Global Franchise hears how PR powers franchising from TopFire Media President, Mathew Jonas
Matthew Jonas is president and co-founder of TopFire Media, an award-winning, public relations and digital media agency in the franchise industry. As an entrepreneur and marketer, Matthew used more than two decades of experience in digital media to build TopFire Media into one of the premier full-service marketing agencies in North America. Matthew blends the best in marketing and lead generation strategy to engage audiences on the value of nuanced branding, storytelling and strategic, data-fueled marketing to grow their businesses.
How did you become involved in PR (marketing)?
Back in the mid-90’s myself and a team started a dot com called Handyman Online. We specialized in lead generation for home improvement professionals and were really on the cutting edge of online advertising. Back then, we could buy “home improvement” on adwords for a nickel. As a new company, we had to rely on our own organic PR to generate business, so we’d reach out to the local media to let them know what we were doing.
What might have been an alternative career path?
That’s hard to say because marketing has always been a part of my life. My family was in the publishing business; my brother was a marketer; my dad was an entrepreneur; it sort of just runs in the family. Outside of marketing though, I’ve always been entrepreneurial. After the group of us started Handyman Online, I started another business called Homeowners Connections and then went on to create TopFire Media. If I weren’t in marketing or PR, I think I’d be a business owner either way. In a dream world I would have played second base for the Chicago Cubs. Maybe someday!
What areas do you specialise in?
My background is certainly more digitally focused, given that online and digital marketing is really where I got started in the marketing world. But, I think the beauty of TopFire Media is that we have a catalogue of services that we can tap into, and I get to be involved in a little bit of everything. I certainly feel like my expertise lies in digital marketing, but I’m not afraid to pick up the phone and pitch a story to a reporter.
How important is it for brands to fully exploit digital technology?
If you’re a franchise brand that isn’t taking advantage of digital media channels, you’re making a huge mistake. What the data shows us time and again is that the best leads come from a franchise recruiting website. That’s the standard in the franchise marketing world, so the first step for any franchise marketing should be search engine optimization so people can find your website. It takes a little longer to optimize a website, and it’s a long-term strategy, but once those efforts yield fruit, you’re going to see the best leads coming via that avenue.
Why should brands spend budget on PR?
We know that franchise buyers are looking for successful business models and PR, or earned media, is one of the best ways highlight and share the story of successful operators. These types of stories are exactly what prospective franchisees want to see. They want to know how to make money in these businesses, and because in the U.S. in particular, franchisors are limited by what’s in their Item 19 Financial Performance Representation, in terms of divulging earnings to potential franchisees, having franchisees discuss their success via a third-party, trusted media outlet is one of the greatest validators a brand can earn.
How important is the world of franchising to your operations?
We built TopFire Media to fill a significant void in the franchise marketing space, so I think it’s safe to say that the world of franchising is crucial to us. Franchise clients make up about 70 percent of our core business, but as we continue to build our reputation and market position, we’re starting to attract more and more consumer brands to our roster.
How did you build your own brand?
A lot of sweat, tears and hard work. We started the company in 2013 and at that time I was building it by myself. I started by attending all of the franchise shows, networking the brand and piggybacking on our sister company iFranchise Group. After we started gaining a reputation for ourselves because of the positive results we were generating for our clients, we capitalized on that by building a dynamic website and taking advantage of our own services, like pay-per-click advertising and PR, to build the brand. Being one of the only and most successful fully-integrated franchise marketing agencies in the industry has helped us work up the ranks pretty quickly.
What were the challenges you faced?
The biggest challenge was that I was building the brand by myself. Being the new kid on the block in the franchise space, I had to work hard to prove that what TopFire Media offered was better than anything else out there. Most franchise companies work with a number of different agencies on their marketing programs, some that specialize in digital marketing, some in PR. But, we were the first to bring everything under one roof so we had to work hard to prove ourselves time and time again. That’s how we’ve built our reputation in the marketplace today, through outcomes and results.
How do you relax?
I’m not sure that I’m ever relaxed. As an entrepreneur, I’m thinking about my business, how to improve my business, how to take it to the next level, 24/7. I’d say the two things that allow me to relax the most are being out on the golf course and standing in front of the barbecue. When I can put on some good music, have a glass of wine and throw some food on the grill, I’m in a pretty good place.