How Franchises Can Stand Out in a Sea of Sameness

How Franchises Can Stand Out in a Sea of Sameness

What makes one franchise different from the others in its industry? Every landscape company mows grass. Every gym has treadmills.

To stand out and keep customers coming back, franchise owners must know their differentiators and then thoughtfully and strategically use that knowledge to market more effectively.

Obstacles to franchise marketing success

Franchises face marketing challenges other businesses do not.

Most franchises in service industries offer something similar. Every company prides itself on the quality of its work and the helpfulness of its customer service, but customers don’t see those factors until after they make a purchase. To stand out, franchises must identify what makes them unique – whether that’s a special way of doing things, a proprietary system or software, or something else – and push that differentiator to attract customers.

Jimmy John’s excels in this area. Despite tons of competition from other franchises and independent sub shops, Jimmy John’s continues to succeed because it emphasizes – and lives up to – its primary differentiator: “freaky fast.” Even as Subway’s “$5 footlong” campaign dominated the competition, Jimmy John’s gained market share through its delivery angle. People know that Jimmy John’s provides a consistent, speedy experience, so they continue to reward the company with their business.


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The best differentiators are the most memorable ones. With so much noise online, potential customers have a nearly infinite number of ads jockeying for their attention. To win more customers and keep them coming back, franchises must not only create interesting marketing, but also keep the message consistent to stay top of mind when consumers decide where to buy. According to Lucidpress, consistent brand presentation increases revenue by an average of 23 percent.

Accessibility contributes to this consistent presence. Customers want to buy from companies that are easy to find. Franchises must appear near the top when customers search for industry terms, and they need up-to-date business listings so people have access to the right phone number, address, hours and customer reviews.

Together, these factors lead to repeat business and more satisfied customers who spread their satisfaction through word-of-mouth marketing – which, according to a recent YA survey, is the most trusted form of marketing.

How franchises can win the marketing war

Franchises should take these three steps to overcome their marketing challenges and bring in more customers.

1. Create a list of differentiators.

Identify what makes your company unique. Consider factors such as company values (who you are), services (what you do) and customer demographics (whom you serve). Cone Communications reports that 87 percent of consumers will buy from a company that shares their personal values.

Think of potential differentiators as concentric circles, with the primary differentiator in the center. If your company offers the same services as others, that makes up the outer circle, because services in this case would be the least distinct. If half the industry is B2B and the other half is B2C, that creates the next circle – different but not unique.

The process of elimination would put “who you are” at the center, indicating your franchise should focus on personality, values or whatever motivates you to do what you do as the differentiator. Some companies, on the other hand, have unusual services or proprietary software and systems that set them apart. Build a short list of differentiators, then start crossing out the least impactful ones.

2. Eliminate all but the most important differentiator.

Don’t list 20 “unique” traits. The franchise probably isn’t unique in 20 areas, and even if it is, no one will remember 20 different things.

Instead, pick the differentiator that provides the answer to the customer question, “Why should I hire you?” That answer should be clear, concise and memorable – and it shouldn’t be the same as a competitor’s.

Unishippers, a franchise operating in a crowded shipping industry, found its niche by ignoring the biggest companies in favor of smaller customers. This franchise focuses on building relationships with smaller clients and staying updated on technology solutions to serve small and midsize businesses. By owning this niche, Unishippers wins more deals with its target audience, so its differentiator is its reputation as the go-to shipper for small companies.

3. Market that differentiator everywhere.

Use the differentiator to develop branding, marketing campaigns, sales collateral, internal documents and anything else that builds the brand story. Everyone within the company and the target customer demographic should know what sets the franchise apart.

If the tagline doesn’t point to the differentiator, get a new tagline. If the brochures your salespeople use look like everyone else’s brochures, make new ones. Take a stance by owning the differentiator. Some people might be turned off, but most will appreciate the authenticity and be more willing to buy.

When Jimmy John’s began competing with both Subway and local shops for sandwich franchise supremacy, the company ran commercials, online ads and social campaigns to promote its speedy delivery service. Today, even people who have never been to Jimmy John’s know which sandwich shop to call for “freaky fast” delivery.

By identifying differentiators and using those unique factors to stand out, franchises can attract more customers and establish themselves as the experts in their industries.


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