With the evolution of the digital age, portals and brokers can’t be a brand’s only means of lead generation in the franchise sales process anymore

Before Google reached the peak of its powers, franchise portals and brokers were the go-to sources for prospective franchisees to connect to the ideal opportunity for them. Franchisors simply enlisted the services of brokers, who work to match those exploring franchise ownership with brands that are a good fit, or supplied information to franchise portals, who added their brand to a sea of other offerings to entice those same people. Since portals and brokers first emerged, the franchise sales process has evolved, demanding franchisors do more to acquire and retain leads.

Prospective franchisees have a wealth of information, news, sources, FDDs and more available at the click of the button. They have early access to a wide range of information on any brand, from investment requirements to potential profitability and pitfalls of the industry. Linton Dowling, marketing manager for RainTree, a company that specializes in franchise sales solutions, noted that prospective franchise buyers are engaging with portals and brokers at a different point in the sales process, armed with much more information and a bias toward certain brands that didn’t exist in the past.

“The great thing about the internet is that it allows people to make a much more educated decision,” Dowling said. “Now, the franchise sales process is about cutting through to your audience and keeping them engaged through the duration of the process with great content and stories beyond just saying, ‘my average unit volume is industry-leading,’” he added.

As this trend toward preemptive research and consideration becomes more common, portals and brokers alone can only take a company’s franchise development efforts so far. While acknowledging these means of lead generation still play an important role in any brand’s development, Dowling made note that as audiences become more informed, “engagement and content will be the driving forces in the franchise sales process.”

“At RainTree, we focus on building multi-channel lead generation campaigns, built with the backbone of a strong website with great user experience and visibility,” Dowling said. “We make sure to create these campaigns well-rounded and supported by not only brokers and portals, but also pay-per-click, websites, SEO, display, email and CRM-driven marketing,” he added.

Dowling noted that though the “top of the funnel” will always be key for any lead generation campaign, the cost efficiencies of non-broker leads means that Raintree places “equal, if not greater, emphasis” on other channels. “Portals do not have the ability to retarget, brokers do not have the scale or manpower to build out their own multi-channel lead generation and engagement campaigns. Their success is more personalized and operates uniquely outside of the digital space,” Dowling said.

Keeping audiences engaged with strong content delivered in a unique and powerful means appeals to the generational switch that is seeing more millennials becoming prospective franchisees.

The importance of content-driven engagement ties back to audiences being much more informed and having the ability to consume information and media at an astonishing rate, Dowling said. “As a millennial, I am often astounded by how quickly I can consume and digest stories and information,” he said, adding, “There are many brands out there selling prospects on their unique products and solid numbers, but that can quickly become white noise to audiences.”

RainTree’s emphasis on engaging prospective franchisees through a variety of channels with content that is relevant and relatable is a key driver in the company’s successful client deliverables. “We have invested heavily into what we believe is an industry-leading CRM that focuses on engagement and authenticity,” Dowling said. Franchisors that prioritize understanding and catering to the growing digital-centric generation exploring franchise ownership are best equipped to attract and retain leads.