For decades, the best franchise development strategy has been a solid franchise model with a strong return on investment and healthy unit-level economics. That will remain steadfast in the future, too, as it’s a surefire recipe for success for franchisors.
However, today, that strategy needs digital support – and will tomorrow, too. While mature, large franchisors can lean more heavily on their long-established brand recognition and reputations, emerging franchisors must develop an effective digital strategy to grab the attention of potential franchisees. They must invest heavily in developing a strong web presence and boosting their search engine optimization (SEO). They have to use a strategic and smart social media strategy, too.
You will use these platforms to educate your potential franchise prospects. Today’s entrepreneurs want to know more than how much they will need to invest and what they can expect to earn.
They want to make sure the brand is as much a good fit for them as you should be concerned about them being compatible with the brand. Therefore, you need to tell your story as compellingly as possible. It needs to appeal to them emotionally, as well as financially.
But because emerging franchisors are inundated with so many responsibilities, you will want to partner with a public relations firm and a content marketing team.
Franchise Development Needs Public Relations
A competent PR firm will have established contacts in the news industry, trade publications, access to distribution channels and know exactly where to share the news nationally and locally. They will know how to tell your story and which audiences to target in order to generate quality leads, which you can convert into franchisees.
PR firms are adept at disseminating news of the launch of your franchising campaign, the opening of franchise locations, the notable number of franchise units opened or franchisees you signed in a quarter or year, and more.
When you add franchisees, a PR firm can help validate your brand for prospective franchise partners. For example, the story of one of your franchisees and the success they’ve experienced with the brand as told on the web or in a magazine that a prospect may read can make quite an impact. Candidates validate a concept in a number of ways, and positive stories on individuals’ success within your system cannot be overlooked.
Your stories in the media and shared through your social media platforms should drive interested prospects to your franchise development page. There, you will want to keep them engaged until they contact you and express their interest.
Content Marketing Supports the On-Site Conversions
Hiring a content marketing team, well-versed in creating content to move interested parties through the sales funnel, is an essential part of all franchise development strategies.
Content marketing comes in many forms, including blog articles, social media posts, videos, whitepapers, infographics and more. But one of the most important and valuable forms of content marketing is a blog, which should be on your franchise website. Blogging for franchise development not only allows you to share what your brand is about, but it can also establish you as the franchisor or your brand as an expert in the industry. The blog also drives inbound traffic to your website and helps convert website visitors into leads.
In order to keep prospects engaged, new blog copy must be consistently written and published. High-quality blog posts with keywords will also increase SEO, which will make your website more prominent on search engines.
Advertising and Sales Teams Play a Part, Too
Online advertising targeting potential franchisees is particularly hot on search engines like Google and social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. Facebook, in particular, has become an increasingly valuable lead generator with targeted ads and promoted posts, which can tie into your blog.
Advertising to consumers is also effective. It gets your brand’s name out there and creates brand recognition in the target markets where you have a franchisee. If it generates business from consumers, entrepreneurs seeking franchise opportunities will take notice and consider buying into your brand.
Your sales team should include a person or people offering a personal touch, which franchisee candidates often need to become fully invested in the process.
Advertising and your sales team frequently rely on the stories conveyed through PR and content marketing. When done right, your advertising and sales tactics will amplify your earned and owned media through to better engage the candidates and increase conversions.
Don’t Forget About Your Customers
Emerging franchisors often find their first franchisees in their original markets, and they’re typically customers. They’ll have established a relationship with their hometown brand, so it makes sense that some will show interest in becoming franchise partners.
As you expand regionally and nationally, you should continue to market to your customers. Promoting your franchise opportunity in your stores or restaurants with branded collateral that includes your franchise development site on it can potentially yield some of your most enthusiastic franchise leads.
Franchise Development is a Competition
Franchising is more competitive than ever before. Every year, 300 new franchise brands emerge, but with fewer competitive points of difference, and all talking to the same 20,000 member audience that will actually sign a franchise agreement. You must be smart, diligent, strategic, efficient and dialed in with your efforts. They must have synergies across people, processes and platforms. And you must measure and weigh each initiative, each channel and source to ensure every dollar is more wisely spent than ever before.
With 30 years of franchising experience and more than 800 franchise owners representing over 1,250 locations for five brands, Winmark Franchise Partners can help emerging franchisors decide on a franchise development strategy that’s right for them. Contact us here or at (844) 234-8520.