More than 200 franchise brand websites were reviewed by industry judges, and 75 were recognized as best in class, with Signal 88 finishing first, followed by Sport Clips and Painting with a Twist tying for second, Buffalo Wings & Rings in fourth and Chemdry, MaidPro and Soccer Shots tied for fifth.
“We’re thrilled to see the work that brands have put into their online presence,” said Nick Powills, Publisher of 1851 and CEO of No Limit Agency. “Potential franchise owners are very diligent with their online research before they’re ready to talk to an actual person. It’s essential for brands to have a solid online footprint, with a focus on search engine optimization and providing concise information in a clear format.”
The Top 25 Gold Standard Winners were:
1. Signal 88
2. Sport Clips
2. Painting with a Twist
4. Buffalo Wings & Rings
5. Soccer Shots
8. Mosquito Joe
8. Rita’s Italian Ice
11. Anytime Fitness
13. Chop Chop
13. Lawn Doctor
13. Pillar to Post
13. Toppers Pizza
17. Famous Toastery
17. Lennys Grill & Subs
20. Bottle and Bottega
20. Closet and Storage Concepts
20. Wild Birds Unlimited
20. Executive Home Care
20. Kona Ice
20. Pinot’s Palette
20. Taco John’s
1851 Franchise shined a light on the best the industry has to offer by announcing the Top 75 finalists of the 2017 Franchise Development Website Awards. “You can clearly see that the quality of franchise websites has improved over the last few years. Franchisors are understanding that the website is critical to encouraging prospects to fill out an inquiry,” said Sean Fitzgerald, Chief Brand Strategist of 1851.
The 2017 Franchise Development Website Awards placed design at the forefront, with sites being judged on motivating content, ease of application, usability, UI/UX design, site performance and SEO.
“Your franchise development team is no longer a 'standalone' team. Their lead flow is directly affected by the consumer's - your franchisees' customers - online opinion. Think testimonials and social media. A merged, coordinated, digital effort is the winning formula here,” said Rick Batchelor, CEO of Qiigo.
Each category was meticulously evaluated by a panel of 12 judges and given a score on a ten-point scale; the website rankings are based on a composite average of these scores.
“We are coming to the end of the Information Age as we have known it. People are drowning in irrelevant content,” said Keith Gerson, President of FranConnect. “They need to find answers to their questions as quickly and succinctly as possible. However, many of the franchise development sites in our review are adding to the noise by blending their consumer sites with their development sites which only confounds prospects with exposure to irrelevant information.”
The judging panel was comprised of industry experts: Fitzgerald, of 1851 Franchise; Powills, of No Limit Agency; Batchelor, CEO and Jack Monson, Director of Digital Strategy, of Qiigo; Michelle Rowan, President of Franchise Business Review; Craig Slavin, CEO of Franchise Navigator; Jamshaid Hashmi, CEO of ClickTecs; Kay Ainsley, Managing Director of MSA Worldwide; Keith Gerson, President of FranConnect; Stan Friedman, President of FRM Solutions; Steve Beagelman, CEO of SMB Franchise Advisors; and Todd Bingham, President of Pinnacle. Each judge was tasked with judging hundreds of submissions, from which they awarded 75 standout franchise development websites with a gold, silver or bronze designation.
“A well-designed franchise development website can make all the difference in franchise sales, and brands that understand this deserve their recognition—these awards and subsequent industry guides serve as a blueprint for any franchise looking to succeed in the digital realm and beyond,” Hashmi said.
Rowan agreed, noting that brands that highlight franchisee satisfaction online have a greater chance of motivating a candidate to apply.
“Franchise prospects want to know that the current franchisees give approval of the brand and the leadership. A development website is an excellent opportunity to highlight existing franchisees and their satisfaction with the brand,” she said.
In addition to recognizing the best franchise development websites in the industry, 1851 has pieced together a best practices resource guide that takes all sites’ successes into account and pools them into one cohesive strategy. These strategies can be applied to one-page templates, content management systems and any site scheme in between. The strategy stories can be found at franchisedevelopmentawards.1851franchise.com.
“It is clear that best practices in franchise websites are scattered,” Bingham said. “There is such a wide variety in the design and content of the sites we reviewed.”
Slavin echoed that sentiment. “Many franchises don’t know who they should be attracting to their franchise, so they attempt to attract everyone. This is what we refer to as ‘casting a wide net.’ We ‘hope’ we put the net in the right sea; we ‘hope’ we catch fish; we ‘hope’ we pluck the right fish out of the net; we ‘hope’ they come on board and so on and so on. This is why understanding who your target is so important to the process.”
One best practice that has become clear is that if content is king, smartphones are certainly the queen.
“The jury is still out on whether mobile apps or mobile sites will lead the way into the future,” said Stan Friedman, President of FRM Solutions. “What is irrefutable, though, is that smartphones, not PCs, or MACs or tablets, are what your prospects will use to find you. Therefore, your development websites must serve a ‘responsive design,’ or you’ll lose opportunities to those concepts that do.”
When creating a website for lead generation, Beagelman said it’s important to leverage all assets of your franchise.
“There are plenty of people visiting your site and not inquiring to own your brand. Make sure your messaging speaks to them – those who will spend a significant time researching your brand before they tell you they are interested,” he said.
Although the website is the main point of contact in lead generation, a proper sales process will still guide the lead to sale.
“The development website certainly helps drive visits to leads, but the sales process is equally important. Franchise sales is not as easy as simply driving leads. It’s about nurturing them throughout the process,” Ainsley said.