In 2019, by the time a franchise candidate reaches out to a brand representative to request more information, they’ve already completed extensive online research into their prospective franchisor. That’s why today more than ever, brands that franchise must invest in top-quality franchise development websites.
That might sound easy for franchise development professionals—after all, their job is to speak to the business opportunity embodied by their brand—but it can be easy to misstep and lose clarity of messaging in the process.
The first and most critical step to building a franchise development site?
“Know your audience,” said Paul Pickett, Chief Development Officer of birding retail franchise Wild Birds Unlimited. “For many brands, the audience that consumes the product and the audience interested in becoming a business owner are very different.”
Oliver Gunanto, Vice President of Digital at No Limit Agency, illustrated Pickett’s points with an analogy: “It’s the difference between talking to a person that eats the sandwich your brand makes versus someone who wants to make a living with your brand’s sandwich. [On franchise development sites], you’re talking to that second group, the audience wanting to know if your company could benefit their livelihood.”
Because of the difference between consumer and franchise candidate, then, brands must make sure that the messaging on their franchise development site clarifies the business opportunity available to prospective franchisees.
“When building a franchise development site, it’s important to put yourself in the shoes of a prospective franchisee,” explained Ashley Mitchell, Soccer Shots Franchising LLC’s VP of Marketing and Communications. “What would each persona want to know? What questions can you preemptively answer to get them engaged enough to reach out to talk to your franchise development team? A common mistake is building a duplicate of your consumer-facing site and ignoring the business reasons behind becoming a franchisee.”
And the goal of targeted messaging and content on a franchise development site?
In Pickett’s words, it’s “to generate qualified leads and to tell your culture and your brand’s story to candidates so that they really get it.” Franchise development sites must therefore “meet candidates where they want to be met,” Pickett explained. “Franchise development sites should provide information that encourages engagement while candidates do their research.”
What drives engagement? According to Pickett: High-value content, appropriate forms and sufficient information related to candidate qualifications and level of investment.
“You want your site to do everything it possibly can to communicate your brand’s culture; you’re answering the candidate question, ‘Could I see myself in this culture?’” Pickett said. “So of course, you need the bare minimum requirements to be a qualified candidate—liquidity and net worth; any Item 19 information that’s approved by legal; your brand’s target markets, and so on.”
Danessa Itaya, Senior Vice President of property management franchise Property Management Inc., said that a successful franchise development site will also clearly illustrate “the candidate journey.”
“You need to telegraph clearly the step-by-step process that prospective franchisees will follow, from Discovery to grand opening,” Itaya said. “It helps everyone when you’ve set that expectation right up front.”
Additionally, Pickett said, franchise development sites can minimize user bounce rates with relevant video content that avoids a “hard sell” approach, as well as forms that invite candidates to submit minimal personal information, also in the interest of avoiding a hard sell.
“I’ve made the mistake of having too much mandated information on our FD forms, and that doesn’t align with what candidates are looking for today,” Pickett said. “That said, you also need to be transparent with your story, so you don’t want to be too withholding.”
When asked how web developers for FD sites know how to strike the balance, Pickett was emphatic.
“Listen to what your candidates want—they’ll tell you,” Pickett said. “Give people the option to be communicated with how they want; offer text and email options. The old game of only putting enough information on your site to get candidates to call you doesn’t work anymore.”
Mitchell spoke to the deluge of content that today’s franchise candidates inevitably find themselves navigating, offering the ultimate call to action for FD site developers: don’t hold back when it comes to answering ‘So what?’
“The nature of lead generation in 2019 is that there are a lot of options and a lot of information out there, about your brand and others. It is unrealistic to think that a candidate will only go to your website for information,” Mitchell said. “Knowing this, it’s even more important than in the past to make sure you are clearly showcasing your brand differentiators and why someone would want to partner with you instead of another franchise."