finances including payroll, taxes, and workman’s compensation. They also take a great deal of responsibility when it comes to supervising the placement and continued success of a caregiver in your home. If you do have the ability to be more involved, you can pursue a private-hire caregiver that you may have learned about through a recommendation or healthcare group. Keep in mind that the background checks and interviewing of potential employees will fall to you, as will payment and insurance. A referral agency offers a middle-of-the-road option, and will handle employee selection and placement before turning over the professional relationship to you.

2. Be clear about your expectations. Before contacting any of the homecare services mentioned above, determine exactly what the needs of you and your loved ones entail. When will the caregiver need to be in your home? Be sure to make a list of duties that will fall to the caregiver, and highlight any specialized care that the senior requires. The more specific you can be, the better your chances of finding a qualified employee with whom you can develop a long-standing professional relationship.

3. Ask questions. Be inquisitive and ask as many questions as necessary to confirm the reputation of the homecare services you investigate. How long has the agency been providing in-home senior care? How extensively are employees screened? Can the agency provide references to you? If emergencies arise during or after work hours, how are they handled and who is responsible for contacting you? Are caregivers supervised regularly when working in private homes? Don’t forget to ask about payroll policies so that you are aware of how the financial aspects of the business deal will be handled.

4. Exercise caution and common sense. It is a good idea to meet with the caregiver in person prior to the start of any homecare service. You want to ensure that you find someone with a positive personality who you will be comfortable working with. Additionally, remember that this employee will likely have access to your home when you are away, so plan accordingly. Keep valuables locked away, and monitor your credit card and bank statements regularly.

Appropriate Referrals Or Loss of Patients in the Practice of Specialized Medicine?

I remember vividly when I was working in a large Community-based teaching hospital in the East-Coast of Malaysia that relatively few patients are referred in by the family physicians in town. On the contrary, many patients are referred out of town, in fact to the capital city many hundred kilometers away. This observation is not only made by me alone, but also the other specialists in the hospital.

Specialist practice of Medicine is very dependent on the referrals from the Primary Care Physicians or in some places called Family Physicians or General Practitioners. A smooth professional relationships between the Primary Care Physicians and the Specialists is crucial in a success of any healthcare system in the world. The Primary Care Physicians form as a gatekeeper to the health systems which in many countries are spiraling in cost due to increasing cost of tools and technology which are introduced into healthcare.

The issue of referral between doctors in any health service has been a controversy ever since the development of specialization in medicine. Specialization in medicine happens due to the explosion of scientific knowledge and the introduction of technology into the practice of medicine coupled with increasing demand to improve the outcome of patients care. As such,doctors are forced to focus their effort on to certain diseases or organs only in order to ensure excellent outcomes in treatment of the patients that they treat. Gone are the days when any doctor is expected to treat all kinds of diseases that affect any patient. One will recall a Western movie where there is only one doctor in a new settlement to serve all people in that community.

The success of specialized medicine as a system of healthcare depends very much on the appropriate referrals of patients from the primary care level to the specialists in the hospital settings.However, this process of referrals is affected by the fact most primary care services are in the private sector whilst most of the hospital specialists are in the public sector. The referrals of patients across these sectors of the economy may not happen as smoothly as is expected for obvious economic reasons. This is perhaps one situation where the practice of medicine by doctors is faced with a conflicting dilemma professional demands against economic considerations.

If the welfare of patients is paramount and central in any health service, the appropriate referrals of patients is the more important consideration than avoiding “loss of patients” by any doctor practicing in a system of specialized medicine.

The REFERRAL Pattern – Who’s REALLY Referring You and Why

Have you ever had a really good look at who’s actually referring you and been surprised to find it’s a handful of the same people over and over again?

Have you wondered why more of your customers or strategic partners aren’t referring you at all?

Even though you might have a great product or service and your customers rave about what you or your product have done for them, they may NEVER refer you. Think about it. Do you refer every product or service that you have had a great experience with? Of course not. The good news is that doesn’t mean working on your referral system is a waste of time. Instead try looking at your referral sources in a different light. If you can start to recognize their profiles, you may just find you can start to create a much more powerful Referral Marketing System and generate a flood of new customers!

Who will refer you?

If you are currently getting referrals, start looking at the people that are referring you the most. At first glance, you might not see any differences between them and other customers. In fact they may not have even been your best customer. Instead what you are likely to find is that they have one or more of the following characteristics.

If you have ever read the Tipping Point you might recall that Gladwell talks about these first 3 very powerful groups of individuals:

Salesmen or Persuaders– You can’t miss these charismatic people. You probably find yourself drawn in by their charm. Lucky for you, they are also naturally armed with powerful negotiation skills that cause others to want to agree with them. When a persuader mentions your product or service, he or she will encourage others to try it and they will.

Connectors – These are your customers that have a large social network and are happy to connect you with those networks; or share their experiences with your product or service with their network.

Mavens – These individuals are information specialists or people we rely on to provide us with new information, especially those around your particular product or service. For example a food critic for a restaurant would be an ideal maven and strong referral source, or someone who researches and downloads a large number of phone apps could refer a ton of people to a new business iPhone app.

The above can (and often are) combined with one of more of the following:

Raving fans – The product or service you provided has had such an impact on them that they just can’t stop talking about it and/or others have noticed the results.

Strategic Partners – Strategic partners share your same target audience. The strategic partners that will refer you the most (assuming they also have some of the above mentioned characteristics) are those that come just before you in the timing cycle.

For example, while real estate agents and movers share a similar target audience, because realtors tend to come before the moving company in the timing cycle of moving they will be able to refer more business to the mover than vice versa.

Friends/Families/Peers– Because they believe in you and want to support you, your friends, family members and peers will refer you. But don’t get upset if they don’t. It’s likely because they don’t portray any of the other above mentioned characteristics.

Others with a similar target audience – If a woman is pregnant and within a short period of time many of those around her also become pregnant, as a provider of baby gear you might find that this individual is referring you a ton because she is surrounded by others currently in the market for what you offer.

Doers– One of the reasons we don’t refer every product or service we come across is because we simply don’t have the time. Doers are those that will follow through with action, and tend to be efficient with their time. If they say they will send contact info about a great company, they will. If you ask for a referral and they say yes, they will give it. Others are more introverted and can be described more as thinkers. They may be less likely to actually follow through with a referral source or even refer you at all.

Here is a great exercise

In your database, start to identify your customers (and even prospects) by the traits above. Do you find that those with a strong combination of traits are also strong referrals? Can you now start to think of better ways to reach out to them and get them more engaged in referring you more?

At the very least, I hope this information also helps you forgive or understand why some of your customers aren’t referring you at all even though they raved about your product or service. It’s not because they don’t want to, they just may not be programmed to do so.

I Don’t Have a Real Estate Specialist! What Are People in Your Farm Area Saying?

Ask around. What are people saying in YOUR neighborhood farm area? Chances are, if you’re not staying in touch this month, this season – or even this year, what they won’t be saying is that you’re the agent to call for all their real estate needs! How can you turn that around and start making the right impression and earning the business of your farm area? Let’s take a look at what three top agents are consistently doing “right” to successfully brand themselves as the “Neighborhood Specialist” in their market areas.

In this article we catch up with veteran real estate professionals, Denise Buscemi, Antony Francis and Karen Marshall to learn some of their best practices (and throw in a few of our own) for becoming and staying the top “Neighborhood Specialist” in your market area.

What’s interesting to note is that our guests have a combined total of 55 years in the industry between them, so it’s safe to say they’ve probably walked in your shoes before, regardless of how long you’ve been in the business. They’re also some of the first to encourage agents of every business tenure to “keep learning, keep marketing and stay focused.”

Size of sphere or farm: How big of a farm or neighborhood should you market? Denise Buscemi, through most of her career kept tabs on a farm of about 5000, but has since pared that down to 2500 which includes her sphere of influence since taking over as managing broker for her Century 21 Sterling office in Port Jefferson Station, New York. She had this to share, “Most of my time is spent recruiting, training and managing now, but I still feel that it’s important to maintain and take care of my client base. I usually recommend new agents start building their farm area to about 250, and experienced, full-time agents should consider working towards maintaining a farm of at least 1,000.”

Tony Francis with Charles Rutenberg Realty, got his start back in 1990 and took a detour into the speaking industry from 1996-2003, speaking for the Floyd Wickman organization and Realtor.com. He’s since found himself back to his real estate roots in the great state of Florida and has branded himself as the turn-to agent for the Trinity area. “My main focus is the Foxwood area of about 900 homes. It’s part of Trinity which encompasses more than 10,000 homes. I always advise agents to find a core group to focus on, and expand from there where it makes geographic, demographic, and of course, economic sense for them to do so. That way, you can really create a presence in an area, with your signs, brochure boxes and advertising without trying to take that ‘shotgun’ approach to your marketing.”

Karen Marshall of Keller Williams in Pittsburgh and her team successfully navigate a database of more than 10,000, and uses a system of referral name recognition to effectively communicate with 500-1,000 regularly. In fact, contrary to the woes cried by agents across the nation, Karen has not seen a drop in production and she and her team are celebrating “a fabulous first half of the year.” What’s her secret to success? “Never stop marketing!”

Keep in mind you don’t have to start with a 500, 1,000, 2,000 or more – you just have to start! After all, as in wise words of Zig Ziglar, “If we don’t start, it’s certain we can’t arrive!”

How to find the right neighborhood or farm area: If you’re new, pick an area that REALLY interests you, dig in and learn about the community, the people, the surrounding businesses and the culture. Then make it your own and then start expanding. If you’ve been in the business for a while now and have NOT yet begun to build and maintain a working database/customer base – let today be the day you start. Too many in our industry leave with nothing to show for it – don’t let that be you!

Mrs. Buscemi recommends that agents target a town or part of a town they want to establish themselves in. “You have to be passionate about it. In order to really be successful, you have to really have a connection and a commitment to that community. I ask my agents to designate 75% of their efforts to the top 10% of that market share, and then blanket the rest for the lower tiered homes. Once you’ve established yourself in that top 10%, then everyone knows your name.”

It’s no surprise that Tony and Karen both echoed similar sentiments. As with any effective branding effort, becoming the neighborhood specialist means you have to jump in with both feet and commit to being the resource for those consumers who make up your target market. Not just to gain their business, but because you believe you are the best person for the job and able to provide a level of service like no other. “You have to be genuine,” said Mr. Francis. “If you’re not authentic in your purpose, it shows and especially in today’s market, people don’t want, nor do they have to work with people who are less than the real deal.”

Little things mean a lot – and add up to big business: I am always thrilled to see agents putting best practices into play, showing true tenacity and taking a walk on the creative side! When it comes to building trust, increasing your image, and really getting to know the community members in your farm, little things really do mean a lot. “In addition to our monthly mailings,” shared Denise, “we also get the kids and actually ‘walk the farm’ about four times a year with a gift, a giveaway or some small token and a chance to meet and talk to people one-on-one. We tape flyers to mailboxes, put flags in the yard for holidays such as Flag Day or Independence Day, and in the summer I like to use the Neighborhood Update flyer from my software and tape it to those neon colored plastic sand shovels I can get from the novelty store with a note saying, ‘here’s the scoop from your 110% Realtor!’ That ALWAYS gets calls! Some agents use seed packets in the spring for their farms, or trick or treat bags at Halloween. Whatever you do, it’s important to just get out there, have fun, be creative and meet the people!”

Tony Francis takes that to heart as well. “I look at starting a new farm much like you would if you were opening up a restaurant or a new store. Your job the first few years is to really get noticed and make a name for yourself. It’s then when you have to use bigger ads, contact the homeowners more, and be very visible. For example, I put ads in the Homes magazines, featured the properties on Realtor.com, and put ads and information in the community newsletters as well as my monthly mailings to the homeowners. I make sure the magnets are always on the car, and people see me and my brand every day as I’m out and about! I also believe you really have to GET INVOLVED. It goes back to that genuineness. Get involved in the kid’s schools, become a business partner. That’s good for them and for you. Every year I do the Spring Fling or the Fall Festival or the Winter Carnival – whatever event needs sponsoring. It’s great exposure, and an opportunity to open lines of communication with people. Holding buyer’s and seller’s workshops is another great way to offer valuable information to your farm area and get tremendous results in return. We used to hold them every two weeks and we’d have around 30 people at each event. We’d convert about 30% of those. Another good idea is to work with those people other agents are unwilling or unable to work with. How many agents do you know that DON’T follow up on open house leads? Offer them $100 for every lead that turns into something. It’s a great way to build your business, and make sure that the customer is getting the service they want and deserve!” Tony took it a step further as well. He jumped in and organized the Trinity Business Association for those people who live and work in his farm area. He’s created the neighborhood groups on Facebook and has seen his “friendships” really grow as he helps everyone stay better connected in his community!

Consider helping out at block parties, community block parties, firework celebrations and more. Send out newsletters that offer ideas and solutions people can use as well as present yourself as the expert they can turn to with current, relevant and timely information each and every month.

Best advice for agents? “Make a plan and commit to the plan,” said Denise. “Then invest a little money in smart tools that help you get where you need to go. It’s really amazing how much you can lose when you STOP doing all these things. I used to maintain 25% of that market area using this program, and I stopped doing all these important things for a while when I took over management. It’s funny, getting back to it now I’ve just picked up ten new listings in the last couple weeks because of it. So, just do it!” Karen shared that sentiment, “Stop talking about what you need to do and just do it! There’s enough business out there for everyone! Invest in yourself and your business. This makes it simple, easy to do and really, you can’t afford NOT to!” Tony added, “Just get involved. Become a member of the association, join the PTA, get out in the neighborhoods, talk to people and start building those relationships. They really will follow you throughout your career!”

Please join me in giving a big THANK YOU to our guest specialists this month, Denise Buscemi in Port Jefferson Station, NY, Antony Francis in Palm Harbor/Tampa, Florida, and Karen Marshall in the Pittsburgh area! If you’ve got a referral in any of those areas that need EXTRA special attention, these three are the agents to call!

Now get out there and start branding yourself as the turn-to agent in your neighborhood of choice so that next time someone is asked, “Who’s your neighborhood specialist?” They’ll know EXACTLY who to name!