The franchise development website is an essential sales tool, helping brands accomplish several objectives at once: generate leads, prescreen prospects, share the brand story, and facilitate growth in target markets.

Websites are also critical for prospects, who are typically evaluating several brands to find the right economics and the best opportunity to be successful. Every franchisor should assume that anyone who fills out a lead form on their website is doing the exact same thing on six other websites at the same time.

That’s why franchisors need to understand what’s motivating their site visitors and how to address their needs: It could make the difference between landing a successful franchisee or losing them to a competitor. Here are 5 considerations to make sure your website is helping, not hurting, your franchise development efforts.

1. Help prospects see themselves in your brand story

Sharing the stories of real franchisees is one of the best strategies we’ve seen for conveying a brand story. Videos, for instance, can feature actual franchisees talking about their experiences with the brand and the success they’ve achieved as a result. Many prospects are motivated by a desire to be their own boss, so leading with individuals who can attest to their success with a particular brand can be a powerful means of engagement.

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The approach may differ depending on the brand profile. Iconic or established brands will position their strength as an asset to franchisees. Emergent franchises may be less well-known, but they’re in growth mode, and many have a great concept to offer. Here, testimonials may emphasize the brand promise as opposed to the brand backdrop.

2. Align financial information with your prospecting strategy

As a lead-generation tool, your site should promote the value of the franchise and get people excited about coming on board. Franchisors often wonder about the right way to educate prospects about financial requirements without scaring them off prematurely. Do you want to put the big numbers in front of everyone right away, or save that for when you qualify a lead and have a conversation?

On one hand, clarifying the financial picture can weed out prospects who won’t be able to sign up, even with the help of financing options. By the same token, if you do work with financing partners, it’s smart to convey that upfront. That could be the factor that keeps prospects in the fold.

A related question is whether you’re sharing the right level of information. Some franchise development websites provide high-level views of investments and costs, while others present line-by-line breakdowns for every part of the equation. Somewhere in the middle is the healthy balance of how much to give away now versus saving for later in the sales process.

3. Plan for efficient lead generation and follow-up

The lead form remains the most common way to move a prospect toward engagement. But more brands are expanding their channels by adding chats and text messaging, handled by a bot or a live person.

For instance, if you see that a prospect has spent several minutes researching your franchise development website, you can have a chat window pop up and offer to answer any questions. Text messaging is another great option, particularly for prospects who are reluctant to fill out a form or get on the phone.

Even if you obtain leads from a third-party broker or franchise portal, your development website can still be a valuable validation tool. In this case, the site may not be how you get the leads in the door, but you can direct them to the site as a sales tool.

4. Showcase your brand with authenticity and transparency

Helping prospects evaluate a brand and enticing them to want to learn more are among the core functions of development websites. At the lead-generation stage, highlight the support, training and enablement that the brand offers. That includes everything from the relationship with franchise business consultants to the delivery of innovation tools that will keep the franchise competitive.

Many brands host annual conventions for franchisees, but they don’t promote these as a selling tool as often as they could. The opportunity to network with fellow franchisees, learn about new developments and interact with top management can be very attractive to prospects. If that’s part of your offering, showcase that as a benefit.

While touting their assets, brands must be transparent, particularly in the area of territory. Are there saturated markets where franchisees may face heavy competition? Are they entering a greenfield market where they’re the first one in town with that particular type of business?

5. Deliver a high-quality, mobile-friendly user experience

Increasingly, prospects are conducting their research on their phones, which means that brands need to tailor their online presence accordingly. Whatever information you provide on your website, the site experience must work equally well on mobile devices and on desktops. Mobile-friendly strategies such as making the site responsive to the user’s device, optimizing files for fast loading, and simplifying design can make a big difference in the quality of the navigation and reading experience.

Finally, when prospects do raise a hand for more information, make sure to respond quickly. Remember those six other sites that your prospect is researching? Whoever gets to them first has the best chance of moving them through the process. With an engaging website, the right information and well-designed communication channels, you stand the best chance of attracting solid leads and moving them to the next phase of engagement.

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The best way to help your franchisees reach their goals is to measure performance along the way. Learn more about FranConnect’s leading performance tools that can help you track the metrics that matter most and make a positive difference in your business.