As franchising options continue to evolve, untraditional concepts like business consulting, are finding a stronger foothold in the service space. In fact, an established brand with effective marketing strategies can create a strong system that aims to provide franchisees with a more successful consulting business than they’d be able to develop if they go it alone.
Bloomtools first started in Australia 15 years ago, with a goal to help small to medium size businesses develop websites to support their growth. “Typically, only large businesses had the resources to efficiently drive down the sales funnel to create lucrative online opportunities and grow market share,” explains Bloomtools Canada President Boaz Willinger.
Bloomtools first came to Canada in 2014, and has seen its leading digital marketing platform undergo continuous development and refinement over the years to meet the needs of today’s business owners. The Bloomtools trifecta − website design, database marketing, and customer relations management – allows business clients to customize solutions that truly meet their needs. “We ask our customers ‘what do you want to achieve with your site?’ Do you want people to pick up the phone? Do you want them to email you? Do you want them to click through many pages and see the products you have?’ We have the ability to do all those things and allow small and medium size businesses to access big company technology at an affordable price.”
With no costly overhead for build-outs, leases, or staffing, Bloomtools is an attractive prospect with its one-time franchise fee and no monthly costs. Unlike traditional advertising methods like print or TV media, creating a franchise opportunity in the digital space like this one works a little differently. The unique Bloomtools system allows franchisees to focus on securing sales and managing client relationships while an in-house team of experts at the corporate office develops client websites and marketing services.
Everything from order entry to accounting goes through a proprietary platform, leaving franchisees free to grow their businesses. Though prospective partners don’t need experience in web development, they do need to bring a strong understanding of the internet and technology to the table, along with a passion for helping businesses grow and succeed. “It’s different than a brick-and-mortar store. With us, it’s about selling people what they need to help their business grow. People buy from people they like, trust and feel comfortable with. Franchisees are not knocking on doors. It’s a referral type business.”
Franchisees come from all walks of life. “I look at our concept and say yes, it might be a bit of work. You have to be the right person for it,” says Willinger. When the brand first contemplated what type of partner might be a good fit, young people with an understanding of the emerging market came to mind. As it turns out, many of its franchisees are middle-aged professionals that want to build something on their own and work on their own schedule.
The most successful franchisees are those that take an active interest in different types of businesses so they can knowledgably consult with their clients with honesty and integrity. “For me, that’s the fun part, because you can research and advise clients, and they will see that you do care about them and want to help them grow their business.”
As for Bloomtools and its potential growth as a company, it’s not about the number of franchisees on their roster. “With our model, we only make money if our franchisees make money because it’s a profit share type of model, so we really need our franchisees to be successful.”
When a couple of young, smart visionaries saw the internet coming in 1995, they quickly realized that there was very little out there to support it, and they seized the opportunity. For over 23 years, WSI Digital has helped small to medium sized businesses achieve their digital marketing needs with the development of websites, traffic generation strategies, ecommerce, marketing, and more.
President Valerie Brown-Dufour has been with WSI since 1999, and watched the internet evolve into a radically different space. “Back then, it was brochure pages, and today, it’s dynamic and smart,” says Brown-Dufour. With a background in education and experience as a small business owner, her first position as a training manager gave her a front line view of the system. “It’s where I cut my teeth and really understood how we needed to help franchisees with processes and systems.”
At WSI, franchisees take on the role of consultant, positioning themselves as trusted advisors by educating clients on digital options and helping them develop an online strategy. Once the franchisee develops a solution based on the client’s needs, they connect to a private e-marketplace to select vendors and suppliers to carry out the project. “The SMB market is the majority of the market. They wear so many hats, and budget is a key issue for them, so we need to be able to show a return on investment. These businesses do have specific needs and they do need a trusted partner. Some of our franchisees become their outsourced Chief Marketing Officer. We have franchisees that are brought in on things that have nothing to do with digital marketing for their clients; they are so trusted, that the client values their input on various business affairs.”
The campaign-oriented, recurring revenue model requires franchisees to be forward-facing with clients to determine what’s working and what can be changed. “We look for people who are teachable. You can’t enter this industry without wanting to continue to learn and to be taught, and so you have to be open and willing to learn. We need people who are strong communicators. You may be talking to the owner of a company who knows nothing about digital, and you need to be able to break it down and help them understand,” says Brown-Dufour.
The network of WSI franchisees come from a variety of backgrounds, and take a collaborative approach, often sharing best practices and learning from one another. “It’s a superb network that’s organically grown, and I don’t know how anyone could be in digital and do it alone. It’s just such a dynamic place. Having a network like ours and a backbone like the franchise system helps you move faster.”
Though North America is its biggest market, WSI can be found in 80 countries around the world, and there’s still room to grow. Strategically placed master franchises help enhance market support by facilitating local meetings, training and client events. They also provide a strong vetting mechanism as the system brings on new franchisees.
“The digital marketing industry is ever-changing. Technologies come and go, and trends and tactics evolve rapidly; making it a challenge for digital marketing agencies to know when to systematize certain products into their service offering,” explains Brown-Dufour. “On the one hand, you don’t want to jump on a trend too early, but you also don’t want to be late to the game. At WSI, we use our network of Consultants around the world to understand how new technologies and tactics are being leveraged so we can establish a proven process and educate our franchisees on how best to monetize it for their business as well as quantify results for their clients.”
Brown-Dufour’s advice to prospective franchisees is to enter the system prepared to be engaged. “You will be running your own business, but we have such an active community with such knowledge and depth. Come in and tap into it, and stay engaged. It will help you stay relevant to your client.”
By Gina Makkar