Where Is The Next FranCamp?


Franchisors, franchisees, agencies, and suppliers all had them same initial feedback as soon as Franchise Social Media Camp FranCamp – wrapped on Saturday:

When is the next FranCamp? And, where?!?

The FranCamp organizing team got together immediately to discuss, but we want to hear from the Franchising Community as to what areas of the country make the most sense for busy marketers and development pros. Please take a minute to tell us your choice for FranCamp cities.

Click Image to Take Poll and See Results


The desire of so many attendees to continue this discussion may have been based on the tight focus of all speakers and presenters. The discussions were neither too introductory nor too technical.  All presentations and roundtable discussions were geared to giving everyone usable social media tactics to put in place immediately.

This was a refreshing change from the IFA’s recent attempts at having social media panels and presentations at the annual convention, which were very elementary for many franchise marketers.

All of the presentations from FranCamp Nashville were streamed live on USTREAM and available to you for viewing now. These include:

Deb Evans, Computer Explorers – Engaging Your Company

BJ Emerson, Tasti D-Lite – Social Loyalty Programs

Thomas Scott, Brand Journalists – Business Blogs

Nate Griffin, Man of Action and Aimee Romero, Love and Science – Organic SEO

Joe Mathews, Franchise Performance Group – Social Franchise Development

Jack Monson, Engage121 – Twitter Tactics

Paul Segreto, franchisEssentials – LinkedIn Strategies

Jennifer MacDonald, WIN Home Inspection – Online Videos & YouTube

AK Stout, Saying It Social – Facebook Strategies

Ashley Betzendahl, Goddard Systems and Robin Scott, Computer Explorers – Franchisor and Franchisee Q&A

One final note – several attendees have asked to see the Engage121 case studies I mentioned. Please see links here for case studies of
franchise system Edible Arrangements and iconic brand Amtrak.

Thanks to everyone for their time and attention. See you in whatever city you want to bring FranCamp to next!

Why Being On Facebook Is A Mistake

Today’s guest blog post is by Thomas Scott, CEO of Brand Journalists, a firm that is creating breakthroughs for several franchise companies using a mix of content and Engage121.

No Facebook Logo 




Why Being on Facebook is a Mistake

Almost every session I attended at this year’s International Franchise Association conference in Las Vegas touched on social media. No matter what the subject matter, the dialogue eventually focused on the impact of social media. Just as in past years, there was standing room only space for social topics and several times the crowd spilled over into the hallways.

Throughout all the conversation, a disturbing trend emerged as a best practice: Facebook is where you should focus your social media efforts. The message to franchisors: when it comes to social media, it is a Facebook world.

On many levels, this makes sense. Facebook is growing at amazing rates and has quickly become the most popular social network. Our customers are all over Facebook and we feel the pressure to be where our customers are. Our franchisees want to be on Facebook and we are struggling to develop a plan makes everyone happy and produces results.

This is a mistake.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have a presence on Facebook; at Brand Journalists, we do a ton of Facebook work for franchisors and franchisees, both of which have a large opportunity to connect with customers via the popular network. I believe in Facebook and we are always looking for ways to coax a return out of our marketing.

The mistake is in thinking that all your social media efforts should be focused on Facebook.
Franchisors today need to exploit four areas of social media. They are all important but not all equal. Some are easier to use and some are better for driving sales. In our experience managing social media for several franchise brands and individual franchisees, Facebook is the least likely social activity to drive actual sales and revenue.

Here are the four areas of social media listed in order of importance and impact on your sales:

1. Blogging – every day, millions of people search for billions of things on Google. Despite Facebook’s size, Google is still many multiples larger and growing. Your customers are looking for you and your services on Google; the humble business blog is the best social media tool to help you get your content in front of your target customers. The business blog is the most overlooked social media tool and by far the most underused. Companies that get good returns on social media are heavy bloggers simply because the blog allows creation of optimized content that gets in front of people who want what you have to sell. A good blog leverages emotionally compelling stories and relevant keywords. If content is truly the backbone of a successful social media campaign, it needs a place to call home and its home is your blog.

2.  Google Places – in several IFA sessions we asked if franchisors knew much about Google Places and few understood this important tool. Google Places is Google’s business directory and one of the most important social media platforms. Search for a business or service in your city and you’ll see Google place pages for your local franchisees. This is a mini-website that provides basic information about your business, showcases user reviews and gives business owners spots to update statuses and upload media such as photos and videos. Potential customers who are ready to buy your product or service are influenced more by Google Places than any other social media. If you want to drive sales, spend time claiming, optimizing and managing each of your local franchisee place pages. Spend time to train franchisees on how to manage local pages and gather positive reviews. You’ll get an immediate return.

3.  Social Loyalty Programs – Don’t know what social loyalty is? You are not alone. This is a very new field of social media and it holds immense promise for building repeat business and generating referrals from existing customers. Social loyalty programs tap into point of sale systems. Similar to a grocery store customer card, you issue your customers who register online a swipe card. They indicate which social networks they use and give you their email. Why would someone hand over this information? People respond to incentives. If you are a yogurt shop, they agree to post positive messages about your brand and earn points for every posting. Once they reach a set number of points they get free yogurt. When a loyalty customer swipes the card in the store, the program checks them into foursquare, posts on Facebook and even tweets. Every posting has a coupon or promotion for others so you just turned your customer base into a guerrilla marketing sales force. Not only do you entice customers to visit more often, they build brand loyalty within their networks. Talk about word of mouth on steroids……

4.  Facebook – last but not least, Facebook is not to be overlooked. In this list, however, Facebook is the most difficult way to generate a direct sales return, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid it. Facebook is a closed system. That means your content stays within the Facebook network. Facebook wants it this way to encourage sharing and eventually tap into a lucrative ad market. For businesses, this means creating a business fan page. The best advice I’ve heard is to think of your fan page as a business website with similar functionality as your main company website. Don’t use Facebook as it comes in its default mode. Don’t have people see your wall when they click on your page. Do get help customizing your Facebook tabs and think about ways to serve up blog content, store locators and Facebook-only deals on custom – built tabs.

As franchise companies, social media has become part of our integrated marketing strategies and it’s a good thing: we have tremendous opportunities to build brand awareness and leverage fans. For the first time, companies are really beginning to show solid track records using the social media tools above to drive sales. If you are trying to tackle social media, start at the top of this list and work your way down — you’ll get a much better result and your franchisees will thank you.

If you don’t know where to start, outsource or get help. You won’t be sorry.


Brand Journalists is a content, PR and social media firm based in Nashville, TN that uses Engage121 with all of its clients to help manage content on social networks to create marketing breakthroughs and drive sales.

Facebook: facebook.com/brandjournalists:

Social Media Marketing for Franchises – Webinar

I’m pleased to be part of an upcoming free webinar with some smart marketers in the franchise industry. And, this is your invitation to join us for free! On Tuesday, February 8th,
Engage121 is hosting a free online panel discussion called Social Media Marketing for Franchises: Approaches to Making it Work. Panelists include:
AK Stout: Founder, Saying It Social 

Bill James: CEO, We Engage LLC 

Jack Monson: Vice President, Engage121

Tammy Nienaber: Communications Director, Great Clips, Inc.  

Thomas Scott: CEO, Brand Journalists 

Moderated by: Nick Perold, Marketing Manager, Engage121


See below for more details and click register to reserve your spot. This is highly recommended for Franchisors, CMOs, Marketing Directors, PR Execs, and Social Media Managers and will be a terrific lead-in to more marketing conversations at this year’s IFA Conference.

  Register Now


Title: Social Media Marketing for Franchises
Date: Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Time: 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM EST
Cost: Free

The franchisor-franchisee relationship is a unique one – combining oversight and support. As a result, when it comes to marketing and promotion, franchisors and franchisees often find themselves asking “whose responsibility is this?” – and the answers are different for every system. Join Engage121 for a webinar on February 8th as we host a panel of franchise industry experts who will present different approaches to making social media marketing work for franchisors and franchisees alike. We’ll spend an hour discussing topics and answering questions from the audience such as: 

–  Should franchisees operate their own Facebook pages? 

–  Is social media marketing covered by the national ad fund? 

–  How do brands protect brand guidelines on the social web? 

–  Can franchisees opt-out of (or into) social media promotions?

Showhomes Hits Franchise Expansion Goal

Here is a recent DailyVista article regarding Showhomes. The company’s rapid expansion in the current economy is an exciting story that is resonating with media, consumers, and business leaders nationwide.

My firm has worked with Showhomes for a couple of years and I am still fascinated by the company’s story and its ability to tell the story well. Congratulations on another great year!  

Showhomes Home Staging 

Showhomes Home Staging Company Hits Franchise Expansion Goal

By Stephanie Jacoby

Managing Editor, DailyVista  

May 11, 2010

Showhomes, a home staging provider, announced it has added 11 franchise units by April of 2010, thus surpassing its expansion goal and setting a company record for new units opened, according to the company.

The Nashville, Tenn.-based company expects that 2010 will be its seventh consecutive year of steady incline. Showhomes is also on track to open 40 new locations this year, even further exceeding its 2010 goal of 25. Showhomes has opened 20 franchises in 2009, compared to the 15 that were projected, and intends to sell out all available units by 2014.

“If you take a step back, we are a home-based business, we are in a hot category of small business, the cash requirements for opening are low, we have an excellent track record, we have some of the best franchisee validation in the industry and we have a really high potential return on investment,” Chief Operating Officer Matt Kelton said in a statement. “When you add it all up, I can’t think of a better franchise in today’s market.”

Showhomes is a home staging franchise that uses live-in home stagers to help realtors sell vacant houses. These live-in home stagers help manage vacant houses while they are on the market for sale and offset a home owner’s expense to stage the home.

Thomas Scott, vice president of marketing, told DailyVista that Showhomes has been around since 1986, but has really seen a boom in its business due to the heightened interest in the art of staging a home for sale.

“HGTV started airing home staging shows, and thanks to them, home staging became a buzz word,” he said. “Staging preps houses for sales – they show better, and that started our momentum. During the current housing bust, when everyone is talking about how bad the market is, we’re one of the few good stories out there in real estate. It’s been golden for us to expand.”

The depressed real estate market has been very helpful for Showhomes, and as such, the company has plans to build out a national foot print, which may include an upwards of 150 to 200 new units.

“We’re well on track to do that, we’re ahead of where we thought we’d be, so it’s a good problem to have,” Scott said. “We’re expanding heavily in the Northeast, and adding more units in Florida, Texas and California. We’re expanding wherever there’s interest.”

Showhomes is big in Southern California, and is hoping to open in Napa Valley and in Sacramento in the coming months. Kelton says that the franchise does well in many markets, small and large, because there are vacant houses everywhere, and even in the boom, it has a lot to do with how often people move. Most consumers will purchase new homes before they sell their old homes and move all their furniture to the new place, which creates a need for vacant home staging.

“Franchising in general has been struggling. It’s one of the real ironies in the market, because in a recession more people want to start their own business more than normal because they’re out of work so there is a big disconnect between franchise companies and people who want to open a franchise,” Scott said. “With our forward-thinking approach, we engage customers and put information out there. Aggressive Blogging, social media and social media PR have really generated sales for us.”

Coupled with Web content, guest blogging and other types of non-traditional communications, Showhomes’ current online content and social media efforts have allowed folks who are naturally interested in real estate or home staging to tune into the company story long before they talk to a salesperson. When they do inquire about either owning their own Showhomes franchise, or requesting the company’s services, they have already done some research and are engaged.

“We’ve also found on the franchise sales side, one thing that’s working today is old-school trade shows,” Scott said. “The entire last decade companies spent getting connected to the Internet, and now with all those portals, people don’t trust sales people.”

Scott says his company saw a big turnaround at trade shows in 2009 and that they now produce almost a third of its overall sales. Consumers want to meet a live person and those that have an inherent interest in the industry go to Showhomes’ booth and meet their team.

“We are also big on what I’d say is social media PR,” Scott said. “We’ve found we have to be way more aggressive and more targeted with the PR we do – it drives a lot of the brand. PR works for us but only because we produce releases that tell real stories and don’t read like what a PR firm produces. We turn our releases into real stories that will get a journalist’s attention.”

“There’s no such thing as viral content in today’s market, it’s just good content,” he said. “We tend to produce things in-house because we find most PR and marketing firms don’t know how to produce good content. I’m a former journalist and I use journalists to do our writing. We know how to produce a campaign the gets results because we all have a very keen idea of what’s interesting and what’s absolute junk. The junk gets tuned out – the really interesting content is what you need to fuel a successful social media campaign.”

Showhomes finds that consumers in today’s market are using Google as a starting point for any kind of research. In line with this research, Scott spends a great deal of time tracking back to see where customers have found a link to the Showhomes Web site, and also implements quite a bit of search engine optimization to stay top of mind when it comes to home staging.

“We do lots of hyper-local searches – generating leads from Google searches and from Craig’s List,” he said. “We had to adapt our marketing in the last year, because social media has really changed the way customer make buying decisions. We’ve had to revamp almost everything we do and it’s been great for our franchisees. We’ve come up with more cost-effective campaigns, but it takes lots of brain power and going against the conventional wisdom.”

As far as potential franchisees, mortgage brokers are Showhomes’ target market at this point, which gives the company an opportunity to grow in the mortgage broker industry, which is struggling these days. Other interested parties are folks that are simply interested in real estate, not necessarily realtors themselves, just those intrigued by the industry.

Scott said that through his own consulting company; a lot of these marketing efforts are handled in-house, adding that due to his journalism background, he hires former journalists and writers to assist with press releases and other content as soon as he needs them. “What has emerged is that getting results is all about the content; you produce intelligent content, designed specifically for that audience, and that’s what fuels social media, instead of a PR agency or a marketing, or an SEO or a Web firm, you have a content strategy firm that produces PR, social media content, blogging content and all the other various pieces that go with it.”

Scott said that those who can tell the company’s story are the ones that truly generate traffic. Outside of franchising, these types of agencies are building content and are quickly becoming a mainstay in the communications industry.


For more information on Showhomes, please contact:
Thomas Scott

5 Bizarre Ways PR Can Kill You Suddenly


(Thanks to guest blogger Thomas Scott for his insights on navigating the dangers of PR)

Can PR kill you suddenly? Death by PR
Probably not.
Can PR be hazardous to the health and well being of your company?
Absolutely. It can kill it in one fell swoop. Suddenly.

Public Relations practices are changing and the PR industry is in the middle of its most major culture shift in the past fifty years. We’re talking major paradigm shift here; the kind that happened when the iPod changed people’s music buying habits and Domino’s Pizza changed people’s pizza buying habits.

What’s the shift?

Journalists and bloggers, the individuals any successful PR campaign must target, have the lowest trust level of public relations companies, individuals and traditional PR content that they’ve ever had. We spent the entire last decade getting connected and wired to the internet and now we are suffering from overload. People want to have conversations where they trade tips and referrals and in order to have good conversations, you need interesting content.

Here are my 5 ways PR can suddenly kill your business – bizarre because they are counter-intuitive for those of us who have worked in the industry for lengthy amounts of time:

1. Write public relations and news releases in the traditional format. Trust me on this one – journalists have a keen awareness of ‘interesting’ and ‘not interesting.’ Those are the only two categories your content falls into. Period. Tell your story the way a journalist would tell it so it is really a story and not a release. Use traditional journalism methods to hook readers so they chose to know more. Forget to do this and your message will go right in the trash.
2. Write poorly thought of headlines. Headlines are called headlines because they serve a very important purpose: you are reading this blog post because I ‘gotcha’ with my headline. Admit it – it’s true! Take the time to write a catchy headline that people will flock to. Search Engine Optimization Experts understand this; it is at the root of the entire link baiting industry. Don’t know what that is? Google it – it applies more to PR than you realize!
3. Write content that is meaningless. As a journalist or blogger, I don’t care about your 59 cent taco. I care that your 59 cent taco kept the entire staff of a California farm employed in the down market or how a lowly 59 cent taco can decrease PMS levels in women suffering from a lack of iron (if that is true, please contact me). Be clear on what your story is and avoid stories that are not – well – stories. Journalists are professionally trained to seek out stories. No amount of calling on your part will convince them otherwise!
4. Call journalists to follow up. I know this is what real PR firms bill as a valuable service. I also know that as a journalist myself at a major market US daily, calling me to ‘follow up’ was a guaranteed way to get yourself and the company you represent blacklisted. Write better content and tell better, more compelling stories that people would want to talk about. Do that and you won’t have to call.
5. Forget about the longevity of a release. Creating content for a PR release is a lot more than sending to journalists. Current thinking among my unscientific group of 4 PR and social media friends is that if a content piece is really good, it is valuable. Keep your content and releases in your bank deposit vault – your company blog – so people can find it long afterwards and click on the link to your website. Every release you write should be on its own webpage, optimized with search engine tools and should have the ability for readers to both click through to your website and share on their social media networks. Forget that and all you’ll get is a whimper, not a bang.

Good luck! 

Thomas Scott

VP Marketing for Showhomes, a nationally franchised home staging company: http://www.showhomesfranchise.com

Thomas is recovering journalist and a new media and content specialist.

Proof That PR Drives Sales!

This week’s PRWorkbench guest blogger is Thomas Scott, VP of Operations for Showhomes. Thanks to Thomas for these great observations made at last week’s Franchise Update Conference.

Franchise Industry Execs Miss the Opportunity to Leverage Franchise PR to Drive Sales

P1040751300 franchise executives converged on the Drake Hotel in Chicago this week for three days of intense evaluation about the state of franchise sales and dialog about best practices that drive results in today’s market. This much anticipated Franchise Update Conference centers around industry reports on numbers of franchise units sold, lead sources for the year, and cost per franchise sale.



This year’s theme, Mission Possible, held lots of promise as the previous year has been a wasteland for many companies. This year three big issues converge into a perfect storm that creates lots of choppy waters for franchise sales:


  1. Fran Data experts projected that the franchise industry will have some truly choppy waters for the next four or five years due to lack of bank financing and shaky loan underwriting making credit hard to come by
  2. Traditional powerhouses of franchise sales lead generation have trailed off significantly; franchise portals in particular are not delivering the quality leads they once were
  3. The dramatic shift in the way people communicate and build trust and how this impacts the rise of social media left more than a few companies struggling to connect the dots

A big disconnect with franchise sales lead generation centered on an old-school tool: Franchise PR. Here’s a list of lead sources for franchise sales this year:

Lead Sources for Franchise Sales (where leads for franchise sales come from)

  • Internet          34%
  • Referrals          28%
  • Brokers            17%
  • Print                  8%
  • Other               13%
  • Trade Shows      3%
  • PR                    3%

Sources of Closed Franchise Sales (Where the leads that actually closed came from)

  • Internet          50%
  • Brokers           16%
  • Trade Shows   13%
  • PR                 11%
  • Other             10%

Franchise companies only generated 3% of the total leads for franchise sales this year. Only 3%! Those measly 3% of leads resulted in 11% of the total industry unit sales this year. 11%! Making matters worse, almost half of the companies represented at the Franchise Update Conference were not using PR to generate sales leads. HALF!

The Franchise Update report also gave out projected average budgets for franchise development: the average company will spend $162,000 on its total budget to sell franchises this year. PR was way down on the list of expenditures. If PR done poorly and without consistency produced 11% of the franchise sales last year, what should you budget to grow a franchise system?

Franchise companies need to wake up – PR if used correctly by someone that understands the social media shift is a powerful tool for franchise sales lead generation. PR firms need to wake up too. What PR worked 20 years ago and even what worked last year DOES NOT WORK in today’s market.

Here’s the issue: publicity is great. Publicity will get you in the papers and can help with search engine optimization and Google search results. Publicity can generate a binder full of clips. Franchisees love publicity because it’s great for the ego. Publicity does not, however, generate franchise sales. Old-school press releases about store openings, expansion plans and staff changes don’t have the oomph they once did in today’s social media market.

PR can be used to aggressively drive your franchise sales if you focus on telling your story and driving the social media conversation about what you do. We’ve successfully done this at my company, Showhomes, and I listened to Stan Freidman, CEO of Retrotax talk about how he has used it to get his new company off the ground.

Success with PR centers around the story you tell. If you can get people talking about your sales effort in social media arenas like Linkedin and Twitter, you can get reporters to bite and that will lead to lots of online trust and credibility. This is crucial because candidates are at their lowest trust level any of us have seen.

They call this the ‘Great Recession’ for a reason!

For more information from Thomas Scott, please contact him at:

Thomas Scott
VP Operations, Showhomes
Twitter: @showhomesthomas
Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/thomscott