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!

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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