Forget everything you thought you knew about lead generation in franchise recruitment. The game is changing. There's a major shift taking place in the way people buy, and it applies as much to franchises as it does to washing machines. "A milestone development that could forever change the way franchisors generate leads," Franchise Update called it. In 2008, growth stalled for Chem-Dry, the world's largest carpet cleaning franchise with more than 3,500 franchises - until they turned this shift to their advantage.

 

 

Their first step was to bring in Bill Knight, a franchise-building veteran, as Franchise Development VP.  He applied all the tactics that had worked for him in the past - he revamped Chem-Dry's franchise website, launched pay-per-click online advertising, took out full page print ads in influential magazines such as Entrepreneur, and rapidly developed broker networks.

It worked. Leads jumped to 350 on average per month by 2011. But Knight wanted more. The close rate was still 0.7 per cent, which is around the average for the franchising industry, but that meant that Knight and his team were closing only 30 franchise sales a year.

 
“We were doing everything the best franchise companies were doing,” Knight said. “Problem was, it wasn’t enough to hit our growth numbers. With close rates at or below 1 percent, our franchise recruiters were swamped with calls and sales activity but were not able to focus on getting quality people across the finish line.”

 


That's when he found out about the shift we talked about earlier.

 

"A milestone development that could forever change the way franchisors generate leads," Franchise Update called it in a report to its 2011 Sales and Leadership Conference. For the first time in the history of Franchise Update's report, the internet was right up behind referrals as top lead sources for new franchisees. Most of the internet leads came not from pay-per-click or portal sources, but from good old organic search - the kind you don't have to pay for, but you do have to earn.

 What caused this shift? Changes in the way people buy. And the way you sell has to be consistent with the way people buy.

   
The way people used to buy worked like this. You went to a shop (or a dealership or a franchisor) and got all the information you needed from a salesperson. Then you made the decision what and whether to buy. Or you went to another shop (or dealership or franchisor) and got comparative information from another salesperson. That is, you "shopped around". That gave you the feeling that you had a certain amount of control, of power over the buying progress. But in reality, the seller had most of the power because the seller had the information, and the seller gave you as little or as much information as he or she thought he or she needed to give you in order to make the sale.

 


The way people buy has changed in recent years for two main reasons.

 

One is that due the economic crisis that started in 2008, people have lost faith in bankers, insurance companies and just about everybody else in the business world, including franchisors. The other reason is all the information you used to have to get from a salesperson is now freely available on the internet. Which means you can get all the information, not just what the salesperson chooses to give you. You can talk to people who have already bought. You can read comparative reviews. All of this you can do without having to leave your home or office. So when you are ready to buy, you are armed with all the knowledge you need to make the best purchase decision. You have all the power.


Of course, if you can't readily find the information you want on any product, service or franchise, you won't even consider them in your purchase decision. That is what was happening with Chem-Dry.

 
So Bill Knight changed things so the way the franchise sells is consistent with the new way that people buy. Instead of relying on a franchise recruitment section on Chem-Dry's main website, he built a new website, chemdryfranchise.com, dedicated to franchise recruitment. He loaded it with success stories, videos, FAQs, interviews, a blog and other content-rich information designed specifically to attract and engage people interested in a franchise. You can even download their 2012 Franchise Information Report, with contents such as 'The Chem-Dry story', 'How do I get new customers?', 'What are my start-up costs?', 'Franchisee stories', and 'How much can I make?'


The result was a dramatic turnaround for Chem-Dry.


"We went from 25 leads a month before the site launched in March to 159 leads in June," said Knight. "It isn’t just that the lead count is higher, it is that we have much higher quality and engaged leads coming from our website."  


In fact, 5% of all visitors to chemdryfranchise.com are now coming through as leads, and because they are being engaged, the close rate on those leads has leapt from 1% to 3%.

 
"We expect to close up to 70-100 deals this year," said Knight, "and most are a direct result of the website and brand storytelling — that’s over $1 million worth of franchise fees. It’s been a good marketing investment."

To see how Chem-Dry do it, go to www.chemdryfranchise.com and don't forget to download your free copy of their Franchise Information Report.


You'll find another good example of how it should be done at http://voodoobbqfranchiseblog.com. They have a downloadable FIR too.

 

 

 

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