How the franchise growth experts at RainTree combine storytelling, smart design, SEO best practices and more to generate two types of quality leads for their brand partners.
A franchise brand’s website can serve many purposes. It is a home base for company information, a bustling hub of news and updates, and—perhaps most important of all—the most comprehensive tool for franchise development.
Because the franchise growth specialists at RainTree know that a brand’s website holds the potential to be the most versatile asset when it comes to sales, they’ve become experts at optimizing the client sites they build for conversions.
“People are less inclined to pick up the phone these days, so to get them to understand the brand and buy into the story, it all begins on the website,” said Linton Dowling, Marketing Director at RainTree. “The added value for RainTree and our partners is that it is more cost-efficient to generate leads through a website than on any other channel.”
RainTree generates two types of lead conversions through franchise development websites. The first is a contact conversion, which serves as an initial touchpoint to gather basic personal and location information from a lead and see if the relationship is worth exploring. The contact conversion form is only presented on the site after visitors have seen enough of the brand to make an informed decision.
According to RainTree Lead Designer Bryn Casey, this strategy results from years of streamlining the informational process. “The most successful method for contact lead conversions is to make sure the user is first educated,” said Casey. “We give them enough information to know if it’s something they’re looking for, and to get enough of an emotional connection to entice them.”
Dowling emphasized the importance of clear messaging and transparency—because it’s not the number of lead conversions that’s important, it’s the quality of those prospects. “To get the right person into our education process, we have to stress that this is a franchising opportunity that requires a minimum investment,” said Dowling. “We are a limited resource company, so we want to make sure we’re using our time efficiently.”
The other type of lead RainTree generates is a qualified candidate conversion via a more lengthy questionnaire. RainTree sends this confidential form to leads further down the sales funnel and only after speaking with them over the phone, sending marketing assets and requesting financial documentation. Qualified conversion questionnaires are customized per brand and are sent directly to select leads.
Conversions aren’t the only way RainTree uses data to optimize franchise development websites. To begin, RainTree gives each partner company a document they call the “Two Minute Drill,” a comprehensive questionnaire about the franchise that serves as the content honeypot for RainTree’s copy and design teams as well as everyone else involved in the brand’s development. “The team gets started creating copy while everyone involved—from brand managers to salespeople—goes back to the brand with more questions,” said Dowling.
Casey said that in addition to having a digital team with a firm handle on fundamentals, understanding the brand’s target audience is also imperative for optimizing a site’s design. “It’s important to know what age group you’re speaking to, and how your target audience looks for information,” said Casey. “For example, if you want a high-end corporate look, your fonts will be a little smaller. We apply the brand standards to the best structure that will communicate and connect well with the right users.”
RainTree makes sure to stay on top of all evolving best practices when it comes to web design. Their sites avoid duplicate content so they don’t get ignored by Google, commit to being ADA compliant, optimize images so they load as quickly as possible and make sure everything is perfectly mobile-friendly. “People often look at websites on their phones,” said Casey. “We make things as minimal as we can, so we can reach a wider range of people.”
RainTree has an SEO team committed to search engine optimization for all development websites. “We’ll look into current popular keywords that people use to search in specific industries, and make sure our content is populated with the right word usage so it raises the most awareness,” said Casey, adding that SEO best practices are constantly changing within the industry, so it’s important to keep up.
In addition to optimizing visual elements, RainTree also commits to original photography and videography to convey a brand’s unique story. “We can use stock imagery and create great functionality within a very clear and poignant website, but without that original imagery and human connection, it’s dead in the water,” said Dowling. “What we do at RainTree better than other franchise consulting firms is tell a story that’s never been told before, with a strong, unique brand voice.”
Casey echoed the importance of strong visual elements. “You don’t get an understanding of a franchise business unless you can see it in action, or put yourself in the shoes of the people in the photos you’re looking at,” said Casey. “As designers, we get an idea of the emotional appeal and convey that in the design.”
RainTree’s experience optimizing websites has raised the bar for what they consider success. “When I started here, the average conversion rate we were seeing for a successfully performing website was about two percent. We were pretty happy with that,” said Casey. “Now, in the years I’ve been here, it’s progressed to where we weren’t really happy unless we were at over five percent. Now, we’re not happy unless we are seeing 10 percent conversion rates.”
RainTree combines all these elements to lead to more qualified conversions, all without losing sight of the storytelling element that best connects with people. “Franchising—and this is what I stress to my team, and to myself—is selling a story,” said Dowling. “The core foundation for a website is making sure we do that right. And RainTree does it better than anyone."