A few months ago, there was a discussion in one of the LinkedIn franchise groups about local franchise lead generation. The discussion was initiated by a franchise professional specializing in franchise sales and consulting. As we have done in the past when posting comments from a social network discussion, we will identify the individuals that submitted comments according to their social network profile.
The discussion opened with the following post:
Ideas for Lead Generation Sources. Anybody have suggestions for local lead generation? Looking for ideas from zors, zees, consultants & brokers on how to generate leads local to a specific area.
Here are some of the responses that were posted including my own which just so happened to be the initial response:
“[Name], I usually explore social networking groups specific to the area such as the inHouston LinkedIn group if I’m trying to generate leads in the Houston area. This type of group is realtively easy to target and expand beyond based upon member recommendations and suggestions. Work the crowd as if you were in a room.
In addition, I focus on networking groups that include individuals that best fit my franchise candidate profile. From there I drill down to individuals in the local area. Let’s say teachers fit my candidate profile. I would search out networking groups spefic to teachers, education, etc. I may participate in discussion groups to get a feel for the group and to be recognized within the group. There’s always a spin you could use. Next, I seek out members from the specifc area I’m targeting and communicate what I’m trying to accomplish. It’s been amazing how many times I’ve wound up with a candidate in California that is willing to jump at an opportunity in Texas. It happens.
I also focus on groups that can provide me with referrals such as insurance agents, realtors, financial planners and attorneys. Again, if you’re proactive within networking groups it’s realtively easy to enlist support and gather information.
Lead generation through online networking takes time and effort no doubt. However, once you’re proactive within the groups, you almost windup with a snowball effect as the leads come in bunches. Some leads start out as simple as posting a thought provoking discussion, some back and forth interaction with a responder and the responder saying,”what is it that you do?” Next thing you know, you’re discussing an opportunity and the door is wide open.
Most times it takes considerably more effort but I’ve found people are networking online and participating in discussion groups for a reason. They’re all looking to expand their business, improve their position, seek out opportunities and make money. It sure beats running an ad in the local paper and waiting for the phone to ring.”
An executive of a national franchise concept responded as well.
“Other sources of local lead generation include – classified advertising, seminars, the local business journal, and chambers of commerce. I also use industry specific sources (trade publications, trade associations) depending on the franchise. My favorite is PR. If you can can a story published at a local level – it tends to generate a good deal of buzz.
As you are finding – it is a bit more challenging to put together a local or regional campaign, than it is to promote a national effort.”
A franchise executive of a national foodservice franchise concept posted the following:
“I like to target existing multi-unit operators of non-competing brands in the same industry. For example, if I am selling full-service restaurants, I would seek out multi-unit fastfood operators in the area. Or if I was selling windshield replacement franchises, maybe I’d target muffler or brake franchisees in the area. Get your hands on some UFOC’s that list franchisees by state. It’ll give you the franchisee’s name, address and phone number and you can go down the list contacting the owners. You must size up the target market to your product. For example, you probably wouldn’t have much success targeting Subway franchisees for a TGIFriday’s franchise, as it’s a big leap from a $50,000 investment to a $3 million investment. But maybe the Subway UFOC would provide good leads for someone selling Baskin Robbins franchises. Get the idea? Last thing, by focusing on existing franchisees in someone else’s system, those prospects already understand franchising, know that fees are due and payable weekly, understand they must operate according to the franchisor’s standards, realize they must undergo training, particpate in the marketing co-op, etc. Hope this helps.”
Next, the foodservice executive and I exchanged the following comments:
Me: “[Name], excellent points. I utizilized a similar strategy with great success. Other key factors include the current franchisees’ knowledge of franchising and their lender’s knowledge and experience with the franchisee may be just the edge needed to secure financing in today’s tight credit markets.
Foodservice Exec: “Paul, you mention an important point in today’s economic market. Successful existing franchisees should already have relationships with lenders who have seen them perform over time. A well-funded prospect is worth his weight in gold! Any contracts that are “contingent on financing” may as well be thrown in the trash, as lenders are not willing to take the risk with an unknown, untested, unproven franchisee.
Me: “I absolutely agree with you. Just the mention of a brand new candidate exploring a franchise concept without the candidate having any experience sends a lender running for the hills. It really doesn’t matter how proven the franchise brand is and how long it’s been around. To that end, I see primary growth in franchising coming from current franchisees looking to diversify their business portfolio, adding new revenue streams and streamlining redundant expenses.”
It was an interesting discussion and I believe several good ideas and thoughts were presented. I know the information reached an audience that did not actually participate in the discussion because I received over thirty emails from individuals asking me to expand upon my responses, and those of the other participants. In addition, we shared ideas and thoughts, and discussed our own experiences. I’m proud to say that I also learned a few things myself. Proof again of the benefits of social networking!