Tricks to get the treat—a simple but strategic plan can lead to fuller bag
Illustration by Jonathan Hankin
I’ve often been asked about the secrets to franchise sales. A great concept with great financials? Nailing down unique selling propositions before marketing the franchise? Establishing partnerships with outsourced organizations?
Of course, all of those things are important. But there is no single trick or magic recipe that’s going to lead you to franchising success. Franchise sales success is about doing a lot of little things right.
Turn on the porch light
The world of lead generation has changed significantly since the early days. As more and more franchisors saturate the market, with anywhere from 200 to 300 new concepts emerging each year, the competition for qualified franchise prospects is fierce. So, be sure you invite in your prospects—like turning on the porch light on Halloween night. And, the brightest light you can shine is your franchise website.
A high-quality franchise recruiting website should accomplish four things: answer preliminary questions about your offering; showcase key aspects of the program; gather prospect information (through form fills); and encourage prospects to take the next step. But before it can do any of the above, it has to be found. Being buried on page two of a Google search will not generate organic leads.
Yet, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, many franchisors insist on incorporating a franchise tab into their existing consumer website rather than creating a separate and dedicated franchise site. The fact is your consumer website, if it is properly constructed, will be optimized to drive consumers to your site. And a franchise site will use a variety of techniques to optimize around franchise marketing and sales. Hanging out the Jack-O-Lantern next to your blinking Santa Claus will confuse both audiences and Google alike.
That is not to say you should not link your consumer site to your franchise site so that you can cross promote. This can be done in an unobtrusive manner so your consumers never realizes they have been transported away from the consumer site. But importantly, Google will know which site to serve to which audience based on the search parameters it receives.
Many years ago, children in Ireland and Scotland would sing a song, tell a joke or provide some other kind of trick in order to get their treat. So too, the best franchisors will understand that it takes more than a simple capture form to persuade a significant number of visitors to part with their contact information.
Most top-performing franchise recruiting websites are averaging a 3 percent lead capture rate or higher. If you are not already measuring this key statistic, start there. You need to understand what is working and what is not if you are going to improve your franchise marketing efforts.
In order to achieve a strong capture rate, you must then ensure you are offering a solid value proposition to your potential candidates. Often, you can drive visitors to a dedicated landing page with the promise of a give-away such as white papers or e-books to further enhance your capture rate.
Moreover, the franchise website must make it easy to find (on every page) and fill out your capture form. Of course, there is a trade-off here. You will ideally want the results of your form to provide you with enough information to prequalify your prospects based on desired geography, capitalization, and their timetable for decision-making. At the same time, there is clearly a correlation between the length of the capture mechanism and the likelihood that it will be filled out.
One alternative: Capture primary contact information first with a short-form capture mechanism that will take your candidate to a longer form (perhaps with an additional value proposition) to fill out the remaining data on the second form fill.
Filling the bag
A common misconception in franchise marketing is that more money across more channels brings more success in lead generation. Of course, you have to spend money to get results, but ultimately, it is about quality not quantity. Spending money unproductively will only waste the time of your franchise development team. I would rather have a single Snickers than a bag full of loose candy corn that my mom is going to make me throw away any day.
The key to getting trick-or-treaters year after year is the reputation you develop in the industry and on the internet. Strong franchisee validation is like being the house on the block with the full-size candy bars—more and more prospects will be knocking on your door year-after-year.
So, as counter-intuitive as it may seem, an integral part of your franchise sales process needs to be the restraints you place on your sales process. One of the golden rules of franchise sales is, or at least should be, that you should never sell franchises faster than your ability to fully support them. And, as a corollary to that rule, the franchises you do sell should be in markets you can readily service.
Selling too many franchises—or selling to undercapitalized, underqualified or distant franchisees—is a recipe for poor validation. In addition to making it more difficult to sell to the prospects you earn through your marketing dollars, poor validation will reduce the leads you could have generated from your most productive lead sources, referrals and word-of-mouth. And, perhaps more important, it will eliminate many of the add-on franchise sales you could have made to your existing franchisees who would be easier to both service and support.
There are many things to enjoy about Halloween. Decorations, costume parties, scary movies, and of course, a full bag of sugary treats. Focus on your system and let your business speak for itself, and your job becomes that much easier when the doorbell rings.
Mark Siebert is CEO of franchise consulting firm iFranchise Group. Reach him at 708.957.2300 or firstname.lastname@example.org. His new book is “Franchise Your Business: The Guide to Employing the Greatest Growth Strategy Ever.”