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Business growth expert Dan Rothfeld was just appointed president of Mainland, a 100+ brand, franchise-focused content marketing agency, to help the fast-growing agency expand into new segments, including personal finance, real estate, travel, restaurant tech and education tech.
Rothfeld is bringing his wealth of experience in business growth to Mainland, where he hopes to leverage the agency’s unique content marketing strategy and technologies to scale the company rapidly over the next five years.
Rothfeld first made a name for himself in the business world at Spherion, a pioneer in the staffing- and workforce-solutions industry, where he established a global network of professional niche staffing businesses, including IT, legal, finance and accounting.
In the years that followed, Rothfeld became one of the most sought-after business-growth experts in any industry, helping lead two businesses, including the massive hospitality franchise Choice Hotels International, to successful IPOs. Rothfeld has also helped lead businesses in different verticals to successful private equity exits.
Rothfeld has also helped brands in segments as diverse as legal services (US Legal Support) and drone technology and software (Measure UAS), reinvigorate their development strategies and dramatically increase their revenues. Rothfeld is an accomplished investor in franchising, real estate and even Broadway musicals.
Connect with Dan on LinkedIn.
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:07] Welcome to Franchise Marketing Radio, brought to you by SEO Samba, comprehensive, high performing marketing solutions for mature and emerging franchise brands. To supercharge your franchise marketing, go to seosambo.com. That’s seosamba.com.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:32] Lee Kantor here, another episode of Franchise Marketing Radio, and this is going to be a fun one. Today we have with us Dan Rothfeld with Mainland. Welcome.
Dan Rothfeld: [00:00:40] Hi Lee, thanks so much. Pleasure to be here.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:44] Well, I’m excited to hear what you’re up to. Tell us a little bit about mainland, how you serve in folks.
Dan Rothfeld: [00:00:49] So Mainland initially started out about close to about 15 years ago. Now, gentlemen, founder of the company is a gentleman by the name of Nick Powles and their original kind of focus area was in Franchise Marketing Radio. And today we serve about 120 different franchise brands and virtually every business vertical that you can possibly imagine. And essentially we’re providing them with digital marketing, services, media. We leverage technology, particularly through a couple of digital channels that we have created that allow us to be able to provide much more targeted type of a result back to our clientele, leveraging off the digital channel, as well as the data and analytics that we can generate as well.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:48] So now so since its inception, it was always focused on serving franchise clients.
Dan Rothfeld: [00:01:54] Yep, the last 14 years have been predominantly focused, actually entirely focused on service servicing the franchise community. And now with the advent of some of these digital channels that I mentioned, we’re now starting to branch out into areas like real estate, personal finance, restaurant technology and a couple of other business verticals as well, including travel, the travel industry as well.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:24] Now, by specializing primarily on franchises as your work helping that franchisor get found by potential franchisees, is it helping the local franchisees get more local businesses? The combination of all of that,
Dan Rothfeld: [00:02:39] Let’s see all the above. The primary focus has always started out in the development arena. So it is, as you mentioned, trying to connect up prospects that might be interested in that franchise concept. And then also, as that franchisee becomes part of that system and gets on board and working along with the franchise store and the franchisee to provide, you know, certain certain marketing tactics to make that franchisee much more successful.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:14] Now, is there anything that you could share with our listener that maybe there is an emerging franchise that is just getting started? Maybe they got some traction locally. Now they’re saying, hey, I think that this can scale. I think we can do this in other markets. Is there kind of some dos and don’ts that you’ve learned over, you know, dealing with hundreds of brands?
Dan Rothfeld: [00:03:36] Well, predominantly, what you want to be focused on is make sure that your efforts to have an up and coming franchise are part it’s essentially leveraging the founder’s story. Why did the founder think that this was an interesting business to develop on their own? And then as that business grew and evolved and became something that could be created into more of a franchise concept in which that business, you know, basically becomes almost business in a box, all the the issues that a prospective franchisee might face entering into that type of a business or that industry have already sort of been factored in. And, you know, there’s a very high success rate, which is obviously what people want when they’re buying into a franchise. We want to leverage the fact of why the founder decided to enter into that business and whether it’s lifestyle or whether it’s, you know, as a result of a particular opportunity and leverage that franchise story, because that will resonate with prospective franchisees that might have an interest in that type of a business.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:55] Now, that’s an interesting tact, my background in marketing. So that to me really is at the heart of of marketing and advertising is you have to kind of attack the heart first before the brain. And it sounds like that you are an agreement from that standpoint that the Y has to be there, the mission, whatever kind of the overarching emotional goal was, has to maybe be at the forefront and then still back it up by the facts of its replicable and it scales. And we have everything in a box that that’s secondary. I mean, those are must haves, but they’re secondary in the storytelling of the brand.
Dan Rothfeld: [00:05:31] Yes. So, you know, within mainland, one of the primary premises that we always talk about internally with our staff and we certainly talk about it with the franchise franchise or is that we work with is it’s called, you know, why? Why you why now? And it is, you know, building upon that story of why that person decided to get involved in that business, you know, what was happening in that person’s life, because at the end of the day, people sell brands, brands that don’t sell brands. So it really does start, in fact, with the person story or the founders story. And then, yes, to your point, you know, clearly the the investment, the franchise investment obviously has to be there. But what drives people to get into a business or to get into a franchise is always there’s always something beyond the dollars and cents as to why a person decides to make that type of an investment.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:44] Now, having done this for a minute or so, has the reasons people buy a franchise kind of changed, you know, as we enter hopefully a post pandemic era?
Dan Rothfeld: [00:06:57] I would say that, you know, generally speaking, I think well, I’ll say this as it relates to our current dynamics, is people are are, you know, looking for an opportunity to control the agenda as opposed to letting the agenda control them. And I think that there is certainly a fair amount of frustration out there and just a a potential interest in doing something besides, you know, more of a nine to five or a traditional corporate type of a role. And certainly the pandemic has, if anything, just increased that desire and that feeling out there, generally speaking. So it’s just, you know, really about the individual and their ability of being able to control their life and wanting to do something that they get fulfillment out of and perhaps change the balance of their lifestyle. Those are generally where people start out in their look to is to, you know, to ask the question, is there something else out there in life besides just, you know, punching in at night and clocking out at 5:00.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:21] Now, do you think that any of that is also coming from the fact that, like, interest rates are so low and that traditional retirement, some of the things that you would invest in a traditional retirement aren’t there? And you’re going to have to add some more level of risk into your kind of financial future as you exit maybe that that corporate gig or that enterprise career that you had for a period of time, that now you have to kind of take more of these kind of swings in order to maintain a lifestyle.
Dan Rothfeld: [00:08:53] I think for a certainly there’s a certain type of demographic where that resonates for sure. And I also think that once again, that’s looking at things in a very opportunistic type of way, coming off of something that kind of certainly has started off to be and maybe even still is to a certain extent a negative in terms of the pandemic. But leveraging the fact of, you know, current economics and current situations to look at it in a very, you know, business or financial type of a way that, you know, this perhaps to something for us to take advantage of because of how things have essentially set themselves up right now as it relates to economics and finances for sure.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:45] Now, is there any are you seeing kind of the demographic of a potential franchisee getting younger, our younger folks kind of choosing this path as opposed to, you know, maybe, like you said, get that nine to five or I’m just a cog in the machine and then I work my way up. And if they go with the franchise rather than they have a little more say in control of their destiny,
Dan Rothfeld: [00:10:09] You know, certainly, you know, if you go back and you look at the research as it relates to, you know, GenZE and the millennial generation, they’re certainly much more focused in on lifestyle. And so, once again, franchising as an opportunity is something that may appeal more to that demographic for certain reasons than than other generations.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:37] So you are are you seeing, like, more like parent child kind of combos where maybe the parents funding some of this for the kids to get them going in a career rather than them kind of going out and getting that corporate gig?
Dan Rothfeld: [00:10:51] Yes. And actually, to be honest, that’s something that I’ve personally seen, you know, throughout my franchising career. At one time, I was chief operating officer and chief revenue officer for a company called Choice Hotels International. And there was a lot of generational, you know, tie in where, you know, the older generation made the initial investment. And then it became very much of a sort of a, you know, family type of a business where they were, you know, originally investing in one property and then cultivated that business and ultimately allowed them the flexibility of being able to purchase and or build other hotels. And then as their children came of age and expressed an interest and they would bring them into the business as well.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:53] Now, are you seeing more? A professional franchise owners were they’re building kind of portfolios of complementary brands and they’re kind of looking at a market a little differently because once they have that customer acquired, then they can kind of share them among several brands. Or is that a trend that you’re seeing?
Dan Rothfeld: [00:12:14] Yes. And again, it’s it’s a trend for sure, but it’s been a trend that’s actually played out for quite some time, particularly, again, if I look back into the hotel industry and a choice, we have or had 15 different brands that we, you know, operated and sold and, you know, the part of the business model in that type of industry saturation. So particularly a choice where it was, you know, a limited service, limited service type of a hotel product. Investors and developers would buy a piece of property, let’s say, right off of cloverleaf of an interstate, and they would build that property and then they might choose to open up maybe even one or two or in some cases even three other properties on the other parts of that cloverleaf that were all different brands, but yet still owned by the same ownership and developer.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:26] So you’re seeing some of that. The evolution of that is that’s now trickling into other kind of sectors,
Dan Rothfeld: [00:13:33] Home services, the restaurant industry. That’s definitely something that you’re seeing out there
Lee Kantor: [00:13:41] Now when an emerging firm or franchise partners with mainland, what does that look like? Are they coming to you with maybe they got burned before they weren’t happy with their previous kind of marketing help? Or are they coming to you as saying, hey, look, we this is our best guess on how this is working and we need an expert to help shape our direction. Like what is kind of your relationship with your clients?
Dan Rothfeld: [00:14:05] Yeah, it really it’s very dependent upon the franchise laws. So in some instances it’s an upstart and they’re looking for that type of relationship. They didn’t have to have that when they were just kind of a standalone, you know, operating unit. Now that they’re are starting to explore the franchise concept, they need somebody that they can work with that will assist them in creating market generation for prospects that might be interested in that brand, or it could be a inexperienced or a, you know, existing brand that may have had a previous relationship. And that relationship has not evolved. And, you know, that’s one of the things that we definitely strive for in our business, is to make sure that we’re not standing still because business doesn’t stand still. So the ability of being able to, you know, understand how demographics are changing, how technology is changing, how storytelling because, you know, at the at its crux, that’s what marketing is all about, storytelling. How is that changing and how can we help that brand tell its story, you know, in a more constructive or better way that’s going to resonate with the demographics that that they’re trying to capture. And, you know, once again, I think for us as our own brand, we’re we tend to look at things as one. We are telling a story, but we’re trying to to try to create a emotional attachment with that prospect versus just strictly looking at this as a franchise business investment and an economic investment. And that’s what we try and center our messaging around.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:11] Can you share a story? Don’t name the name of the brand, but maybe give the back story of they were struggling with this, they started working with Mainland and then we helped them get to this new level.
Dan Rothfeld: [00:16:24] Well, there’s quite a few, right,
Lee Kantor: [00:16:26] But I want to talk about one that’s memorable in the sense that they had a hard problem and that they really were kind of, you know, they were had a real challenge and we were able to be creative and solve their problem.
Dan Rothfeld: [00:16:39] Yeah, well, one that just kind of comes to mind because it’s a conversation we were just having recently, which is once again, the messaging that their current marketing firm was using was much more focused in on the numbers of the franchise, you know, the the franchise investment that a, you know, prospective owner would make, not necessarily focusing on the value and the story behind that franchise. And we had the ability of being able to change that messaging, not only that, that almost immediately have an impact on the quality of the prospect that we were able to provide to that franchise, but also the sheer numbers of people who were interested in it, as well as I think telling it, telling the story better so that people understood what the franchise opportunity was and then consequently having the ability of being able to create an environment in which that franchise owner could be much more successful at selling that franchise concept internally or organically versus having to leverage a, you know, a broker type relationship or the broker community to do that. And also, you know, trying to leverage the resources that that franchise or kind of already brought to the table, but might not have been communicated where where people, you know, totally understood that.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:30] So do you see a lot where the franchise owner kind of has gold right around it and they don’t see it? Like maybe they take it for granted or they don’t see the value that maybe something on your team could see and say, oh, man, that’s right in front of you. Why aren’t they doing more of this
Dan Rothfeld: [00:18:44] All the time? We do. We do. We just in this past week, we did three different brand assessments. And what you find out and I think this is the case, whether you’re a mom and pop business or whether you’re a portfolio company like, you know, like a choice or, you know, some of the other larger portfolio companies out there that have multiple brands. Sometimes you get so busy in working in your business, you don’t really take the time to step back and work on your business because you’re so focused in on sort of the day to day. You don’t kind of take account or do an inventory of what you may already have that you’re really not taking advantage of. And particularly that’s where the brand assessment process is that we do with our clients is incredibly beneficial.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:38] Well, Dan, thank you so much for sharing your story today. If somebody wants to get a hold of you and have a conversation with you or somebody on the team, what is the website
Dan Rothfeld: [00:19:48] You can go to? It’s Hello, Mainland Dotcom, and certainly feel free to reach out to me or Nick, and we’d be happy to have a conversation with you.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:59] Good stuff. Thank you again for sharing your story. You’re doing important work and we appreciate you.
Dan Rothfeld: [00:20:03] Hey, you bet. Thanks so much for the time. I appreciate
Lee Kantor: [00:20:05] It. All right. This is Lee Kantor Wilson. Next time on Franchise Marketing Radio.