rich bernich marketing

Mastering The Five Ws Of Franchise Marketing

This article first appeared in

Journalists and marketers are often categorized on two ends of a spectrum. Truth is, these two professions have a lot more in common than people seem to realize.

Anyone familiar with, or part of, the journalism industry knows the lede of a news story should be comprised of the “Five Ws and the H:” who, what, where, when, why and how. In marketing, the only difference in establishing the five Ws is the addition of “how much?” — how much are you willing to invest to get yourself to the top?


As someone who’s been in marketing for nearly 20 years, I’ve seen firsthand how critical this last point is, and how frequently it can be overlooked. And while the “how much” factor is a key element, to build a truly sustainable and noteworthy marketing program, each of the five Ws and H should be carefully constructed.


The first step in developing a marketing program, no matter the industry, is understanding who your audience is. Without the who, just like in a news story, there’s no basis for the rest of the information that follows.

For consumer marketers, understanding the who can be as simple as surveying existing customers and examining their buying habits. Franchise marketers, on the other hand, have a bigger challenge. My team and I have developed dozens of franchise marketing programs over the years, so trust me when I say, asking someone to invest their life savings into a franchise system is a whole lot different than promoting a $5 value meal.

To build your franchise buyer profile, start by asking yourself a handful of in-depth questions that give insight into who your audience is and how their goals align with yours. Are you looking to secure single or multiunit franchise deals? How does that shape your audience? When analyzing your buyer profile, it’s important to identify the skills needed to run your franchise, and more importantly, whether or not your prospects have the required capital to invest.


After establishing who your marketing program is designed to target, you need to know what messages actually attract them. Do a deep dive on your franchisees, especially top performers, to find out who they were before they were your franchisees.

Be cautious, though — looking at franchisees through a single lens can lead to generalization. Don’t settle for static, generic messaging that’s worked in the past just because it’s worked in the past. A comprehensive marketing strategy should be multilayered and contain messaging that attracts and encourages all of your target audiences. To accomplish this, broaden your audience research to include the franchisees of competitors and the franchise market in general. You may find that a mix of efforts yields the most successful messaging campaigns.

You also need to know what you’re trying to accomplish with the campaign. Setting specific goals — like increasing revenue by 5% or selling 10 franchises over two years — allows you to measure the progress and success of a particular campaign, lending insight to when adjustments need to be made.

But regardless of the strategy you choose, understanding the who and why they buy will help you determine what you say and provide you with direction on where you want to say it.

Where And How Much?

In franchise marketing and marketing in general, there are a number of avenues to deliver your “what” to your “who.” Defining your “where” requires special care and patience. If you develop a strategy too vast, it may be hard to determine where your leads are coming from. If you pull the plug too soon on one or more avenues, you won’t have data to indicate the campaign’s performance.

Equally important as determining the “where” is determining the “how much” — what does your marketing budget look like and where will it have its greatest impact?

Without a clear picture of who you’re looking to target, your efforts are wasted on deaf ears. Your marketing dollars are precious — make sure you’re spending them wisely to get the best bang for your buck.

With the how much established, the savvy marketer should work backward to distribute funds across varying media categories: public relations, industry-specific and franchise media advertising, direct mail and direct contact, industry and franchise trade shows, internet advertising, brokers and referral programs.

The thing to remember is to allow one strategy to play out long enough before switching gears. You’ll never know if something is working if you don’t give it enough time to work.

Turning Ws Into ROI

The key to this process is diligent tracking of marketing spend, lead flow and sales activity. Once you’re able to track efforts effectively, analyze the data and begin reallocating your budget from the lowest performers to the top-performing campaigns, as needed on a monthly basis.

But remember — the goal of your plan is to increase sales, not to minimize costs per lead. For franchise marketers, a focus on lead costs alone will likely generate large numbers of unqualified franchise prospects or less-than-stellar customer acquisition statistics which can ultimately translate into higher costs per sale.

A well-developed plan (and planning process) will put you on the road to franchise marketing success. Without it, you’ll find yourself wandering through some very expensive territory.