If luck of the Irish isn’t enough, try these tactics to find leads
It’s said that Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, used an ordinary shamrock, the three-leaf clover, to illustrate Christian teachings. Of course, he’d have been quite lucky to stumble upon a four-leaf variety in the first place, with only about one specimen in 10,000 of Trifolium repens having the elusive four leaves.
For many franchisors, finding a great franchisee is much like finding that four-leaf version, more a matter of luck than of strategy. That is particularly true when franchisors try to tap into social media as a means of franchise lead generation.
And within the social media space, perhaps one of the most underutilized methods of franchise lead generation is LinkedIn. By LinkedIn’s count, it hosts some 470 million profiles on the site—giving the impression that finding the right prospect is no more than luck.
But savvy franchise marketers know differently. Targeting the right franchise prospect on LinkedIn is about understanding the intricacies of connecting with the right audience, with the right message, at the right time.
As is the case with most social media, there are two ways to connect. You can go out and find your ideal candidate and ask to connect. Or you can try to “get found” by that prospect and hope that they reach out to you directly.
When it comes to getting found, the best place to start is often just looking at your competition. LinkedIn provides a vast cache of resources to help you analyze how rivals in your particular vertical are positioning themselves to potential franchise buyers.
By identifying the market positions of competitors and how they compare to your own, you can then go to work optimizing your personal and business profile to help potential franchisees seek you out.
A good place to start involves using a tool like Google’s Keyword Planner in order to develop a list of keywords that can be incorporated throughout your profiles. In much the same way that Google once relied on keywords, most social media rely, at least in part, on them when someone uses the search function or when they serve you “people you may know.”
Once keywords are identified, your profile headline and summary should be the priority, as they provide the most prominent branding message on a profile, and as such, have the greatest impact on increasing rankings among active searchers. While the summary section isn’t necessarily the highest-indexed section of a profile, it still heightens your visibility and findability, and may keep searchers on your site long enough to encourage a connection.
One often-overlooked tool on LinkedIn is the ads that may drive prospects to your site. You can pay LinkedIn to boost your posts or alternatively take out ads that can drive prospects to specifically designed capture pages on your own site.
Filling the haystack
On LinkedIn, and social media as a whole, the other side of the coin involves actively connecting with target prospects. And the social platform offers a number of avenues that are worth exploration. One such tool is their new “Sales Navigator” program—which enables you to conduct very specific searches. Trying to find someone with a restaurant background in New Jersey? You can find that person and try to connect. The more focused your candidate search, the more valuable the tool.
You will also want to join and interact within LinkedIn groups that focus on a particular topic or interest. Even more dynamic—creating your own group to invite potential leads. The benefits of this approach are significant. First, you’re able to take a pulse on what potential franchisees are discussing, interested in and seeking, all through active social listening.
You can then utilize that information to go back and re-optimize profiles, if necessary.
More importantly, you can begin to generate content that speaks to the needs of the community. LinkedIn group members often pose questions on the pain points they face in their specific industries, and often, the answers require a more in-depth explanation. Use these opportunities to form thoughtful content from your team that can be posted on your company page and within the group from a personal profile.
The end of the rainbow
Once you’ve done the upfront work though profile optimization and content posting, you will need to actively manage your account—posting new content and engaging in conversations with prospective franchisees. And while the price of the Sales Navigator program on LinkedIn is minimal, these social activities will require a significant time investment.
The good news—many digital media firms will offer this engagement as a service, where they adopt your persona and actively engage prospects on your behalf. Typically, these firms will develop scripts that will help engage prospects and get them to fill out your online application – at which point, your sales team takes over.
LinkedIn is, of course, just one option in the social media field. These same strategies can be key to generating franchise sales from a variety of social channels. So while we’ve focused on LinkedIn here, you’ll want to ensure your online advertising strategy includes a hearty mix of targeted options across a variety of channels.
LinkedIn, like other social media, will not provide your franchise with a silver bullet that will have a dramatic impact on your lead count. Like most of your franchise marketing efforts, franchise sales that result from these channels are not a result of luck, but instead hard work. But with the right strategy and the requisite effort, you can reasonably expect to find a pot of lead generation gold at the end of the rainbow.
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.”