When franchise owner Freddie Rayner set his goals for 2010, he was confident that with the success he’d already achieved thanks to Digital Lighthouse, he could secure at least three new franchisee contracts. After being encouraged at his first Digital Lighthouse meeting to reactivate dormant leads, Rayner wrote to everyone who’d previously expressed an interest in becoming a franchisee and, within days, signed contracts worth £102,000. Second only to current (active) customers, dormant customers represent the best group of potential sales for any company, because they have already requested information or bought something.
Rayner, who is based near Milton Keynes, owns Time for You, the domestic cleaning specialists. Through a nation-wide series of franchises, Rayner is able to offer householders dedicated cleaners who have been vetted in their own homes and are insured for accidental damage.
Past customers often have no idea why they stopped purchasing a company’s products or services and may be lured back with a special incentive or offer.
‘I was told this strategy, that strategy, the next strategy and I literally burned them into my psyche, went away and immediately put them into practice,’ he says. ‘I heard it, I understood it, and I did it. I looked at previous applicants, and wrote to them again and said “See what we have on offer now” – it was basically the same offer, but I had sharpened it up… I simply wrote them a letter and gave them a reason to respond and three people did. The difference there was that, with immediate effect, I signed up three more franchisees, and that meant an actual bottom line of £102,000-worth of business.’
However, Rayner’s accomplishments since then have put that achievement in the shade – in a mere eight months, he has sold another 12 franchises worth over £364,000.
‘My target for the whole year was to sell three new franchisees and so far and as a direct result of what I’ve learnt from Digital Lighthouse, I’ve sold 12. Each one pays £12,000 plus vat and then another £18,000 over the term of the five-year contract. In the franchising world, that is mega because these contracts are not inexpensive: we’re talking about a substantial amount of money.’
Since the majority of his franchisees opt to stay on past the five-year contract period, Rayner says he expects to make more than £364,000.
How has he done it? With a combination of online and offline tactics designed to capture the attention of prospects and then convert them into paying customers signed-up franchisees.
The first step was to write a book – Digital Lighthouse members are encouraged to write a book about their specialist area and to use it to generate leads and to position themselves as experts in their markets. It was an easy step to take after the success of that first Digital Lighthouse recommendation, Rayner says. ‘I shot off to my place in Spain for a week and wrote it,’ he recalls.
The book contained testimonials, including one from a British Franchise Association (BFA) legal representative. ‘That’s a result of Jonathan Jay’s input – he encouraged me to approach the BFA for a testimonial. I thought, “There’s no way he’s going to come back to me,” but he did – he came back with a glowing testimonial. I thought, “Wow, this is absolutely fantastic.” It was then rushed off to print.
‘That endorsement from the BFA made it appear even more credible.’
The published book, Franchise Success, How To Make It Happen, has proven hugely popular with Rayner’s target market.
In fact, demand is so high that he’s just had to commission a second print run for another 1,500 copies. More importantly, that interest has resulted in actual sales – £364,000-worth so far. That’s because offering to mail people a free copy of the book enabled Rayner to collect the email and postal addresses of people who have a keen interest in owning a franchise. He was then able to follow up the book with targeted direct response mailings.
‘I follow them up if they reside in an area where I want a franchisee, for example, Southend or Warwick. In other areas, they’re just welcome to have a free book. I’m building up a database, and eventually I’ll send them details about other franchise operations I’m considering.
‘I’m applying the same techniques over and over again. Until Digital Lighthouse, I sort of knew about a lot of this, but now I’m actually putting it all into practice. That’s what counts. I’m doing less and getting more. And there is new information as well, which is quite exciting.’
When he signed up to become a Digital Lighthouse member, Rayner was already a very successful business owner – his franchise had won an HSBC Business of the Year Award and been featured on the BBC television programme, Working Lunch. He had more than 165 franchisees serving 12,000 clients a week across the UK and earning about £100,000 a year each.
The trouble was Rayner had lost enthusiasm for his business.
“I was disenchanted with my business because it wasn’t producing what I had led myself to believe it could. I didn’t really know where my business was going. It was doing okay but I knew it could do better.”
Before joining Digital Lighthouse, Rayner had been using the services of two business consultants, but they hadn’t made much difference.. ‘I was floundering, surrounded by consultants who were only interested in their own invoices. They’d come in, give me their invoices, chat to me about their golf handicaps, and then leave and I was £2,000 lighter each month. I hadn’t got an inkling about what I was paying for. They pushed me to take on more staff, bigger offices.’
A private consultation with Digital Lighthouse’s chairman Jonathan Jay helped Rayner get back on track. ‘Jonathan helped me realise there was a definite blockage in my business, and it was caused by me. That was a revelation. When I thought about what he said, I started to put into practice the solutions he suggested. He was right – he asked me if I went into the office every day with the right mental attitude wearing the right clothes, prepared to do business. The answer was “No”. I was brassed off with nothing happening. I just put out adverts that weren’t working much and blamed the fact people weren’t responding to adverts.
‘I suddenly realised: “Hey, I’ve got to do something… I’ve got to sharpen everything up. I had to go back through everything and realise that a lot of things were just slipping through my fingers.
‘It’s not until you realise where you are going wrong that you can put things right, when someone says, “Look, you’re going wrong because you’re on the wrong road… turn around, go back and set off on the right route.”
‘I was pretty fed up and down in the dumps and I’m certainly not that any more. I’ve got enthusiasm in bucket loads, and that’s what you need to be successful in business.’
He also acted on Jay’s advice to downsize. ‘Now I work from home – I have no staff, no office, and I’m doing miles better and the money is mine. Not everyone can do that, of course, but when you can, what a relief! I would definitely wholeheartedly recommend other business owners give Digital Lighthouse a try. Signing up for the Business Development Programme is the best investment business-wise that I’ve ever made.
‘It helps you to realise what running a business is all about. It’s not what I thought it was about – going into a nice office with fish tanks and flowers everywhere with assistants filing their nails for £25,000 salaries. I can do anything I like now, and I have much more money as a result and that’s the whole point of having a business, so I’m told. You tend to forget that when you’re doing it day to day. ‘To say I’m pleased with what I’ve learnt is an understatement. I’m still attending the Digital Lighthouse Business Development Programme. I am putting it all into practice, and it has made a big difference to me. I would highly recommend that people take on board what they hear at the Business Development course.’