In the past, franchisors had more control over the sales process – personal relationships and traditional marketing fueled franchise sales.
Like many industries, franchising has changed dramatically in light of technological advancement. The internet and mobile devices are fundamentally altering the way franchisees find franchise opportunities and make investment decisions. To succeed in 2016 and beyond, franchisors must redirect sales campaigns to meet target market needs.
The New B2B Client Journey
Technology has created the practice of using several marketing/sales channels, broadening a brand’s ability to capture prospects and nurture them before a salesperson ever becomes involved. Consumers, not businesses, are driving these ever-widening channels. They spend time doing research online both personally and professionally, and many have access to a high-speed mobile connection. Potential franchisees discover opportunities in a number of ways, and franchisors must work twice as hard to ensure market visibility.
While many franchisors still make deals based on personal networking, many franchisors are expanding recruiting efforts to include technology-driven campaigns. They create engaging franchise content for industry publications, blogs, social media, and mobile apps. In addition to written franchise content, franchisors that want to target younger people who are still developing their purchasing power must explore visual mediums such as infographics and video.
Potential franchisees know they can usually find unbiased third-party information online. Completing their franchise research online provides straightforward answers and insights that company-driven communications often cannot do. The need for trusted franchise information has supported the development of websites such as bluemaumau.org.
Using Client Insights to Win Over Franchisee Prospects
Recognizing changes in the franchisee journey is the first step to gaining new prospects. Franchisee prospects expect more than ever from franchisors, and they can choose from a large market of potential franchisors. This year, franchise experts expect to see 13,359 new establishments across several major industries.
To take advantage of the new reality that technology brings, franchisors can use these tips to stay ahead of the competition:
- Recognize that franchisees are business savvy. Many franchisee prospects use every resource they can find to discover the smarter franchise investments. They base their decisions on return on investment, not the benefit of a brand association. Franchisors that continue to operate their recruiting campaigns under the belief that any franchisee would be lucky to partner with them could miss out on some lucrative investments. Franchisors must recognize competition in the marketplace and focus on selling the monetary value a franchisee will receive by choosing a particular franchisor. Franchise deals are not one-size-fits-all anymore.
- Use data to inform digital decisions. General technology usage patterns and customer information may not help your franchise business differentiate a franchise opportunity. Instead of broadly engaging a large demographic, use data to identify a franchisee market subgroup and focus on presenting relevant content where, when, and how that market spends time online. Allow the franchisee target market to drive recruiting efforts. Age, industry, and geographical location will all play a role in the content strategy you choose to pursue.
- Build trust online to earn qualified franchisee prospects. Five years ago a franchisor might get away with having a very basic online presence. Today, however, franchisors must build trust within the franchise community to earn a second glance from interested franchisees. Maintaining a company page for franchise opportunities won’t cut it anymore. Franchisors need an active presence on trusted franchise websites and social media. Telling a compelling story through engaging content on third-party sites and social media platforms can give a franchisee prospect the push needed to pursue further interaction. Successful franchisee stories are powerful. Consider giving existing franchisees an opportunity to tell their experiences online. Two DirectBuy franchisee owners chose their investments based on their experiences as customers, which is a powerful testimonial.
- Rethink sales. Try to provide support instead of hard selling a potential franchisee. A great franchisor can connect naturally with prospective franchisees and provide information that a franchisee prospect may never see in an online article.
- Use technology to connect with franchisees on a personal level. In addition to providing passive content to engage early funnel franchisee prospects, use technology to facilitate further conversations with your brand. Chat functionality and audiovisual platforms can allow franchisors to reach franchisee prospects with personal messages, regardless of geographic distance. Consider adding a routine webinar to your schedule of events if you do not do so already. Communicate via online chat to create low-pressure interactions that may push a franchisee prospect further down the sales funnel.
- Optimize the mobile game. To reach franchisees during their discovery and research phases, ensure that digital content translates well to mobile devices. While many people leave their desktops at 5 or 6 p.m., they take their mobile phones, tablets, and other devices with them on the go. You never know when you might pique a franchisee prospect’s interest. Visibility is the key to driving your target market to valuable digital franchise content.
- Create an online network to advocate for your franchisor business. Prospective franchisees always look at branded content with a degree of skepticism. Brand advocates who can attest to franchise benefits and company culture can improve your online reputation and encourage franchisee prospects to consider investing in your franchise opportunities.
- Remember that internal activities can speak as loudly as external ones. Technology opens the door for franchisors to expand marketing efforts and grow a franchise base, but it also represents a potential risk. All it takes is one or two well-placed negative reviews to undo years of brand management. For recruiting and all other franchise activities, giving some TLC to the internal culture can boost a company’s external reputation.
Technology is changing fast, and investment preferences are shifting along with it. The IoT (internet of things), cloud-based businesses, and other advancements are creating new shifts to specific industries. Franchising, as a multi-industry field, must consider these changes moving forward.
To maintain viability now and into the future, all franchisors must consider what prospective franchise investors are looking for in the moment.
With strategic planning, franchisors can create visible, franchisee-friendly recruiting campaigns and improve business outcomes.