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The Old Approach to Achieving Brand Success in MENA is Not Dying, It’s Dead!

06 Jun 2023 3802 Views

By: Omar Alhaza’a – Founder & CEO of Franchise Arabia

Brand owners should not overlook the fertile marketplace of the Middle East. MENA is a big market with endless opportunities and tremendous potential for growth. However, the fundamental thing that we all must remember and remember well is that the market has drastically changed and will keep changing forever.

In the old days, a brand concept did not necessarily need to be remarkable to have a footprint in the marketplace because there weren’t that many choices available. Back then, there was no such thing as brand preference. Today, and in the future, brands have no other choice but to build a strong brand preference and offer something truly remarkable to capture the attention of potential franchise partners.

Local investors are no longer an easy target to sell your brand concept to. They have become more sophisticated buyers. They have shifted from “being sold to” to “buying”. This shift is largely caused by the variety and rise of local & global brands.  And if you don’t keep pace with this significant change, you will be like trying to drive forward by watching the rear-view mirror.  

Franchisors must now realize that the era of trying to recruit franchise partners without providing a compelling ‘why’ before they buy is over, DEAD. It is as dead as yesterday!  

A new era has arrived, and with it comes the need for a new approach. Brand owners must be willing to re-examine their old strategies and develop new ones. For your brand to flourish in the region, you will need to develop a new way of thinking about how to attract potential franchise partners.  Don’t try to make the mistake of importing a one-size-fits-all approach from your home market and expect it to motivate local investors and have them run after your brand. If that’s what you’re thinking, it’s time to rethink your strategy. The sad thing is, if you don’t start doing things differently now, before it is too late, your competition will catch up fast and your brand will be thrown out of the ring.

Well, while there are no quick fixes for finding the right franchise partners, here are 5 proven ways to help you re-examine your approach to achieving brand success in MENA:

  1. Don’t act like a cowboy. Some brand owners almost need to be told, “get off your horse and stop promoting your brand like a cowboy!” Times have changed. Their mumbo-jumbo old stuff doesn’t work in the region anymore. Coming across as arrogant is just about the worst thing a brand owner - or those who represent them - can do in this part of the world. What does work however is a genuine effort to understand what people really want and over-deliver accordingly. No gimmicks, no smoke and mirror illusions, and no empty promises. Just be genuine. Be real. And, please, train yourself to look beyond the dollar sign. People are not naive. They know the name of the game.
  1. Strategy first, execution second. Strategy is everything. It all starts with strategic planning. Armed with the right strategy and brilliant execution, you will always win. Without strategy, you will go into a slump. A well-thought-out brand strategy lays out a clear objective, sets guidelines, and keeps you focused on the primary target. Don’t be blinded by guesses and wrong assumptions. Be very careful. The local market is like an ocean full of sharks, if you jump in without a coherent strategy, you will be eaten alive!  
  1. Relationships are everything. In MENA, it’s not who you are, it’s who you know. To do business in the region you first need to build and maintain personal and trustworthy relationships with the right people. It does not really matter how great your brand is, if you’re not dealing with the right people, you will have a hard time achieving success. Generally, Arabs prefer to do business with people they know, like and trust. Capture people’s attention before you talk business. Take the time and effort to reach their hearts and minds first, then talk about business. 
  1. Think global, act local. Think countries, not regions. Again, things are different here. Culture is different, people are different, the competition is different, and local attitudes are different in each country. There are crucial differences in each market that should be addressed in an appropriate manner if you want to succeed locally. It’s essential to act locally in terms of tailoring what you have to offer to the local market characteristics. You need to get a real feel of the market by reaching out and feeling its vibes first hand. Get connected to the region from the region.
  1. Fish where the big fish are. Focus on where the business is going to come from, where the real opportunities are. You don’t have to be everywhere, be where your target audience is hanging out. Conduct a laser-focused marketing campaign where the big guys can see, feel, and hear you.  Participate in well-established proven trade shows, list your brand on highly effective directories, and have a well-connected facilitator on the ground who can introduce you to real opportunities. Don’t waste your time, money, and energy chasing small fish.  Focus on prospects not suspects.   Quality and convertibility are what’s important, not quantity. 

Finally, in the old, old days, selling and chasing prospects used to be a good strategy. Today, enticing and serving people is the only strategy that worksIt’s about identifying the common ground between your brand and potential franchise partners. It’s about defining people’s expectations and delivering on them. Ultimately, it's all about building a strong brand preference. When you give people more compelling reasons to do business with you, their hearts, minds, and wallets will follow!

♦ Khaleej Times: