Franchise Lead Generation: It Takes a Toolbox

Franchise Lead Generation: It's a Tool Box

Utilizing These Tools can Attract Quality Candidates to Your Business

To paraphrase an old adage, if your only tool is a hammer, you’ll only see nails. But imagine instead that your franchise arsenal had a Swiss Army knife with multipurpose blades, screwdrivers, and even a corkscrew (for opening that celebratory bottle of wine). Think of all the different tools you could use to resolve an issue, especially if the issue is attracting qualified leads who can become future successful franchisees.

And while of course no sane franchisor is going to go after franchisees with a hammer or Swiss Army knife, it’s a good analogy for why diversifying your approach is important. Vendors and suppliers in the franchise industry who specialize in one specific media believe, quite predictably, that theirs is the tool you’re looking for. This is why a public relations expert will invariably recommend PR, a social media guru will want you to put your money into promoting your social media profile and placing ads on social platforms, and why event organizers or franchise portal ad reps will push for investing in trade show booths and online listings.

Leverage Skills of Experts

One way to avoid this myopic focus on just one marketing vehicle at a time is by leveraging the skills of a franchise “generalist,” a consultant or agency who evaluates all the options available to you, while taking into account your targets and goals, and helping you set an appropriate budget and action plan. A good generalist will show you how to grow your franchise system by intelligently using a variety of sources and resources, in order to adequately cover all the bases.

Not all franchisors are seeking the same franchise candidates, so first and foremost, you need to know you’re looking for the right people in the right places, and that your resources aren’t being wasted in areas that aren’t benefiting your strategy.

Differentiation is Key

Having a clear message of who and what you are, how you differ from the competition, and the nature of your value proposition is paramount to attracting the right candidates. In addition, your marketing materials need to be compelling and have the appropriate “attitude.” Humor may work for some concepts, such as those selling sandwiches, but not for the medical field. Your message needs to speak directly to the type of person you want to join your system. This is where your trusted franchising experts can be invaluable: they will know what has and has not worked for similar concepts, the best avenues for advertising your offer, and the kind of messaging that will resonate with your target audience.

A fairly new franchisor with a goal of selling one franchise a month, needs to attract about 50 leads a month.

Importance of Technology

Another thing to keep in mind, when evaluating your franchising toolbox, is that technology may be your friend in the franchise sales process, but it’s not your surrogate. For all their accomplishments, the Internet, automated software platforms, and AI can’t replace the human touch of a phone call or a face-to-face meeting. Technology may help tee up a sale, but it can’t forge a relationship or build trust with a prospect. Only a well-trained (human) salesperson can accomplish that. While text messages and emails are convenient ways to communicate, they shouldn’t be the only contact with a qualified candidate. A blended approach is key to communicating with prospective franchisees, especially considering you are asking them to change their career path, dip into their life savings, and take a rather large leap of faith as they align with your brand.

To put all this into perspective, a fairly new franchisor with a goal of selling one franchise a month, needs to attract about 50 leads a month — and that means every month, to keep the pipeline filled. This is because it takes between 12 to 14 weeks on average (and often even longer!) to close a franchise sale, and because historical close rates have hovered between 2% and 3% for about as long as franchise sales trends have been tracked. On top of that, an even more established franchisor might to increase those lead counts significantly to hit its growth goals, especially for concepts such as quick-service and other restaurants where the competition for qualified candidates is especially fierce and investment levels are relatively higher.

To hit the nail on the head with franchise marketing and sales, it doesn’t take just a hammer, but rather a fully developed plan of action that hits on all cylinders.

Going Beyond Franchise Lead Generation Activities

There are other considerations as well, beyond lead generation activities. Do you handle franchise sales with your existing staff, hire a fulltime salesperson, or do you bring in a franchise sales outsourcing organization (FSO) and/or leverage the networks of franchise sales brokers instead? Each option has its pros and cons, and its impacts on everything, from upfront costs and revenue sharing to management requirements, to speed of growth. Making the right decision on how to structure your franchise sales resources could be another one of the most important decisions you make, right up there with what initial and ongoing fees you should charge your franchisees.

To hit the nail on the head with franchise marketing and sales, it doesn’t take just a hammer, but rather a fully developed plan of action that hits on all cylinders, from implementing well-thought out marketing strategies and advertising plans, to leveraging technology appropriately, to ultimately having systems and processes in place so that candidates can be turned into happy, successful franchisees. After all, those happy franchisees, and the testimonials and validation they provide, will likely end up being the best sales tool you can keep in your well-stocked franchising toolbox.

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Mark Siebert is the author of Franchise Your Business, The Guide to Employing the Greatest Growth Strategy Ever and The Franchisee Handbook, and a franchise business consultant since 1985. Mr. Siebert founded the iFranchise Group in 1998 as an organization dedicated to developing long-term relationships with successful franchisor clientele. He can be reached at 708-957-2300. Learn more at iFranchise Group.
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