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Nov, 08 2010

SMALL BUDGET, BIG IMPACT

To have a business, you have to make money. To make money, customers have to find you and for customers to find you, you have to market your brand right. But how do you market your business when you are on a shoestring budget? The answer is, through low-c

To have a business, you have to make money. To make money, customers have to find you and for customers to find you, you have to market your brand right. But how do you market your business when you are on a shoestring budget? The answer is, through low-cost marketing techniques.

O dikhta hai wo bikta hai’ (What is seen sells). This promotional campaign by a well-known retailer sums up the essence and importance of marketing a brand well. However, for low-cost businesses, marketing is a challenge since the budget is low. While advertising campaigns focus on highlighting specific products, services and special offers, low-cost marketing techniques are more about building brand equity. They expose business to the public eye and help draw in new customers and boost sales. They tell the public that your business exists and do so in a creative, cost-effective way. For this reason, low-cost marketing techniques are more attractive to small business owners with limited budgets.

Marketing in franchising

Franchising involves marketing at two levels: one at the franchisor's end and another at the franchisee's level. While brand promotion at franchisor's level targets the larger audience living in metros and big cities, marketing at franchisee's end is aimed at creating brand awareness among people in the locality. Joseph Cherian, Chief Executive Officer, GFA (Global Franchise Architects) Global, says, “In a highly competitive market where similar businesses are offering non-differentiated services, ongoing marketing and advertising initiatives are must to keep the target customers engaged with the brand. Since franchising helps a brand to expand its footprint rapidly, constant marketing efforts become critical for sustaining the visibility of the brand and enhancing brand awareness.”

Supporting Cherian is Samit Lakhotia, Co-Founder and Director, Strategy and Business Development, Club Laptop, who believes, “Marketing does play a significant role in reaching out to your target audience. Individually, it is very expensive but under franchise format, you get the luxury of buying media in bulk and sharing the cost of marketing and advertising among the number of stores present in that region. You have to carefully plan the budget and select the right medium to get an effective return on your marketing and advertisement spending.”

Shahnaz Husain, Founder and Managing Director, Shahnaz Husain Group of Companies, says, “In today's dynamic business environment, marketing plays a very vital role. The challenge is to reach the target customers in a big way and yet to keep the cost under control.”

Puja Mahajan, Owner, Yum Yum Dimsum, a low-cost franchise restaurant business, states, “Franchise businesses have the advantage of being part of an existing brand vis a new business. Hence, advertising recall is much higher in case of franchising.”

Marketing tools

Some prominent low-cost, yet effective, tools of marketing are:

Trade shows: Franchise trade shows are quite effective as a marketing tool. By renting a space and putting up a stall in a franchise show, a franchisor or a franchisee can effectively market the brand. Says Lakhotia, “Advertising in the media, which caters exclusively to the franchise fraternity, is the most cost-effective method of reaching out to prospective franchise-seekers. Franchise exhibitions, franchise trade magazines, franchise portals, etc are effective mediums and their conversion ratio is also very high.” Major K.V. Rajan, Executive Director, Amoha Education (P) Ltd, (Veta), feels, “Participation in franchise fairs is the best way of low-cost marketing.”

Franchise magazines: With franchising capturing a sizeable chunk in the business world, franchise magazines are gaining popularity fast. Advertising or writing articles in franchise print media is a great way to market your brand in a low-cost manner. Puja Mahajan opines, “A franchise magazine is the best way to market franchises. Another low-cost method includes smses to target groups.”

Internet marketing: Internet marketing is the most feasible and cost-effective means of marketing a brand. Establishing a web home page is relatively inexpensive and has mass appeal. Interest can be generated among potential customers by giving information about your outlet online. Says Husain, “A combination of web-based and non-web-based marketing plans is suggestible in this context, subject to the marketing budget of a company. Web-based marketing solutions include sms blasts, mass emailing, promotion through websites, etc.”

Blogs: Blog is a good online communication medium to share and promote your business. While starting a new venture, you can write a blog to inform the readers of your latest endeavour. You can also share your views about the advantages of a service or product of the franchise you have taken.

E-mails and newsletters: The most affordable but effective way to remind your clients/customers of your franchise is by sending regular e-mails and newsletters. Informing your clientele about a recently added product or service in your outlet would undoubtedly motivate them to visit the outlet. This is the easiest as well as cost-free way of marketing your outlet. Try and keep your newsletters short, simple and easy to read and you will find your subscriber base growing and your clientele too.

Word-of-mouth: Word-of-mouth is an efficient way of increasing footfalls and sales. Verifying this, Cherian shares, “At GFA, we believe in setting up quality stores, which quickly become recognised as neighbourhood hotspots. Therefore, our stores themselves become the most potent means of marketing our franchising concept. The brand experience that our stores deliver to consumers drives goodwill for our brand.” Samina Kuwajerwala, Head, Organisation Development, Kangaroo Kids Education Ltd, says, “The best way to market a franchise concept is to ensure the original enterprise is highly successful. No one wants to franchise anything that is not successful. However, individual presentations and word of mouth are the most effective low-cost marketing tools.”

Budget allocation

Successful running of any business requires a proper allocation of capital for different purposes like stock buying, interior decorations, marketing, etc. A yearly budget should be created for investing money for marketing the brand as well as its outlets both by the franchisor and the franchisee. States Cherian, "At GFA, we allocate four per cent of our brands' sales in marketing and advertising for brand visibility and recognition. Of this, two per cent is contributed by the franchisee on the local store marketing initiatives.” Says Lakhotia, “The budget allocation depends on the number of stores you open within a given period of time and the performance of the stores individually and cumulatively.”

As per Mahajan, “At the moment, we spend about 10 per cent of the sale on advertising and marketing,” while

Rajan says that 20 per cent of their sales capital is invested in marketing.

Suited to small set-ups

There are a few franchise businesses for which low-cost marketing means can be employed effectively. Coffee kiosks, ice-creams, etc is the best example in this category. Adding to Cherian, “The kiosk and express business formats in our business are marketed with a low-cost budget.” Lakhotia says, “Under the service industry, most brands can be marketed in a low-cost budget.”

Rajan admits that franchise businesses like F&B, grooming, education and training can be marketed in a low-cost manner. Kuwajerwala says “It depends on which way you want to look at it. Low and high budget is the result of financial constraints and target objectives of the franchisor.”

Every business, whether franchised or independent, has its own identity, nature and needs. What suits one business may not be the best for another. The successful marketing mantra is to identify your strengths and choose a marketing technique that serves you the best. Low-cost techniques may be low on money but are quite high on success quotient.

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