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Embrace the Future: Keys to Developing a Hit Franchise Website in the 21st Century

“Titanic” launched Rose’s and Jack’s iconic love story into box-office record books; Puff Daddy’s "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down" reached No. 5 on Billboard’s Top 100; Beanie Babies were the hottest children’s toys on the market; and the first book in the best-selling Harry Potter series saw its debut. That was life in 1997.

A lot has changed in the last 20 years, but what 1997 taught us is that true classics withstand the test of time, while some things are better left in the past. Sorry, Beanie Babies.

Franchising is no exception to this rule. A decade or two ago, advertising in trade publications and local newspapers was all the rage, but nowadays neither option has quite the same power for generating results . Out of the dust of those old, tired strategies came the future of franchise lead generation — the franchise recruiting website.

There is general consensus across the franchise industry that a well-developed, highly optimized franchise website is a franchisor’s greatest recruiting tool. It is a hub of activity, the key source of information, and a Rolodex of every generated franchise lead. Without a great franchise website, franchisors are stuck in the age of Beanie Babies and boy bands, before anyone even heard the word “google.”

Prioritize content

Thanks to the Golden Age of the Internet, between 2003 to 2007, we’ve seen a significant shift in how websites are developed and used. Since those early days of the World Wide Web, websites have evolved from single-page domains with branding, product and service information right there on the homepage, to highly complex and intricate networks of pages. A quality website now features high-resolution images, engaging colors and themes, videos and advertisements, and sometimes interactive communication tools.

The advancement of web design has revolutionized the look of websites, but while these visual components are critical to overall appeal, the key to a premiere franchise recruiting website is its messaging. A quality franchise website has anywhere from six to 10 pages — not including the homepage — each featuring unique content that drives the viewer down a strategically designed path and ends with an enticing call to action.

Embrace mobile

To connect your audience with that strategic content, it’s important to understand how potential franchise leads are interacting with the website. Today, 1.2 billion people are browsing the web from mobile devices — 80 percent of the time on a smartphone another 57 percent of the time on a tablet or other mobile device. The message for franchisors — mobile optimization is now a must when it comes to building a lead generating franchise recruitment site.

Most web developers can easily optimize a site for mobile use, but a truly tactical approach creates a second-to-none user experience that’s visually pleasing, yet easy to navigate. This strategy not only positions a brand for optimal exposure, but it also solidifies its adaptability in a constantly changing, technology driven culture.

Generate conversions

Lastly, when developing a franchise recruiting site, make sure that all potential prospects leave the site with the necessary tools to move forward, as well as an incentive to take the next step. All of that strategically developed content, expertly researched SEO, and engaging optimization is essentially useless if the audience isn’t directed to making a decision.

The old belief was that a successful franchise recruiting site needed an in-depth contact form where guests could end their journey — “You’ve made it through our website, now tell us more about yourself.” Sure, this still holds true today, but as with some things, it’s grown better with time.

No longer should franchisors have to wait to ask for information. A well developed website features a contact form right on the homepage, front and center, as well as accessible on every additional page a guest visits. Potential franchise prospects are open to share information if they’re getting something in return, such as a whitepaper or eBook. It’s important to keep in mind that a website’s appeal is more about pleasing guests than it is about serving the brand.

The franchise marketing industry has changed a great deal in the last 20 years, but much remains the same — generating high-quality leads is about the ability to narrowly target an audience, and serve them quality content when and where they want it. Keep pace with these changing trends, lest fall victim to the fate of the floppy disk.

Matthew Jonas is the President of TopFire Media, an award-winning integrated public relations and digital marketing agency specializing in franchise marketing and consumer branding. Together with the leaders of iFranchise Group and Franchise Dynamics, Jonas established TopFire Media to provide a strategic and synchronized method for digital marketing in the franchise industry. As a digital marketing strategist with more than a decade of in-depth experience in SEO and PPC, social media publishing, conversion based marketing, inbound marketing, sales management, and online lead generation, Jonas has built a career dedicated to delivering an integrated marketing approach that achieves client success and long-term relationships.

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