How to Use Franchisee Success Stories to Generate Leads

heather_ripley_headshot.jpgAs a franchisor, driving qualified leads to your franchise development funnel should be top of mind, all the time.

Nailing the lead-generation message can be difficult. Signing a franchise agreement is an important investment and a life-changing decision. Are you showing your prospects what they want and need to see? Does your marketing grow their trust in the value proposition your brand represents?

As Steven Beagleman wrote in Forbes:

Today's franchise buyer is more educated than ever, and as a result, a hard sell is no longer a viable option if a brand wants to scale effectively with the right franchise partners. This means franchisors must invest in improving their marketing efforts to present their franchise opportunity in the best way possible.

Leads want to know that they can be successful with your franchise, and facts and figures by themselves don’t get that message across. They need real-world proof and real-life faces to connect with, and that means your existing, successful franchisees. And you’re often balancing two marketing messages — one aimed at the consumers who buy your product or service, and another aimed at potential franchise owners.

A great communications strategy for franchise development should showcase franchisees who are doing well, leveraging their success stories and learnings to attract and reassure qualified leads. Here are a few tactics to try.

Get Them in the News

Earned media is hands down the most valuable form of marketing. Earned media — features and stories about your brand produced by media outlets and influencers — is still trusted more than any other form of marketing. Consumers are bombarded with multiple marketing messages 24/7. They have learned to filter out and distrust traditional paid advertising, but third-party stories still earn respect.

According to Cision, consumers view earned media as the most authentic form of marketing, and right now authenticity is king. To showcase franchisee success, take a step beyond a grand opening press release. Your franchisees are generating newsworthy moments every day. Get those moments in the media to build your brand’s success story.

Showcase Them on Your Website

Sharing franchisees’ stories on your franchise development website and blog is another way to showcase their success. Leads are researching you online long before they speak with a sales representative. Make sure what they find there is positive.

Find the best franchisee stories and put them online. Make sure those stories are relatable and inspirational, that they encapsulate the culture and values of your brand as much as they highlight your value proposition.

Testimonials videos and quotes are great additions to your website, too. Just make sure the content is relevant to the franchise buyer’s journey.

Boost the Signal on Social Media

Social media is an integral part of any public relations and marketing plan today. According to Sprout Social, consumers are 71% more likely to purchase from a brand after a positive social media experience. That’s significant, especially when you realize that today’s customers could become tomorrow’s leads.

There are various approaches to social media among different franchises. Some franchises choose a single social media presence, while others let franchisees create and maintain their own local accounts. I recommend combining the approaches, operating a franchise-wide social media presence plus accounts for each location, with the franchisees encouraged to post to their own local accounts.

This lets franchisees share their own good news and develop a voice that fits their territory. It lets them become the human face for your brand in that area. Just be sure to offer robust social media training for all franchisees and maintain some kind of control over the local accounts. One franchisee getting social media wrong can impact the entire network.

One advantage is that local social media posting gives you an easy way to share their successes to your national accounts. Just watch what they’re posting and share the big wins. Social media also lets you share earned media featuring your franchisees, showing leads that your headquarters supports franchisees and celebrates their wins.

Get Support

All of these initiatives are powerful tools for developing your lead gen funnel. Franchisee success stories are the stories your leads want and need to hear. The stories help them feel aligned with your company culture, the lifestyle your brand represents, and the earning potential it offers.

However, this kind of hyper-local strategy takes a lot of work to implement. Creating relationships with local media, crafting story pitches and press releases, and sharing news across multiple channels, all require time and staffing you might not have in-house.

A public relations agency specializing in franchises can help you get franchisee showcasing off the ground quickly and effectively, and their expertise in your market space can hone the message gaining the results you want to see.

Don’t forget, your franchisees are the face of your brand in their local markets. Why not let their success create qualified franchise development leads, too?

Heather Ripley is CEO of Ripley PR, a global public relations agency specializing in B2B and franchising. Orange Orchard, a division of Ripley PR, champions franchisors that cater to environmentally-conscious consumers. For additional information, visit www.ripleypr.com or www.orangeorchardpr.com.