Experts from 1851’s Franchise Development Website Awards judging panel share their insight into the ‘why’ behind franchise development websites.
In the last few decades, the approach to franchise development has been slowly shifting from traditional marketing methods to a focus on digital. The strategy may differ based on brand and budget, but the website serves as the central point for all digital marketing efforts, and is key to a brand’s growth and success. However, not all brands place the right emphasis on this key marketing tool.
“The main goal of a site should be obvious — but, from looking at so many poorly thought-out sites, it isn’t. The goal is to educate a prospect and convert them from a visitor to a person you can communicate with,” said Thomas Scott, CEO of franchise lead generation agency Brand Journalists. “The website has the opportunity to replace the first hour of conversation a prospect has with your recruiter, creating a 100% uniform educational experience that positions your brand in the best way possible. Structured and varied content does this. The larger sites [evaluated for the Franchise Development Website Awards] are far more compelling than the shorter ones and consumed much more of my time. The same would go for a prospect — it should be obvious, but it isn't.”
Scott adds that the point of a website isn’t to weed people out or automate sales for lazy recruiters.
“The recruitment website remains the most important component of franchise development efforts,” said Scott. “Like most things, you get what you pay for. A poorly designed site with skimpy content won't produce the same results as a robust, well-thought-out site.”
Joe Mathews, CEO of franchise growth advisory Franchise Performance Group, has the opposite take, underscoring the need for franchise development websites to discourage the unqualified candidates from moving forward in the process.
“Franchise development websites should focus on securing high conversions on qualified leads — but the site should also deter the unqualified. This can balance out a conversion rate or lower it, but in either case, it’s a positive reduction,” said Mathews. “Applications will determine the quality of the content and the site’s ability to deter and attract the correct buyer for the brand. To achieve this, the site should tell the brand story and business model as well as qualifying details like culture and start-up costs, without giving them everything. This should prompt a conversation.”
Jack Monson, Chief Revenue Officer at social media marketing firm Social Joey, adds that the primary goal of franchise development websites should be to create the opportunity for a bigger conversation between the franchise salesperson and the candidate.
“A strong franchise development website should compel a conversation and collect data for future messaging,” said Monson. “This can be accomplished through strong content and great storytelling.”
One way to grab a candidate’s attention is by focusing on the emotional aspects of small business ownership and the support a franchise brand provides to its partners. Brent Dowling, CEO of Raintree, a franchise sales marketing consultancy, shared that in his experience, content that goes beyond the numbers and business aspects of a franchise opportunity is what can inspire a candidate to action.
“[A franchise development website] should create an emotional connection with the targeted audience, allowing them a relatively deep understanding of the business model, investment level and ideal candidate,” said Dowling. “But, it’s important to go beyond ‘whetting the appetite’ — it should provide a substantial amount of information on the opportunity to compel them to take the next step.”
While the opinions of our experts on the primary function of a franchise development website may differ slightly, one common thread held true across the board: the website is often the starting point of the franchise development process and serves as the entry point into the brand. It’s not the be-all-end-all marketing piece, but rather, should be the first step in the process.