1851’s judging panel of industry experts discuss the trends they are seeing across the field of franchise development sites.
When it comes to effective franchise marketing, suppliers and franchisors have been at the forefront of digital trends to maintain an active presence in the ever-growing franchising community. To learn how brands can attract more fish in the pool of potential franchisees with a franchise development site, 1851 Franchise connected with judges from this year’s Franchise Development Website Awards to get their take on the latest franchise development site trends.
In a time of rejuvenation, franchisors are encouraged to review their franchise development sites and recognize whether or not they are participating in 2019-caliber marketing practices as an industry. For many brands, there are new ways to interact with and catch the attention of modern buyers who want to research and engage with a franchise opportunity.
“Prospective franchisees develop an opinion about your brand long before they reach out to you,” reminded Rick Batchelor, CEO of Qiigo. “This means the consumer side of your business is the first of many touch points for the prospect. Consumers visit your locations, read your reviews, visit your social profiles and talk to your customers. They imagine themselves as part of your brand. They imagine the way your brand could fit their lifestyle. Too many brands approach franchise development as a disconnected function, which is a big mistake. I believe you are going to start to see more brands leveraging the superpowers of their brand in their franchise development effort.”
One of the most influential trends experts are seeing across all markets is video integration. According to Brent Dowling, CEO of RainTree, the company has seen an increase in the number of sites that include professional-grade, emotion-eliciting videos. The depth and quality of video content, however, need to go above and beyond stating facts or repeating the nuts and bolts of a franchise opportunity; for potential franchisees to connect with a brand, Dowling noted that a personal touch allows individuals to connect to a franchise or see themselves with a company is a critical trend that is certain to garner more attention, especially this visual, digital age.
Thomas Scott, CEO of Brand Journalists, built upon Dowling’s commentary, noting that if quality video isn’t an option, brands need to tap into the world of quality audio.
“There are some important trends we haven’t seen any volume in, one of which is the embedding of audio content,” said Scott.
With a boom in podcasting, experts are encouraging brands to participate in the trend, as podcast content can be utilized as a highly effective and popular medium. According to Scott, long-form audio content is changing the way digital consultants and franchisors are designing sites and social media.
Steve Beagelman, President and CEO of SMB Franchise Advisors, emphasized that while implementation of video and graphics are important, companies shouldn’t neglect to provide accessible, downloadable information.
While more easily accessible, the downloadable information to which Beagelman referred shouldn’t forget that a structured, linear format compiled in one space is beneficial. In Scott’s experience, too many development sites’ navigation and information is divided into small groups, creating long click-throughs that make it harder for a potential candidate to dive deeper into the story of the brand. As a reminder, Scott identified that funnel-designed franchise development sites should have less emphasis on a homepage design since most traffic won't enter through the homepage in today’s digital climate.
According to Jack Monson, Chief Revenue Officer at Social Joey, most traffic to a franchise development site will enter through a different medium, like social media. Monson emphasized that brands need to better integrate ads on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn to help candidates utilize various communication outlets while keeping content streamlined and requiring more action on behalf of the potential franchisee.
Keeping in rhythm with increased calls to action, franchisors are encouraged to have shorter inquiry forms. This tactic helps identify qualified individuals and cuts out any chance of a potential franchisee gathering inaccurate information. Scott suggested that the extra field of how an individual heard about a brand simply creates more form friction, frustrating those who don’t see it as a necessary component to their qualifications.
Ultimately, this aspect lowers conversion rates, so it’s better that forms are kept to short, necessary contact information like name, phone and email.
With a streamlined approach, it’s necessary to provide content to potential buyers throughout their entire journey, and not just a franchisor’s sales journey, according to Jamshaid Hashmi, CEO of ClickTecs. Hashmi noted as a result of streamlined content, there has been an uptick in the self-serve approach to researching franchises.
With many individuals accessing information via their phones, Joe Matthews, CEO of Franchise Performance Group, stated that brands should place emphasis on mobile optimization first, if they haven’t already, with simpler designs and structured, quick-view information.
“Accessing information via a mobile device should certainly include the ability to opt-in for texting outside of a form,” Matthews said. “Providing a streamlined means to communicate with an owner cuts down on conversion rates and ultimately costs you deals.”
Conversely, Scott said that although mobile design is important, the journey of a prospect is most important. According to Scott, “Building sites with a total focus on mobile first does more damage to the way a real buyer researches. Potential franchisees might begin their search on a mobile device, but most end up on a laptop to further investigate and conduct heavier research.”
For Scott, understanding that the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is not applicable calls for a different design tactic in which each device type is utilized for its full potential and built to influence the prospective franchisee where they are in their journey.
Connecting with prospective candidates is crucial to establishing a strong connection and the ability to identify whether or not an individual is a qualified prospect. To do so, Kay Ainsley, Managing Director of MSA Worldwide recommended that brands invoke the ability to immediately connect with a franchise development representative and include financial information to pre-qualify candidates. This act saves time for franchisors as they seek out bona fide franchisees.
Through all these latest trends, it’s clear that brands are moving towards streamlined, personalized and creatively-integrated content to interact with potential franchisees. Although franchisors will have a different approach to their franchise development sites as they are wont to be, it’s imperative brands stay abreast of trends so as to have a greater net cast into the pool of potential candidates.