When 12 franchise industry experts got together to evaluate 200 franchisor development websites, one thing became very clear -- each had a different opinion of what was considered a great website. What does this mean? With two females and ten males ranging from early 30s to mid 60s, this means that websites cannot be created as a one-size fits all. The challenge, however, is the franchise industry is traditionally slower to adopt technology -- thus, all franchisor development sites are pretty singular in voice and design, with the exception of domestic vs. international.
As franchisor websites offer an increasingly higher value in the prospect’s buying decision, the panel of judges provided the following website best practices:
Michelle Rowan, President and COO of Franchise Business Review: Put testimonials and success stories right up front! Candidates want to connect to the executive team, brand, and franchisees already in the system. Show them who you are, present your culture and brand as much as you can in the initial 20 seconds you have their attention. Also, know what specific information your audience is looking for and make it easy for them to find. Keep your top differentiators and selling points visible so they can't be missed.
Steve Beagelman, CEO of SMB Franchise Advisors: A franchise development website needs to be educational, brand-driven in terms of tone and language, easy to navigate and compelling. Sites have to offer the ability to request more information or fill out a contact form not only on every page, but every part of the page. The form should “follow” a user through the Website.
Todd Bingham, President of Pinnacle Franchise Development: I am a very visual person so look is very important to me to start. If I am not visually engaged then I may dismiss the site from the beginning. Then I look at the content. I like to know as much information as possible before I have to speak to someone.
Stan Friedman, President of FRM Solutions: Make your franchise development site informative and engaging. Also, while everyone else is providing information on costs, processes, training and support, your prospects also want to know what a day in the life of your franchisees might look like, and whether they can envision themselves in that role. Tell them, or share that in the voice of existing zees.
Craig Slavin, President of Franchise Central: Understanding the franchising part of a brand’s business is a separate business entirely. What a brand offers to a consumer is much different than what it offers to a franchisee. Yet, franchise companies tend to carry over the same look, feel, graphics, verbiage and colors from the consumer site to the franchise site. This is very wrong. Once a brand knows the profile of franchisee, they should be seeking the look, feel and tonality of the site to attract that specific profile, which is, most likely, a very different profile than the consumer.
Jack Monson, Director of Digital Strategy at Qiigo: Paint a picture for the prospect of what their world would be like if they became a franchisee.
Jamshaid Hashmi, CEO & President of ClickTecs: Keep it simple. Many of the brands reviewed seemed to go out of their way to make it difficult to request information or find relevant details that a typical franchise candidate would be interested in.
Kay Ainsley, Managing Director of MSA Worldwide: Recognize that the objective of the franchise website is to have the prospect contact you so that you can have a personal conversation and begin to build rapport— make it easy to do so. Keep the contact simple (you can provide the details when you speak with prospects) and put a contact box on each page — don’t ask for too much information from the prospect as that may discourage people from contacting you especially if you are a young franchisor. After you have the prospect excited about becoming a franchisee you can request additional information and you’re more likely to get what you need. Asking for too much too early may take away the personal touch and discourage people from contacting you.
Keith Gerson, President of FranConnect: One overarching thought on creating a great franchise development? Put yourselves in the shoes of the prospective buyer. Everyone is looking for a degree of information that is more informative than that which they can find on Google or through franchise portals. Don't frustrate their efforts - make it easy for them to find information (and that includes not "gating" or requiring individuals to give you too much information too soon).
Sean Fitzgerald, Chief Development Strategist 1851: Your website may be the first impression of your brand or your franchise opportunity, so make sure that it is visually appealing and tells your brand story. You have just seconds to catch someone’s attention, so be sure to have a clear and simple message as to why this is a great franchise opportunity. Don’t just say you have a great consumer product, training, and support (everyone says that) but quickly answer the questions about why this is the best franchise opportunity. The goal should be getting the visitor to want more - either more information or further engagement.
Rick Batchelor, CEO of Qiigo: When building a website, help the prospect find what is important to them. This could be anything from return on investment, lifestyle, legacy, sense of community or other driving force. By appealing to the prospect's need, you can help them move to action. Most prospects aren't contacting you because you won that big award they’ve probably never heard of, or because you emailed them so many times. They are looking for a solution to their need. Help them find it.