The person looking to purchase a franchise is fueled by emotionally charged decisions. The prospect makes the choice to buy not based off of how hard you can sell them but how the opportunity relates to their own life. They’re not buying the pizza sauce or the innovation you’re offering they’re constantly making the correlation in their mind on how your opportunity will change their lives and careers.
The better you can combine your brand story with the story that the prospect has already laid out in his or her mind, the more likely you’re going to have qualified leads that want to take the conversation further.
So how do you make that correlation? Content. Nicole Hudson, a Hub Spot Certified agency partner and Founder of Inbound Lead Solutions, a content marketing and social media firm specializing in franchising states, “ the brand story is the emotional thread that weaves the brand, the franchise opportunity and personal needs of the candidate exploring business ownership together. Brands need to produce and distribute content that speaks to the current landscapes candidates are experiencing.”
“Many new franchise owners have been displaced or downsized, returning veterans or at the retirement age looking for an investment opportunity. Each of these life situations represents a different buyer persona that digital channels need to accommodate. Unique, optimized landing pages with good call to actions and downloadable content for all stages of the sales funnel and all buyer personas are key in lead generation success for franchise development.”
But before we explain further, you first need to understand the current state of franchise marketing and the trends that are catching many marketers off guard.
Franchise Content Marketing Trends for 2014 and 2015
Where do these franchise prospects go to receive more information on your brand story? The internet. According to Franchise Update’s 2014 Annual Franchise Development Report, 42% of the people researching a franchise say the internet influenced their decision to purchase. We would actually argue that this figure should be roughly doubled when considering the influence social media and online advertising have on one’s buying decisions in 2014. According to ComScore 75% of B2B buyers claimed social media would likely have influence on a future purchase. Hudson shares, “Prospects aren’t just starting their research online, they’re practically at the finish line. Social media has changed the way people purchase. Buyers are increasingly influenced by a tremendous access to “street knowledge” from their peers, word of mouth and online reviews that allows them to bypass the traditional sales process.”
“In this new environment a new discipline has emerged among sales professionals. Social selling is the practice of leveraging content in social networks and the associated tools in the overall sales function from lead generation, to closed deal to account management.”
Trend: Pre-Franchise Purchase Content Consumption Will Increase
Depending on the vertical your franchise is in, anywhere from 60-80% of the purchasing process is over before your prospects reach out to receive more information about your opportunity. Your prospects are scouring the internet to find relevant content. They start their top of the funnel search with general searches like “best franchise opportunities”, “donut franchise” or pinpointed hyper-local searches like, “pizza franchise in Florida for under 300 thousand dollars” or specific brands they are interested in combined with their local market of interest. Is your franchise opportunity coming up for both types of searches?
As your prospects research online, they want to find trusted sources of information. No longer is it best practice to have a separate page on your main franchise website that summarizes the opportunity. Your prospects require robust content, real insider info and a way to do their own due diligence without a pushy sales person calling them 5 times a day.
Google changes their search algorithm about once per day. What does this mean to me? It means you need to adapt. After Google’s recent Hummingbird and Panda updates, many marketers and franchise systems were hurt and their website rankings fell overnight. On the positive side, for years there’s always been one thing that keeps your website safe from Google’s changes: Consistent, sharable, relevant, awesome content that your potential franchise prospects want to see.
Content related questions to ask about your franchise development site:
-Does my website tell my brand story throughout?
-Do we offer an inside look to the inner workings of our franchise?
-Do we provide financial information?
-Do we have multiple downloadable offers?
-Do we have a blog that’s continuously updated? Video?
-Do we offer content that represents different parts of the sales funnel?
Trend Alert: Less Reliance on Portals
While many franchise brands are still relying on lead portals to generate leads, in 2014 you’ll see a drop in reliance and more of a push to create owned online real estate. A recent study showed that 43% of internet related franchise sales were attributed to lead portals. However the gradual drop in lead quality, lead count and deals coming directly from portals has left many franchise development professionals scratching their heads.
Although, we’ve seen some recent advancements in advertising and content models pop up in some of the most popular portals, you’ll continue to see drops in usage and quality in the years to come. Why? Simple. Because brands can become their own media company.
Franchise brands can now hire agencies or new internal employees to strategically create cross-channel content marketing that not only appeals to the search engines but captures the attention of the potential franchisee while they’re doing research. Brands can become subject matter experts in their own space instead of relying on being one of dozens of options on portals.
Simple and Easy To Implement Tactics to Build a Content Marketing Powerhouse within Your Franchise System
All this talk about content marketing is great but how do I actually start implementing it into my franchise system?
Bottom line, you need someone internally that OWNS IT.
Without this internal person, whether it be your VP of Marketing, Middle Manager or CEO, your content marketing efforts will never be as effective as a franchise system that has someone on the inside.
The next step after you’ve found someone internally that understands content marketing is to start determining your goals.
Do we want to…
-Generate more leads
-Help generate traffic to our franchisees
-Build your brand, etc
-Once you figure this out, you can start getting a good idea of what to start measuring.
Another step after this is to take inventory of what you already have access to. Many franchise companies are sitting on mounds of content and they have no idea. A lot of the time you’ll have 2-3 people internally that already blog or would be more than willing to contribute the vast knowledge that’s in their head. LinkedIn published a case study on franchisor, Service Brands International showcasing how they used re-purposed content to grow their franchise opportunities and SEO ranking with LinkedIn company pages.
Determine Your Resources
If you have limited resources on your marketing team, you have to be smart as to where you’re spending you time. Many of our clients reach out to us because their bandwidth is very short, so we’ll come in to help with the strategy and tactic implementation.
Before you decide to reach out to an agency, ask yourself….
-How many people are on your team? How many can be dedicated (or almost dedicated) to franchise content and how many can pitch in at various intervals?
-What are their strengths? Words? Video? Speaking? Technical writing? Illustration?
-How much of an investment do you need?
-How many times do you want to blog? (we recommend 2 x per week)
-How many newsletters do you want to create, at what intervals?
-What else is in on your plate of things to do?
If you’re figuring out that it’s going to be overwhelming to accomplish a full content marketing plan, we highly recommend reaching out to a team in the franchise space that has experience in working with other franchise organizations on the content marketing front.
If you’re going to tackle this yourself, create a list of your must haves and find the middle ground between what you want to create and what you can actually create without straining your franchise resources. It’s all about setting expectations for both you and your superiors (both in content and budget).
Understand Who You Want to Attract
Most people in marketing call these your buyer personas. Make sure that you know what they like to eat, where they get their information, who they regard as thought leads in your space and how you can best serve them.
Take a look at your analytics, speak to your current customers and create different segmented stories surrounding from where you need to base much of your content from.
Without developing your personas, you’re basically throwing content into a dark room and hoping someone comes across it.
Create a Content Calendar
After you’ve developed your goals, taken inventory, created resources and defined personas, now’s the time to start putting it all together in a Content Calendar.
Create a list of what you have and implement those stories and personas to find out what’s missing
What stories will you be telling?
What persona pain points are you touching on?
What parts of your sales funnel are you missing?
Once you’ve created it, chart it out for the next year. One easy way is to assign each month a major topic that you can drill down from there. Don’t forget to take into consideration your team’s strengths and your marketing resources.
Make the calendar accessible to everyone on your team that will be contributing. List out the deadlines when drafts and final versions are due, themes, format etc.
Integrated Social Media Channels and Distribution Strategy
High-quality and engaging pieces of content are the heart and soul of your content strategy, but your distribution channels are the glue that holds it all together. Nicole Hudson, President of Inbound Lead Solutions and our franchise and social media consultant here at IDS provides these insights.
“Consumer marketing and franchise development departments will have to work together in this medium. Providing conversion points and integrated content in existing consumer social media channels is key. However, more importantly, the Franchise Development teams are going to need to start creating their own social media channels and blogs that showcase and speak to the unique needs of the franchise candidate and align with future social selling strategies.”
“Now that your team has established your channels and created the content, the right prospect needs to find it! You might have an incredibly valuable piece of content, but it has to have means of distribution to live up to its fullest potential. Of course, general social media practices (such as tweeting, posting on Facebook, etc.) are always helpful and are bound to gain organic traction, but paid promotion gives the organic momentum a little boost — an integrated digital strategy works best as you ramp up your reach and engagement.”
Measure Your Results
Doing content marketing is fun but we all need to improve the bottom line. You should be monitoring your traffic levels, lead attribution by channel and connected to your CRM so you can track deals that come from all of your efforts. At IDS, we use Hubspot for our clients since it comes with a robust set of tools and hosts everything you need all in one spot. You can surely mix and match a host of services that may fit the way your organization is set up.
The blog post was originally posted on both Integrated Digital Strategies and Inbound Lead Solutions Blog properties. The is a co-produced blog by Nicole Hudson and Dustin DeTorres.
Nicole Hudson: President, Inbound Lead Solutions
Inbound Lead Solutions is a Marketing Technology firm focused on Social Media, Content Marketing, SEO & Lead Generation for franchising. Hudson is certified in Hub Spot inbound marketing and chairs the Detroit Hub Spot User Group (HUG). Her specialization in social media, franchising and multi-unit location marketing strategies has been recognized by Franchise Update Media Group with a Star Award, a recently published LinkedIn case study on Franchising Search Engine Optimization and Lead Generation. Nicole is a member of the International Franchise Association, sits on the Marketing & Technology Committee, FranTech Conference Committee, a contributor to Franchising World Magazine and regular speaker on LinkedIn social selling and lead generation. Connect with her on LinkedIn, via email firstname.lastname@example.org, @getinboundleads, or text/call 248.808.9922.
Dustin DeTorres: Co-Founder of Market Loyal
With over a decade of marketing experience and 6 years of hands on Hubspot Marketing Automation experience across 4 start-up companies and consulting with dozens of different types of verticals, Dustin brings a unique blend of Inbound Marketing experience to the table. He's a certified Hubspot Partner and the leader of the Hubspot User Group of Central Florida.