Your franchise development site is one of your brand’s most crucial marketing tools. Here’s how to find the right partner to maximize the opportunity.
In today’s digital marketing landscape, having a standout franchise development site can make or break a sale—starting from the moment a potential lead googles “[Your Brand] franchising.”
Unsurprisingly, most franchisors don’t moonlight as web developers. So, how do you decide what franchise development website vendor will best represent your brand, convey all the right information and start generating qualified leads?
First, consider what design and layout features would best convey your brand’s message, and what particular functionalities would be beneficial for your franchise development. For starters, all websites should be SEO- and mobile-friendly. Do you want a customer service element, like a live chat? What about the integration of other digital marketing tactics?
“I use SpaceCraft for my franchise website. They were a natural choice because I also use them for my other businesses and corporate-owned locations,” Jessica Fuller, founder and CEO of The Hot Yoga Spot, wrote in an email. “The platform is easy to use, provides plenty of customization options, integrates SEO and provides easy-to-understand analytics.”
If your brand has outgrown its current website—or even vendor—there’s no shame in changing course to better address your needs. Many website development companies work with businesses, but franchise development sites require specific strategies to get in front of the right audience that are unique to the franchise industry.
“We originally partnered with a company on the consumer side to rebuild our website,” Carrie Evans, Director of Franchise Development at Chicken Salad Chick wrote in an email, adding that the brand’s new website supplier is Scorpion. “We then decided to add more to the franchise development side and developed a fresh new look that captured the audience we are targeting. We knew there were several options out there to help with the franchise development side, but based our decision on testimonials from other brands in the industry.”
In your conversations with website developers, ask pointed questions to differentiate between what they offer and what your partnership could look like. For example, how will you, as the franchisor, be involved in the website creation process? What processes does the vendor have in place to swiftly address malfunctions and bugs? What is the proposed timeline for getting the site up and running? And, of course, what’s the cost?
Keep in mind that website development is not a one-and-done project. Growing businesses need vendors that can grow alongside them while adding and tweaking features as new needs arise. Fresh web content should be consistently developed and updated—after all, your FDD will change every year, and if your latest blog post was posted in 2014, leads may assume your company is inconsistent or uncommunicative. Who will maintain the website once it’s launched? Who will review the site’s analytics in order to make strategic improvements? Does the vendor provide back-end training for your team if you need it?
“I like SpaceCraft because they have all the fancy features you want in a site, but in an easy-to-use way,” wrote Fuller. “A lot of website hosts and platforms require you to understand code or depend on their team to edit and update your site. I didn’t want to be dependent on someone else’s timeline and wanted the ability to consistently give potential candidates the most updated information. The ability to maintain the site myself over the long-term was the most important thing for me.”
Evans said that Chicken Salad Chick wanted a supplier that could lend ongoing support once the site was live. “It’s been a recent launch, so we are still in the editing mode and tracking the analytics on the SEO side,” wrote Evans. “The Scorpion team has lived up to their word on providing support on the back-end as we work through some edits. That’s what taking care of a client is all about.”
Be sure to also put on your Potential Lead Hat and browse through some different brands’ franchise development websites, especially those made by the suppliers you are considering working with. Take note of what features you enjoy most from a researching franchisee standpoint, and what elements of the design and navigation are attractive and easy to use.
Throughout this process, also pay attention to how different suppliers treat the different brands they work with. You can even ask potential partners to contact some of their franchisor clients and run some due diligence about their experiences. But at the end of the day, you want to work with a partner that will do a deep-dive into your individual brand and help magnify your work to catch the eyes of your target leads—not one that will insert your brand into a boilerplate template.
“The Hot Yoga Spot is a newer franchise, and our site does a great job giving people the information they need, helping them get familiar with our brand and find out what steps are next to learn more and apply,” wrote Fuller. “As we grow, I know our site can grow too, and allow for a timeline of development, added team members and more!”
Franchises are meant to grow. And with the help of a top-notch franchise development site that’s true to your brand, yours surely will.