As a franchise development marketing company, the first thing we usually hear when speaking to a potential client is, “We need more leads, and we need them now.” That is followed in short order by, “And we need more quality.”
Franchisors are investing money into marketing programs to try and squeeze every possible lead out of every medium. The problem is that is where their efforts typically end. If the user doesn’t convert after a few outreach attempts (phone calls, a handful of standardized, generic email drips, maybe some text messages), the lead is marked dead, and we move on to the next lead.
But you’ve already paid for that lead. Of course, there are going to be garbage leads and tire kickers. You’re trying to squeeze all of the leads out of every medium, so why wouldn’t you want to squeeze every lead to try to make a sale? This is where lead nurturing comes in.
A Shining Example
Here’s an example: We had a client who was struggling to get leads early in the pandemic. We said, “OK, let’s reach out to some of the leads who have been marked dead in the past due to noncontact or just dropping off.” We created a webinar for the fran dev sales team and leadership to present, as a group, about why this franchise was a great investment. We sent emails promoting blogs about philanthropic avenues the brand was involved with. We sent info about current franchisees and the support they were receiving from corporate during the pandemic. Basically, we stood on the rooftops and shouted the benefits of owning this franchise. And you know what – it worked. They re-engaged three different leads in the first month, including one they hadn’t spoken to in 18 months.
How Should You Nurture Leads?
That’s a hard question with a short but complicated answer: There are a lot of ways to nurture leads. You have to consider audience segmentation, personas and how you communicate with them. How you speak to investors is much different than how you would speak to an owner/operator. One is going to care about how the investment will affect their portfolio. The other is going to care about how it will affect their life.
You can’t just send four emails back-to-back and call that lead nurturing. A linear email campaign (meaning the emails are sent usually based on days, so one when the form is completed, one seven days later, another three days later and a final email a few days after that) feels impersonal and usually doesn’t convert very well. We recommend looking at the personas who represent your ideal franchisees and the different stages of their lives in which they join the franchise system.
For example, telling someone who is just starting to do research what your annual unit volume (AUV) is with no explanation of what AUV is or what kind of support is provided to allow your system to reach that number is going to go over their head. If someone converts on your veterans page or indicates they’re a vet on your form, then you would speak to them about your veterans discount, if and how your franchise supports veterans or is a part of VetFran.
What is included in emails, how users are engaging with emails, the length of time between emails, how to separate audiences based on responses or triggers – requires strategy and cannot be cookie-cutter. Spend time to map out the program and develop a model that works for your team.
Imagine being interested in a franchise but not enough where you want to be hounded by a salesperson. Users are savvy; they know what happens when they fill out a “contact us” form. However, registering for a webinar where they are virtually anonymous is a great way to not only tell your story, but also to do it in a way that is engaging and fun. Webinars should be entertaining – you can show videos, tell stories, give information people want to hear. Then you can give them the information they need to hear. Finally, they can ask questions without feeling like they are committing to a sale. We have found webinars to be a highly effective tactic for converting sales – especially now, when a lot of people are working from home.
Humans love to take quizzes. We can’t help it; we want to take a quiz and get the results. Consider putting a quiz out there asking, “Are you a good fit for our brand?” It will drive people to complete the quiz because they want to know. It also feeds information to your team that can help to determine whether a person is a good fit before contact. Keep in mind that users expect results, so make sure your response isn’t “You’d be a perfect fit!” to every combination of questions.
With direct mail, we aren’t talking about old-school flyers that your postal carrier sticks in every mailbox on the street. Instead, franchise development campaigns are more strategic and cost-effective, targeting the addresses of your leads. Maybe you send a postcard when they first fill out your form or a booklet about your brand, like the kind you would hand out at a conference. A printed piece has the advantage of being tangible, so a prospect can sit in their own home and flip through it at their leisure, or possibly share the information with their spouse. There’s also the novelty factor. As email has become more common, you’re less likely to receive a beautifully printed piece in your mailbox every day. It’s special.
Strategic Lead Scoring
Oh, and on top of ALL that, you can typically score your leads within your CRM/marketing automation platform to help prioritize who to contact first. Leads can be scored on different engagement levels or different answers on the quiz or form. For example, if you ask about investment capabilities, you will probably score someone who answers $1 million-plus higher than someone who answers $100,000 to $250,000. By setting up scoring in your system, you are prioritizing lead follow-up for your team. Another scoring option is based on engagement. Every time a lead opens an email, clicks the link, participates in the webinar, etc., you want to add to their score. The more engaged someone is, the higher the score and therefore, the warmer the lead.
Lead nurturing is not only a way to make your team a bit more efficient, but also it helps you to personalize your responses. Users are at different stages in their journey; they aren’t all ready to pull the trigger on making a life-changing decision immediately. Often, it takes several touch points before a user is ready to talk to your team, so be patient. As long as you continue to nurture each lead, you will reap the benefits by keeping your brand top-of-mind and reminding them why it is a good time to join your franchise system.