Gone are the days of franchisors being able to invest in a consumer website, add a franchise development page and call it a day -- letting it sit for years. Today, franchisors have to be nimble with their sites, as best practices continue to fluctuate, as does the ways would-be franchisees perform their due diligence.
Today’s best practices, as researched through the evaluation of 200 franchise websites by 12 judges from franchise technology and consulting firms, are to have a separate URL for consumer and franchise sales purposes. This requires, in many cases, two separate build outs and a larger budget to ensure the brand is best positioned to acquire online franchise leads. The challenge for franchisors, especially of the emerging category (those with fewer than 100 units), is finding the budget room to properly invest in this process.
Even with the costs associated, experts in franchise development and in helping concepts become a franchise, agree that the franchise brand needs to have a great site built out from day one.
“The very first thing you should invest in and continue to invest in is your development website,” said Sean Fitzgerald, Chief Development Strategist 1851. “A bad website is the ‘silent killer’ for franchise development. Candidates easily get turned off by bad websites and the lost opportunity is nearly impossible to track.”
Steve Beagelman, (CEO of SMB Franchise Advisors, says that costs have decreased over the years, thus eliminating part of the obstacle of a franchisor launching a development-focused site.
“The costs of a separate URL and website development have become so affordable, it’s silly not to invest in that from the very beginning,” he says. “Plus, a separate URL will secure much better SEO for their franchising site, and with the increase in candidates ‘finding’ brands on the web, this is very important.”
Kay Ainsley, Managing Director of MSA Worldwide, says that while some brands choose to use different names in the URL, using the franchise brand will help with search, especially for franchise prospects in the initial stages of brand research.
“I would also use the brand in the URL rather than a holding company or corporate name,” she said. “If a prospect is looking for a franchise they probably will look for the brand name.”