Why the old marketing mix won’t hold up today
Illustration by Jonathan Hankin
All too often in franchising sales and marketing, people fail to properly attribute leads to their true source. And that’s a serious problem when trying to determine the right marketing mix to generate leads for your franchising program.
If this were a matter of a lead here and a lead there, it would be of little significance. But for many franchisors, 70 percent or more of their leads may come, in one way or another, from the Internet—and many of these leads are not directly attributable to anything more than a form fill.
Consider the future butterfly before you write off a potential strategy as an unproductive caterpillar.
When a butterfly flaps its wings…
For years, scientists have talked about a phenomenon called “The Butterfly Effect.” The name comes from the metaphorical example of how a butterfly flapping its wings in Africa can cause a potential hurricane several weeks later on the other side of the world. Born out of Chaos Theory (which, I might add, makes it all the more appropriate for franchising), the phrase refers to the magnified impact that small factors can have in creating much larger events.
As much as the statistical geeks among us (myself included) would like to pin down every lead to a precise trigger, there are some things that defy black or white quantification. Take search engine optimization as a prime example.
Let’s start with the fact that the Google search algorithm is one of the most closely guarded secrets this side of Fort Knox (as are the algorithms of other search engines). Those algorithms ultimately dictate whether, for any given search, a particular website appears at the top of page one or somewhere on page two or (God help us) somewhere in the abyss beyond.
But that is not the end of it. Google is said to change its search algorithm as many as 500 to 600 times every year. And it unveils major overhauls to the algorithm every few years as well, some of which have a very significant impact on search rankings.
And since franchise marketers (and anyone besides Google) do not have access to these algorithms, when a lead comes to their website unsolicited, there is little choice but to indicate that it was a form fill—with the underlying drivers that caused Google to serve your website on page one receiving none of the credit. But while the factors that drove your site to the top of page one (and ultimately generated that lead) are neither singular nor directly identifiable, by understanding the causal relationships between actions and results, one can better understand the factors that are contributing to your success or lack thereof.
The tangled web
Take social media for example. Most franchisors dismiss social media as an irrelevant franchise lead generation tool—believing its only value is in consumer marketing. But while social media is not, for most franchisors, a direct lead generation driver, it is one of the primary drivers of the Google search algorithm.
In fact, Searchmetrics, a global SEO consulting firm, recently conducted a statistical analysis from more than 100,000 users and 8,000 brands to determine the factors with the highest statistical correlation with “Top 30” ranking on Google. They identified over 50 different pieces of the algorithm that correlated with SEO success. And in that study, titled “Search Ranking Factors and Rank Correlations, Google US 2015,” they found that seven out of the top eight factors influencing SEO ranking are directly tied to social networks, including everything from Facebook likes, retweets on Twitter and Google+ shares.
So, any SEO effort you undertake that fails to incorporate social media is likely to deliver sub-par results. Yet, because we are unable to tie these results back to their causal roots, social media’s contribution to lead generation is often ignored or understated.
Another factor often overlooked in its contribution to franchise lead generation is public relations. Traditionally, PR was thought by most franchise marketers to be great at building credibility (and in the process, improving close rates), but not as a franchise lead generation tool.
But in today’s world, that has changed. Again, according to Searchmetrics, one of the major factors influencing SEO is backlinks—or links pointing to your website from other websites. When your franchise is mentioned on a credible news site (and you receive referral traffic and backlinks from the article), that sends yet another signal you’re a brand worthy of climbing up the ranks of the search engine.
Time for a metamorphosis
Making measurement more complex is the fact that many of these optimization strategies do not result in significant changes in page ranking overnight. And often, they have a cumulative effect. So, it is impossible at times to correlate specific results to actions in real time.
What is needed is a change in the way we view certain aspects of the marketing mix. While it is unlikely we will ever be able to attribute all leads generated through the web back to specific efforts, the impact of these efforts on page rank (and ultimately lead generation) is undeniable.
For most of us, it requires an initial leap of faith—and long-term measurement of both site rankings and “before-and-after form fills” that did not come from a directly identifiable source (like PPC or direct entry).
If, as the data would indicate, there is a statistically significant increase in your site visibility and the number of unattributed leads that come from that site, one might reasonably speculate that many of these leads came from these hidden influencers—and develop cost-per-lead measures that quantify the results of these combined efforts.
And while this still does not provide a perfect science, the ultimate winners in the market will be those who emerge from the comfort of their cocoon and dare to flap their wings.
Mark Siebert is CEO of 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.”