Brian Spindel, President and COO, PostNet International
Things are moving fast in new technologies and the ways people are using them to communicate. As a franchise organization, we continue to do our best to keep up with the changes in technology and how franchise prospects are using it to research franchise opportunities.
Increasingly, this includes not only using industry best practices to develop a compelling website that urges a prospect to inquire/respond, but also the best ways to increase traffic using social media, SEO, PPC, and integrating all of our consumer and franchising efforts to get the best results. For example, to get a franchise prospect to "like" your brand on Facebook is very valuable to keep and build interest, and more effective than the older "drip" email campaigns.
It's also important to use Google Analytics to understand what content is most important and interesting to prospects who visit our website, and to narrow the places or information on the site that create distraction. In other words, the purpose of the site is to convert visitors into suspects/leads. So content that drives that behavior should be improved and enhanced, and anything else on the site needs to be evaluated and studied.
Another best practice is creating a clear and logical path for visitors that leads them to respond. This can be done with numbers, letters, colors, etc., but it should always be clear what you want the visitor to do next. Also, from a validation standpoint, online reputation management is becoming very important, if not critical.
Ongoing monitoring and adjustments to what you're doing are important. The "cycle of innovation" is always spinning. We tweak, measure, study, and then tweak again. We are always learning, and the pace of change has accelerated so much that this is now done regularly. I remember when you would launch a new site and be good for two or three years, and we changed more than most at that rate. Now we watch the usage weekly and make changes at least monthly.
Today, a franchisor needs not only to really think about having a solid response-driven website, but also about connecting all the digital marketing and advertising "dots" to make the website effective. Projects we are working on now include optimizing our sites for tablet devices, as well as a mobile version of the site so franchise prospects can easily learn about our franchise program on their smartphone--and, of course, respond!
Rob Goggins, Vice President of Franchise Development, Great Clips
The Great Clips franchise development website was originally designed to self-educate prospective franchisees. We included a detailed map with territory availability, franchisee testimonial videos, and an SEO-enhanced blog. We focused on aligning brand elements with our salon and consumer site to maintain brand consistency while creating a look and feel appropriate for our different demographics.
We review our analytics on a monthly basis, and we noticed some weak areas of the site after its initial launch. These areas were addressed, and we saw an increase in activity almost immediately. For example, we simplified our short-form application and added a long-form confidential application for candidates who were ready to jump into the investigation process without further research.
We also numbered the tabs across the top of the page, encouraging visitors to follow the numbered system to go through all of our information--but still allowing them an element of control as they browse. In addition to the numbered tabs, we also added "next" buttons on each page to provide simplicity of process for those who desire it. With the "next" buttons, we lead visitors through our site, guiding them through the detailed information, bringing them at the end to our full confidential application, which is the indicator that they are ready to start the full evaluation process.
We also have a "qualified candidates only" section on the site. The first part of this section (Welcome) is open to the public, and the rest are password protected, designed for our qualified candidates to work through with our franchise development managers. After they complete the Welcome section, candidates are prompted again to fill out the confidential application if they are interested in proceeding to the password-protected sections. This has also increased the number of applications we receive.
Over the past year or so, we have tweaked the long-form confidential application as well. We launched the site with a five-page form, but after seeing that candidates leave the application without completing it, we eliminated some questions, combined others, and condensed it into three pages. This change has made the form much less cumbersome and allows candidates to complete the form in a much more efficient manner. After making this change, we now see fewer abandoned applications.
Finally, we created a survey that goes out to candidates whether or not they join our system. We review their thoughts on the website and continually work on enhancing the site and creating a better user experience. Overall, our website has been a great resource and we've seen great results: an increase in applications and a record number of quality franchisees joining the system.
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