Before we get to the top 10 reasons to add a franchise intranet to your communication plan, let’s define what a franchise intranet is. It’s basically a cloud-based set of software tools used to facilitate communication and provide a valuable resource for franchisees. A well-rounded franchise intranet should offer information, support, a sense of community and more while helping to reduce costs as well as ensure compliance with corporate objectives and branding. It is supportive, rather than intrusive, and should make franchisees feel that they are contributing to their business and to the company as a whole. Most franchise intranets fulfil basic franchise needs through the provision of applications designed specifically for the market. These applications typically include document repositories for marketing and operational materials; a company news or bulletin application; support directories to reduce repetitive head offi ce communications; an events calendar; message boards to facilitate franchisee to franchisee interaction; a content management system to create new intranet sections and pages; and user management modules to measure franchisee logins and activity within the intranet. Many companies marketing franchise intranets also sell additional applications or modules that provide more capabilities and value to their franchisees as they streamline other daily activities. These applications can include website and ad builders, franchisee lead generators and related CRM components, task lists, sales/royalty reporting (often with EFT capabilities), store-opening managers, and training and testing modules. Some franchise intranet companies will let you purchase these additional applications on an as-needed basis to help you keep your costs in line. Now that you know what a franchise intranet is, let’s look at the top 10 reasons to add a franchise intranet to your communications plan.
FACILITATE FREQUENT COMMUNICATIONS
The best franchisees are informed, engaged and educated. A franchise intranet should contain all the documents, training and support required by a franchisee to help them run their business successfully. Whether you have fi ve franchisees or 500, you can’t visit them all often enough or offer the support they need on a daily basis through email or phone calls. That’s impractical and too costly; however, you can use a franchise intranet to easily communicate with your franchisees as often as you wish.
KEEP IT CURRENT
There’s nothing worse than a franchisee referencing an old document, promoting an expired sale, or using branding that is out of date. Everything in your franchise intranet should be as current as possible and franchisees should be trained to look to the intranet when they need an operations manual, a marketing piece, a corporate logo or ad, or any other company image.
This will keep everyone on the same page as well as promoting compliance and reducing potential legal issues.
SAVE TIME AND MONEY
Many franchise companies used to print and deliver operational and product manuals to their franchisees on a frequent basis. Not only was this an expensive practice due to printing and mailing costs, these documents were often out of date soon after they were delivered. Many companies also previously spent valuable dollars on support personnel who were tasked to answer the same questions repeatedly. Most of these conversations can now be avoided by providing answers to the most important and frequently asked questions within the franchise intranet. Messages boards within the franchise intranet can also help as franchisees communicate with each other and ask each other some of the questions, which may have been previously directed to head office.
ENSURE FRANCHISEE COMPLIANCE
It can be very costly in terms of legal fees and branding when a franchisee strays from company practices or obligations. You can help to ensure that your franchisees stay on course when all their needs can be met within your franchise intranet. This can include FDDs, reports, contracts, branding guidelines, and more. As many franchise intranets also track franchisee logins and document downloads, you will have the proof you may need if someone has gone off track.
FRANCHISEES AND EMPLOYEE TRAINING
A trained franchisee or franchise employee is a valuable corporate asset. In many cases traditional classroom training is expensive and outdated. Most franchise intranets will offer online training and testing that tracks franchisee and employee training and results. This type of training is also available at the convenience of the franchisee and employees, so they can train off-hours and off-site through the cloud-based intranet. Some franchise intranet training programs will even provide a dynamic certificate of completion for each module or course with the course name, franchisee or employee name, and date of completion filled in immediately and available for printing right from the intranet.
EFFECTIVE DOCUMENT MANAGEMENT
A document management system is used to track, manage and store documents. Almost all franchise intranets will use a DMS. That allows you to make sure all your documents are up to date and in one place, so when a franchisee needs a document, he or she is getting the most correct and most current version. The most sophisticated DMSs are more collaborative and can also track document check-ins and changes so you know who has accessed the document and when it was updated.
ENGAGE YOUR FRANCHISEES
All people want their opinions to matter and franchisees are no different. You can make sure you engage your franchisees by using the tools provided in most franchisee intranets including polls, forums, and message boards. In addition to fostering a sense of community, you’ll gain valuable insights into what your franchisees are thinking and feeling.
Many franchisors remember the days when franchisees faxed or called in their sales reports to head office — in fact, some still operate this way. Once the sales reports arrived, royalty reports were calculated and a request for payment was made back to the franchisee. These days most franchise intranets can automate those tasks from POS to sales reports to royalty payment calculations to electronic fund transfers right to your corporate accounts. Franchise intranet providers can customize these kinds or reports and payment methods based on your company’s specific needs.
MAKE YOUR FRANCHISEES MORE PRODUCTIVE
Task automation is a key way to make life easier for you and your franchisees. This makes franchisees more productive and more profitable. A couple of good examples of these kinds of task automation tools are website builders and ad builders. A website builder application will allow your franchisees to build their own websites in seconds, often with the press of a “Submit” button. The typical website builder will provide a branded website template to ensure compliance with corporate branding and allow the franchisee to add content to select areas such as staff, specials, events, services, other items. Franchisors can also add content globally to all franchisee websites in seconds. In similar fashion, an ad builder application will allow franchisees to use a preformatted template for a printable ad, door knocker, brochure, or other marketing piece so they can create professional looking sales and marketing materials with their own location information in seconds.
GENERATE NEW BUSINESS
A franchisee intranet can be used to generate and manage franchisee leads through an associated lead application that resides on your corporate, franchisee, or franchising websites.
When a prospective franchisee fills out an application or a request for franchise information, the form results are sent to the franchise intranet where designated corporate personnel such as a franchise development manager can evaluate the lead and process it as soon as possible. A good franchise intranet will notify the appropriate personnel (such as a franchisee development manager) by email as soon as a lead is generated for immediate review. Some franchisee lead generators/managers will also score the leads based on your criteria and then present “Hot Leads” with more prominence. Similar applications that generate leads for the franchisees themselves or for employment applications can also be used to send completed forms to the franchise intranet. Franchise intranets save franchisors time and money and help ensure compliance with franchise legal requirements and branding initiatives. Many franchise intranets can be implemented at a very low cost, with a couple offered for no cost at all for a basic intranet. These intranets have been designed specifically for franchise or multi-location companies and are great ways to improve your franchisee communications and provide much more.