Lead generation is a practice that most businesses use to drum up new clients.
In the franchising world, it represents the many ways franchisors find new franchisees. To generate franchisee leads successfully, franchisors must gain an understanding of their target demographics and the tactics that will result in higher conversion rates.
Before the internet, traditional print marketing and sales teams had the task of finding qualified leads and walking them through the sales process. Today, franchisors can choose from a number of digital and real-world channels to pursue franchisee leads simultaneously.
Discovering Marketing Channels for Lead Generation
Generating franchisee leads is the early part of the sales cycle. Visibility in the appropriate channels allows franchisors to reach a target franchisee demographic.
Lead-generation activities can take place in any marketing forum you can imagine, including:
- Social media
- Trade publications (print and digital)
- Branded websites
- Mobile devices
- Paid digital and print advertisements
- In-person interactions
These and other channels are possible pathways for franchisee lead generation, but every franchisor must consider the channels they will use carefully. If a target demographic does not use certain channels routinely, then franchisors might wind up wasting money on recruiting efforts. For example, you may not find franchisee prospects interested in medical supplies franchises spending time on Snapchat.
Matching Channels with Target Demographics
Every franchise has a specific culture and mission that will naturally appeal to some demographics more than it will to others. Instead of casting a wide net and seeing if anyone happens to see your franchise messaging, modern lead-generation techniques encourage franchisors to narrow the field to a target franchisee market that is most likely to show interest in franchise ownership. For some franchisors, existing franchisees may represent that demographic. For others, people with a certain educational background may make more sense.
For franchisors who are just starting to expand and those who have been in the industry for years, taking time to create marketing personas increases the likelihood of finding qualified franchisee leads. Marketing personas are detailed profiles of the characteristics an ideal franchise owner would have. To create franchising-specific personas, include information about income, educational background, lifestyle, and other details that fit with your franchise business’ mission.
The Lead-Generation Process
Lead generation happens over time, and the reality of modern recruiting is that most prospects complete the majority of the sales cycle without speaking to a salesperson. Salespeople play an important, strategic role in closing the sale, but their role in the early portion of the sales funnel has shifted. Franchisors can focus on the early portion of the lead-generation process to improve the number and quality of franchisee leads they pursue.
The following is an overview of the lead-generation process:
- Before you can earn interest from a franchisee lead, you must hook them. Discovery means gaining visibility and improving awareness about franchise opportunities. In some cases, this may include advertisements, but it also includes any content that a franchisee lead might come into contact with first. A brand advocate could write a review about a franchisor on social media, a trade publication might upload an article showcasing a franchisor, or you might even meet someone at a local bar and mention the opportunity. Any touch-point that helps a franchisee lead gain awareness of your franchises can be part of the discovery process. One of the latest trends in discovery is using micro-moments to build interest. A view, click, or even hearing a familiar radio advertisement can facilitate the lead-generation process.
- Building awareness in the community is only the first step. During and after a content campaign that offers information and value to the franchisee prospect, a franchisor must earn an engagement. In the very early stages, engagement might look like a “Click for more information!” or “Take this quiz to see if you’re a good candidate for this franchise!” Further along, however, businesses need to capture their contact information. Examples of engagement include getting a franchisee prospect to sign up for a newsletter or exchange contact information with a brand representative. Brands often pursue this goal with content targeted at a more interested prospect. In-depth white papers, webinar signups, live chat boxes, and completing forms for more information all demonstrate a strong level of interest in the franchise opportunity.
- Follow-up. The follow-up portion of the cycle allows franchisors to uncover franchisee prospects who are seriously interested in opening a franchise. Personal communications are the hallmark of the follow-up period. During this stage, you need to act as a supportive information provider, not as a franchise pitchman/pitchwoman. Interested franchisee prospects likely have a number of questions. Franchisors can open communication channels to encourage personal interactions. If a phone call is too committed, a franchisee prospect might appreciate the opportunity to connect via email, online chat, or text message. Regardless of the mode of communication, the person a prospect interacts with must exhibit a deep knowledge of the franchise and the franchisee role.
- If executed properly, the previous steps will make your job much easier. During this phase, a franchisor must reinforce the information that the franchisee prospect already knows and help him or her feel confident in their investment.
The Many Different Styles of Lead Generation
Lead generation may look different for every potential franchisee. Some people may arrive at your brand by happenstance, whereas others may actively pursue franchise opportunities and discover your particular approach to franchising. Whether you host local franchise events or pursue an aggressive digital campaign in targeted geographical locations, make sure you give adequate attention to each step of the process.
Without a focus on the process, your franchise business could lose an interested franchisee prospect to the competition. With thousands of new establishments opening every year, competition is a real concern for franchisors looking for franchisees who can succeed over the long term.
Qualifying Lead-Generation Tactics
Unfortunately, you cannot choose a lead-generation tactic simply because your team is comfortable with the process. Your franchisees and budget should drive the particular tactics and channels you pursue.
Ask yourself the following questions before launching a campaign that your target demographics may never notice:
- Will this tactic reach my target franchisee market? Look for data to support your reasoning for choosing a direct mail campaign, a booth at a certain expo, or a content campaign on Facebook.
- Does this tactic fit my franchisor message? Your company culture and personality should come through with every campaign, including the ones for new franchisees.
- Can we pull off this tactic? Lead generation is not a passive digital marketing goal. It costs money and time. Consider scalability, too. If you can’t replicate the tactic to reach a wider audience, then it may not work over time.
- How will we measure success? To measure a lead generation tactic, you must consider the resources needed to accomplish the campaign and define terms of success. Over the short term, those terms may not be typical, such as the number or size of franchises sold. Instead, look at the number of franchisee leads a tactic produces or the kinds of engagement.
Constantly reevaluate your approach to lead generation and change tactics that aren’t producing the results you need to justify the expense. Use Google Analytics and other digital analytics programs to help you measure the success of digital campaigns and develop a process for evaluating live events and traditional marketing campaigns.
Developing a Budget for New Franchises
To calculate a budget for a franchisee lead-generation campaign, set some business outcome goals first. Look at the number of franchises you would like to sell at the end of a campaign period and the total budget needed per franchise. Break down the costs into fixed and variable amounts and base lead-generation activities on variable costs within the budget.
Potential Partners for Lead Generation
Some franchisors conduct all activities in-house, but many cannot. The cost of hiring in-house personnel often outweighs the benefits. As a result, many new franchisors partner with outsourcing companies to conduct professional lead-generation campaigns and measure results.
A few of the resources you may want to consider reaching out to for help with different steps in the lead-generation process include:
- Print and digital advertisers. Online ad exchanges are great for targeting franchisee prospects in the discovery phase. Look for real-time bidding (RTB) exchanges that allow you to predetermine your budget for advertisements. The process automatically matches display ads with websites that your target franchisee market is more likely to see.
- Online listings. Some websites aggregate information for people interested in becoming franchisees.
- Events and expositions. Although many franchisee prospects use digital technology on a regular basis, events are a great way to obtain face-to-face interactions with interested franchisees.
- Social media platforms. In addition to working with a marketing agency to create a social media campaign, franchisors can use advocacy platforms to unify a singular message across several distinctive voices.
Getting the Most Out of a Lead-Generation Campaign
Lead generation requires constant vigilance. To manage your franchise business’ budget and achieve measurable business outcomes, franchisors must often change tactics and reallocate resources to discover the most lucrative tactics. Constantly reevaluate the need for outsourced assistance and invest in data insights to keep your lead-generation approach fresh over time.
With the right foundation and a commitment to the process, franchisors can expand their business reach and build a strong brand reputation among franchisees.