Understanding how to generate effective, high-quality franchise leads is one of the most important skills you can have as a franchisor. After all, if you can’t sell franchises, you can’t make money. But finding potential franchisees in today’s ever-evolving customer base can be a challenge. That’s why we’ve accumulated proven methods for quality franchise lead generation, to help you find the best franchisees for your business.
Have Your Owned Channels in Check
Understanding the importance of your owned channels, and how to leverage them to generate interest in your franchise, is vital to attracting high-quality franchisees. Owned media, like your own website, blog articles on your site, email marketing campaigns, and your social media posts, can be a major source of new traffic to your site and also lead to earned media – shares, likes, comments, traditional media mentions, etc. The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer cites traditional media and search engines as the most trusted sources of information. Traditional media can happen through great franchise PR, but search engine optimization is almost always at the heart of a great website.
When focusing on your owned media channels, it’s important to remember that people visit websites, open emails, or check social media accounts for more than just sales or basic business information. People also want to know what your franchise is doing and explore feedback from other customers, as they’re often looking for solutions to their current problems.
In the case of franchising, these prospects are looking for the best investment they can make – and enjoy being a part of. Engaging your audience with great content will help produce trust in your brand and entice people to consider becoming a part of your franchise family. It also provides the essential first step in lead generation: acquiring visitors. Once you’ve gotten the attention of potential franchisees with your owned channels, you can turn them into leads, then candidates, and eventually into new members of your franchising family.
Create an Effective Website
When we talk about building an effective website, we’re talking about more than just your general business site. Ideally, you should have a separate site (but not necessarily a separate domain) for potential franchisees to find the abundance of information they’d like to peruse while considering becoming a part of your franchise. Whether that site is linked to your main site or not, it should be easy to find and easy to navigate, with CTAs (calls to action) and contact information available on every page.
Your website should also have a strong focus on SEO. Franchises face unique challenges when it comes to SEO, which makes it all the more important to keep on top of your website’s search engine performance. An optimized site that’s fine-tuned for keywords your target audience is searching for can help you be discovered by franchisees who may never have heard of your specific brand. It can be an organic advertising boost that you don’t have to continuously pay for. Plus, your website gives you the space to develop your reputation as a thought leader by posting articles that will not only improve your SEO but continue to drive leads and interest without any further input from you. There are huge upsides to an optimized site – you should take advantage of them to find the best possible franchisees for your business.
Remember – these are people who are serious about investing in a franchise. Don’t let your franchise opportunity site stagnate. Use it to tell your story, highlight the benefits of being a franchisee, and share informational blogs and articles that will provide a deeper connection with your potential buyer.
Your site should make contacting you easy. It should also provide you with the essential information you need for a first connection with a potential buyer. Get a name, email, and phone number as a standard, but consider adding extra questions: what made you interested in us? Why are you considering buying a franchise? What experience do you have?
If a lead gives you that insight, it can help you in multiple ways. Not only will you be able to better contact them on your first call or email, but you can also add their responses to a database that lets you assess potential buyer motivations and desires. Using this information can help you better target your ads, blogs, and emails, which in return may generate even better and more consistent leads for your business.
Nurture Your Leads
While generating leads is important for franchise development, it’s also important to nurture those leads. After all, potential franchise buyers spend a lot of time doing research before they ever directly contact you. The initial information they can learn about you through social media channels and your website can make or break whether or not they decide to contact you at all. Franchise buyers – those who are ready to sign a deal and commit to a franchise – spend a lot of time on research, visiting websites nearly 5x more than general leads and spending nearly 10x more time reading over materials. That’s why having a solid online presence that scratches a buyer’s need for information is vital to pulling in those high-quality leads you’re pursuing.
When working with these leads, time is also of the essence. If a potential buyer provides you with contact information, reach out to them as soon as possible; a delay in contact can make them feel as though you don’t care about their interest, and can turn them to a different brand altogether. Aim for contact as soon as possible, and consider sending a semi-personalized automated email as soon as you receive their information, providing them with the assurance that you’ll be in touch soon and potentially a white paper or article about the benefits of opening a franchise with you to keep them engaged. Leads have high expectations and a short window for optimal response, so the faster you can contact them the better off you’ll be.
Have a Realistic Budget
When considering franchise development and assessing your goals for the year, having a realistic budget in mind is a top priority. For example, say you want to open 10 franchises and spend $10,000 per franchise – your budget would then be a minimum of $100,000. Working backwards, if you know you have a budget max of $300,000 and you know you’re looking to open 20 new franchises, then you’d have a max budget per franchise of $15,000.
This may seem like basic information, but knowing your budget is the stable foundation on which your business can grow. Without a well-planned budget, you’ll find it difficult or even impossible to create an effective action plan. You won’t know how much you can spend on marketing, what you can save for future projects, or how much you can commit to current goals. Make sure you base your budget on current industry standards and set realistic growth goals – you’ll find more success in the long run.
Check Where Your Leads Are Coming From
Understanding where your leads are coming from can be an effective part of managing your overall budget. You often hear the tale “50% of my marketing budget is wasted, I just don’t know which half!” By assessing your different marketing channels and understanding which are the most successful, you’ll know where and how to increase or decrease your spending.
You’ll also want to assess the quality of the leads you’re receiving through your different channels. As a franchisor, the main point of lead generation is to reach individuals that could potentially become franchisees. Those franchisee leads should be high-quality. Otherwise, you’re going to waste a lot of time and money chasing leads that won’t pan out. So if one channel produces a ton of leads, but very few of them are qualified, it may make more sense to transfer that budget over to other channels that may provide fewer total leads, but more qualified leads.
There are some people who may tell you that email marketing is dead, but the truth is that email marketing is ranked as the most effective technique for lead acquisition and retention. Email marketing, especially with the automated tools that can be found in abundance, can allow for increased email personalization, easy-to-understand campaigns, and better customer experiences. All of these together can create or maximize brand loyalty, which is a huge factor in whether or not someone will want to own a franchise.
Both B2B social media like LinkedIn and B2C Social Media like Facebook and Twitter can provide quality email leads if utilized properly. For example, a good way to take advantage of LinkedIn is to pull contacts into your email database, letting you hit them with marketing in two different fields in two different ways. You may be sharing informational articles, white papers, or business details on LinkedIn while simultaneously providing an informative, personalized customer experience through email, building your relationship on two fronts.
Social media sites also allow you to find and advertise to lookalike audiences. A lookalike audience is based on a source – a current ad audience, for example, or fans of your business account. Then common demographics from that group are pulled, and your ad is displayed to those people as well. So, if you have a custom audience created for potential franchisees (for example, men in their 30’s-50’s with business experience that are middle- to upper-class and have indicated interest in business ownership) that focuses on people who already like or follow your business, you can utilize these parameters to reach out to people who might not know about you and advertise to them in a targeted manner.
Your website is also an excellent place to generate leads and should be optimized for ease of access and information discovery. If your website is underperforming, then it won’t matter how much of your budget you’re allocating to it; the money will be wasted and the leads you generate won’t be ones you want to pursue.
Like we discussed earlier, having a well-organized and accessible website can also help with franchise SEO rankings, which can generate organic leads through search engines. As one of your most useful tools, it’s important to keep your website updated and optimized for peak performance.
If you choose to turn to a third party to generate franchisee leads for you, it’s important to stay on top of the effectiveness of this channel. Make sure that you thoroughly vet any third-party lead generation company before choosing to work with them. Check their qualifications and obtain a list of their current or previous clients; if possible, reach out to these clients to see what their experience was. Make sure that they fully understand what you’re looking for and your requirements for a franchisee. A skilled third-party company can boost your franchise sales to new heights! But a third-party company that focuses more on volume of leads instead of quality could end up breaking the budget without much for a return.
Figure Out Your Buyers’ Motivations
Understanding the motivations of potential buyers can be incredibly helpful when looking at your marketing budget and how to focus your attention. Utilizing a third party to interview past prospective buyers (those who didn’t make a purchase) as well as current franchisees can help you determine what their buying motivations were. Were they interested in owning a business with brand recognition? Building equity for their future? Did they consider creating an independent brand before choosing a franchise? This information can help hone your marketing targeting, and let you know what to write about on your franchise opportunity website.
Interviewing potential buyers who chose not to seal the deal can also help you assess what challenges your brand may face in recruiting new franchise owners. Was the onboarding process too complicated? Contact too slow? Franchise costs too high? Recognizing these challenges to franchise ownership can help you tweak your process, making owning a franchise for your brand more accessible.
Utilize National Surveys & Research
National surveys can be a fantastic source of information and can also be incredibly useful prospecting tools. For example, understanding how COVID-19 has impacted franchise ownership can help you fine-tune your ad targeting and your sales pitch. Understanding that nearly 2/3rds of Americans want to own their own business but only 14% think that it’s a realistic goal can inform the way you expand your reach when considering who might be a great lead for a franchise. In this Franchisee Motivation Survey Report, for example, 45% of respondents considered opening their own non-franchise business before deciding to become a franchisee. Knowing this will alter how you speak with them; they want to have their own business, but you’ll need to sell them on the benefits of a franchise over starting a unique brand of their own.
Look into national surveys that analyze business trends, buyer motivations, and general population goals to better understand your target audience and their needs. If you find that buyers are interested in working with companies that support specific charities or share their values, figure out how your brand can engage with those buyers. If your research finds that millennials are interested in franchise ownership but find building capital to be a roadblock, provide information on loans, grants, or other avenues to fund ownership. These personal touches will put you ahead of the pack and provide another opportunity for brand loyalty and appreciation.
Streamline Your Onboarding Process
Last, but certainly not least, is your onboarding process. Having a defined, easy to follow onboarding process for new franchise owners is incredibly important to successfully sealing the deal between you and your buyer.
We’ve already talked about part of the onboarding process – making franchise opportunity information accessible to your potential buyers and making it easy to get in touch with you. But what comes after that initial call? What are you doing to consistently build that connection?
From the jump, you should be making sure that your culture and brand are imbued into every contact you have with your buyer, whether in-person or over the phone. So many people are invested in franchises that they feel connected to, where they feel valued and enjoy the experience. Often, franchise owners are prior employees, who wanted to move into ownership because they loved the company so much.
When your potential buyer meets you in person, be ready. Have an application for ownership waiting. Consider having a potential opening day plan, or a mockup of what that might look like. Emphasize that your franchisee will be supported with training and resources, that you want to make them a success. And when you’re ready, finalize your contract and enjoy your new franchise owner!
Onboarding shouldn’t be complicated. While it’s the time to discuss important information, all of those conversations and steps should feel intuitive rather than clunky. Your CRM system should contain all the important data without being overwhelming to staff. If you’re not sure about your onboarding process, employing a franchise marketing agency can help you ensure that you’re on the right track.
Even in today’s world, it’s possible to generate high-quality franchise buyer leads. COVID-19 has created an interesting buyer dynamic; more and more people want to have freedom and reliable income, which a franchise can provide. With these franchise lead generation hacks and a solid team at your side, your franchise can make money and be successful no matter what challenges you might face.