Even in the face of a lull, maintaining consistent lead generation and marketing budgets and leveraging public relations are the best ways to make sure you’re enticing qualified leads.
A low volume of franchise leads is always a cause for alarm for development teams, regardless of the size of a brand. While the subject of shallow lead flow is a tough one to tackle, not addressing the issue can certainly make things far worse for a franchise brand.
“Brands need to spend especially when leads are down—but spend more wisely,” Monson said. “If you’re paying over $100 for qualified franchise leads, you need to reboot and rethink how you're advertising. Facebook and Instagram can deliver pre-qualified leads for $40 per lead if you have good content and are targeting right.”
Facebook and Instagram are underpriced, while other segments tend to require higher-than-average spend, Monson said. For every dollar spent on radio or television, he said, “you're not able to spend your money as efficiently as you can on Facebook, Instagram and other social channels, as well.”
Brands that properly target the people they’re attempting to reach with their ads will not have to worry as much about screening candidates “because every lead that comes in will be a quality lead,” Monson said.
In order to generate quality leads on a consistent basis, brands need to think about what good franchise candidates do, what they’re interested in and what is going to compel them to engage with the brand, Monson said.
“The first things brands need to do is stop spending 100% of their ad dollars on lead generation only, especially if you’re an emerging brand that no one really knows about,” Monson said, adding that, “You have to promote the brand first before you begin trying to generate leads.”
Ways to promote an emerging franchise include using brand awareness ads and public relations, Monson said.
“I would also say brands need to, for the long-term, start engaging with people outside of what I call the ‘Franchise Well’—the well we keep going to for leads where all of the brands, brokers and everybody else has the same 50,000 or so email addresses,” Monson said. “Those people are getting the same marketing spam and email blasts from every brand, day in and day out—none of those people are ever going to buy your franchise.”
Instead, Monson said, brands should tap into the new generation of franchise owners and entrepreneurs who want to own their own business in the new gig economy.
“Show them what life can be like partnering with you and give them the opportunity to run their own business. Don’t try to oversell franchising in the generic sense,” Monson said.
Beagelman noted that if a brand stops spending money on leads, “You’re not going to award franchises.” Per Beagelman, brands need to spend more money to get the same amount of leads, and may even need to alter how they are spending their money. His advice? Consult your agency about what resources are available and where their focus needs to shift.
“It's not enough to just award franchises; you need to make sure you’re bringing in the right franchisees into your system because if you don't, you can destroy your brand,” he said. “This is especially important for emerging brands. You need to effectively screen who you bring in because those franchisees early on will make or break your business. They need to have passion and make sense with your brand—define what matters to you. You can't be afraid to turn people down who aren't the right fit.”
On that note, one area where Beagelman and his team see new franchisors drop the ball when it comes to marketing their opportunity is that some of them spend money without tracking anything. As a result, he said, they have no idea what works in attracting qualified leads.
“They don’t realize where and what things are having success, so that's a challenge,” he said. “Back your efforts with data. Invest in it.”
Another area where franchise brands sometimes stumble is when franchise development team members fail to respond to queries in a timely manner.
Simply put, “You have to be responsive or you will lose them,” Beagelman said.
Because a franchise is not an impulse buy, brands must make sure to invest in targeting the right leads who will be a good fit for the business.
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Beagelman said. “Franchisees need to have the same mindset—they sign a 10-year contract. This is an investment, not something you buy and return the next day. You're going to be immersed and invested in this business, so you want to make sure it’s the right fit on both sides.”
In order to generate consistent lead flow, Beagelman advised franchise brands to take a multi-faceted approach. Third-party validation or public relations, for example, can validate the concept and “makes your brand bigger than you are,” he said. And even if it doesn’t bring leads, it plays a major role in validating the concept for the leads that do come in, he pointed out.
“Brands need to acknowledge that the effects of strong marketing take time,” Beagelman said. “It doesn't happen overnight and it doesn’t happen by itself. You need to work at it and have a budget and a plan—you can’t just do it for two months and quit if you’re not seeing anything."