Hey, Franchise Developers: Pick Up the Phone!

Hey, Franchise Developers: Pick Up the Phone!

Hey, Franchise Developers! Did you know that it might be worth your while to pick up the phone and call your consultants from time to time? Today we chat with Lana Nuss, Senior Brand Manager at Raintree, about how the personal aspect of a phone call can go a long way toward building professional franchise development relationships.

When it comes to building positive relationships with franchise consultants, it’s hard to top Lana Nuss, Raintree’s Senior Brand Manager. Lana has created a vast network of industry connections by prioritizing one-on-one engagement and always making sure to incorporate a human element into her many daily interactions with consultants and other franchise development professionals. 

Lana sat down with us to discuss how the highly underestimated and shockingly simple act of picking up a phone and calling a consultant can help a franchise brand developer gain a significant advantage over the competition. 

“Most consultants, depending on the network they’re in, work with hundreds of different brands,” Lana explains. “They’re getting hundreds of emails a day. The key is to stay above the noise and remain top of mind, so that when their client comes to them you’re one of the first brands they think of.”

Lana Nuss franchise development

Lana Nuss, Senior Brand Manager at Raintree

Lana accomplishes this by opting to talk to consultants over the phone rather than send an email whenever possible, and taking the time to establish positive business relationships with her network of industry professionals so that she can stand out from competitors and build real connections instead of being just another name in a franchise consultant’s inbox. 

Lana also mentioned the importance of providing the personal touch in an age where emails, social media, and other digital forms of communication can often seem overwhelming.  “What helps to stand apart is to pick up the phone and call consultants to have a one-on-one conversation with them,” she says. “Taking time to make a phone call also helps strengthen personal relationships and build connections. I’m always thinking they’ll remember me and think, ‘I should show Lana’s brands instead of some of the other concepts out there.”

One of the biggest advantages of building connections through phone calls, says Lana, is the opportunity for getting to know people on an individual basis- something that can be a little more difficult if emails are your only form of correspondence. “I’ve gotten to know a lot of really cool people through making the phone calls,” she says. 

Of course, in the digital age, it’s virtually impossible to rely on phone calls alone, something Lana is quick to point out. “Don’t get me wrong, we definitely still email,” she clarifies. “It’s now just a two-part process. We have seen much more traction with consultants since [we began] calling.”

As communication via email, text, and social media have become the go-to methods for interacting with business contacts, both in franchise development and across other industries, the potential for missing a truly important message amidst all the white noise has grown. The emphasis Lana places upon making phone calls to consultants not only personalizes the interaction on both sides, but helps elevate her brands in the eyes of consultants, making them more likely to recommend them to potential investors whenever possible. By taking the time to make a call instead of only connect over email and social networking, you can take your brand visibility to a whole new level!

Franchise Marketing and SEO: What You Need to Know

Franchise Marketing and SEO: What You Need to Know

franchise marketing SEO


Hey, Franchise Developers!

By now, you have undoubtedly heard about Search Engine Optimization, or, as it is more commonly called, SEO. But how much do you really understand about how SEO relates to franchise marketing? This week, Raintree Marketing Director Linton Dowling chats with us about what SEO is, why it’s important, and what it can do to help grow your franchise.

Search engine optimization, or SEO, may seem like just one more marketing buzzword to keep track of these days, but it is actually one of the most important things your Franchise Development team could be doing to get an edge on your competition.

First of all, let’s go over what SEO actually is. As you may already know, search engines like Google and Bing use complicated algorithms to determine which websites on the Internet best fit the keywords entered into the search bar, so that they can return the results that meet the users’ needs. The algorithms are top-secret, and the exact formula for how certain websites rank higher on a search results page intentionally remains something of a mystery. (According to Moz there were over 3,200 Google Search algorithms updates in 2018 alone.) Google for the first time recently released a ‘cheat sheet’ on what their algorithms are looking for on sites and blog posts and how to better improve your organic rankings. Tips include:

Content and Quality: 

  • Do your website and frequent blog posts contain useful, accurate and researched data and opinions?
  • Do your blog posts provide relevant and updated information on your topic/subjects?
  • If your blogs are using other websites information and data, is this original sourcing or merely cut and paste?
  • Do the headlines and subject provide an accurate summary of your blog posts, page topics?
  • Is this content more likely to be sourced and shared on social media?
  • Is the content free of errors? (spelling/grammar, stylistic and analytical)
  • Does it have fresh images, infographics or videos?
  • Most importantly, does the page or post present well on mobile devices?


Furthermore, SEO experts at an experienced agency are able to analyze website performance and pinpoint the best keywords and phrases to use in the site’s copy, in order to improve its organic search results rankings. 

In addition to franchise marketing websites, SEO practices can be used to optimize original blog posts, video content, and other online content related to franchise marketing so that search engines like Google and Bing prioritize it, by showing it on the first page or as a top result. In relationship to franchise development, this means that people are actively searching keywords that closely relate to both the franchise itself and the type of franchise opportunities they are looking for in the system. With literal billions of Google searches taking place across the globe each day, using SEO to optimize your franchise’s website, videos, and other content could make the difference between having your brands appearing at or near the top of a search results page, or not appearing at all!

franchise marketing seo

The franchise development industry is falling quickly behind in SEO practices, compared with other industries that use SEO best practices to gain a significant advantage. Franchisors and franchisees alike are underperforming in terms of organic traffic and mobile-first indexing (find your score on Google’s free PageSpeed Insights Tool) – in other words, by not making sure to update their website’s content with copy that includes keywords and phrases that have been proven to generate search rankings, they are missing out on generating both desktop and mobile organic traffic, which, next to use of Google AdWords, is some of the lowest hanging fruit when it comes to lead generation.

Fortunately, there are ways to correct this, and many of them are inexpensive or even free! While many big franchise development firms spend millions of dollars in optimizing organic search, a few easy solutions can help improve organic search rankings dramatically without costing a penny. Depending on the CMS (content management system) your company uses, there are a number of great SEO programs to help guide you in blog posting and optimizing organic traffic to improve search rankings. Here at Raintree, we use WordPress, a CMS where over 2 million blog posts are posted each day. WordPress features a handy SEO tool called Yoast , which provides the content writer with real-time feedback and suggestions for improving the optimization of the copy prior to going live on the website. This works well for us- some of our best-performing sites have up to 40-50% organic traffic!

franchise marketing organic clicks

Finally, we use Google’s keyword planner when creating content for any new sites and frequent refresh keywords depending the volume of traffic they bring to our site and more importantly how many quality leads they generate!

Here at Raintree, we believe in an omnichannel approach where SEO is one of the main pieces required for a competent and necessary franchise development and marketing campaign. In addition to website content, we also extend our SEO to channels like YouTube, Vimeo, LinkedIn, and most importantly, our weekly blog posts aimed at organically attracting the appropriate leads to these channels. Consistent content creation across all platforms is required to keep your franchise marketing efforts relevant in the eyes of Google, potential franchise owners, and consumers alike.

As with any other aspect of business, knowledge is power! I always encourage our franchise marketing team to keep up to date with industry leaders like Neil Patel, as well as stay informed with news and updates from sites like Moz, Yoast, and other established SEO thought leaders. I also advocate undertaking free certification courses like basic Google Analytics, basic Google Search Console, and WordPress training to develop an in-depth understanding, which leads to greater expertise and improved results. These courses carry certifications that are officially recognized by corporations worldwide, which means they directly benefit your team members as well as your organization.

By gaining a deeper understanding of the science behind SEO, you and the rest of your franchise development team are already well on your way to optimizing your current and future content in a way that will drive organic traffic to your website and blog posts, which in turn will help to improve your search results rankings. However, as they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day- you will need to be patient and wait for your SEO efforts to begin paying off. It can sometimes take months to be able to see a difference in your website’s performance metrics, and getting your brand’s franchise website to the top of the search results page can be a slow and steady climb. Rest assured you are on the right path, and you should eventually see the payoff that comes from optimizing your franchise marketing content.

To sum it up, SEO can be a very powerful tool that drives your franchise marketing efforts with very little cost to your organization. Once they become well-versed in SEO best practices, your franchise development team will be able to quickly and instinctively optimize virtually any piece of content they produce. However, like any marketing project, it is important to research SEO first, rather than diving straight in and trying to optimize your website. SEO is an ever-increasing marketing field that requires more attention than most companies in the franchise development industry are currently giving. Because of this, staying up to speed with the latest best practices in SEO will give your firm an instant competitive edge, and help you stay on top of the game in years to come. I look forward to talking about areas of franchise development, marketing, and content creation and development with you.

Linton joined Raintree in 2017, and in 2018 became Marketing Director

franchise marketing director

For more useful Marketing Tips or questions on the above follow him on LinkedIn or send him an email:


RainTree Helped Jamba Juice Achieve Franchise Development Goals for 2018

RainTree Helped Jamba Juice Achieve Franchise Development Goals for 2018

Franchise growth played a role in Jamba Juice’s acquisition by Focus Brands Inc. in a deal valued at $200 million

2018 has been a fruitful one for RainTree and Jamba Juice. RainTree, a franchise development agency, helped the smoothie giant make major strides on the franchise growth side in 2018. Jamba Juice met its franchise development goals for 2018 within four months of going live with its franchise sales program, and the smoothie company was also acquired by Focus Brands in a deal valued at $200 million.

There were two major challenges for RainTree in terms of helping Jamba Juice grow. One was that the smoothie brand experienced slow growth in both 2016 and 2017, and only awarded a few new franchises in both years.

“Jamba Juice’s growth rate in the previous two years was minimal,” RainTree CEO Brent Dowling said. “They sought RainTree out as the best option available in the industry to remedy that for them.” He added that in addition to slow growth, there were very specific territory growth priorities, ruling out much of the country as possible new market targets.

RainTree plugged away, though, and created geo-targeted lead generation campaigns in key markets, Dowling said.

“Jamba Juice is an iconic brand, and working with such a large enterprise over the past year has been a truly remarkable experience and a defining moment for RainTree,” he said. “We’ve had incredible success with smaller brands in the few years prior. We truly believe we have the most effective franchise development program and team members in the industry, and just needed a chance to prove that at scale. The RainTree team exceeded even my wildest expectations in this case; I couldn’t be more proud. It’s caused a lot of buzz in the industry; I’m now literally turning away more than 5 brands a week on average, simply because we have to stay quite selective of the brands we represent.”

Loren Bontrager, the director of franchise business development for Jamba Juice, praised RainTree’s methods, sales team and creativity in helping the Jamba Juice brand grow. He specifically cited “highly-produced videos for both franchise support and franchisee testimonials,” as well as RainTree’s great relationship with portals and franchise broker groups. There is also RainTree’s digital component and targeted social media ads.

“They understand website SEO and how to increase your organic lead stream,” Bontrager said of RainTree. “They have a great way of packaging the franchise opportunity, presenting it to the right audience and then certainly following up and picking up the phone quickly when leads come in.”

Bontrager’s relationship with RainTree goes back a long way. He previously worked with RainTree when he was at Teriyaki Madness in a franchise growth capacity, and so he already knew what the company was capable of when he joined Jamba Juice in August 2017. He immediately suggested that Jamba Juice bring on RainTree to help with their franchise growth efforts. The timing was perfect, as the smoothie giant was going through many changes. Jamba Juice did not have an in-house development team and there were very few employees. Most had been let go or had left for other opportunities.

“That’s why I felt so comfortable coming into Jamba Juice saying ‘I believe in this team,’” Bontrager said. “They’ve got a strong qualifier and sales team and process. It was a big transition period for the brand and made a lot of sense because we could move a lot more quickly and mitigate some of our risk of bringing people in-house and spending money by getting a result-driven program in place.”

The relationship between the two brands just might have helped in another major way. In August 2018 it was announced that Focus Brands acquired Jamba Juice in a deal valued at approximately $200 million. Jamba Juice will go from being a publicly-traded company to being privately held, Bontrager said.

“RainTree played a really big part in making us a viable option for Focus Brands,” Bontrager said.

He has nothing but high praise for the way RainTree conducts business and how well they work with brands.

“They are an extension of whatever brand they represent,” Bontrager said of RainTree. “They put on the colors of whoever they’re representing and it’s not the other way around. They are great at following direction, at being flexible and at being able to make changes very rapidly and quickly. It’s just as if they were on your internal team, and that’s a huge benefit.”

RainTree’s partnership program includes franchise packaging, lead generation and franchise sales. The company has helped companies award over 1,000 franchises since it started in 2013.

Cheba Hut Rides ‘The Green Wave’ as Expansion Heats Up

Cheba Hut Rides ‘The Green Wave’ as Expansion Heats Up

RainTree CEO Brent Dowling, Cheba Hut chief relationship officer Seth Larsen, and Cheba Hut COO Marc Torres

Over the past 20 years, Cheba Hut has earned the reputation as the bad boy on the block, and it’s perfectly OK with that. With a beach-y, free-spirited vibe, the marijuana-themed concept doesn’t want to be just another sandwich shop. It’s motto—“escape the established”—has driven Cheba Hut since it debuted 21 years ago in Colorado.

And as acceptance around the legalization of marijuana grows, Cheba Hut sees fresh opportunity. The brand believes it can capitalize on “the Green Wave,” chief operating officer Marc Torres says. In areas where marijuana is now legal, Cheba Hut partners with dispensaries by leaving menus in their waiting rooms as a form of cross promotion.

“We own that,” Torres says of the bad-boy positioning. “That’s something that we’re proud of. We’ve been doing business since 1998, way before legalization was even being talked about it.”

Torres says interest in the brand is spiking, from consumers as well as operators hoping to join Cheba Hut’s growth. The brand has turned down as many potential franchisees as it’s accepted, he adds.

“Nobody’s doing what we’re doing,” Torres says. “We really do feel like we’re in our own lane.”


Torres believes the brand will hit 35 units by the end of this year and the 50-unit milestone by the end of 2020.

Cheba Hut’s expansion strategy has evolved over the past two decades, corporately and on the franchised side. This year, the brand, which was featured on QSR’s 40/40 List in 2018, hit the 25-store milestone with the opening of its Las Vegas restaurant. Currently, the breakdown of units is 11 company-owned and 14 franchised.

In 2015, Cheba Hut put the brakes on franchising. Leadership realized in order for the brand to succeed and grow successfully, a complete review of operations and processes needed to take place. Over the last three years, Cheba Hut focused on improving its company stores to create a viable model that will be successful for franchisees to imitate, Torres says. Cheba Hut grew from six corporate locations to 11 during that time period. It had to walk the walk before it could ask others to.

After doubling the footprint of company restaurants, Cheba Hut felt it was time to explore franchising again in 2018.

“Our systems were in place and we were feeling great about the position that we were in,” Torres says.

Traditionally, Cheba Hut focused on markets supported by college towns. Its new growth chart, however, brings the brand to areas populated by younger consumers, like Atlanta, which aren’t tied just to campus life. Cheba Hut’s customers generally fit in the 18–34-year-old demographic.

Florida is another target where Torres sees massive potential. With the chill, beach-y vibe, the concept works in places like St. Augustine, where there’s not a major college crowd. But there’s still potential to open near campuses across the state.


Guests can pair their sandwiches with craft beer or cocktails if they want while dining at Cheba Hut.

“We feel like it goes extremely well in those types of markets where you’re typically looking for something more than a sandwich and go,” Torres says. “You want a cool place, you want someplace that adds to your trip. It adds to your experience wherever you’re at, whether it’s St Augustine or Miami beach, we feel like Cheba goes really well with, especially if you’re on vacation.”

Last year, Cheba Hut brought on five new franchise partners, each with three-store deals, which is the current standard. Torres says the chain will gradually increase the number of partners they bring on each year. By the end of 2019, Cheba Hut will welcome six to eight new franchises, it says.

Even though franchising is ramping up, company growth is progressing, too. Cheba Hut is on track to open five to eight units per year, Torres says, and expects to continue to do so over the next few years. Corporate expansion helps spread brand awareness and, in turn, supports franchise growth in new and existing markets.

“The idea behind that is we feel like the company stores keep us really close to our customers and to our operations,” Torres says. “We’re able to really use the best practices from within our company stores and get those out to the to the franchise community.”

Torres believes the brand will hit 35 units by 2020, and the 50-store milestone by the end of next year. If all goes accordingly, the company could double its footprint in less than two years. But Cheba Hut’s leadership isn’t going to force that directive. So far, growth has been organic and Torres says that will continue.

“The goal of getting to 200 locations by 2025, we don’t have that number written anywhere,” Torres says. “We don’t have 100 written anywhere. We don’t have 50 written anywhere. We’re focused on growing organically. We also have pause buttons in here where you know our goal is to be the best franchisor around and put our people in the best position possible.”


Cheba Hut brought on RainTree Franchise Sales to help find new franchise partners.

The work over the past few years set the company up to feel comfortable about this rate of expansion.

Unlike some of its competitors, Torres says, Cheba Hut’s focus is not just on the menu, but the overall experience a guest has when dining at the restaurant. It is not a place to just go grab a sandwich and leave—it’s a destination to enjoy something different, maybe a cocktail, and hang out with friends.

“People come here to hangout, they bring their friends, they bring their families,” Torres says. “That’s something that, again, nobody’s hitting on, especially in the sandwich segment.”

Even though the 18-34-year-old demographic makes up a majority of its customers, Torres says, Cheba Hut meshes well with blue-collar workers as well. They are a little older, have disposable income, and feel like they’re reliving a younger age when they’re at the restaurant.

“That’s something that we do really well as a brand,” Torres says. “When people come in, they feel like they’re back in college or back in their party days. I think that’s what sets us apart.”

Along with giving customers an experience, Cheba Hut also attracts with price. Customers typically get out of the door with a sandwich and a beer or cocktail for under $20.

“People that sometimes have the wrong idea about who we are and what we do,” Torres says. “Just come on in. Come on in, have a sandwich. Enjoy it. Cheba is not for everybody, but the people that get it are diehard fans and those are the people that we focus on serving every day.

Raintree Has Propelled Screenmobile to New Development Heights

Raintree Has Propelled Screenmobile to New Development Heights

How ScreenMobile has utilized RainTree’s franchise development expertise over the last 5 years to achieve sustained unit growth

When ScreenMobile president and CEO Scott Walker was shopping around for a franchise development partner to grow his established on-site window and door screen repair and replacement franchise, culture was his biggest priority. The brand was signing about three franchise agreements per year and Walker was looking to jumpstart expansion. He had already unsuccessfully interviewed three companies before consulting  RainTree, where he was met with the honesty and commitment he had been seeking.

“The RainTree team’s straightforward, real language and practicality was totally different than the other franchise development companies I’d talked to. RainTree made no lofty promises and shared our view that working hard leads to progress and success means being flexible and accommodating along the way,” Walker said. ScreenMobile enlisted RainTree’s services, and the relationship has only grown strong over the past five years.

From the start of the relationship, RainTree and ScreenMobile worked as a team. “As a mature brand with solid system implementation and support, we knew our strengths. RainTree’s knowledge and understanding of the franchise development world leveraged those strengths to bring growth to our system,” Walker said.

RainTree focused its efforts on improving ScreenMobile’s ability to develop leads and implement an education process that results in the recognition of good franchise candidates. “We really put a lot of effort into their website and franchise brochures in the beginning,” RainTree CEO Brent Dowling said. “We were strategic about implementing some really smart geo-targeted lead generation campaigns to reach our development goals,” he added.

What resulted over the next several years of partnership was a rise in signed franchise agreements that consistently falls within the range of 8-12 per year, almost triple the number that existed before ScreenMobile’s partnership with RainTree.

RainTree also helped ScreenMobile refine its franchise sales process and establish an exit strategy. “Brent helped us define a resale process so that when our franchisees get to certain level, they can engage with a professional team to assist in exiting the business,” Walker said. He also credits Dowling’s team with building ScreenMobile’s credibility among the broker community, which has led to an increase in broker business due to an assurance that leads are nurtured professionally.

But beyond the quantifiable returns, both Walker and RainTree Vice President of Franchise Development Brian Knuth point to the strong, tenured relationship between the companies as the most rewarding return. “We just really enjoy the people we get to work with,” Knuth said. “When you get to year four and five with a franchise, it feels like your own brand. It’s been really cool to see the relationship between the RainTree team and the ScreenMobile team blossom, and I think that’s a big part of why we’ve achieved success together.”

Walker pointed to RainTree’s expertise and professionalism as catalysts for a shift in franchisee perception of the ScreenMobile brand. “I wasn’t expecting RainTree to change the dynamic and perception of our franchisees about the brand. By putting a real team in place to develop and grow the brand, it really built up franchisee confidence and validation.” Additionally, Walker said his leadership team’s professionalism and sales acumen has risen to the next level through working with RainTree, something he called “interesting and rewarding.”

“RainTree knows what they are doing. They are professionals with great team behind them that can help a system at my stage to grow and develop,” Walker said.