Search Is Dead, Long Live Artificial Intelligence
Search Is Dead, Long Live Artificial Intelligence

Franchisors should stop relying on their expertise and leverage computer learning to best drive the results they're looking for.

At the IFA Convention last month, when someone asked how franchise brands can use social media for lead generation, I simply shook my head, found the nearest wall and started bashing my head against it.

Figuratively, of course.

Here’s the problem with the franchise industry. It is slow with intelligence. It simply is. And, it is full of “experts” who lead franchisors down a stray path with garbage data (which is why we still chase tire kicker leads).

Franchisors – especially those charged with franchise development KPIs – it’s time for you to enhance your education. And the beauty is, you don’t have to rely on your own intelligence to figure it out.

Computers will do it for you.

While the headline suggests search is dead, it really isn’t. It simply needs to be adjusted. Let’s start there.

  1. If you are picking your keywords on your own, you are failing to use accessible data that measures likely user interactions. Are you a click expert? Doubtful, because there are still hundreds of brands that appear in the paid ads when I search their name. Why are you paying people to click on your URL that is already at the top of the page organically? You may argue that you don’t want your competitors owning your name. Makes sense – but the prospect is smart (and if you don’t think they are, then they better not be your prospect).
  2. Paid search is for 16 percent of your deals. Historical data across brands suggest that 84 percent of deals come from referrals and relationships with your brand. Thus, how much are you willing to spend for that 16 percent? Many brands spend the bulk of their dollars in this category, yet, the returns are not as great. Intelligence, however, will allow you to target those who are near your existing locations (meaning there’s a good chance they have seen or experienced your brand) or those who have had a relationship with your brand already.
  3. Retargeting has fallen into the paid search bucket, however, you need to apply intelligence to this process, too. The return ad message, the landing page you apply the code to (which ensures the $$$ is being spent on the right focus) and the tracking of conversions (if it isn’t working, A/B test another grouping).

Now is the time for franchisors to jump into real-time (social media has been impacting franchise sales since 2008 – yes, it’s the 10-year anniversary of social for business) with artificial intelligence. This is when you stop relying on your expertise and leverage computer learning to best drive the results you are looking for. This is when you really take advantage of the intersection of data and application to drive your advertising. Here’s how:

  1. There is a big difference between paid search and display. Display, in today’s world, is not limited to a pretty picture. In fact, you can have the start of a great story displayed in front of those who want it, in the markets you want it. There is a mutual benefit to this type of advertising because the likelihood of someone ignoring the ad is decreased based on their digital data – THEIR digital data. Advertising is going to shift so that it is valuable to the consumer (or the franchise lead). It will peak their interest – and even if it doesn’t (even though Facebook believes it should), the impressions will add up and hopefully lead to action at some point.
  2. Headlines need to be trustworthy to sell. The buyer doesn’t want to hear how they can make millions with your franchise. They need to be emotionally dialed in to act. Thus, brands don’t sell brands, people do. The biggest value (and threat) is your people – your franchisees. Leverage their stories and place them in front of similar audiences. The “like me” is the ultimate connection.
  3. If 84 percent of deals will come from referrals or those already connected to your brand, then you need to deliver your message to those who are one degree separated from your core audience. This is where friends of friends are valuable – this is where the encouragement of your franchisees interacting on your paid content (comments, likes and shares) can help place your content in front of the right buying audience.

AI is here – at the moment. It is a valuable tool for maximizing your advertising spend. The only challenge to AI is that in a franchisor world where leads are more desired than deals (“where are my leads?”), this process is more about quality than quantity. If your job requires you to show more activity than action, keep chasing the tire kickers. If your job asks you to find the most valuable franchisees who will drive the highest amount of royalty to the system, then AI will help you discover and connect with the right leads who can become deals.

Happy hunting.