How This Franchise Owner is Helping Local Businesses Acquire More Customers

Welcome to another episode of Atlanta Franchise Today with host Leslie Kuban, expert franchise consultant and owner of FranNet Atlanta. This original ASBN series is dedicated to bringing entrepreneurs and business owners the best practices and tips for their franchise goals. If you own a business, a critical question you should be asking yourself is, how am I going to get my customers?

On today’s show, Leslie is joined by Ramona Long, former educator and owner of Money Pages Kennesaw in Cobb County. Ramona is a successful marketing services franchise owner, who helps her customers drive growth in their businesses even through the challenges of COVID.

Money PagesTranscription:

Leslie Kuban:
Ramona, welcome to the show.

Ramona Long:
Thank you, Leslie, for having me. I appreciate being here.

Leslie Kuban:
And it’s not your first time. It’s been a couple years.

Ramona Long:
No. It’s been just about two years to the month actually, since last time I was here and so much has changed.

Leslie Kuban:
And you had recently started your business. You just launched your Money Pages franchise.

Ramona Long:
I had, yeah.

Leslie Kuban:
Recently two years ago. And actually let’s start with what is Money Pages for our viewers who are not familiar with your business. What do you do and for whom?

Ramona Long:
Okay. Money Pages is actually a 20 year national multimedia marketing agency out of Jacksonville that has franchises now in seven different states, about 25 different markets, and we own the one here in Cobb County. And our flagship is our direct mail magazine. And it’s a wonderful way to connect with your local community. And it has specialty pieces like menus and flyers and postcard options. And then we also have a full array of digital compliments. We do things from your Google ads, YouTube ads, social media, targeted display, logo, web design, branding. So we pretty much are a full service marketing agency. Whatever the unique needs are of any given business, we have something that can be a fit.

Leslie Kuban:
You’re the one stop shop for small businesses.

Ramona Long:
We really kind of are. Yes, we are. Yeah. And as a local business owner, it’s really great to be able to partner with other local owners as well, to be able to be that one person. So they don’t have to deal with the time in their day to deal with this person for this and this person for this and this person for this, because we can handle of all of that.

Leslie Kuban:
Now COVID of course, it was pre-COVID last time you were here.

Ramona Long:
It was.

Leslie Kuban:
World has changed. So how did that show up in your business? What pivots had to be made, if any, in your business?

Ramona Long:
Actually, we were about a year and a half in, and we had been successful right out the gate as we had mentioned time we were here, because we had started the April previously. And really for us, there was just that one month at the beginning when everybody was really, “What is going on? What is happening?” And in the grand scheme of things, a lot of our competitors stopped printing. And at that point, I was really focused solely on our print and wasn’t really doing the digital side yet. And we continued to print as Money Pages. Alan Worley, our CEO and founder was amazing because he really valued the fact that we have partnerships. And amidst that crisis, our local businesses were lost in the deluge that all of a sudden became everybody and their brother jumping online. And those smaller local businesses were getting lost in that influx.

Ramona Long:
And our direct mail was able to let our community know who is still open and how did they pivot and what are they doing and create new offers, especially for restaurants which were so hardly hit through this whole crisis. We were able to really actually help one restaurant that had never, ever done takeout before in their life. There are more upscale, dine-in. Completely changed their menu. We worked with them on that. Crafted offers, printed menus and sent them out. And it really was one of the things that kept them in business through that crisis.

Ramona Long:
It was a really great thing for the business partners. For us as a business, we actually grew and expanded. That first month was stagnant. But then the very next month, we increased by an eight-page page count because there was so many more businesses that really needed to reach our community and say, “Here’s what we’re doing. And what is our message, and how are we doing? And you can still come here.” And it was really pretty fabulous for us as a business to be that source for them when our competitors really weren’t available. And it was really good. We thrived through COVID, and we’ve since launched more territories and it was great.

Leslie Kuban:
Congratulations.

Ramona Long:
Thank you very much.

Leslie Kuban:
That’s fantastic. I want to address a misperception. I’m sure you hear it all the time. Whenever I talk about Money Pages as a franchise opportunity, I hear it all the time, that print is dead, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

Ramona Long:
Oh yeah.

Leslie Kuban:
And you and I know that, but talk about that. Where does that come from? And what’s the reality of the success of print for small business marketing?

Ramona Long:
Well, I think a lot of people think print is dead because there’s so much technology available to us now, and that’s all well and good because you really need those pieces as part of your marketing plan. But the reality is the direct mail industry is a $1.5 trillion industry. And just to put that in perspective, gas and oil is only 1.3 trillion. So it’s larger than gas and oil. The U.S. automotive industry, 950 billion. So it far surpasses that. So clearly it’s an industry that’s working or so many people would not still be doing that. From an us standpoint, direct mail is that thing that allows people to experience and interact and really learn the story.

Ramona Long:
It’s more personal, it’s more customized, it’s more tangible. And that sense of reliability and credibility, which we see in a lot of data and research is so important to, from millennials to people of our age. Translates into the company that is utilizing direct mail as a resource. And you’re not going to get that sort of relationship with your consumers with a drive by glance at a billboard or a spam email. So direct mail really is that piece that is a great entry point. It’s very cost effective. It has great ROI, and it really is an integral piece of a comprehensive growth marketing plan for any business, especially the small business.

Leslie Kuban:
And you can show that to your customers, the return on investment of their marketing spend in your magazine.

Ramona Long:
Absolutely. Absolutely, we can. I don’t know what I would to all of those people who are hardcore print is dead other than we do have digital options at Money Pages. So I would say that, but what I do know is that it has really been such a success for so many of our clients. We have a franchise restaurant partner that he attributes on a monthly basis from one month to the next, anywhere him 9.7 to 15.6 of his overall business to our coupon returns.

Ramona Long:
We have home service industries that are just really knocking it out of the park as with direct mail as part of a combined campaign. So it’s really just been a wonderful thing to see our magazine do so well. And it’s been impactful in our community. We’ve been able to do some public service announcements, help some local philanthropy organizations. So it’s really that thing that keeps people connected much more so than any other form of advertising.

Leslie Kuban:
Can you think back? It’s easy to talk about this now. But do you remember back when you and Brian in we’re at that moment? It’s like, okay, we have finished our research. There’s no more research that we can do. We just have to decide if we’re going to do this or not. Neither one of you came from this industry. Do you remember what gave you the confidence to say yes, this is the right thing for our family and to move forward and opened this business?

Ramona Long:
Having gone through that process, we knew that Money Pages was really just the perfect fit for us. We absolutely love the culture. The level of support we get from our corporate is just unparalleled. Small business ownership gives you that opportunity to create your own future. And this gives us an opportunity to create at our destiny and leave a legacy and do what we want to do.

Leslie Kuban:
You have a lot of franchisee customers.

Ramona Long:
We do.

Leslie Kuban:
This is interesting. Part of what a franchise offers is marketing guidance, marketing support. So where does your business come in, and how does it gel with franchiser sponsored marketing or where does a vendor like you come in with franchises?

Ramona Long:
That’s a really great question. And quite frankly, it really differs depending upon the franchise. Some of them have corporate marketing that here it is, and this is what you’re allowed to use and you can’t really change it. And this is you can’t change offers, you can’t change graphics. And for those people, we become the delivery vehicle. In order to get it to their local market, we would be that person for their direct mail print or for their social media campaign or their targeted display with the geo fencing. That would be us.

Ramona Long:
For other people, it’s a little bit more flexible. And their ability to take some of what corporate provides and then really give it to us and let our design team personalize it for their local consumer base is a really great opportunity too. So it really depends on who they are and what their parameters are. But we have franchise partners with national things across all industries, and it’s really been such a blessing.

Ramona Long:
And with the COVID crisis for some of them, their national direct mail wasn’t happening because the national people weren’t doing it. All of a sudden, they’re looking at us, who’s just normally running their small thing and saying, “Can you take this over for us?” And you know what? We were really happy to be able to fill that gap for them while they needed it. And that’s the beauty part too of being a franchise owner is we have that flexibility to make sure that we’re giving business partners the can action to the right consumer with the right message on the right channel and the right budget and meeting their needs. That’s what we get to do every day to help grow their business.

Leslie Kuban:
Now we is you and Brian, your husband.

Ramona Long:
Yes.

Leslie Kuban:
You started the business, and the plan was for him to join you and he did earlier than expected.

Ramona Long:
Significantly earlier. When I met with you, like I said, we had launched an eight, our first magazine in April of 2019. And the plan was that Brian was going to still do his corporate America thing for at least three more years. And then it got to the point where I’d grown the first one so much. And we were looking at another territory, and I physically cannot be here, there and everywhere all at once.

Leslie Kuban:
A lot of people are thinking about working together in a business as a couple, and maybe one’s been at home and one’s been working. Maybe they both had their separate careers and they’re looking at each other. It’s like, “Wow, can we really work together in a small business?” And they’re wondering. Do you have any advice for those folks who are trying to figure out if they want to work together? What questions should they ask themselves?

Ramona Long:
Well, one of the things that I would say that they definitely need to do as a couple is sit down and talk about how they’re going to communicate when it’s talking about the business. And I’m going to totally own it. I mean, I’m that person that like, okay, if he says, “Well, what about this way?” And he has this, “I’m a national director, corporate guy, sales background.” And all of this stuff. And I’m just thinking, oh, am I not? You know, so he learned that I need to be mindful that I have this experience, but you’re not my employee and you’re my partner and all of that stuff. We’ve worked out all of that. And we also made a list of in the grand scheme of this business, what are the different tasks that have to be done and which ones play to whose strength?

Ramona Long:
And we’re just going to divvy those up and we’ll keep each other informed, but there’s certain parts … I’m not touching QuickBooks. I’m just not. He handles all of that side of it, which is great because I don’t really want to worry about that. And a lot of the networking piece is more my thing, although he’s really enjoying it a lot more than he thought he ever would. And we talked about all of those things, and we also make sure that we make a point in time to shut it down.

Ramona Long:
It’s easy to get sucked in to being working all the time and that you’re having dinner and that’s what you’re talking about. And you’re talking about those things. And so there’s got to be that point in time where you have it’s us time because you’re in this business together because you were together first. And it’s just really important to be mindful of that and figure out your communication methods. Figure out whose role is going to be what, and how are you going to communicate about this stuff? And when are you going to communicate about this stuff?

Leslie Kuban:
And you really hit the nail on the head with figuring out whose job is what, and having that area of autonomy and responsibility. I worked with my dad for years and years in our business and we’re good at a lot of the same things. And it wasn’t until a few years in, when we sat down, it’s like, “Okay, here’s kind of the org chart of exactly the needs of our business and I’ll do this and you’ll do this.” Then it really smoothed that out.

Ramona Long:
Absolutely. But I would say be proactive in that piece, and really look at it. And maybe you want to do that because … We have friends who are franchise owners. It’s a husband and wife thing and a couple of them, there’s one of them that might be a little bit more of a control freak, and not want to let loose of the reins. And that’s great, but you need to if they’re better at it than you. So recognizing your own strengths and weaknesses and being willing to give it up to say, “Okay, you know what? I’d like to do that, but you’re better at it. So here you go.” And really owning that stuff is important to know. It’s a happy blend. It really can be a really happy blend if you recognize that and you and you are communicating, and that’s what it’s all about. And at the end of the day, it’s just a business.

Leslie Kuban:
I want you to think about, I don’t know how you’re going to pick, because there’s so many. There’s so many wonderful customer stories that you have. But do you have one that really stands out about just an impact with a customer that you’re most proud of? Any success story that comes to mind?

Ramona Long:
Absolutely. I’m actually going to talk about our very first home services partner. You’ll know who you are when you hear this. They were my first. I had nothing. I had a magazine from Jacksonville and a really nervous attitude of like, “Hey, would you, what do you think? Would you like to try us out?” And it was funny because they started out with a really, with half page ad trial basis and it worked really well. So they stayed with us through my whole first year in our Kennesaw market and did extremely well with it. And was like, “Hey, this was really great, but we want to grow now.”

Ramona Long:
And for me being an educator, I hadn’t taken on the digital piece yet because I didn’t feel I was properly prepared to share that with clients and speak intelligently and really give them advice until I had done an intensive year and a half of training on my own to know that. So in that second year, I actually helped them put together something that didn’t involve Money Pages at all, but helped them to grow through that thing. And they were like, “When are you going to your next territory? When are you going to next territory? Let me know when you’re opening that.”

Ramona Long:
And of course we were scheduled to do that the following year and then COVID hit. And we said, you know what? From an us standpoint, we had people that … but we weren’t where it was going. So we said, we’re just going to put that in pause, and we’re going to take the year and really focus on the digital side and the existing one and grow the first one. But when we opened up the second one, our sister company opened right behind us. So they actually ended up going to coming back to us after that hiatus.

Ramona Long:
And I worked with them through that whole year on other stuff to be in all three zones and doing digital with us too. And it’s been phenomenal because in that interim time, they had gotten themselves a brand new website, and it’s beautiful and they invested a lot of money, but it really wasn’t producing what they wanted it to. When they came back to us and did that combined digital print piece, it drove traffic by over 813% to their website. They hit their growth goals in month five of this year. All the rest of it from their growth goals, I mean, the campaign itself actually paid for itself by month three for the whole year. And going into next year, we’ve already put a plan in place. It’s been really amazing to watch them grow.

Ramona Long:
They moved from a leased space on the end with no showroom to now they have their own building, a big, beautiful showroom. They’ve added trucks and staff and hired people. I think they’re hiring too like everyone else. But it’s been amazing to really truly create a partnership where we grow with them and they grow with us. And that’s what we’re really looking for is those partners who are intentional about growth. And as we grow, they grow and vice versa. And we’ve been able to help them with other aspects beyond Money Pages to make sure that their growth marketing plan is exactly what they want it to be, and that includes other pieces like billboards and radio and things like that. And we craft that with them so that we know that they’re getting exactly the exposure they want, but it’s been really phenomenal.

Ramona Long:
I love this team of people, and it’s just been such a happy relationship. And they’re one of probably about almost three dozen companies that have been with us for three years now. So that’s been really, really great.

Leslie Kuban:
Customers and friends. I wish you had a mic to drop with that kind of …

Ramona Long:
I think it’s attached to me down here. Boom. So yeah, actually it really is a mic drop moment, but we’re just so blessed. We just really are that we have great quality local businesses to partner with that, they were willing to give us a chance. It worked well for them. They’ve grown with us, and they’re already giving us recommendations. I mentioned we’re looking to expand, and we’re in that research mode. We have different people going, “We want you to go here. Can you come here? We want you to go here. Can you go there?” So it’s nice to be able to talk to our partners and say, “All right, let’s take into consideration. Where do you want to grow? And we’ll factor that into where we grow to so that we can help you as a partner.” So that’s been really cool thing too.

Leslie Kuban:
It’s great. Well, I can’t wait to have you in for your next milestone.

Ramona Long:
Yeah.

Leslie Kuban:
Are you going to bring Brian next time?

Ramona Long:
Yes, I will bring Brian next time. I don’t think I can get away with third time without him. Third time’s a charm, and he is charming, so there’s that.

Leslie Kuban:
Well, I can’t wait to see you guys again. It’s so nice to have you and see you.

Ramona Long:
Thank you so much. It was a pleasure.

Leslie Kuban:
Celebrate your success and your story.

Ramona Long:
Yeah. Thank you so much. Again, we wouldn’t have this story without you.

Leslie Kuban:
Well, thank you. And folks, I hope you’ve enjoyed this very inspiring, I think it’s been very inspiring episode of Atlanta Franchise Today, and I hope to see you next week.


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