Paul Lyons Discusses Unique Franchises in Franchising World

Paul Lyons, Beef Jerky Outlet co-founder, discusses the role of unique franchises in the January 2016 issue of Franchising World. BJO-FW--Paul-Lyons_Header
Spotlight on Unique Franchises That You May Not Know About
What first comes to mind when you hear the words beef jerky?  Is it former pro wrestler Randy “Macho Man” Savage yelling “Need a little excitement?  Snap into a Slim Jim!” in a series of wild commercials for Slim Jim snacks in the late ‘90’s?  Although the spots garnered mainstream attention for the company, it created a misconception of what beef jerky is to most consumers.  If people don’t have the correct impression of the product, they certainly are not aware of the many types of franchises, varieties and benefits of beef jerky.

Today there are a number of highly successful companies that produce, market and sell beef jerky throughout the country.  Unlike some franchises that serve burgers, pizza or chicken sandwiches for the masses, those who produce beef jerky are considered to be in a specialized market.  So how do some of these franchises take a niche product or service and make it into a successful venture?  There are many ways.

Establish Your Identity and Embrace It
According to the International Franchise Association’s 2015 Franchise Business Economic Outlook prepared by IHS Economics, there are more than 780,000 franchise establishments in the United States.  Not all of these franchisees can be McDonald’s or Marriott.  There are plenty of smaller, lesser known franchises who offer valuable and desired services to consumers.  They will need to develop a successful business model, be creative in establishing their brand and effectively market to a select audience.

Regardless of which sector your business is in, it is important to establish a distinct brand identity.  What is your company about and what do you offer?  What is the story behind your concept?  Why are you the best and how will consumers remember you?

The Beef Jerky Outlet Experience
At the Beef Jerky Outlet, we love the opportunity to tell our story.  A decade ago my business partner, Scott Parker, and I noticed the growing popularity of beef jerky and thought we could take advantage of it.  After operating a few individual stores and a product distribution company, we opened our first franchise store in 2010.  Five years later, the Beef Jerky Outlet has 43 open locations and another 65 scheduled to open across the United States.

The franchise concept has taken off with the increased demands of consumers throughout the country for beef jerky products.  IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm, reported sales of jerky jumped 46 percent from 2009 to 2013, catapulting it to a $1.24 billion industry.  Beef jerky is also one of the fastest growing segments of the snack food industry, as it appeals to consumers’ desire for lightweight, high-protein foods.  It is popular among runners, weight lifters and hikers as people look for foods that are high in protein and low in calories, carbohydrates and fat.

The business model for the Beef Jerky Outlet is simple, yet effective.  We find the highest quality USDA approved beef and make the jerky in small batches to ensure freshness.  In addition to beef jerky we offer more than 200 varieties and sizes of jerky. Our products include exotics like venison, ostrich and buffalo, with flavors such as honey BBQ, teriyaki and 3 Beer Rub.  Finally, we make the experience fun by developing new products and giving away plenty of free samples for our customers to taste the best beef jerky out there.

There is a Market for a lot of Services
The story behind the Beef Jerky Outlet is just one of thousands from franchises that may appear to operate below the radar of larger, mainstream services.  Here are some other examples of unique franchises who have successfully carved their own niche within a specialized industry sector:

  • Any Lab Test Now is the first direct access lab testing services company that allows consumers and businesses to manage their health via hundreds of clinical lab, DNA, and drug and alcohol tests.  As the medical care industry changes, the franchise empowers patients to take control of their health on their own terms and schedules.  Any Lab Test Now gives patients the option to get their health questions answered without having to make a doctor’s appointment and at cost that is much more affordable.

  • NTY Franchise Company is the parent company of five unique re-sale based brands who focus on women’s designer fashion, children’s apparel and accessories, furniture/household goods, electronic sales and repair, and clothing for teens and young adults.  Their franchise business model sells gently used goods at 70% off what they would retail for brand new.  NTY Franchise brands is attractive to all parties, as it saves customers money and pays sellers cash on the spot for the items they are no longer using.

  • Creative Colors repairs and restores leather, vinyl, plastic and fabric upholstery at a fraction of the replacement costs.  As the industry leader in on-site repair and restoration, the franchise saves customers 90% on replacement and upholstering fees.  Creative Colors fulfills an essential need by repairing old or worn items, and their retailers and customers are blown away by what they can accomplish for a small percentage of the costs.

Those are three different franchises with three varying services they provide.  Each has been successful in taking their service directly to the consumer and showing how they can benefit from it.  While every unique franchise can take their own path to success, they have used many of these techniques to create their own identity and stand out from the crowd.

Taking Your Product to the Consumer and Engaging their Support
So a franchise has a great new service to offer, and they believe they have a strong potential audience for their product.  What is next?  With the proliferation of so many brands in today’s marketplace, consumers are also more willing to try new options.  Franchises can capture a fresh audience by offering something new or different.  Part of that is what product they offer, and part of that is how they market and promote their business to consumers.

One of the most important factors for franchises offering specific services need to consider is how they take their business directly to the consumer.  Advertising is obviously a good option, but many smaller franchisees have a limited budget, especially when getting their operations up and running.  Everyone is familiar with Google and similar online search engines, so these companies need to make sure they are easily found when people search for a particular product or service.  Developing a strong SEO program is essential for franchises looking to get the eyeballs of potential customers.

Franchises that offer a unique service or product may face a greater initial challenge to ingrain themselves into the consumers’ minds, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.  They have the opportunity to craft their business identity and successfully reach audiences that don’t have preconceived thoughts on the product.  The ability to create your own narrative and develop original messaging can be a powerful tool in marketing your business.

If a company sells hamburgers or cookies, we pretty much already know about those products and don’t need to learn much more.  But beef jerky – how much do people really know about it?  We can take this opportunity to let people know that it is the favorite snack of the military, and NASA has provided it to astronauts in space for years.  If people have the perception that beef jerky is simply a dried, chewy snack, we can come up with fun and innovative ways to let them know that it comes in many exotic flavors such as Moonshine and Cajun, and varieties ranging from kangaroo, alligator and elk.

Franchises currently have the ability to connect with their customers now more than ever before.  The Beef Jerky Outlet frequently uses social media to engage with our followers and promote our products at the same time.  Earlier this year, we held a contest to name our newest flavor and the response we received through our social media outlets was overwhelming.  Your customers can strongly identify with your brand and feel more connected to the growth and development your company.

Whether it be through social media or consistent sales, another advantage these franchises have is through customer loyalty.  They offer a specific service or product that few other companies can provide.  If they do it well, people will return because only that franchise can give them exactly what they want.  Very few major chains and big box stores truly strike a chord with their customers.  Their success comes from convenience and availability, but they rarely create the same passionate following as some smaller franchises.

Luckily, specialized franchises are positioned to have greater success than ever before.  They have the ability to level the playing field against larger franchises by crafting their own narrative, reaching more people through online searches and social media and actively developing a loyal followers of their franchise.  The Beef Jerky Outlet has been able to thrive by capitalizing on the growing popularity of our product, marketing it in a fun and interesting way and creating a passionate following for our brand.  Others franchises can chart their course to success through many of the same methods while tailoring a specific approach through their business services and audience needs.

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