Those guys running the national franchises shouldn’t be underestimated. They are sitting on a pile of numbers accumulated at the grass roots from a multitude of small businesses scattered throughout the country, all of which they control. That could represent a pretty significant advantage when it comes to marketing. Aside from that, they collect marketing ideas from their franchisees, so they can continuously refine their brochures. Granted, with respect to imagination, there may be some adverse selection issues among their typical franchisees, but still, controlling a system for collecting ideas must be useful.
And they aren’t so bad at marketing. Their habit of splitting cities into little postage-stamp sized service areas ensures that their franchisees don’t compete with one another, resulting in maximum penetration. While this may be really unfortunate for the little ants running around in golf shirts, it is excellent for the guys controlling the big national franchise shows. While we may be able to smash any single ant, collectively the ants enjoy real marketing power.
I kind of came around to this idea a couple of years ago. I started to realize that even though I could make a dent in the franchises locally in Denver, since they could always collectively outspend us (and indeed were even obligated to do so according to their franchise agreements), it might be difficult to obtain an equal footing in terms of marketing. At that time, what I really wanted was a great big yellow page ad like they had. And since Denver Concierge is huge compared to each of those dinky little franchisees, it seemed sensible that it should have a huge ad. I looked into it. No way. It costs just too much money. We sprang for a little quarter page ad. In terms of marketing efforts, even that little yellow quarter page turned out to be a bad investment. At least that was comforting—thinking of all those golf shirts being forced to squander their marketing budgets each year on yellow pages.
So here I go again about web-based marketing–I won’t get into all the details, because I already have written too much elsewhere about it. But what I would like to address is the intriguing bit about cooperation in advertising, because I think as independents, we might have a potential advantage in this respect. You see, those big franchise show guys are really worried about controlling their brands.
Think about it. Why can’t McDonalds allow each store to have its own website? Because some guy named Ralph who owns a McDonalds on the south side of town is going to for free get his nephew to put together a website for him which has a big happy face on it and advertises in pink text on a green background “Ralph’s Two For One McDonald Burrito Special.” And that’s bad for McDonalds Corporation, because it damages their brand.
So, here is the kicker. Since those big national service franchise guys are worried about their brands, they don’t allow their franchisees to independently pursue web-based marketing. Zing!! We’ve always enjoyed the fact that all those little franchisees were stuck in their little territories, but the fact that when it comes to marketing, they could all gang up and attack us like ants wasn’t so great. But now, we come around to a really cool advantage we all have over the ants, even collectively—we can destroy them on a regional basis with web-based marketing. For those of you who use web-based marketing, you understand what I mean. The national websites can easily be beaten locally, and because they don’t have their own websites, the locals are fighting with a hand tied behind their backs.
Because the web makes it easier to promote a brand regionally in a way that is more cost effective than any other that has ever existed, I think over the next decade, independent service providers will put a real dent in the national Franchisors. We will do this by the two or three largest service companies in each metro area across the US clobbering the local franchisees with strong local independent branding. Along with a couple other independents, we’re doing our part in Denver, and we’re depending on other leading independent service providers to do the same in other major cities. So, let us know if there is anything we can do to help, because your success in San Jose or Phoenix or Atlanta or Chicago or Memphis in terms of bumping the national franchises’ websites out of your local search results, also benefits us in Denver. So, get ‘em, get ‘em, get ‘em.
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