The task: Develop a high-engagement, standout website for your brand. Not sure where to start? Below, three franchise development professionals sound off on just how important it is for brands to leverage eye-catching yet cogent websites to drive their business.
Danessa Itaya is Senior Vice President of Property Management Inc., a premier property management franchise whose services span the four pillars of residential, commercial, association and vacation rental management. Scott Thompson is Chief Development Officer for Level 5 Capital Partners and Chief Financial Executive for children’s swim instruction franchise, Big Blue Swim School, and Oliver Gunanto is Vice President of Digital for 1851 Franchise and No Limit Agency. Here are the top five ways to get the right eyes on your brand’s website and then to catalyze visitor action.
Always Have a Clear Action Item
For brands that franchise, content strategy is all the more important. A given franchisor will offer both a consumer website (targeting consumers) and a franchise development site (targeting prospective franchisees) to surface high-value information to each respective pool. Clear strategy translates to a clear action item.
Gunanto shared that one of the common misses for brand websites is a buried action item—that is, something for the visitor to “do”—whether that item comes in the form of an application, a form, a delivery request, or something else.
“You need some primary call to action that’s persistent in the header, always,” said Gunanto.
Itaya built on this by saying that a call to action should be apparent at every point of the user’s journey through the page.
“The call to action could be a phone number that stays in a static bar, or the form fill-out is easy to find and is always on each page,” Itaya said. In addition to that point of engagement, Itaya said that users today also expect the opportunity to do more research without having to make a call.
“Since we’re cognizant of that, another thing we also have on all of our pages is the online chat feature,” Itaya explained. “It’s not manned by a franchisee, but it’s a service for which we’ve provided a script. This way, visitors can get their questions answered and it’s also a form of engagement.”
For franchise development sites in particular, Thompson emphasized that providing high-value content to visitors who fill out a lead form is a great way to drive engagement.
“I like to have a lead form that follows them on the site. If a lead is ready to jump into the process, they should have a lead registration form that provides candidate info so they can access an online discovery center with content, videos and other downloadable options,” Thompson said.
Surface Testimonials and FAQs
For franchise development sites, testimonials and FAQs are some of the highest-value content possible because they answer the major inquiry that prospective candidates have: “What’s been the experience of someone like me?”
“Testimonials are social probing,” explained Itaya. “When people go to your site, it helps them to see people just like them using your services and saying how much they love them.”
“It’s critical to have some type of testimonial,” Gunanto agreed. “There’s always consumer apprehension when a testimonial is surfaced from the corporate side, but if you present it in such a way as there’s a diverse set of opinions, that helps nurture brand credibility. Especially if there’s a mechanism to respond to negative feedback included on the site as well.”
Thompson and Itaya both emphasized the importance of letting the real stories of real people shine through.
“You can’t just have data; you need to tell the story behind the data,” Thompson said.
“And it’s important to highlight that our franchise locations are locally owned and operated,” Itaya emphasized. “More and more, today’s consumer wants to know who they’re doing business with and wants that transparency. Providing that personal touch is important.”
Use Video Content
Much like how the increased demand for chat features has changed brand websites, so too has user demand for video content. Since adding short videos to the PMI franchise development site, Itaya said that she’s seen a lower bounce rate from users.
“Our visitors to the site are spending a longer amount of time with our content since we introduced video,” Itaya said. “We provide short testimonials and informational bits of typically 90 seconds or less. It’s really helped users stay longer. And that lower bounce rate in turn helps our SEO—Google likes low bounce rates.”
Showcase the Candidate Pathway
For franchise candidates considering buying into a brand, understanding the journey before them helps validate their decision.
“You need to be clear about that step-by-step process,” Itaya said. “So you must be sure to include something that shows, ‘When you work with us, here are the steps that you take,’ clearly marked out. It’s helpful when we’ve set that expectation right up front and candidates know the ‘how’ and ‘when’ of their journey.”
Thompson echoed this, adding that brands can leverage a strong understanding of the candidate journey to target content to prospective franchisees at different points of the sales funnel.
“You can target drip campaigns for candidates that have looked earlier and come back; more in-depth content that unlocks the further along a candidate goes, and so on,” Thompson said.
Optimize for Mobile
According to Itaya, more and more candidates and consumers are engaging with content on their smartphones and tablets, meaning a seamless user experience (UX) is a must.
“We’ve seen a shift, so now it’s people on their phones and tablets doing the research at higher and higher percentages,” Itaya explained. “Your site now needs a ‘click to call’ option, easy navigation, easy to find action items and a fast load time.”
The risk for brands that don’t prioritize UX?
“User experience is so important because if it’s not simple, your user will abandon the attempt and will have a lasting bad impression of the brand,” Gunanto stressed.
And those impressions matter. In the age of extensive online research and validation before consumers or prospective franchisees connect with brand representatives, making sure your brand site stands out for all the right reasons is critical.
“Tell your story well,” said Thompson. “Meet your audience where and how they want to be met, and you’ll be that much more successful.”