If you’ve never heard of “brand journalism” before, this little brain test should give you a good idea of how it works:
Try to remember one single banner, ad listing, business mailing, or any other kind of display advertisement you’ve come across in the past few days and visualize it in your head.
Can you think of a single one?
You’re not alone in your struggle—most people can’t remember online ads because they bombard us everywhere we go even though we’re more likely to complete Navy SEAL training than click on one. We’ve simply trained ourselves to ignore them everywhere we go.
Now, try to remember the last article you read through somewhere online.
If you’re like me and most people consuming content out there, articles, news stories, and blog posts are usually much more likely to stick in your mind even after you’ve moved on.
Why is it easier to remember articles or blog posts that we read than banner ads?
Great articles tap into our natural tendency to understand things in the form of stories. Vivid storytelling hits us on a logical level and an emotional one. In other words, it makes us think as well as “feel” some way about what we’re reading.
So, what exactly does this have to do with franchise lead generation?
When it comes to big investments like a franchise, we don’t only want a wealth of information at our fingertips; we want to feel a connection with the brand.
We want to visualize ourselves succeeding with the company and living the life it will afford us.
Great storytelling can move prospects to take that crucial first step into your franchise sales process, and in the age of Google, the modern buyer isn’t willing to waste time calling your sales team to get their questions answered—especially if your competitors are proudly displaying those answers on their websites.
How storytelling fits into the franchise sales process
According to this year’s Franchise Development Report, Internet leads are still dominating as the top source of franchise sales, accounting for roughly 4 out of every 10 sales across all industries.
Throwing all your chips behind display ads, flashy banners, and franchise portal listings fails to consider what buyers need these days: information—and a lot of it.
On the very first visit, the average prospects expect to learn:
- who’s on your team,
- what it’s like to be a franchisee,
- what locations are available, and
- how the investment will affect their lives
If you’re keeping this kind of content guarded behind forms or restricted to sales calls, prospects will move onto other companies who are willing to make that information available to anyone who is interested. It’s as simple as that.
How is brand journalism working for companies?
Brand journalism isn’t only relevant in franchising—companies of all kinds have been adopting the concept into their content marketing strategies in various forms since it gained popularity in 2012 when Entrepreneur magazine named it the hottest trend in marketing.
But what about franchises?
In 2012, Chem-Dry began filling out their franchise website with content-heavy, story-rich blog articles, customer interviews, Q&A’s and stories of success from franchisees themselves with the goal of communicating answers to common prospect questions and giving readers a firsthand look at life as a franchisee.
The new strategy boosted lead volume from 25 per month to 159 per month and tripled the close-rate resulting in an extra $1 Million in new deals.
How to start adopting brand journalism into your franchise marketing strategy
Brand storytelling isn’t just about writing journalism-style articles and waiting for the right readers to stumble upon them.
Telling your brand’s story stretches to encompass traditional search engine optimization (franchise SEO), social media, website content, blogging, paid search ads, email campaigns and even your franchise portal listings.
Parsing out how each of these channels can play a part in telling your brand’s story is a bit much to explain here, so instead, let’s look at how you can take some important first steps you can build on as you go along:
1. Develop your story in detail
This isn’t just your history as a company. A great company story should focus on communicating the value proposition you’re making to prospective franchisees. Understand that the reader is about to make a huge life decision.
Define all the ways your brand and opportunity are unique and valuable to franchisees both financially and otherwise. Your current franchisees can be a great resource for story ideas.
2. Create and publish franchisee success stories
A huge part of brand storytelling is creating content that prospects can relate to personally. One of, if not the best way to do this is by creating unique success stories that allow prospects to see who your franchises are, where they came from, and what kind of success they’ve achieved since coming aboard as franchisees.
Write up a list of interview questions you can ask your franchisees either in person or over the phone and use their responses to craft a story that aligns with your company’s broader goals and values. This is a great way to prove to prospects that those who take advantage of the opportunity can achieve success.
3. Align your other digital marketing channels with your brand’s story
If you’re managing email marketing, web portal listings, PR pieces, and/or social media, re-evaluate the content you’re publishing through these channels to fit the message you’re delivering on your website. The last thing you want to do is confuse or frustrate leads with unrelated follow-up emails or manage a social presence that doesn’t jive with your website’s branding elements.
Above all, be sure you aren’t creating content for the sake of creating content. Look to third party agencies or professional writing services to ensure your content is just as exciting and entertaining as it is informational and educational.
Looking for more ways to improve your franchise's digital presence and generate leads using your website? Check out our guide to franchise SEO.