Social Networking & Franchise Lead Generation Revisited

In light of discussions at this year’s International Franchise Association Convention about “new” ways of generating franchise candidate leads, and as I continue to field an influx of questions from start up and emerging franchisors trying to find a “silver bullet” to jump-start franchise sales, I am again sharing the following article I wrote back in 2011 as the principles continue to apply to this day. Actually, they may apply even more today as more and more have adopted social networking platforms as major sources of securing information and for communicating.

Social Networking and Lead Generation

We’re often asked if social networking can be utilized effectively for franchise lead generation purposes. Well, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

When working on a lead generation project, establishing objectives is paramount to the success of the overall strategy. Assuming the strategy has been developed, complete with establishing an ideal candidate profile and identifying specific geographic areas for expansion, we typically proceed as follows:

First, we focus on networking groups that include individuals that best fit our client’s ideal candidate profile. From there we drill down to individuals in the geographic area we’re targeting per our plan. Let’s say teachers fit my candidate profile. we would search out networking groups specific to teachers, education, etc. Then, we would participate in discussion groups to get a feel for the group and to be noticed and subsequently accepted within the group. There’s always a spin one could use to achieve this objective.

Next, we seek out members from the specific geographic areas we’re targeting and begin communicating what we’re ultimately trying to accomplish… to generate interest in a specific franchise opportunity. Sometimes there’s interest right there in the group. Often, it’s a referral that we get that makes the effort within that group worthwhile.

We also focus on groups that can provide me with referrals such as insurance agents, realtors, financial planners and attorneys. Again, if you’re proactive within networking groups it’s relatively easy to enlist support and gather information. Again, there has been some interest from members of these groups but it’s amazing how many times we’ve been referred to an interested party who lives in another part of the country that is willing to jump at an opportunity in my target area. You see, the fact that it stems from a referral is key!

Lead generation through social networking takes time and effort no doubt. However, once you’re proactive within networking groups, you almost end up with a snowball effect as the leads come in bunches. Some leads start out by simply posting a thought provoking discussion with some back and forth interaction with a responder and the responder saying,”what is it that you do?” Next thing you know, you’re discussing an opportunity and the door is wide open.

Most times however, it takes considerably more effort, but we’ve found people are networking online and participating in discussion groups for specific reasons. They’re all looking to expand their business, improve their position, seek out various types of opportunities, and make money. Attracting these individuals online sure beats running an ad in the local paper and waiting for the phone to ring!

Franchise Sales Process: Consistent or Flavor-of-the-Month?

Occasionally, I take a look at some of my posts from a few years back just to compare my thoughts and perspective from then to now. I always ask myself if I’m consistent so as not to confuse anyone. But more importantly, am I focused for the long-term or for just the here-and-now. Well, below is a post from June 2009. I’m sure you’ll agree that I have been consistent and have not jumped on any flavor-of-the-day bandwagon… It really is about fundamentals and best-practices!

Franchise Sales During the Recession

WSJRecently, in one of the franchise groups on LinkedIn, there was some discussion about the Wall Street Journal article, “Franchise Sales Pull Back During the Recession.” Several franchise professionals posted their comments and, of course, I added my “two cents” as well. Okay, I was definitely long-winded compared to the others, but as most of you who read my articles are well aware, I have a passion for franchising and franchise success and tend to go on and on to share the same with all who will “listen.”

“I too, believe there are many well-qualified candidates exploring franchising. Some as a career alternative, and also, in the case of already being a small business owner, as a business expansion strategy and/or an income diversification plan.

No doubt, the number of overall franchise leads has diminished quite a bit. But I believe many of the “tire kickers” have gone by the wayside while the more qualified candidates continue to search, inquire and ultimately decide franchising is right for them to achieve their goals and objectives. However, in order to fully realize this trend, one must realize that the candidates’ approach has evolved.

Today’s qualified franchise candidate is more sophisticated, educated and technologically advanced than we have ever seen before. Add to the mix, a sense of extreme caution, and their process in exploring franchising and specific franchise opportunities has become more of a detailed, well-thought out strategy.

Always understanding that there is risk in any entrepreneurial endeavor, today’s candidates explore franchising because it may provide even the slightest edge against failure. Their mantra has become, “failure is not an option” and they now live it by doing everything humanly possible to dot every “i” and cross every “t” and then rechecking only to do it over and over again until they have full, complete confidence in their decision.

To that end, the overall process from initial inquiry to franchise award is much longer than in years’ past and that is something franchisors must be prepared to effectively handle. It’s a primary reason I believe social media works so well in the new era of franchise sales as it creates an environment for today’s candidates to research organizations, share information, communicate with individuals at all levels of the franchise organization from franchisees to corporate executives, view photos, audio and video, etc. And, they can do so at their own pace and to their full understanding. That is the key.

Understanding and adapting to today’s qualified franchise candidate will help franchisors ride out this current economic downturn. Putting their heads in the sand and just complaining about the poor economy and the franchise candidate pool drying up will only incorrectly prove true that their negative thoughts are correct.

All that being said, certainly there are challenges in securing financing and other variables that must be contended with and addressed accordingly. But as the franchise candidate pool diminishes and many of the tire kickers aren’t around to waste our time, we should now have more time to explore all options, use our creativity and innovation, network beyond our comfort zones and seek out alternative solutions. I believe those solutions are out there and many are capitalizing on them as we speak. They will not only survive, they will thrive as others have done in other recessionary periods.”

Attention Franchisors! Is this a legitimate way to attract franchise candidates?

Working with many franchisor clients in developing lead generation strategies, I’ve run into a situation time after time that really has me perplexed. The situation has to do with a particular franchise organization using a franchise brand name, not their own, to direct franchise candidates to their site.

Often, the appearance of the site appears legitimate, complete with Google Ads and a great deal of reference to franchising. In fact, there’s often a quote from the unsuspecting franchise brand’s site included on the directing site. So, what appears to be a legitimate person as author to the site leads candidates to believe the author is also the author of the unsuspecting brand’s quote.

Confusing, right? Wait, it gets better…

The reply forms on the page give the perception the candidate is providing information to the brand they searched, and as listed across the top of the page, only to have the completed form directed to the franchisor that developed the directing site.

Take a close look at the actual link provided below to see for yourself. Then, check for a similar page online that includes your brand name because I have found hundreds of similar situations with the same franchisor behind this practice.

http://www.wsicorporate.com/article/mcdonalds_franchise_for_sale

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Social Media and Franchise Sales: Look Ahead Before Jumping in with Both Feet

As many franchise professionals continue to explore new methods of recruiting franchise candidates, there’s been a great deal of discussion on how to incorporate social media into the mix. Sure, social media could be used to generate franchise leads. And, quite effectively. That, I have no doubt. But, it’s what comes after generating the leads that concerns me more. So, let’s take a look ahead, before jumping in with both feet on the front end.

Just like integrating traditional marketing strategies with social media strategies, it’s necessary to integrate personal interaction as well. However, instead of an aggressive, focused sales approach, the interaction should be subtle and guiding. Social media tools should be used to make points while making the experience enjoyable and interesting. Candidates will most likely marvel at the use of technology and feel comfortable learning about the franchise concept. And yes, they’ll be more comfortable and be fully at ease working through disclosure and the finer points of the concept itself.

The rest comes down to guiding candidates towards making a decision as it will now fully be an informed decision that has been validated by the social media experience AND the franchisees the candidates have come in contact with. Your franchisees will actually feel more a part of the franchise sales process than ever before. Go ahead and smile as this makes the process easier than in the past. Yes, it’ll be very nice to achieve franchise development goals once again.

Fantasy or Reality? Achievable or Not? Easy or Hard? That’s up to you and your team. It comes down to personal accountability, diligent execution of strategy and plan, professional handling of franchise candidates at all times and above all, NO SHORTCUTS!

Personal accountability is necessary in managing and monitoring social media activity, updating blog content and keeping things fresh. Nobody will stay at a dull party, right? Putting off things for tomorrow that should be done today is just not acceptable. It becomes a reflection of how even the simplest things are handled. A lack of urgency and poor attention to detail will translate into how the franchise sales process is handled, and then withered away.

Diligent execution of strategy and plan is essential. Certainly, adjustments will need to be made along the way. But the plan is your road map. Follow it as closely as possible. Allow extra time and resources as necessary for roadblocks and detours, but stay on course. Monitor your progress. How fast did you get from point A to point B? How fast did a candidate get from point A to Point B? Is the process slowing down or speeding up? Why? Do you need to do some system maintenance to the social media vehicle? Maybe your videos aren’t playing correctly? Maybe the photos aren’t loading fast enough? Maybe it’s time to bring in a “technician” so you can get back on the road as quickly as possible?

Professional handling of candidates means working with each candidate as you would want to be treated if you were the one on the verge of making a substantial investment, maybe putting your life savings on the line! It means conveying a sense of urgency when asked for information. It means paying attention to detail in something as simple as pronouncing their name correctly all the way to something complex such as full disclosure of the franchise concept. And, it means having the right attitude and conveying the same at every moment of working with the candidate at every point of “contact” including by email, on the phone, in-person, and yes, in the virtual world. Keep in mind, at all points of contact, your attitude will shine through so make sure it shines bright and your franchise future will shine bright as well!


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Utilizing Social Media for Franchise Success

I believe anything a franchisor does should be done to benefit the franchise relationship, and social media plays perfectly into this philosophy as it affords interactivity at all stages of the franchise relationship. From prospecting for qualified franchise candidates to supporting current franchisees, the utilization of social media tools and technology creates environments that strengthen relationships, shares information, provides two-way communications, and provides points of reference for follow up. It creates a multi-tiered platform of information that benefits both franchise development and customer generation efforts alike. Often, simultaneously.

For franchise startups, the founder’s vision of the concept is paramount to future success. They are perceived as the concept. They are essentially the brand. At least until a significant number of franchises are awarded and brand awareness is established across multiple markets, they are the inspiration for franchise candidates. The benefit to spreading this message through social media outlets such as social networking, video sharing, blogs, etc. is that these tools and associated strategies will generate direct excitement about the business model while generating subliminal, subtle interest in the franchise concept. This establishes a perfect foundation for growth. It also defines a very worthwhile, visible support mechanism for franchisees. Of course, it’s imperative to have a well-defined support system in place for training and assisting franchisees.

For established franchise brands, it’s a matter of improving brand awareness in current markets while creating brand awareness in new markets, and markets that are on the horizon for expansion. Again, as with startup franchise concepts, the interactivity created by social media makes it a viable option in driving customers to franchise locations and generating interest in the franchise concept. But, what’s important in a mature system, and a complement to its franchise development efforts, is the improvement of communications throughout the franchise system that is created by social media activity and ultimately lends itself to validation of the franchise concept by the franchisees. For once, franchisees are feeling part of the franchise development process as it’s visible in the organization’s social media efforts. Something that many franchisees have not been a part of in the past.


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Social Media and Franchise Lead Generation

Mark Siebert, Chief Executive Officer of the iFranchise Group, one of the leading franchise consulting companies, recently wrote an excellent article about Social Media Marketing, and how it can be used to generate franchise leads. Mark explores the world of Social Media Marketing while defining it as the fourth part of effective franchise lead generation strategies. I believe Mark is spot on in his thoughts and views of Social Media Marketing. For the benefit of all that may not have read the article as of yet, I have listed the article below.

Enter the Fourth Horseman
Social media is the next lead generation site

By Mark Siebert
As published in: Franchise Times – April 2009

franchise-timesBy virtually all accounts, the Internet represents the single biggest lead source for most franchisors. Yet despite its dominance of the franchise lead generation market, a significant number of franchisors simply do not use it effectively.

It is little wonder. The traditional troika of Internet lead generation – organic search, Pay-Per-Click, and portals – are all designed to keep us off balance. Organic search engine optimization techniques change almost weekly, as the major search engines try to improve their search algorithms and SEO companies strive to catch up. Pay-Per-Click advertising, by the very nature of the competitive bid process which serves ads, can require frequent strategy changes in an effort to stay a step ahead of the competition. And franchise portals, which now number more than 100, represent the primary focus for most franchisors’ Internet marketing strategy.

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