One lesson that all of us seem to be learning lately, is that nothing stays the same. Entire industries are changing. Here’s another news flash: the Internet has changed the franchise industry — big time.
The Internet has significantly impacted the franchise industry in several important, and what I consider, game changing ways:
- Prospective franchise owners don’t have to wait for a 15-page franchise brochure to be delivered to their residential mailboxes via the USPS, Fed Ex, or UPS. Now, to find out what the franchisor is selling them, prospective franchise owners can learn about specific franchise opportunities in the blink of an eye, electronically. This change alone has made it necessary for franchise companies to upgrade their information technology, and design fast and efficient follow-up systems. I recently discussed how some small businesses are using tools like email autoresponders to help them stay on top of things.
- Franchise sales personnel who are not Internet savvy, can stand out like a sore thumb. Case in point: I have worked with franchise sales reps who didn’t know how to insert a website link into an email that I requested be sent to a franchise candidate of mine. Scary.
- Prospective franchise owners don’t have to go spend 10 hours at their local libraries to learn all about franchise law, franchise research techniques, and other important information. Now, even if you only have moderate Internet research skills, you can easily find websites and blogs that specialize in the franchise industry, and learn enough in a couple of hours to give you a nice start. (Spending several hours at your local library is however, good for your health. I highly recommend it.)
But there is something else with far greater implications on the franchise industry than the ability to have some instant gratification. It is transparency.
Before the advent of the internet, a prospective franchise owner would have to hire an attorney to do some fishing around, in order to learn about the history of a franchisor. With the internet, information like that can be found fairly easily.
There are a plethora of websites and blogs that share negative information about bad meals at fast food franchises, bad PR moves by individual franchisees, or class action lawsuits filed against franchise companies by franchisees — that may have not been disclosed to prospective franchise owners, early on in the sales process. (Because they didn’t have to be.) As a matter of fact, fellow franchise blogger Sean Kelly, has a post on his blog that has over 300 comments from some rather disgruntled franchisees of an almost defunct franchise coffee chain.
However, just like you are not supposed to “believe everything you read” in newspapers, the same rule should probably apply to websites and blogs that seem to specialize in sharing negative information about companies, or their products and services.
These days, for a franchisor to really think that they can get away with hiding negative information about their product, service, or franchise offering, is to not be at one with what I call Internet reality.
Armed with a laptop, an Internet connection, and some average search engine skills, just about anyone can find the facts they need to make an intelligent decision. With more and more of us pinching pennies lately, this type of transparency can only help.
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