bannerFranchise News

How to Perfect Your Digital Footprint to Drive Franchise Sales

Internet usage has spiked since shelter-in-place orders first started this spring. Here’s how franchisors and franchisees can tap into this digital audience to make the most of their online personas.

When COVID-19 first hit the U.S. and shelter-in-place orders began, people began turning to one common thing: the internet. Initial estimates indicated that the total number of internet hits jumped between 50 and 70% at the beginning of the pandemic, creating a large audience for businesses to tap into. However, because consumer spending habits are all over the map and rebounds aren’t expected to last, brands need to be more careful with their messaging than ever before.

The franchising industry is no exception to this rule — while economic downturns typically lead to periods of prosperity for franchisors, the digital footprints that brands create for themselves now have the potential to make or break them down the line when entrepreneurs once again begin investing in business ownership opportunities.

In a digital marketing mastermind with 1851, Aubree Coderre, national sales manager at C Squared Social, said, “People are online; there’s no question. And people are [asking], ‘What do I do next? How do I control as much as I can?’ Certainly, business ownership opportunity is one of those things.”

To perfect their digital footprints, brands need to first understand what resonates with their target audience and what doesn’t. Digital marketing isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to lead generation; franchisors need to tailor their campaigns to their ideal candidates.

“The biggest mistake is failing to understand what works for your specific brand,” said Franchise Business Review president and COO Michelle Rowan in an interview with 1851 Franchise. “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.”

During COVID-19, brand messaging should be transparent and sensitive to the current situation. While more people are scrolling through their Facebook and LinkedIn timelines, they may not be ready to engage in serious conversations about franchise investment yet. That means that digital footprints need to be focused on brand awareness and positioning right now — in a few months or even years, candidates are going to be searching to see how franchisors handled this current situation, and now is the time to create that research content.

Once that content is available for candidates to consume, franchisors then need to ensure that they’re analyzing the successes and failures behind it. Ultimately, a brand’s digital footprint is only as strong as the data it brings to the table. According to Jonathan Pace, president of On Pace Franchising, it’s critical that franchisors dig into Google Analytics, “because if you can review and understand the data, you can start to make better business decisions for your franchise.”

One of the easiest ways to start diving into this data is to determine what metrics matter the most to your brand. In an interview with 1851 Franchise, Social Joey chief revenue officer and Social Geek Radio co-host Jack Monson said, “What we’re learning is that people have far too often relied on vanity metrics, like comments and likes, which don’t actually mean anything for franchise development. We’re doing more lead ads on Facebook, which helps us to be able to drive direct leads. We look at the leads that came through our campaigns and determine which of them actually became deals. All the other metrics are vanity metrics that just show that you’re creating campaigns and doing work, but not creating impactful campaigns that actually accomplish what you want.”

At the end of the day, the digital presence that franchisors and franchisees have now will play a big role in a brand’s success in the future. While budgets are tight, brands that make themselves known during COVID-19 and remain consistent in the mind of candidates — both on the franchise development and consumer sides of the line — will benefit from that recognition and persistence.

“I think it’s important not to shrink away from it if you’re not forced to,” said G-FORCE founder Jack Child of digital spending in the age of COVID-19. “We want to keep our ads running for our franchisees who are recruiting new leads for their businesses. While lead flow is down, there are still clicks. We want to be able to come out on the other side of this having laid as much groundwork as possible for the future.”