On Your Marks – Trademark, Marketing, and Reputation
Career success will hinge daily on you choosing to do something that you’re passionate about. Like the adage says, “Do what makes your soul happy.” The last thing you want after making the monumental decision to become a franchisee is to realize that you simply bought a job.
But, passion alone does not a successful franchise make. That will also hinge daily on hard work and how much attention you are paying to your marks – your trademark, your marketing, and your reputation, or your business marks.
The brand you represent, the franchise trademark(s), should match the investment you’re willing to make. If you’re looking for a franchise, be sure to ask how well protected its brand is against infringers. How well protected is it in terms of representation by other franchises? For example, our legal department spends quite a bit of time dealing with “We Buy Ugly Houses®” imitators that don’t reflect our same business practices and standards. We are the only company that can say “We Buy Ugly Houses”, which we use in our marketing campaigns to distinguish ourselves from the rest.
Your trademark also further strengthens your ability to do business. For our franchisees, national brand recognition helps to support their capitalization. To build a business buying, renovating, and selling property, you’ve got to have money. From your first deal to your fiftieth, your ability to find funds fast so you can realize any returns at all is critical to succeeding as a potential real estate investor.
The best option is to get a hard money loan secured by the property itself and most often provided by other investors or private lenders and companies. Our franchises find that with a trusted name like HomeVestors behind them, hard money lenders actually compete to finance their deals.
To be in a position to be closing deals, you also need to market your brand. For real estate investors, there are a few options. You can attend auctions, but the homes usually need a lot of work. You can typically get them pretty cheaply and build sweat equity to gain a solid market advantage when you sell. But—and it’s a big one—there’s a lot of unknowns when you bid to win at an auction house.
You can also advertise online, which is an easy way to find motivated sellers in your targeted areas using pop-up or pay-per-click ads via Google or other major websites. Social media platforms can also provide leverage in attracting attention to your business. However, you may spend a lot of time just weeding out the useless leads.
Some investors still pound the pavement, knocking on doors to connect with homeowners, and find they need to try many just to find a single homeowner who’s even willing to talk. And then, there are lead lists that compile the names of homeowners who may be in financial trouble and, as a result, may be interested in selling their homes, which are often outdated and in need of repairs.
The difficulty with marketing is exactly why your trademark should be a strength. If you have a strong national franchise brand, you gain the benefit of being able to couple that brand recognition with the efficiency of coordinated media buys. The right marketing will generate qualified leads, so you’re not having to cold call.
And that brings me to the final mark that makes a difference, and that is the customer service marks your customers give you. Would they work with you again? Are they leaving the experience with a positive impression of your brand? Brand recognition can have lasting positive and negative impacts – be sure you align yourself with one that is going to make people think of trust, integrity and fair treatment.
Never before has the connection between how a customer feels about a brand been so easily and broadly shared. One second your cashier is videoed being rude to a customer, and the next second it’s racked up thousands of views with your sign in the background. Even with the best trademark protection and most sophisticated marketing, a search for your business that returns negative reviews will highly risk that precious lead.
The truth is, customers and employees are happier in a business environment where kindness and fair treatment thrive, and that can be as valuable to your brand as anything. If you’re already doing something you’re passionate about in the first place, creating that environment should come easily through operating your business with best practices in the business.
David Hicks is CEO of Dallas-based HomeVestors of America, Inc., the largest professional house buying franchise in the U.S. with more than 100,000 houses bought since 1996. Upon joining HomeVestors in 2005 as director of franchise systems, Hicks quickly developed a process for coaching franchisees, and subsequently coordinated franchisee support for the company as VP of operations. In January 2009, he became co-president, and has since helped lead record-setting growth from 165 franchises at the time to more than 1,100 franchises today.