Social Networking & Franchise Lead Generation Revisited

In light of discussions at this year’s International Franchise Association Convention about “new” ways of generating franchise candidate leads, and as I continue to field an influx of questions from start up and emerging franchisors trying to find a “silver bullet” to jump-start franchise sales, I am again sharing the following article I wrote back in 2011 as the principles continue to apply to this day. Actually, they may apply even more today as more and more have adopted social networking platforms as major sources of securing information and for communicating.

Social Networking and Lead Generation

We’re often asked if social networking can be utilized effectively for franchise lead generation purposes. Well, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

When working on a lead generation project, establishing objectives is paramount to the success of the overall strategy. Assuming the strategy has been developed, complete with establishing an ideal candidate profile and identifying specific geographic areas for expansion, we typically proceed as follows:

First, we focus on networking groups that include individuals that best fit our client’s ideal candidate profile. From there we drill down to individuals in the geographic area we’re targeting per our plan. Let’s say teachers fit my candidate profile. we would search out networking groups specific to teachers, education, etc. Then, we would participate in discussion groups to get a feel for the group and to be noticed and subsequently accepted within the group. There’s always a spin one could use to achieve this objective.

Next, we seek out members from the specific geographic areas we’re targeting and begin communicating what we’re ultimately trying to accomplish… to generate interest in a specific franchise opportunity. Sometimes there’s interest right there in the group. Often, it’s a referral that we get that makes the effort within that group worthwhile.

We 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 relatively easy to enlist support and gather information. Again, there has been some interest from members of these groups but it’s amazing how many times we’ve been referred to an interested party who lives in another part of the country that is willing to jump at an opportunity in my target area. You see, the fact that it stems from a referral is key!

Lead generation through social networking takes time and effort no doubt. However, once you’re proactive within networking groups, you almost end up with a snowball effect as the leads come in bunches. Some leads start out by simply posting a thought provoking discussion with 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 however, it takes considerably more effort, but we’ve found people are networking online and participating in discussion groups for specific reasons. They’re all looking to expand their business, improve their position, seek out various types of opportunities, and make money. Attracting these individuals online sure beats running an ad in the local paper and waiting for the phone to ring!

Financial Performance Representations in Digital Space – Friend or Foe to Franchising?

At what point do you believe a Financial Performance Representation crosses the line outside franchise disclosure requirements?

As discussed at various break-out sessions during the recent IFA Convention, social media has created many opportunities to present and discuss franchise opportunities across and through multiple channels, often linking from one social media platform to another. As many franchisors jockey for a competitive edge and increase their social media efforts, it’s important not to lose sight of franchise disclosure requirements.

The practice of embedding financial information within online press releases, blogs and even within Facebook posts, appears to be growing. Certainly, publishing this information by itself doesn’t create an FPR. But, directly or indirectly referring candidates to the information is an FPR, and if the information is not part of a franchisor’s Item 19, it becomes an improper FPR.

Considering the linking capabilities within social media, often to the point of creating a cross-platform, multi-tiered effect, some so-called, self-professed industry professionals apparently believe they can get away with improper FPRs. Especially, as social media is still “relatively new” and growing into new areas, misunderstood by many, and virtually under the radar of most authorities.

It appears the thought is, if enforcement of franchise disclosure is lacking in traditional areas, social media has become the new wild west!

Beyond the obvious illicit practices and potential ramifications to unsuspecting franchise candidates, what also causes reason for concern is the impression it makes upon start-up franchisors that follow suit – often, not even realizing the practice may be improper. After all, they see it being done by individuals who they believe are reputable franchise professionals. So, why not follow the same practice that they unsuspectingly come to believe is actually a best practice?

Sure, everyone is responsible for their own actions, and ignorance is not a legal defense. However, if these illicit practices continue within franchising, more and more will participate to the point of it becoming a common practice, with many believing it has become a best practice. Momentum picks up with so-called thought-leaders promoting the practice as an effective lead generation strategy, influencing even more franchisors. Some will be unsuspecting. Some will just jump on the bandwagon.

At what point will these practices be considered to be out-of-control and intolerable, and detrimental to franchising?

Can you handle the truth about your social media efforts?

Wow. Talk about a loaded question! To quote the late-comedienne Joan Rivers, “Can we talk?” – I believe the key here is really being honest with yourself. Yes, we need to hear the truth… that is, unless, again quoting another famous person, Jack Nicholson as Colonel Jessep in A Few Good Men, “you can’t handle the truth!”

Well, and I’m quoting again here, this time from one of my all-time favorite movies, The Godfather, “Let me be more frank just to show you that I’m not a hard-hearted man…” Do you feel you could be doing better in social media? Ah heck, let’s ask the real question and stop dancing around, Does your business suck at social media? Below is a really great article as posted on Business2Community.com that may shed some light and maybe even open your eyes… to the truth!

4 Reasons Your Business Sucks at Social Media By , Published March 9, 2012

Social media networks were supposed to be the promised land for small businesses. They were supposed to be the great equalizer, the marketing tools that finally gave start-ups the same exposure as the industry leaders. But if that’s the case, why does your company still only have eight friends on Facebook?

Running a successful social media strategy is not as easy as many small business owners think it will be. Your company’s online success depends on several factors, and if you don’t account for all of them, you could find yourself stuck in the social media wastelands.

That’s not something many business owners like to hear, but the good news is that getting out of the Internet desert is simply a matter of redirecting your efforts. While thousands of businesses struggle to establish a presence online, they all tend to have trouble with the same four issues. So if you’re not getting poked as often as you deserve, use this guide to troubleshoot your social media strategy.

The articles goes on to list the 4 reasons as…

  1. Stop trying to build Rome. Build relationships.
  2. Be more than active. Be hyperactive. 
  3. Aim for a social media strategy that matches your value propositions.
  4. Stop looking for love in all the wrong places.

To learn more about these 4 reasons, click HERE.