How One Franchise Is Growing Market Share During a Pandemic
2020 marks the 50th anniversary of AlphaGraphics. Founded in 1970 by Rodger Ford in Arizona, the company began franchising in 1979. Today there are nearly 300 AlphaGraphics Centers across six countries. Its franchise owners — all local businesses — lead the industry in average gross sales per single and multi-location owners. In 2019, it chronicled a record 21 franchisees on the Printing News Top 100 Small Commercial Printers.
Over its storied history, the brand has been through troubled economies, private equity acquisitions, and vast changes in technology, but perhaps nothing as surprising and challenging as the current COVID-19 global pandemic. By late February, the 2020 marketing plan that was developed to showcase its 50th anniversary and annual conference for its franchisees in Louisville, Ky., had to be completely scratched.
Instead, the executive team set a course to develop dozens of new marketing strategies and tools to address current customers, essential businesses, consumer needs, employee safety, and more.
“We knew we were in unprecedented times,” says Ryan Farris, President and COO. “Supporting our network of franchisees and their staff was our top priority. From assistance with PPP funding, to safety protocols for franchisees and their staff, to new products and learning initiatives, the executive staff stepped up remarkably.”
Leading Through a Crisis
It’s not easy to completely revamp an annual conference for hundreds of franchisees, staff, vendors, and suppliers or develop and make available hundreds of virtual training offerings for franchisees specifically dedicated to the COVID-19 pandemic. But that’s exactly what AlphaGraphics did.
AlphaGraphics had planned a big year in 2020, including a full complement of live, in-person training events and a full celebration for its 50th anniversary. The annual AlphaGraphics conference — originally scheduled for early August this year — is a huge undertaking filled with dozens of workshops, general sessions, thought leadership guest speakers, hundreds of franchisees, staff, vendors, and family members attending.
However, due to travel restrictions and franchise owners needing to be close to home and their businesses, AlphaGraphics Learning and Development team, led by VP Clain Udy reacted swiftly. They scratched the year-long planned event and put together a robust five-day virtual conference. The event promises to be filled with as much great value to the franchisees and their staff.
“This is actually a very exciting opportunity,” Udy says. “We’re innovating on a frontier in which businesses are re-imagining how to engage customers and constituents using a digital and traditional blend of media. Our conference gives us an opportunity to innovate by asking questions like: how can we involve the entire staff of our franchisees? How can we use gamification to increase engagement? How can we marry the physical — conference in a box, printed educational materials, banner backdrops, and more — with the digital to enhance learning? How do we optimize the use of digital tools like Zoom and PollEverywhere to provide the best virtual experience possible? We have already designed an experience that we’re excited about and our Network is excited about.”
Additionally, Udy’s team is responsible for the brand’s online learning platform, agLearn. An extensive resource housing more than 700 online training courses for franchise owners and their staff. Since February, Udy’s team has worked diligently to add dozens of COVID-19-related courses as well as re-purpose existing content for added awareness for franchisees during temporary center closures or abbreviated operating hours.
Through the pandemic, AlphaGraphics has hosted more than 70 webinar training sessions, with a total attendance of more than 3,400 and from March through May has seen more than 15,000 course enrollments in agLearn.
“In February, we suspected center owners and staff members would have extra time and opportunity to learn and [that they would need] exponentially more training to respond to the COVID-19 situation,” Udy says. “I have to say we’ve been surprised by the response. Our Network has not only taken full advantage of the learning opportunity, but has participated in that effort – from letting us know what training they needed, to sharing their best practices and innovations. Our franchisees have participated in many of our sessions – particularly our virtual panel discussions.”
Unprecedented Financial Incentives for Independent Operators
In response to the current pandemic, AlphaGraphics is now providing thousands of dollars in financial incentives for qualified independents to join the franchise network.
“We clearly understand how challenging the current environment is for small business owners,” says Bill McPherson, VP of Development. “Independent printers not aligned with a strong franchise brand are facing enormous challenges in sales, marketing, technology, staffing, and more. We wanted to embrace this current situation and help those who are looking to hang onto their business, weather the storm, and grow their business going forward. Moreover, for those who were thinking about an exit strategy before COVID-19, AlphaGraphics also has a robust resale/exit strategy program.”
Right now, AlphaGraphics is offering 60% off of its initial franchise fee and reduced royalties to join the network. In addition, there are marketing, technology, and re-branding incentives where the franchisor is contributing thousands of dollars to make the transition from independent to franchisee simple and inexpensive.
To learn more about AlphaGraphics go to alphagraphicsfranchise.com/convert-your-business/
You can also contact Brad Swimmer direct at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 216- 408-8980.