Q&A With it’seeze Founder Joanne Robbins
Whether you’re new to the world of franchising, or have already found a franchise that ticks all your boxes, it’s extremely important to do your homework and know as much about the business as possible before making the life-changing decision to partner with a franchise.
Helping you to get to know the it’seeze franchise to a higher degree, this week we have interviewed our very own Founder and Managing Director of it’seeze, Joanne Robbins.
Take a peek at Joanne’s answers below and find out more about our rapidly growing web design business.
When was the business established? And what were the factors for deciding to go down the franchise route?
“In 2003, we saw an opportunity for our graphic design studio to expand into web design. We had found that editing our own website was a lengthy and difficult process, and knew that other business owners would be facing the same problem.
We set about creating our own content management system that was easy to use without the need for additional software - as a result, the it’seeze websites brand was launched for local customers in 2005.
it’seeze was an immediate success, with local businesses jumping at the idea of a professionally designed website that was easy to edit.
We soon had a large and loyal client base, and in 2008 we decided to franchise the brand so that we could offer it’seeze websites to businesses throughout the UK. “
What have been the company’s biggest achievements/successes to date so far?
“A key part of our offering is the personalised service we offer to each and every client. Our network of franchisees serve as local website consultants for their business communities, providing ongoing advice and face-to-face support for all customers. We’re immensely proud of the high satisfaction rating we’ve received from our clients as a result, as evidenced by our Trustpilot account. Rated 4.8/5 with over 500 reviews, the great feedback we receive allows us to feel confident in our offering, whilst also striving to make our service even better.
We’re also incredibly proud of the reputation we’ve developed within the franchise industry over the last 12 years. During this time, we’ve firmly established ourselves as an ethical and credible franchise; thanks in large part to our proven business model, expert training and support, and commitment to fostering an open and honest working relationship with our franchisees.
Lastly, in 2019 we were honoured to win the Gold Award for 'Outstanding Franchise Marketing' at the inaugural AFA (Approved Franchise Association) Awards. Our marketing team were finalists once again for the same award this year, where they received the Bronze Award. The Outstanding Franchise Marketing Award is awarded to the franchise that "demonstrates excellence in marketing activities both to potential franchisees and to consumers", through online and offline activities including "website, social media, online campaigns, print media, events, and public relations".
What challenges have you had to overcome?
“After almost a decade as a franchise, we had gained a very clear idea of what was working well for us and what was preventing us from progressing further. Our customer base was growing steadily, but we were struggling to find new franchisees who were well-suited to our business model.
In 2018, we decided to pause recruitment to re-evaluate our marketing and pinpoint what makes an ideal candidate for our franchise. We brought in fresh messaging, created a new website, and restructured our ‘discovery day’ process to offer a more relaxed meeting with members of our team. This helped us refine our recruitment process and take on more successful franchisees.
Another challenge we faced was helping our franchisees to maximise their income in their first year of trading, as this was crucial for establishing the business and helping them grow their region. We did some number crunching and were able to come up with a new scheme where franchisees would retain the entirety of the set-up fee for each website and also pay no monthly management fees for the initial 12 months. This ensures each franchisee is able to make a strong start, with their monthly residual income from the website payment plans then having time to grow significantly over the course of the year. Our most recent franchisees even managed to earn back their franchise investment fee in just 4 months!”
What marketing/promotional tools do you use to grow your franchise?
“We use online franchise directories, email marketing, social media marketing, and our own website, where we blog regularly. “
What differentiates it’seeze from the competition?
“The support we offer to both our client base and our franchisee network is what really differentiates the it’seeze franchise from the rest. This support is ongoing, and available from both our expert in-house team and our dedicated online support centre, which contains several forums for peer-to-peer support and Head Office discussion. Clients have the added benefit of working with their local consultant, who is able to offer them face-to-face support and a friendly, personal service they can rely on. The value this holds for local businesses cannot be overstated, and is the reason for our exceptional Trustpilot score and the volume of reviews we have collected.
Our portfolio of work is another area in which we feel we stand out from the competition. Whilst our competitors generally show anything from 5-50 examples of websites they have created, we have a national portfolio of 500-600 different websites, making this one of our franchisees’ most valuable marketing assets. Having created websites for nearly 10,000 different businesses over the years, we are able to showcase the latest and best examples of our work, categorised into 27 different industries and 80 different sub-categories. This makes it even easier for potential clients to see examples of websites we’ve created for similar businesses. This powerful marketing tool also serves to show prospective franchisees the demand for our products and the vast opportunity our franchise presents in being able to market our website products to so many different industries. “
What qualities do you look for in a franchisee? What makes a successful franchisee?
“We look for driven, professional people with some (or all) of the following attributes as we know this makes a successful franchisee:
Knowledge of digital marketing (but not at a technical level)
Experience of direct selling with targets
Individuals or couples looking to work together
Friendly, approachable, relatable
Committed to growing a business
Our most successful franchisees come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, but they all had something in common: a desire to put their skills to use to grow their own business, not someone else’s.”
What changes have you seen in your industry over recent years? And how have you adapted to them?
"People now increasingly make purchases based on the recommendations of others, which is why we partnered with Trustpilot.
Franchise competitors have come and gone over the years – this can create a bad reputation for franchising. We’ve maintained our ethical approach to franchising by only recruiting people we truly believe will be successful, and by reinvesting the entire franchise fee back into the franchisee to ensure they have the best possible start to their franchise. Our reviews from our franchisees speak for themselves.
We’re in a progressive industry so we are continually updating and creating new features for the it’seeze website editor (our unique content management system) to keep ahead of the competition.”
What does the future hold for the it’seeze franchise?
“With sales growing year on year and continually strong profitable growth, we are confident in our established market position and our long-term financial performance. We’ve seen especially strong results in recent years, and with a motivated workforce, innovative product, and firm marketing foundations, we believe we have the potential for sustained growth for many years to come.”
What expansion plans have you got nationally and internationally?
“We plan to continue to expand across the UK and Ireland – with no plans to expand internationally at this time.”
What advice would you give to someone considering franchising their business?
“Once you have a product or service that’s in demand, make sure you research the competition. You also need to establish a strong business model and create a business plan – then get this checked out by your accountant. Also, keep developing your systems and processes to make sure they’re scalable and easy to manage.
It’s worth finding a franchise solicitor who you’re comfortable working with to draw up your franchise agreement. When thinking about what to include, reach out to other franchisors and discover their pain points so you know what obstacles could come up.
Next, you want to assess the skills and qualities that you’ll need your franchisees to have to succeed, and make sure that any potential partners fully understand the role and the franchise obligations before they commit to investing in the business.
You’ll need to prepare a comprehensive training course for your franchisees too. Joining a franchise is a big step, so instilling confidence in your franchisees in their ability to carry out the role and in your systems is a crucial step.
As your team grows, make sure you’re employing people who not only have the right skills for the role, but who are good communicators and will fit in well with both staff and franchisees.
It’s also really important that you fully understand your target market, and that you build your brand around this. You should be prepared to move with the times and listen to your franchisees, as well as providing them with ongoing guidance and support.”
If you had to do it all again, what would you do differently?
“If we were going to do it all again, we’d work with a business mentor from the outset to assess the business as it develops. When you’re involved in the day-to-day operations, it can be difficult to find the time to look at the whole franchise objectively. It can also be quite isolating, as managing a franchise is very different from managing a business.
We’d also make sure we collaborated more closely with franchisees from the very beginning. This would help us establish who was successful and why, allowing us to tailor our franchise marketing and recruitment procedures accordingly.”
If you’re still on the fence and need to know a little more about our franchise, why not contact our Franchise Development Manager, Alex Brook, who is on hand to answer all your burning questions about the it’seeze franchise. Fill in the form below and Alex will be in touch as soon as possible.
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