2019 Franchise Development Website Award judges Michelle Rowan, Thomas Scott and Stan Friedman share the best ways to optimize your digital audience, personality and budget.
“Budget season” is never an easy time for franchise brands looking for ways to get the most bang for their buck. It is no secret that a defined digital strategy is now a necessary component of a marketing budget in 2019, but the headache of deciding how much to spend and where can be overwhelming—so much so that sometimes, it’s easier to first understand what not to do. 1851 caught up with three of the judges from this year's Franchise Development Website Awards to bring you expert tips on what to avoid when mapping out your digital marketing budget for 2020.
Don’t Assume Your Audience
Before allocating any funds, each and every brand must ask themselves certain questions about who they are targeting.
“The biggest mistake is failing to understand what works for your specific brand,” said Michelle Rowan, president and COO of Franchise Business Review. “What works great for one franchise company won’t work at all for another. Knowing your cost-per-lead and cost-per-sale are basic metrics all franchisors should calculate.”
Brand Journalists CEO Thomas Scott agreed.
“Get clear on who you are targeting,” he said. “Determine the four or five types of groups that are most likely to buy your franchise. Be very clear on the value process and create some type of vehicle to convert those people through cost-effective lead generation.”
For Stan Friedman, president of FRM Solutions, “The only thing that matters is the people you are trying to communicate with and how many you are letting go by the wayside. … Meet candidates where they are or you are going to lose an opportunity that should be yours.”
Don’t Forget To Show People Who You Are
Digital marketing is all about identity, personality and consistency of messaging.
“The No. 1 mistake people make is underestimating the investment in brand storytelling,” said Scott. “If a company doesn’t have a solid vehicle to explain its value proposition to an interested prospect online, it is going to miss 80% of its deals. A chunk of a business’ annual budget should go toward brand-oriented content creation like videos, podcasts, graphics, etc.”
Beyond just strong storytelling, brands should incorporate data into their messaging wherever possible to amplify the business behind the brand as much as the brand itself.
“It's important to tell stories and share data,” said Rowan. “Franchisee testimonials are a great way to showcase what it's like to be a business owner of your brand, reasons people join the brand and even common challenges that may appear. This personalization will appeal to candidates that relate to those franchisees.”
Content creation aside, a brand’s identity is defined through its interaction with prospects, as well. Friedman, for one, considers unresponsiveness a “flagrant mistake” that will send franchise prospects running in the digital world.
“Always respond to online requests personally in some way,” he said. “Let them know you have acknowledged their outreach and appreciate it. Time kills deals, and the need for speed in the digital world is all the more demanding. People want what they want and they want it now. Brands must be present in some form or fashion to give them instant gratification.”
Don’t Skimp on Your Website
A brand’s website can be the secret sauce that attracts franchise candidates and customers alike.
“Some percentage of your development budget needs to go towards the creation of storytelling on your recruitment website to expedite the value proposition process,” Scott said. “Otherwise, candidates will never dive deep enough. Focus on storytelling that tells the audience why your brand is different.”
As far as the investment brands need to make in the creation and maintenance of a curated web presence, Scott advised brands not to underestimate its importance and treat its development as a priority.
“A good website requires a great deal of skill to get right and should be able to take the place of a one-hour conversation with a knowledgeable recruiter with a brand,” he said. “Don’t be hesitant to invest upwards of $20,000 to do it right.”
“Every single potential client seeks out information online before they connect with a development team,” said Rowan. “A company’s website is the platform to showcase data, reviews, testimonials, or anything else that helps differentiate the brand as an industry leader. In addition, online social tools give you the opportunity to target candidates that fit a profile you create to accelerate their interest in your brand.”
Getting a candidate to submit an inquiry via your site is only half of the battle, too—your site must also be optimized to engage candidates through the entire discovery process.
“A big percentage of money needs to be spent on keeping candidates engaged after they’ve made contact and self-identified,” said Friedman. “A company needs to have campaigns that are keeping people engaged from the first contact to the final decision. Too many brands take a client for granted once they self-identify—hit them with pertinent digital messaging that is appropriate in that stage of the process. Franchisors make a big mistake when they think all they have to do is get a phone number or email address.”
Remember That Not All Brands Are Created Equal
“There are owners who like to buy small, emerging brands and be a part of the growth, and there are owners who are more interested in a mature brand,” said Scott. “A lot of people completely underestimate how different those two groups are.”
Beyond just acknowledging the nuances within the limited pool of franchise candidates, it is important for brands to remember that the social strategy for an established franchise like McDonald’s is going to be wildly different than that of an up-and-coming franchise. Understand your own limits and operate within them.
“Marketing is not one size fits all,” Friedman said. “You need to have appropriate messaging or you will force candidates away by not communicating with them at the right speed.”
Whether your target audience responds to data-backed messaging or connects with your brand’s values and mission, authenticity should be at the center of every marketing strategy in 2020.
“My parting advice is to just be authentic,” Rowan said. “Show the true picture of your brand and franchisees in order to find candidates that are right for you and vice versa. Use your digital marketing budget to set realistic expectations so candidates come in with their eyes wide open and know much hard work it takes to be successful!"