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Leads at first byte, or how to find success at franchise matchmaking


Mark Siebert

Illustration by Jonathan Hankin

With 7.5 billion people on Earth, there is truly someone for everyone. We just have to find them, or at least to be ready to welcome them when we finally cross paths.

If you’ve been keeping up with the state of modern dating, you may have noticed a cyber-centric shift on the battlefield of love. Some 49,650,000 people in the U.S. have tried online dating. This means “the one” is less likely to bump into us on a crowded train platform, partner with us during an awkward icebreaker activity, or reluctantly dine with us at the urging of a zealous mutual friend.

Rather, we are more likely to discover true love in the palm of our hand, as we increasingly turn to bits, bytes and algorithms to play the role of matchmaker.

This time of year, many online daters are looking to swipe their way to a summer fling. However, among this population exists a steady stream of seekers who are looking for something more—and so it is with franchising. Concepts who are most effective in the area of lead generation can position themselves to stand out as a great catch in a sea of competitors.

Narrow the field

Online daters play a key role in orchestrating their own romantic destinies, by sifting through hundreds of profiles to choose their favorites. Top sites have made this simple, encouraging the power of choice by offering plenty of search filters and algorithms.

Options can be as simple as age, sex and location or as complex as body type, education level, smoking/non-smoking and even Mr. or Ms. Right’s hair color. With so many available choices, online daters have everything they need to curate the love connection of their dreams.

Franchisors looking to boost their brand-positioning strategy must narrow the field in a similar manner. And many media channels offer this same level of customization.

Social media sites, for example, allow advertisers to target based on parameters such as net worth, income, education, geography, and interests, allowing you to find a match that is much stronger than the blind dates offered by some media.

Hone in on the prospect audience that makes the most sense for where your brand is right now. Sometimes, that means acknowledging that you’re the “guy next door” rather than the heartthrob. In our world, that could mean pursuing single-unit owners for your emerging franchise brand rather than making an immediate push for multi-unit investors.

Taking a realistic stance now will allow you to develop a positioning approach that maximizes your strengths, and pave the way for you to thoroughly and consistently deliver on your brand promise.

Honesty is the best policy

Woe to the starry-eyed digital dater who shows up at a coffee shop, eager to meet the six-foot, olive-toned, muscular doctoral candidate she met online, only to find a portly, pale gentleman with a receding hairline and two lattes in hand.

Those who frequent the online dating scene may be familiar with a term known as “catfishing”—the act of misrepresenting oneself online using false details or photos. These deceptive daters have stirred up waves of mistrust and skepticism within online communities, causing more users to doubt that their virtual “matches” are truly who they present themselves to be.

Effective franchise brands prioritize authenticity in a similar way. They understand it behooves them to position their concepts in the most credible light.

As you begin to explore positioning possibilities, take a moment to honestly reflect on your brand’s current standing. Where does your brand rank in terms of mindshare? Where do you hope to rank? What gaps are you looking to close with a sound brand positioning strategy?

Your answers to these questions will, ultimately, bring you to a point of decision: Will you be the brand that misrepresents itself, peacocking as a muscular, 27-year-old medical student? Or, will you proudly flaunt your status as a well-mannered but middle-aged gentleman who enjoys a quaint and quiet life?

The sooner you realize you can’t sell what someone else has to sell, the sooner you can engage strategies that creatively and authentically showcase your own unique selling proposition.

Ditch the pickup lines

Let’s face it, the dating world has seen enough poor pick-up lines, and so have your potential franchisees. When it comes to standing out in a prospect’s inbox, ditching the same old rhetoric is your best bet.                             

Potential franchisees are inundated with marketing messages each day. Franchise concepts that win out and earn staying power in prospects’ minds are those that go above and beyond to craft a distinct approach. I’ve seen plenty of concepts that shy away from this critical aspect of positioning, opting instead to link their appeal to that of a market leader. They are “the Uber of Industry X” or “the Starbucks of Industry Y.” In doing so, they’ve unknowingly chosen to position their brand as a shiny runner-up: Your Ex-Boyfriend 2.0.

Instead, I encourage franchisors to identify the specific niche their brand occupies and create their own brand identity. With some thought, you may discover that your concept’s offering is, in fact, the first of its kind, or the fastest, or the hottest, or the most economical. The bottom line is to know what your brand brings to the table.

Understand the specific pain points that your concept solves for franchisees. Then, determine how you will clearly and creatively present your brand before them as a long-awaited knight in shining armor.

An authentic and targeted brand strategy can help to ensure that quality prospects only have eyes for you.

Mark Siebert is CEO of consulting firm iFranchise Group. Reach him at 708.957.2300 or info@ifranchisegroup.com. His new book is “Franchise Your Business: The Guide to Employing the Greatest Growth Strategy Ever.”

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