Franchising gives a company nearly unbounded reach. But franchise owners face thechallenge of keeping hundreds of franchisees around the country on the same page. Are the franchisees trained? Are they motivated? Are they happy? Are they correctly promoting the national brand?
This was the challenge for Lisa Druxman, founder and CEO of Stroller Strides (under the Fit4Mom umbrella), an 11-year-old company dedicated to helping women develop and sustain the “strength for motherhood.” With nearly 300 franchisees in the United States, it’s one of the largest fitness programs for mothers in the world.
As the company grew, Druxman looked for more effective ways than conference calls and PowerPoint presentations to stay connected with franchisees. Most of those franchises are owned by young mothers who rarely can come together in one place.
Druxman needed a way for everyone to collaborate as a unified enterprise. She needed a way to combine the convenience of the Web with the impact of face-to-face conversation. After months of searching, she found a solution: Watchitoo.
With Watchitoo, Druxman can bring together hundreds and occasionally thousands of participants in an online videochat. As many as 25 participants can be onscreen at once. Participants can share videos, presentations, documents and more. Thousands of viewers can follow along, asking questions of the host and text chatting among themselves. With a click, Druxman can make any viewer an onscreen participant, and any participant can be switched back to a general viewer.
“I get so pumped when we all come together,” says Druxman. “Watchitoo is so much better than a conference call. We all feel one another’s energy. It’s like we’re in the same room, and we kind of are.”
Fit4Mom uses Watchitoo for training, support, “coffee chats” with the CEO and sales meetings with new prospects. Druxman has recently held two conferences, and she streamed the company’s annual in-person conference live from San Diego. It included streamed keynotes by noted pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene (author of “Feeding Baby Green”) and former financial and food industry analyst Robyn O’Brien (author of “The Unhealthy Truth”). The sessions are recorded and available online.
Monetizing the audience
Fit4Mom sells advertisements for conferences and deploys them as virtual layers on the Watchitoo interface. Watchitoo viewers see advertisers’ offers on the screen and can click to take advantage of them. Other advertisers sponsor attendee surveys conducted through Watchitoo’s polling tool. “Our budgets are tight and everything needs to have a positive return on investment,” said Druxman.
When meeting with franchisees online, Druxman can easily pull participants out of the crowd of viewers and place their video streams on the screen that everyone’s watching. She can roll a YouTube video, display photos, or run through a presentation. “I’m not technical in the least,” she says, “but Watchitoo has been very intuitive, and if we have a question, we just ask Watchitoo support professionals. They’ve been amazingly helpful. We really get our money’s worth.”
Next up: Web TV
Fit4Mom innovates relentlessly. The next step is taking video streaming to a new level by creating the Fit4Mom Web TV series, “Mom on a Mission.” The series will focus on fitness, food, spirit and home, while featuring Lisa’s special guests answering viewer questions. The show will highlight Lisa’s Mom on a Mission Fitness Challenge, which was developed to help get moms active and fit and to understand that a healthy family starts with a healthy mom. A select group of three moms have been given Flip Cameras and are documenting their fitness and wellness regimes.
The show will begin airing May 1. Because Watchitoo is uniquely embeddable in the Fit4Mom website, Fit4Mom owns the content and can sell ads around the Watchitoo stage interface. Household-name sponsors are lining up. Other video conferencing platforms force visitors to come to their Web sites. These platforms leverage customers’ content to sell their own advertising.
“Watchitoo is a better fit for us and it’s perfect for our franchisees,” says Druxman. “It’s a strategic part of our mission to help raise healthy moms so they can raise healthy kids with healthy minds,” said Druxman. “Watchitoo is the most cost-effective way to do it, and I feel like we’re only scratching the surface of how we can profit from it.”