Franchise development is as simple as one little word, “leads.” It’s both that simple and complicated, all at once. Leads can come from any number of sources, and your franchise development team must figure out which sources are the most effective, in terms of cost and actual conversions.
The most important thing to remember is that franchise development is a long game, and so you need to build a comprehensive program that provides leads who are ready to convert immediately and those who may not be ready for a year or more.
Many businesses use portals for lead generation but working leads from portals is a lot like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Although portals generate a lot of web traffic, which, in turn, generates a lot of form-fill leads, many of those leads are not serious about buying a franchise – at least not any time soon. While you might get the numbers you desire – and what business doesn’t want a high lead count – we have found a very low conversion rate. This means that your internal sales team will spend a lot of time trying to track down leads that are not viable. Chasing unqualified leads can be a big waste of time and money. Even with their drawbacks, however, portals can be a good option for emerging franchises with a more limited budget.
Brokers and Consultants
Brokers and consultants help prospective franchisees navigate the process of purchasing a franchise. Many franchisors rely on brokers and consultants to find potential candidates, attracted by the fact that you do not pay unless they close the deal. This is true, and while brokers can be beneficial, you want to make sure that you do not rely on them solely to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to lead generation. If you do, you are outsourcing one of the most critical aspects of franchise development. This can cause your internal development team to slow down their own efforts and to begin to rely exclusively on deals delivered by brokers. If you’re using brokers, you want them to be one resource and not the only driver of lead generation. And remember, the allure of brokers is to pay only after those leads convert. Make no mistake: You will pay. While they can deliver viable candidates, this can be an expensive option. Brokers can drive the cost of franchise development way up – by 1.5 to 2 times as much as internal leads.
Benefits of Internal Digital Marketing
A strong and comprehensive internal digital marketing campaign is the most effective, cost-efficient and sustainable way to generate leads that are likely to convert. Even though it does cost money, you are investing in the long game. Your goal is to build a database of strong candidates, some that will convert more quickly and others that you can continue to nurture.
First, identify your target audience/persona – the perfect entrepreneurial candidate or investor for your franchise. Then determine the platforms that will reach these individuals. Using these platforms, you can craft messaging, content and creative that connects with and engages your ideal prospects on a personal level. This will allow you to build a pool of viable leads.
Using data-driven metrics, you can narrow this large group of potential candidates as you push leads down the funnel toward conversion, the end goal. You also can continue to nurture the other leads – such as those who may not be quite ready to convert but who are still interested in your franchise – using strategic tactics that will keep them engaged until they are ready to make a decision. This streamlines your process and allows your internal development team to focus on those candidates who are ready and most likely to buy a franchise. It also gives them a chance to keep other warm leads in the bank for follow-up or nurturing at a later time.
Portals and brokers have a place in franchise development, but you want to use them wisely and understand that they are simply tools in your arsenal. Your long-range goal should be to build your own lead funnel, and digital marketing is the most cost-effective way to do that. Investing in lead generation is worth it, as you will be able to build a more robust, comprehensive, and sustainable franchise development program that will serve you well now and in the future.