One of the greatest fears small business owners must overcome when considering joining a franchise is, What if I lose my current customers? Many mom-and-pop business owners are forced to weigh the benefits of buying a franchise against the costs of re-branding and the potential brand confusion and loss of customer loyalty. A name change is a very involved process, from financial and legal documents to letterhead, marketing materials, and uniforms.
With proper and consistent communication to your existing customers, the good news is that you can bring your longstanding clients along with you to the next stage of your business’s journey. Franchisors have a great arsenal of marketing tools that you can use to inform the community and to get them excited about the coming changes: not just a new logo and colors, but a commitment at the core of your business to keep moving forward.
Take Lee Eppley, for example, owner of The Grounds Guys® of Southeast Charlotte in North Carolina. Eppley had been involved in landscaping for 22 years through his previous company, Final Touch Landscaping and Irrigation, Inc. Upon turning 38 last year, he realized that he had hit a glass ceiling in the very competitive Charlotte market, so he turned to The Grounds Guys as a way to drive forward his business with a national brand name.
To ensure the smooth transition for the re-branding, he followed steps laid out by The Grounds Guys corporate office. He sent out an initial letter to customers, telling them that the change was coming and why. Soon afterwards, their branding switched over from red trucks to white with The Grounds Guys logo on the side, and his crew added The Grounds Guys’ bright yellow uniforms. At the three-month mark, he sent out another round of letters to former, current, and potential customers again in what Eppley calls a “half-time show,” announcing the re-branding. When they reach six months, The Grounds Guys of Southeast Charlotte plans to host their public Grand Opening to attract new customers.
“You need to reinvest in yourself, and with a team of people behind you, you can do it,” says Eppley.
Another individual that recently re-branded his business into a The Grounds Guys franchise is Phil Klemme, owner of The Grounds Guys of Union, Mo. Klemme began working at Platt Nursery and Landscaping in 1983 and purchased the landscaping part of the business in 2004, renaming it Platt Landscaping, LLC. After a poorly performing year in 2011, hit hard by the recession in a county with one of the highest unemployment rates in the state, Klemme decided that once again, a monumental change was needed for the business.
“I felt like I wasn’t able to do my job well, and I didn’t have the marketing support I needed,” said Klemme. After officially signing on with The Grounds Guys in late 2011, Platt Landscaping re-wrapped its trucks in December and held its official grand opening on February 1, 2012. He informed his existing customers of the change through direct mail pieces, door hangers, and through partnerships with the local Chamber of Commerce and community organizations.
Klemme also spread the word through public relations efforts, including an article in the local paper and a radio interview about the brand change. Even though the process had a few bumps along the way, including a short gap between when Klemme’s old website went down and his new one went live, Klemme believes that franchising allows him to have to worry less about “management distractions,” with so much operations support provided by the franchisor.
As a franchise owner, promoting your brand to the community is still a very big job. However, the marketing, operations, and public relations franchise support that companies such as The Dwyer Group® provides allows you to focus your energy on other ways to improve your business plan.
Eppley explains, “When you sign the papers, you are driving the change, but it’s the change that ends up driving you, forcing you to change your business for the better and to use difference resources.” Many franchise owners benefit from implementing new processes such as The Dwyer Group’s frontline program and Code of Values. During Eppley’s transition process, he did say goodbye to a few of his Final Touch Landscaping & Irrigation customers. However, he reports that they were quickly replaced by new customers of The Grounds Guys.
Filed under Franchising, Landscaping, Marketing My Business · Tagged with Branding, business name change, buying a franchise, Code of Values, customer communication, customer retention, franchisee, franchising, grounds care, landscape franchise, Landscaping, landscaping business plan, landscaping franchise, lawn care franchise, logo change, name change, new franchise owners, rebranding, starting a lawn business, The Dwyer Group