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Dawn Kane: Igniting Success for Franchising Businesses

Insight Success

Dawn Kane

It started with a Dawn Kane’s sheer curiosity for advertising. As she fed her curiosity with her nose in books and watching commercials, she knew she wanted to get a degree in advertising and marketing.

Dawn was also very fortunate to work for and with some amazing mentors who helped her establish her management and leadership style. So, when it came time to start her own agency, she was scared but ready. Currently, Dawn is the Co-founder and CEO of Hot Dish Advertising.

Hot Dish opened in 1999, and it has managed through 9/11, the 2008 financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now stronger and busier than ever.

Insight Success' The 20 Most Successful Businesswomen to Watch 2021

In an interview with Insights Success, Dawn shares how her agency has worked to reshape the franchise category while shaping our client partners’ franchise brands.

Below are the highlights of the interview:

Tell us about your leadership position at Hot Dish Advertising.

My role is both CEO and visionary for our agency…but I also stay involved in strategic planning, new business growth and future opportunities for service expansion. Like most entrepreneurs, I’ve worn many hats as we moved through growth phases and invested in new initiatives. For example, in late 2019, we implemented the Entrepreneur Operating System (EOS), which allowed us to evaluate our entire team and build out a leadership bench. We now follow a more prescriptive process in managing and growing our team, our business and our franchising clients’ success…always with a fun, play-to-win spirit.

Being an experienced Marketing expert, what is your opinion regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Marketing & Advertising Industry? And how has Hot Dish Advertising managed to overcome this significant challenge?

There’s no question that the Advertising and Marketing industry looks different today than it did a year ago. We are all working remotely, and that in itself is challenging. As far as how the pandemic affected our industry, brands had to be nimble in getting their products and services to customers, and as marketers, we had to be nimble in changing our messaging focus and target-reach strategies.

At Hot Dish, we quickly adjusted our digital strategy. After an initial pause on digital marketing, we quickly saw consumers spending even more time online. We relayed that to our clients to keep the digital ads going with the right message and media mix to maintain a presence with their audience to spur growth. We were fortunate in having several clients that were deemed “essential,” and in 2021 they have remained steady or even increased their budgets over 2020.

We also say more “do good” messaging and that customers had a stronger desire to shop local and support their communities. This supported our restaurant franchising brands that dialed up drive-thru, curbside and online ordering.

What is your thought on the necessity of a positive work culture? In what ways do you implement it at your agency?

Culture is key when it comes to having a healthy work environment. You can’t force culture and it’s been an ebb and flow of positives and negatives over the years. Add in COVID and a fully remote team, and we’ve got ourselves a foreign set of challenges. But, we are much more deliberate today about setting us all up for success with clear expectations and celebrations.

We have increased our communication overall. Each of the department heads holds weekly one-hour L10 meetings to discuss client updates, needs, trends and issues. Plus, each Disher has a 5-5-5 meeting with their supervisor to talk about their quarterly goals.

We have weekly, quarterly and annual all-agency Zoom meetings to share the state of the business, new client wins and our goals. We have a Fun Committee that keeps us connected on the human level with Hot Dish swag bags for holidays, a question of the week and games. Also, our Kudos channel in Slack is where Dishers can spotlight each other for exemplifying our core values every day… smarty pants, curious, fun, respect, passionate and play to win.

In what ways have you or Hot Dish Advertising contributed to the community? If given a chance, what change would you bring in the Marketing services with digital innovation & technologies to reduce costs substantially?

We created our Franch Strong movement to help strengthen franchise brands as a community. Franch Strong began during COVID as a way to share stories of franchise brands giving back to their communities and frontline workers. We sold Franch Strong t-shirts with all proceeds going the IFA Educational Foundation. Franch Strong continues to evolve with our quarterly newsletter and as a connecting thread to grow strong together.

As far as changes in digital innovation, we keep our focus on being smart first in ways that lead to the most impact. New advances in technology allow for more interactive digital experiences through videos, parallax design and animation. But, without a smart strategy and a proven tracking process, any shiny new tech will have inefficiencies that cost time and money. Smart leads. Impact follows. That’s how we roll here at Hot Dish.

What would be your advice be for aspiring and emerging women entrepreneurs in the Franchise Advertising and Marketing Industry?

The nature of franchising is entrepreneurship, so if that excites you…you’ll love being part of this ever-changing industry. Whether you’re a Franchisor, Franchise Owner or Supplier, everyone truly helps each other succeed. From legislative issues to unique franchise business models, there are endless opportunities to learn and grow. And, there are plenty of mentorship avenues, including the International Franchise Association, which has a Women’s Franchising Committee.

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