I absolutely love this time of year. Fresh off a holiday break with friends and family, it’s all about setting goals for the upcoming year and reflecting on what did and didn’t work last year. For more on goal setting in relation to those elusive New Year’s Resolutions check out this piece. But that’s not the only reason I enjoy January; it’s also the time we finalize planning for the franchising industry’s biggest gathering. Of all the conferences I will attend at various points this year, the International Franchise Association (IFA) comes out on top with a February annual convention each year. A good majority of us spend the first quarter implementing what came from end of year strategic meetings, and bringing those practices to life in our organizations. The content and peer-to-peer networking that takes place during the IFA’s annual convention helps to drive those goals home.
On top of all that, this year’s convention will mark a special year for me as I will graduate with the Certified Franchise Executive (CFE) designation. This training program and designation is provided by the Institute of Certified Franchise Executives (ICFE), the educational arm of the IFA. The program’s goal is to enhance the professionalism of franchising by certifying the highest standards of quality training, continuing education and networking. Applicants must meet the requirements of the program and complete the course of study to earn the CFE designation.
According to the IFA Certification Program Manager Rose DuPont, “Participating in the CFE program is a commitment to yourself to be as good as you can be in your chosen profession. As an athlete continues to physically train, a franchise executive should constantly strive to learn best practices so they can implement them within their own company and at their own position within that company. The CFE program provides that.”
My reasons for going through the coursework in 2012 to gain this designation go far beyond just having a greater knowledge of how franchise systems operate; for me it was also about connecting with some of the industry’s brightest minds and those that are truly committed to franchising. I wanted to learn more about how Operations and Marketing integrate and support each other, how the franchise development teams rely on marketing and how the franchisees rely on marketing to drive growth in their local business units.
Assuming a franchise system’s success is tied so closely to marketing, what then defines a rock solid, proactive marketing approach in 2013? For starters, I believe finding a partner that can speak the language of both brand and local store marketing is a giant first step in the right direction. Secondarily, it is important to understand the process of closing the loop on traditional marketing strategies and digital marketing strategies, which currently fall into separate buckets for many brands. However, what I am most interested in is how franchisors and franchisees can coexist and see eye-to-eye when it comes to selecting their marketing partners. Strategies that work both at the corporate brand level and at the local store level don’t fall from the sky. It takes a sophisticated set of creative skills combined with a world-class discovery process on both ends to uncover how success will be measured, first and foremost. If these expectations aren’t clear up front you’re dead in your tracks. For more on how this practice thrives for Search Engine Optimization at the national and local level for franchises, dig into this column by a respected colleague of mine.
There are some incredibly bold and sophisticated predictions about where marketing is headed this year. One of the theories that I agree with proposes that real-time marketing will become the norm and more traditional campaigns, as we know them currently, will begin to fade. It’s 2013 and the ways in which marketers engage consumers is drastically changing, so this shouldn’t come as a shock. Inbound or pull marketing will rise to new heights, and outbound or push marketing will start to die a slow death. Campaigns as we know them today will still exist for the iconic brands, but the creative for these campaigns will become subject to change much more frequently. Social media and the true essence of “big data” are doing their part to make this a reality.
Speaking of social, another fairly easy prediction to peg is the increasing integration of social across more and more channels. For the most part social has continued to live in its own silo; what happens in social stays in social. Well, technology won’t slow down and integrating social content into the overall marketing mix including database management and CRMs will happen, and those emails and in-app advertisements will have a more profound effect going forward. Facebook made a pretty significant announcement a few days ago when they introduced Graph Search.
According to Mark Zuckerberg, Graph Search will be very different than searching on Google. “Web search is designed to take any open-ended query and give you links that might have answers. Graph Search is designed to take a precise query and give you an answer, rather than links that might provide the answer.”
To read more about Graph Search check out the take by social media specialist Angie Pascale in this entry.
Lastly, how can one talk about 2013 marketing predictions and not mention mobile? The two words are practically synonymous at this point. If your brand isn’t focused on mobile then you’re already being left behind. To help put it in perspective, more consumers purchased a smartphone than those who bought a PC in 2012. If that’s not enough evidence, tablet sales are even more lopsided. It’s alarming to note how many brands aren’t mobile-ready…you know who you are. However, there’s still time to include a focus on mobile marketing in your plans for 2013. The basics start with a mobile-friendly website and a mobile search strategy.
Here’s to having a fantastic start to your year, and embracing the ever-growing digital marketing landscape in 2013! I hope to see you all at the IFA convention at the MGM in a few weeks!