In its quest to keep its franchise members and the public in the loop with developments in the sector under Covid-19, the Franchise Association has embarked on a series of webinars where experts and brands share their insights into how to navigate the future. A recent webinar looked at how things had changed for the franchise food sector and how important marketing and social media is to maintain customer engagement and adapt to changing trends brought on by the pandemic. Facilitated by Vera Valasis of FASA, the webinar included strategists Mohammed Ehtesham of Manthan, Ian Pearce of RAiN and Patrick Lawson of the Spur Group shared his group’s approach to staying relevant in the midst of global upheaval.
According to Patrick Lawson, Group Executive: Business Strategy for Spur, although we live in a world where social media shapes peoples’ tastes and trends, the fundamental principles of marketing must remain the same with clear objectives in the right use of both above and below the line marketing to achieve the desired return on investment for their brands. “Above the line marketing must always create awareness for the brand whilst below the line marketing must be the call to action. Social media is a blend of these two but brands must be careful not to oversimplify but always have the fundamental goal of building personal relationships.”
The question of whether legacy guidelines around tracking customers has been affected by Covid-19 was raised by Ian Pearce of RAiN who suggested that customers’ habits and needs could fundamentally change due to factors that may have impacted their status, earnings and outlook within the typical categorising of customers in LSM groups changing. Whilst this is definitely a consideration, Patrick Lawson believes that institutional experience will always stand them in good stead. “We in the Spur Group have ten years of solid customer research and interaction with strategies that are different for each brand that allows us to understand our customers and their needs. The ‘breadcrumbs’ of information collected on, say, ‘Jane Doe’ – single mother with 2 kids – is invaluable and forms the foundation on which we can build a relationship with her. Whilst economically and socially she may fall into different categories – that of mom taking her kids out for a treat; meeting friends for a meal or going on a date – we can never rely on assumptions as the world around us changes and impacts on our customers but if we maintain the relationship with Jane we can accommodate her changing needs.”
Mohammed Ehtesham of Manthan, specialists in elevating customer experience, warned that whilst having that ‘breadcrumb’ data is important, keeping sales forecasts and trends aligned with marketing strategies is all the more important as the challenges for customer tracking changes as the world changes. As an example Patrick Lawson admits that deliveries were a small part of the Spur Group’s business but had to respond quickly to this new norm since lockdown. “Franchise groups need to be positive and resilient and find solutions to problems and pave the way for a different way of doing things. Covid-19 has shown that the world of tomorrow will be very different to the world of today. The key is to focus on surviving; develop a view of how customer’s spending is going to look like and understand risk profile. It is important to look at your business critically, review what happened, what worked; learn how to do better and above all – learn from it.”