Lead Generation: Can Big Data Identify Your Ideal Franchise Candidates?

Lead Generation: Can Big Data Identify Your Ideal Franchise Candidates?

What's not to love about big data? To paraphrase Sandy Pentland, the big data guru at MIT: The power of big data is that it is information about what people do, not what they say. It's the digital breadcrumbs you leave behind as you move through life. Those breadcrumbs tell the story of your life. Who you actually are is determined by where you spend your time and which things you buy. And from that behavior, analysts can tell an enormous amount about you.

We all look forward to the day when big data will identify candidates who exhibit the same behaviors as our best-performing franchise owners. Fill up my inbox, please!

Today we can only imagine the impact that lead generation techniques enhanced with big data intelligence will have on the franchise development sales process. It makes one think back to the last big change in franchise marketing that had a significant impact on the sales process. Several years ago, many brands began to proactively publish detailed information about their franchise through expanded websites, brochures, white papers, third-party evaluations, customer satisfaction ratings, social media interactions, and more. We were immediately presented with candidates who were better informed about multiple brands and curious about the good, the bad, and the ugly they had uncovered. Ready access to information enlightened candidates, creating pressure on the sales process to deal with a changing environment.

For those whose sales process evolved to meet this challenge, the results have been nothing short of rewarding. Our experience with clients has been remarkably positive, with all parties agreeing that today we deliver higher-quality candidates who deliver better results than previous generations. So here is a short list of the more significant changes we have observed in the franchise sales process in the past several years.

  • From introduction to execution of franchise agreements, today significantly more time is spent with each franchise candidate. Candidates arrive with more knowledge about a brand, causing the sales staff to cover more topics in more detail than previously. However, today's conversations are no longer about how processes and systems work. Leave the how-to to the team. More relevant answers outline our knowledge of consumer behavior and weave the relationships among marketing, support systems, and the brand's position. Candidates are making comparisons. This is your opportunity to demonstrate that your brand is smarter than others.
  • The style and tone of the sales process has evolved along with the candidate. Today, sales teams make only two comprehensive and formal presentations, both early in the process: 1) a comprehensive program review, and 2) a highly targeted FDD review. These presentations provide a solid understanding of the business model, owner function, and the opportunity to succeed. All subsequent discussions take the tone of two experienced individuals talking about business.
  • During the program review and targeted FDD review, talk 80 percent of the time and answer questions 20 percent of the time. During all future conversations, listen 80 percent of the time and talk 20 percent of the time. Do not violate this rule.
  • During future contacts make your favorite questions: How are you going to do that? How are you going to staff? Market? Sell? Building an environment where the candidate expects to present to you (as opposed to passively listen) solidifies their understanding, causes them to envision themselves as the owner, and confirms their commitment to the brand. More important, it prepares them to present during the upcoming discovery day meeting. (Is that a new idea?)
  • Just before organizing a discovery day visit, have the candidate describe in detail their future outside of the world of business. What is important to them? What values do they hold closely? What do they believe in? How do they define personal (not financial) success? More than ever before, the cultural and values match between candidate and company is the prime criterion for awarding a franchise. Trust, respect, and the ability to work together are in greater demand by candidate and company alike.
  • Just a day or two before discovery day, schedule a phone conference to discuss specifically what the candidate intends to present. These meetings have evolved away from store or show-and-tell presentations. They have become interactive events with the candidate presenting their understanding of the opportunity, an outline of their development plan, and examples of their ability and preparedness to execute.
  • Re-orient the interactions of your top executives during discovery day. Top executives need not discuss how to become successful, but what to do with success; about personal values and how success enables good people to do great things - care for family, develop the careers of staff members, or give back to the community. These conversations support what the candidate has learned about the people behind the brand. And they provide an opportunity for the candidate to describe how they fit.


It will not be long before the use of big data identifies franchise candidates with expectations more advanced than today. Those expectations will pressure the sales process to evolve further. Whether we use big data or little data, franchise development will always be about making the best match possible between the franchise owner and the brand. Only when both parties succeed can we say we have done our job well.

Jim BenderJim Bender is president and owner of Franchise System Builders. He has been in the franchise business for 37 years and has provided clients with sales outsourcing and concept services since 2002. Contact him at jtbender@franchisesystembuilders.com or 248-647-1989.

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