Many franchisors have a love-hate relationship with the portals or directories that charge thousands of dollars a year with the promise of healthy lead generation. It’s a well-known fact that while the costs keep going up, lead volume has waned in recent years. There are a number of variables at work here, to be sure: a tougher economic climate, increased competition, but the most important factor is the evolution of the the Internet.
Studies show that the way we make big purchases has fundamentally changed; far more of the buying decision is complete before a prospect speaks to anyone from your company. Face it, whether it’s accurate or not, it feels more objective to research your company online before I subject myself to your sales pitch. I learn about your business model, I check out your franchise pitch online. I peruse your top competitors. I pore over reviews from customers and owners… I may even ask questions on social sites. Then, if I’m still interested, I may email or call you.
To exert more control over this process, a franchisor needs to own the organic search results for the questions prospective owners are asking. It’s not rocket science, but very few franchisors are thinking this through. Most franchisors spend plenty of time building up content and fostering engagement with the consumer audience, but what about the other important audience: those carefully considering franchise options? Instead of a few quick bullets on your franchise site, consider the many ways you can build up content and conversation around the questions and keywords people are considering about your business opportunity.
It could be blog posts about the advantages of your type of home-based business, or why your training and support materials are superior. You can easily engage happy franchisees to create case studies on the process they went through to select their business. Add well-tagged video content about your Discovery Day process. Compare and contrast franchise opportunities in your space, much as you likely already do on the consumer side, you (or your advertising agency) need to create relevant content on an ongoing basis and push it out through social networks, from a B2B perspective.
In other words, instead of depending completely on portals, you can and should own content that will win prospect searches and initiate more serious buyer discussions. The way buyers act today, it takes more than a few quick teasers on your franchise site to motivate an inquiry. You need to offer up much more information to snag Internet searches, to educate potential franchisees, build interest and compel a response.
Yes, this new world order brings with it a scary level of transparency – but as the social media saying goes: The discussion about your business opportunity is happening out there anyway, wouldn’t you rather participate – perhaps even take the lead?