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!

An Hour a Day with The Big Three Social Networks

I often hear many individuals state they don’t have enough time in a day for social media. Well, I know we can all squeeze in an hour of social media work somewhere, but the key is to do it efficiently to accomplish doing it effectively.

Just like eating an elephant, take one bite at a time. Never try to do too much at one time. And, try to make all your social media activity relevant and in line with your goals and objectives for entering social media in the first place. Once you’re past the development stage of setting up accounts at the Big Three social networks, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, including establishing “complete” profiles, dedicate 15 minutes to each network which I recommend doing so at the beginning of the day. Total time spent – 45 minutes.

Check previous days’ activity, making sure to use each networks “notifications” features effectively. Respond to direct comments and requests accordingly. Check discussions and respond as necessary, review other individuals’ responses, always keeping an eye open for new contacts. Post a discussion, status statement as appropriate Again, keep your goals and objectives in mind. Last, post a few tidbits of information through links to items of interest to your target group. Hey, I hate to beat dead horse here, but make sure everything you do is in line with your goals and objectives for being involved in social media in the first place.

Establish Google Alerts so you know what is being said about you or your brand throughout the day. As you check your email, whether by computer or mobile device, take a glance at any alerts that have come through, and only immediately address negative comments. Then, at the end of your day, take five minutes to review each of the three networks activity, respond only to activity that is very pertinent or urgent, and mentally prepare for your next morning’s activity. This will give you some time to think about discussion responses, etc. Total time spent – 15 minutes.

Shortcuts and Tools Help!

As for posting links to tidbits of information, as you progress through the day, keep an eye open for information through newsletters you subscribe to and in reading news online. When you find something of relevance, bookmark it for later in the day. Use tiny urls to convert long links to manageable links and to accommodate 140 characters within Twitter. Learn how to use key tools such as Facebook applications that convert your Facebook activity to Twitter activity, and applications that enable you to post in advance throughout the week.

*This post was originally published on this site March 2011

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Optimizing Your Social Networking Presence

Whether you’re establishing your presence on Facebook, LinkedIn or any of the other social networking sites, it’s important to get the most out of your experience for it to be effective in your marketing efforts. Basically, it’s important to optimize your social networking presence. In the book, The New Rules of Marketing & PR, the author, David Meerman Scott, detailed how to get the most out of social networking sites for marketing with the following suggestions:

Target a Specific Audience – Create a page that reaches an audience that is important to your organization. It is important to be thinking about a small niche market.

Be a Thought Leader – Provide valuable and interesting information that people want to check out. It is better to show your expertise or at solving problems than to blabber on about your product or company.

Be Authentic and Transparent – Don’t try to impersonate someone else. It is sleazy and could do irreparable harm to your company and to your reputation.

Create Lots of Links – Link up to your own sites and blogs, and those of others in your industry and network!

Encourage People to Contact You – Make it easy for people to reach you online, and be sure to follow up personally on your fan mail.

Participate – Create groups and participate in online discussions. Become an online leader and organizer.

Make it Easy to Find You – Tag your pages and add your pages into the subject directories. Encourage others to bookmark your pages.

– These sites are great because you can try new things. If it isn’t working, tweak it, or try something new.

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What questions do you need answered before including social media in your organization’s marketing strategy?

sales questionsHere’s five questions (and answers) to start with:

1. Isn’t social media just a new type of ad?

No it’s more than that, it’s actually a whole new way of reaching clients. If you think of ads as one technique used to communicate your value to prospects, social media is a whole new channel to do this. Yes you can still communicate your value but rather than trying to cram it all into one sentence (as you would with an ad) you have to be a bit more patient.

2. Isn’t all this social media stuff expensive?

Well yes and no. From a cash investment perspective, most of the top online social media services are free of charge to register with. However, to really make an impact through these tools you need to spend a lot of time on them. You have to explore, see who’s talking about things related to your company and try to open up a dialogue with them in a non-creepy way.

3. But I hear it’s all a fad anyways.

Certainly various social media services will come and go and some will be a bit more gimmicky than others, but the underlying principle of social media, transparency, is hard-coded into the very DNA of the world wide web. If you can build your social media ‘muscles’ on one tool you’ll quite easily be able to transfer this skill set and mentality to other tools.

4. It’s all very well to make ‘friends’ online but SHOW ME THE MONEY

There are clear cut and well documented examples of companies making money from social media. But it doesn’t quite work like a typical print/online ad. You’re not likely to get a flood of business from your first blog post, your first message on Twitter or your first video uploaded to YouTube. But as you start developing a base of followers you can really start to leverage the power of social media. Imagine having a few thousand online users following your every uttering on Twitter, or subscribing diligently to your blog updates. These become powerful channels for launching new products, promoting special offers and even testing products.

5. Ok, so I guess we’ll need to hire some guru to get us set up?

By all means if you can, hire one of the multitude of talented social media gurus and specialist agencies. But I think you’d do just fine with a couple of diligent, friendly and passionate members of staff. After all, you and your staff know your product and your clients better than any guru. Also, in the world of social media, an authentic, if perhaps clumsy approach trumps a polished but scripted approach. People can usually see through that quite quickly and your credibility will drop dramatically.

These are just a few of the questions and answers I recently posted on LinkedIn. I’m sure you have some more, so please fire away and I’ll do my best to provide you with the best answer or solution.

Has LinkedIn Run Its Course?

LinkedIn logoIs LinkedIn missing the boat in keeping up with Facebook? Is it due to inability to utilize various applications, tools, etc. in making the social networking experience more enjoyable and less regimented. Hey, one can’t even make text “bold” in a discussion!

Would the ability to post actual audio and video within discussions enhance the experience? Has LinkedIn just become a social networking HR site and nothing more? If, and when, the economy turns around and unemployment falls to more respectable levels, will LinkedIn activity decrease significantly?

Personally, I do believe LinkedIn is missing the boat, but I would love to hear your opinion as well.

Please Note

Within 15 minutes of posting this discussion on a Linkedin group, I received the following response that I now feel compelled to share with my readers, along with my response to the same which should clarify that I am, in fact, a Linkedin proponent and only am looking for added enhancements and features to LinkedIn.

Owner of a Marketing Group responded: “Has LinkedIn run its course? Not even close. If you feel it has, move on, and stick to Facebook, period. We have had remarkable results, 20+ new clients in 2009 alone, due to LinkedIn. But, then again, we have a tangible service. How is the “Social Media Coach” biz treating you? If it were not for LinkedIn, I doubt you would even be brandishing that fancy title. Please keep that in mind when being negative about all the benefits that a 100% no-cost LinkedIn account can produce.”

I responded accordingly: “Just because I asked a question, does not mean I am negative. If anything, I utilize social media to encourage participation, which is an integral part of successful social networking.

Further, as much as I utilize LinkedIn, I would like to see more features and enhancements, just as I would with Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media. And, the best way to get LinkedIn to take a look at adding the same, is to discuss the same within the groups. More than likely they are already considering the features I mentioned. Maybe some more discussion would move them along.

I would highly recommend you consider adding Facebook, Twitter and other social media to your LinkedIn activity and your 20+ new clients might have been 40 or more. Integrating all types of social media together, and with traditional marketing, has proven quite successful for many businesses and is advocated by many leading social media experts.

Last, I’m a firm believer in the positive, and in developing and strengthening relationships with everyone and anyone I can help, or that can help me. That being said, I’m amazed you’re as successful as you claim with such a condescending attitude and your lack of ability to see beyond the obvious. So, please consider this social media coaching on the house and with my sincerest compliments.

Oh, and by the way, if you truly embrace LinkedIn and all it has to offer, I would think you would have followed a very common LinkedIn tip, and check an individual’s LinkedIn profile, including connections, group membership and discussion activity, before engaging that individual. In my case, you would have certainly realized I am a LinkedIn proponent by the number of my connections and extensive group participation both in posting discussions and responses alike.”

CEOs and Social Media

Today, Gini Dietrich, CEO at Arment Dietrich PR presented an interesting question on the company blog, F.A.D.S. (the Fight Against Destructive Spin), “Should CEOs Spend Time On Social Networking?” Of course, always having to add my two cents, I responded accordingly.

CEO“I would be surprised if any CEO of a publicly-traded company had a social media presence. The reason I say this is because of the SEC and FTC.

The SEC has certain rules about information being presented and disclosed to the public and the CEO would need to be extremely careful as to what he or she communicates, even through his or her own personal social networking efforts. From a liability standpoint, I’m not sure the benefits outweigh the potential downside.

With respect to the FTC, the issue here is the marketing message and how it can and may be perceived. Currently, the FTC is considering guidelines and rules about marketing messages being conveyed through social media. Again, as the leader of a public company, the CEO must tread carefully and, even in conveying a marketing message, must be very careful not to break any SEC rules. Again, the benefits need to be weighed against potential consequences.

All that being said, I stongly believe public companies should have a major presence in social media, including social networking, letting the marketing experts spearhead the activity and content. While doing so, I do believe the CEO could, and should, participate strategically with key, well-defined content, more to enhance the overall effort as opposed to being front and center.

Now the flipside, private companies. I do believe CEOs of private companies need to be as transparent as possible. They’re usually the vision and drive behind the company. His or her thoughts and statements lend a great deal of credibility to the company, which ultimately may be defining factors in a customer, client, vendor or partner doing business with the company.

Often, the CEO, “is” the company which why we see companies named after the Founder and CEO. Many times, the CEO is actually the “commodity” being sold by the company. This is especially true with professional organizations, consulting companies, etc.

Service and product driven companies are different as there are usually consumers or clients as end-users. As such, they rely on the “personal guarantees” of the CEO and that message usually needs to be promoted to drive business. I’m thinking along the lines of George Zimmer, CEO of Men’s Wearhouse.

When it’s all said and done, there are few, more efficient ways of promoting a business, large or small, than through social media, and social networking. The messages are concise and clear, and often present the human side of the business. And, clients and customers alike, feel more confident “knowing” the CEO and his or her thoughts, feeling more comfortable with their decision to do business with the company or organization.

Here’s a simple, yet totally unscientific rule of thumb: If a business needs to have the CEO’s personal guarantee on loans and lines of credit, then the CEO should be very active in social media and social networking activities. If the company can enter into loan and credit agreements without any personal guarantees, it’s best to leave the social media and social networking efforts to the marketing experts.”

Please note: CEOs of franchise organizations also need to be careful not to present inadvertent earnings claims in any social media activities.

Social Media ROI: Is It Worth The Effort?

Many of our readers and clients have asked about quantifying social media results and determining a return on investement. The following article by Julie Keyser-Squires, APR provides a great perspective of the subject along with some suggestions that can be utilized in various franchise businesses. Ultimately, social media can improve the bottom line for franchisors and franchisees, alike.

Franchisors, Owners, Operators: Questions You Always Wanted to Ask | By Julie Keyser-Squires, APR
as posted June 3, 2009 on

If you are a franchisor, owner or operator, you may be asking these four questions about social media:

ROI1.What is the ROI of social marketing?
2.How aggressively do we want to play on the social media front?
3.Is it enough for the brand to communicate on behalf of hotels or do franchisees want their hotels to provide individual promotions and unique offerings?
4.What kind of manpower does it take to stay in touch with “followers”? Can hotels feasibly dedicate the resources individually, or should the responsibility be with a brand marketing and eBusiness effort?

Here are the answers, with a focus on social media sites Twitter and Facebook. First, however, would you consider one more question that could jump start your participation in social media:

“How did you create your revenue management strategy and processes?”

1.What is the ROI on your revenue management program?
2.How aggressively do you deploy it?
3.Is it owned at the brand level, the property level, or both?
4.What are the manpower commitments? 100% to 25% of one — or more – person’s time?

Revenue management and marketing are two sides of the same coin. Both are integral to every area of the enterprise; each requires internal consensus and a cultural shift; and both can positively impact top line revenue. You might be able to leverage an earlier learning curve as you consider these questions about your social media involvement.

1. What is the ROI of social media (or “Want a cheap hotel? Just give up the bed.”)

In social marketing, is Return on Investment becoming Return on Engagement? Possibly. Although among franchisors, owners and operators it is still in the early adoption phase, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants and luxury resort The Rancho Bernardo Inn already realize measurable success.

•Since engaging in social media in 1Q ’09, visits to the Kimpton website have increased 500 percent and 600 percent (year over year) from its Facebook fan page and Twitter, respectively. Look for the goldfish icon.

· General Manager John Gates (@GMGoneMad on Twitter) at the luxury destination resort Rancho Bernardo Inn realizes two to three responses per offering of his pop up specials on Twitter, including the Inn’s exciting “Survivor Packages” below:

o Posted 8:50 AM May 15th . “Check out our new “Survivor” Package: Just $219 per night,including deluxe accommodations and breakfast for 2. Stay tuned for details…”

o And eight posts later with each “tweet” shaving $20 to $30 off the rate:

o Posted 7:30 PM May 15th. “My FINAL offer: Stay for $19 without breakfast, honor bar, A/C, heat, pillows, sheets, lights, linens, toiletries or bed!”

· Fairmont Hotels & Resorts is on both Twitter and Facebook to create a greater awareness and understanding of its brand.

A quick search on reveals that companies like Wyndham Worldwide Corporation, Choice Hotels International, Inc., Hilton Hotels Corporation, Best Western International, Inc., and InterContinental Hotels Group are starting to have a presence as well.

2. How aggressively do we want to play on the social media front?

•Depends on your business. A personality driven sales approach like Kimpton’s, which is not a hard sell, may be a good fit.
•• Consider a balance between exploring social marketing venues and executing on your existing marketing and Internet public relations plan.

3. Is it enough for the brand to communicate on behalf of hotels or do franchisees want their hotels to provide individual promotions and unique offerings?

•Facebook lets individual hotels share tips about their cities and local promotions.
•On Facebook, people post interesting content three to four times a week, which is manageable for most hotels (Twitter posts can stream into Facebook, too, which lets you repurpose content.).
•Twitter, where the norm is three posts per day, could be a better fit for corporate communications teams, although many properties are on Twitter as well.
•Franchisors, owners and operators that allow any employee to start a Twitter account might consider instituting corporate social computing guidelines. IBM’s social marketing guide is a good example and may be modified [].

4. What kind of manpower does it take to stay in touch with “followers”? Can hotels feasibly dedicate the resources individually, or should the responsibility be with a brand marketing and eBusiness effort?

•Consider carving resources out of your existing communications — or revenue management — team.
•During the learning curve, maintaining a presence on Facebook and Twitter can take from 15 to 30% of one person’s time for a brand the size of Kimpton. Tools like TweetDeck, which let you categorize the people you follow on Twitter, can streamline tracking “followers.”
•Some brands, like Fairmont, have a different individual dedicated to each social media touch point. Team members can spend from 30 to 50% of their time on social media and the remainder on traditional marketing.

If you are a franchisor, owner or operator, you may be guiding your team to tighten the relationship between revenue management and marketing. You know that promotions which include precisely targeted incentives can drive incremental revenue to the top line; social media gives you tools to serve them up in engaging ways.

Julie Keyser-Squires, APR, and CFO, vice president of Softscribe Inc., is passionate about using technology to connect people and ideas. You can give her a shout at, on twitter @Juliesquires, make a comment on her business blog, “First Light, and sign up for her free quarterly video email snack at

Act Like It’s A Party!

Party TimeJust finished reading my “Get to the Point” email from Marketing Profs and smiled when I saw the headline “Be Professional. Act Like It’s A Cocktail Party.” As you may know from reading my four part series “Franchise Development via Social Media” on this blogsite, I referred to social networking sites as “Virtual Party Rooms” and instructed people to act the same as they would if they were in-person at a party. Mingle. Participate in discussions. Share information. And, shhh!, sales effort should be subtle.

Anyway, I’ve reposted the Marketing Profs email below as it reinforces what we’ve been discussing all week about social media.

Be Professional: Act Like It’s a Cocktail Party
as distributed by Marketing Profs via email (May 22, 2009)

You might have seen the PSA in which a teenage cyber-bully reads her hateful words from the podium of a school assembly. The absurdity of the scene illustrates a disconnect that often exists between our online and offline behavior—when emboldened by the impersonal buffer of a social network, we might say or do things we never would in person.

In a post at his Web Ink Now blog, David Meerman Scott encourages readers to treat social-networking sites as if they’re cocktail parties. In other words, to interact with others in the same way you would at a face-to-face industry mixer. To make his point, he asks questions like these:

Do you go into a large gathering filled with a few acquaintances and tons of people you do not know and shout “BUY MY PRODUCT”?

Do you go into a cocktail party and ask every single person you meet for a business card before you agree to speak with them?

Do you listen more than you speak?

“Sure, you can go to a cocktail party and hit everyone up as a sales lead while blabbing on about what your company does,” says Scott. “But that approach is unlikely to make you popular.”

Your Marketing Inspiration: Before you say something at Facebook or elsewhere, ask yourself if you’d say it to the person standing next to you. Unless you’re really obnoxious, a “yes” means it’s probably okay.

Social Media to Franchise Sales: Fantasy or Reality?

Let’s assume you’ve followed the advice and quidelines in the first three segments of the series on Franchise Development via Social Media. You’ve established your “Virtual Meeting Room” as a Facebook group page and requests to join are submitted everyday. Customers of your franchisees are joining and posting comments about how much they enjoy the experience at the franchise locations. Franchisees have posted some testimonials that really do complement the Founder’s video about his passion and vision for the business. You’re even surprised at how many corporate and franchisee employees have participated and posted comments and photos. All-in-all, you’re proud of the Facebook page and proud of the effort put into developing and maintaining the page.

You’re now looking at you’re social media strategy and you preview the company blog. You feel the content may be all over the board, touching on franchise development, expansion into the Southeast, a new franchisee in Santa Fe, community activity at the franchise location in Seattle and even an article submitted by one of your franchisees about one of his long-time customers, but then you stop a realize how much this menagerie of topics, text, graphics and photos portrays the true face of the franchise concept. You make a note to have your social media administrator issue a press release on just that thought.

twitter imagesA quick review of Twitter puts a smile on your face as you see the number of people following the concept increasing everday. Then you recall the blog stats revealed a sharp increase in visits from Twitter. Wow, there’s a positive trend here we need to watch. Come to think of it, you’ve noticed an increase in franchise inquiries and wonder if there’s a correlation here. You then look closely at the new people following on Twitter and you backtrack to the company’s recent posts and discussions in several LinkedIn and Facebook groups that just so happen to consist of educators, and realize many of the new franchise inquiries have educational backgrounds. Hmmm, you decide to cross-check the names against LinkedIn profiles and smile again as you notice they’re members of LinkedIn, are in the specific groups you’ve targeted, and many have actually participated in the group discussions where the social media administrator posted some very interesting discussions about careers after teaching and about moms returning to the workforce or exploring career alternatives. It sure is coming together.

You note there are some qualified candidates frequently visiting your Facebook group page, checking out the same information repeatedly and posting specific questions about your franchise opportunity. You’ve even noticed some candidates posting comments about the customer testimonials and some personal messages about the Founder’s video. Now what? Certainly this social media thing isn’t magical that it’ll actually close a few franchise deals, right?

personaltouchJust like you’ve integrated traditional marketing strategies with social media strategies, you need to be integrating personal interaction as well. However, instead of an aggressive, focused sales approach, the interaction should be subtle and guiding. Use the social media tools to make your points and make the experience enjoyable and interesting. Your candidates will most likely marvel at the new technology and feel comfortable learning about the technology AND the franchise concept. And yes, they’ll be more comfortable with you and be fully at ease working through disclosure and the finer points of the concept itself.

The rest comes down to guiding your 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 candiates have contacted. Hmmm, your franchisees actually feel more part of the franchise sales process than ever before. You smile again as you realize it did make the process easier than in the past. Yes, it’ll be very nice to achieve your franchise development goals once again. Maybe next year, you’ll actually exceed them!

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

Personal accountability is necessary in monitoring your 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 you handle even the simplest things and the a lack of urgency and poor attention to detail will translate into how you’ll handle the franchise sale and ultimately, your franchisees.

Diligent execution of your strategy and plan is essential. Certainly, you’ll make adjustments along the way. But your plan is your roadmap. 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 laoding 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 worked with and treated if you were the one on the verge of making a substantial investment, maybe putting your life savings on the line! It means converying 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!

Thank you for travelling with me on this exciting, eye-opening journey. It will be an experience you should be able to relive everytime an individual expresses interest in your concept. At that point, it’s time to smile, focus on the resources you’ve invested, the time you’ve dedicated, and the vision and passion you had when you first started in franchising, and share it with your candidate just as you would share your life with a new addition to your family.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to submit them in the space below. If you would like to contact me directly, my email is In any case, I will respond promptly.

Integrating Social Media with Traditional Franchise Marketing

The first segment of Franchise Development via Social Media described how to establish the “Virtual Meeting Room” as the online site to enable interested parties to gather and share information about your franchise concept. The second segment of this four part series, explored the path of guiding an interested party through the virtual meeting room, enhancing the experience with videos, photos and a multitude of Web 2.0 tools, until the individual transitions from general to specific interest and evolves into a franchise candidate. At this point, the franchise candidate is primed to move through the franchise sales process and make an informed decision about his or her entrepreneurial future. Interacting with the candidate throughout the time spent in the virtual meeting room enables your executive committee to make an informed decision as to whether or not the candidate should be awarded a franchise in your system.

anne-indecisiveNot convinced that a social media strategy will help you achieve your franchise development objectives? That’s understandable as it is certainly new, and as such, is difficult to measure for complete efficiency and effectiveness. Basically, there really isn’t anything to measure it against. So, if it doesn’t work, for whatever reason, you need to be prepared and have a back up plan. Is that your thinking? If it is, you’re partially correct in thinking this way. I say, partially, because you should transition into any new marketing approach, and the best way to do so, is to integrate the old with new, the traditional with the innovative.

I also say, partially, because a back up plan, running simultaneously, is a double expenditure and as such may cause you to shortcut the new strategy justifying your decision as you being more comfortable with the old strategy anyway. But keep in mind, the old has been losing its effectiveness over the past few years and today’s franchise candidates are trending away from old methods of exploring business opportunities so change is necessary. Fortunately, you can move into social media at your own pace and slowly transition away from traditional strategies while maintaining the total marketing efforts necessary to achieve your objectives.

Now, let’s look at some of the traditional marketing you might have used in past franchise development efforts and see how you can integrate the same with social media. Over time, you may transition completely out of the traditional methods or may opt to keep some in place, at reduced levels than in the past, and as dictated by the franchise development results achieved by the total efforts.

franchises_availableTraditional strategy: Tapping your current franchise network for customers that may be interested in your franchise concept. Various costly marketing tools include newsletters, post cards, in-store signage and printed materials. Approaching customers should be effective as they’re basically the low-hanging fruit that should be easily picked. Customers know the concept and are generally satisfied with the product or services. They’ve seen how busy the franchise unit is and have experienced the growth of the brand in the market.

Social media strategy: Invite franchise customers to the company’s social networking site and encourage them to participate. On the site, they’ll see videos and photos as we’ve described in parts one and two of this series. The effectiveness of this interaction is far stronger than introducing customers to the possibility of owning their own franchise through cumbersome print materials that get left in the back of the car or get discarded. Certainly the interactivity of the social network site blows away the message being told in print.

Traditional strategy: Advertising in local and national media for individuals interested in small business ownership, franchising and hopefully, your franchise concept. This is an expensive proposition as print advertising is very specific to a local market and multiple markets may be necessary to grow effectively. Or, the national publication costs are cost prohibitive for the size of your concept.

Social media strategy: Blogs are today’s media. Blog writers are today’s journalists. Through tags and various Web 2.0 tools (widgets), content is spread across the internet to multitudes of bloggers that ultimately wind up discussing and promoting your concept. As discussed in previous parts to this series, social network groups can be targeted to attract franchise candidates according to the ideal franchise profile you’ve created. This makes your actual sales efforts more concentrated to actual qualified candidates as opposed to dealing with the swarm of tire-kickers from print media.

lemonTraditional strategy: Portal websites became very popular as the internet gained steam in both popularity and daily usage. Unfortunately, now there are so many portals that regurgitate leads across the internet that many portal leads have been contacted by 10-20-30 different “franchise experts.” This has created a “used car salesman” effect that has actually turned people that may have been interested in franchising, totally against the industry.

Social media strategy: Similar to the strategy identified above as the alternative to advertising in local and national media. And, instead of an interested party being directed to specific information, the social media effort gradually presents the facts and information about the franchise while encouraging interaction with the entire franchise family. This goes a long way towards building trust, an essential component to the franchise sale.

Traditional strategy: Personally, I believe franchise expos and tradeshows are quickly becoming a thing of the past. First, it’s just too expensive to send a team of representatives to man a trade booth in some city outside the city where the corporate headquarters is located. Further, people are intimidated by salespeople and prefer instead to search for opportunities online in a non-intimidating environment, and at their own pace.

Social media strategy: With the wealth and breadth of information available online, an individual’s computer is in essence, a virtual tradeshow or franchise expo. Why should an individual interetsed in franchising go anywhere else? However, it’s not good enough to just have a website. A website is static and two-dimensional. Instead, a blog and social network page, again as we’ve previously described, is essential to stand out from the crowd and create an interactive forum where the franchise candidate can learn and share information towards making an informed decision. Again, at his or her own pace and without feeling intimidated.

Non-traditional strategies: There’s a multitude of fairly new strategies that have been utilized in franchise development efforts. One, email marketing, is effective to an extent. Email blasts have become very common and have had a relative level of success. Except, it’s starting to become stagnant as more and more companies have launched extensive email campaigns and the excitement of yesterday is gone today. Most people now look at email marketing as spam and actually block it whenever and however they can.

email-vs-social-mediaSocial media strategies: Welcome to video email marketing. Or, as is commonly referred to as vidmail marketing. Actually, let’s call it email on steroids! Videos, an essential Web 2.0 tool, can be transfered to blogs and social networks to enhance the experience and more importantly, convey a consistent message in a dynamic form. People remember 10% of what they read. 20% of what they hear. And 30% of what they see. But, remember 50% of what they see AND hear together. So, which is it, email or vidmail?

A recent blog post on The Buzz Bin, defined some basic “musts” for fluid integration of social media. They include:

•Ensuring overarching value proposition and related communications are available in social web when dialogue naturally permits
•Cross-promotion of URLS and calls-to-action through web, mobile and print media for giving, tell-a-friend, webinars, etc.
•Spotlight third party coverage from blogs in the press room
•Advertising: Word of mouth is buoyed by advertising, so social media efforts should be tied to ad campaigns for print, online and keyword marketing. “Connect on Facebook” and other similar calls-to-action should start becoming common aspects of your ad campaigns.
•Public relations: Integrating willing online influencers as part of your outreach is essential.
•Emails: Any email sent from an organizational property should also include a call-to-action for the social web. Think about this: People reading email are already online.
•Website: Prominent first screenview promotion of social media properties needs to be developed for the 1.0 site. We recommend a clean badge or clearly delineated text.
•Cross promotion of social web activities. Badges should link to a portal site that unites all of your social media properties (once you develop them). Then use the portal as the home page and calls-to-action site for all online activity

Certainly, this list is far more technical than the explanations provided in this series but they correspond very well and should be used as a guide when executing your plan to integrate social media with traditional strategies.

Tomorrow, we’ll be closing out the series with Part 4 of Franchise Development via Social Media. Our last segment will tie everything together to make increased franchise sales a reality as opposed to a vision, or fantasy. We’ll also touch on basic sales skills necessary to add the personal touch that is so essential to closing the sale.

In the meantime, please list your questions and comments in the space provided below, and I will respond accordingly prior to releasing the last part of the series.