Whether you’re a salesperson tired of wasting time with tire kickers, or a company director looking for a solution to your sales team’s frustrations, franchise web portals can be a mixed bag of emotions for companies struggling to attract quality leads.
Although some have dealt with it by completely abandoning web portals, 2012’s Franchise Update report on lead generation found that of the 100 franchise systems that participated, 43% of internet sales were attributed to the portals throughout the year.
If that has you thoroughly confused about what to do next, let’s explore how you can build a strategy to get the most from portals.
Why franchise web portals aren’t what they used to be
The underlying issue with web portals today is pretty simple:
Prospective business owners have changed the way they’re researching and engaging with franchise opportunities while many franchisor's approaches to portals have stayed the same for years. So where’s the disconnect?
Simply put, prospects are doing more research on their own than they did when web portals were considered the best way to get information about franchise opportunities online.
As a result, they’re avoiding the forms found on portals and instead, using the listings as a starting point to find more information about companies on their own using search engines.
Given this, franchisors should consider two key questions:
- Since prospects are heading straight to your website to learn about the franchise opportunity rather than download materials from web portals, is there enough quality content available on your website to compel serious buyers to take the next step in the sales process?
- Apart from brand visibility, are there new ways to use web portals as lead generation tools?
How portals fit into the franchise discovery process
Portals are in a unique position to help deliver content to those who use directories to find opportunities, and some of the biggest names like entrepreneur.com have shifted their portal structure to help improve their value to franchisors.
To understand it, we’ll need to step into the prospect’s shoes for a second.
In the earliest stage of research, they want to determine if the industry they’re interested in is going to be a viable business decision. Naturally, they search for content designed to educate rather than sell.
Thomas Scott, a lead generation specialist at Franchise Performance Group describes how portals could be used to deliver a variety of educational content about various industries and segments:
“I think prospects are looking for somewhat neutral, off-the-franchisor’s-website information about brands and have a need for detailed sources of comparative information. If you are curious about all the options for self-serve frozen yogurt, you can use a search engine but you may not see each brand equally represented. Franchise portals are going to continue to be important and have directories because of this.”
Combine this with direct links back to company websites filled with rich, impactful content that goes further to answer prospects’ questions, and you have a franchise lead generation system that covers the entire buying process.
How to start getting better results from franchise portals today
The system I just described only works if your company website is deeply structured with content that:
- Answers prospects’ questions
- Tells your brand’s story
- Has enough impact on the prospect to compel them to take the next step
To accomplish all three, a franchise content strategy is essential. Making sure your website is regularly updated with rich content is crucial to converting leads who find your opportunity via franchise portals.
With a deeply structured site in place, there are a few other improvements to streamline your sales process:
- Improve your call response time. Make sure you’re following up with leads within five minutes after they submit a form. While that might not seem like a lot of time, that's when your franchise opportunity will be freshest in their mind. Wait longer and they may have continued researching, leaving your opportunity behind.
- Shorten your forms. Keep it to name, email, phone number and custom message asking the lead to tell you about themselves.
- If you’re going to use the web portal to tell your brand’s story, make sure to have a professional craft a story that sticks with the prospect. The better you can connect to them, the better your results will be.
If you’re in desperate need of a new approach to web portals, start focusing your attention on those that have adapted themselves deliver what prospects are looking for during their research process.
If you need better site content, but don’t have the resources to get there in-house, learn how outsourcing to professionals can turn your franchise website into a lead generation machine.
If you want to learn strategies to help your own franchise website stand out and get found online, check out our guide to franchise SEO.