On The News
Diversified Marketing Overcomes Inconsistent Lead Delivery
February 2009 Franchising World
Can franchise systems ensure their leads are qualified and sales teams are productive? - By Dwight C. Gould
How can franchise systems make sure their leads are qualified? It's not simple.
The secret is to stay on top of changes. Partnering with the right sources, thinking "out of the box" and implementing the campaign swiftly and effectively are all part of the mix. However, there is more to it. That's why so many companies are looking for outside support.
Franchising Industry Growth
Last year, at least 300 companies began franchising for the first time. And today the competition is more fierce than ever. Not only is it difficult to get leads, it is difficult to get consistent leads.
Just as the numbers of franchises and those interested in getting involved in franchising has progressed dramatically, so have marketing methods in general. While traditional advertising and marketing are still important, online marketing has gained great momentum as the primary vehicle for both B2B and B2C situations.
Internet Marketing Growth
According to a recent article from research firm eMarketer, Internet advertising spending is forecasted to increase in 2009 by 8.9 percent. The firm's 2009 online ad spending forecast is $30.0 billion.
TNS Media Intelligence, the magazine of online media, marketing and advertising, reports that Internet display advertising overall increased 17.3 percent last year, easily outpacing any other media category.
Search engine marketing is the core method in driving visitors to a Web site. It is critical to have a franchise site that operates and functions correctly and is built for high rankings on the major search engines. Once at the Web site, visitors have the opportunity to make some important decisions about a product or service, whether it is a resort, a restaurant or home repair service. As an industry, SEM spent $2.8 billion in 2007, capturing 87.4 percent of Internet ad spending, according to Radar Research. Billions of transactions and searches are made annually on the Internet.
Every month, 203 million people in the United States (70 percent of the population) use the Internet. The Nielsen/Net Ratings reports that 99 percent of these users utilize a search engine at least once a week and 56 percent of them used a search engine daily. In fact, the Internet has, in many cases, replaced the telephone. Clearly SEM integrated into a traditional campaign is extremely cost effective.
The Internet, with franchise portals, pay-per-click, pay-per-lead and display-lead-generation is king. Since consumers have the ability to visit a Web site any time day or night, the site needs to provide vital information, in a user-friendly environment, with avenues for interaction. These "call to action" responses may range from a simpler request for information all the way to an online franchise presentation.
With technology as an ally both free-flowing creativity and detailed analysis can be served. In addition to maximizing online presence and increasing lead flow, technology can support marketing efforts with strategic research vis-à-vis keywords, geo-targeting, tracking and reporting.
The range of special Internet marketing tools is endless and always evolving. Today, the most consistent winner is a specially created landing page which directs qualified consumers directly to in-house booking engines. Tomorrow the possibilities may explode with new state-of-the-art technology heretofore unimagined. The Internet is the primary tool for the lead generation business.
Zeroing in on Your Target
So now you've got tons of leads, that's great, but now what? One of the most important things you can do to streamline and maintain an efficient process of lead generation, verification and sale, is to find the best lead-management system for you. Research online. Check out all of the lead-management systems there are (and there are a lot). These systems include Emaximation, FranConnect, Goldmine and Sales Force. Some won't sound right for you, others will. What is important is to find what works for your operation and sales teams.
The graphics shown here outline the process that leads are taken through. It begins at the campaign level to attract interested leads. Once they express interest they can then be put into the lead-management system, and tracked as far as contact, qualification and through the sale. Lead-management systems can maximize efficiency and expedite qualified leads, while helping to quickly discard those that are less than qualified.
In a fast-moving world, where rapid turnaround and swift communication are increasingly important, lead-management systems are fast becoming a necessity in the lead-management process.
However, the Internet and its systems are not the "be-all, end-all." The idea is not to put out such a wide net that your lead sources do not fit your needs. Lead delivery systems in and of themselves cannot sift through the demographics that are targeted and rifled to your company. Constant communication with experts ensures a more balanced lead source. Whether it is geo-targeting, design of lead capturing information forms and constant review and honing, Internet marketing professionals need to be an integral part of a lead-generation campaign from the onset.
With the current economic climate, leading franchise operations must understand that a balanced program will work best for them. An integrated marketing program must include building a site correctly from the start. Some franchisors with existing Web sites can choose to skirt this cost by having a micro-site or landing page built.
You may have a terrific looking Web site, but it needs to work. Research shows that 75 percent of users do not search beyond the first page. They may actually engage in a secondary search if the primary one does not turn up the desired results.
Paid and organic lead sources from the Internet alone cannot and will not bring your cost per sale down. The balancing of franchise portals, traditional advertising and public relations, marketing alliances, barter relationships, graphics and trade shows is a delicate matter that needs tracking and feedback on a regular basis.
Experience shows that a particularly effective strategy is alignment and membership with trade and interest associations on the vertical plane. If your organization is targeting prospects who are interested in children, youth-education associations will welcome your membership and provide access to their membership. The same thinking goes for groups focusing on health and fitness, should your product have appeal to their rosters. All of these groups hold trade shows, use internal trade publications and provide membership lists to vendor affiliates. Whatever your niche, constantly widen your net to expand your business development process into new venues.
Testing and Analysis
Complicated? Confusing? Yes. That is exactly why your in-house expert or outside marketing company needs to consistently test and ascertain results, reviewing them in real time both technologically and interpersonally with in-house sales staff and management. Driving traffic is one component, but is that traffic working? Which sources work best? What brings the cost of sales down? What produces lots of numbers, but low results? These are the questions that marketing experts can and will continue to analyze and review daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly to bring you to a successful year.
Integrating the Campaign
How to start the process? As with any good business, an initial action plan puts the building blocks in place. Starting with a "top down" look, the team builds the various pieces that support the business goals. Each franchise has a different profile. State-of-the-art technology is primary. However, it cannot do the job in a vacuum. It must be integrated with other methods. You may need e-mail blasts to drive people to your Web site. You may need press releases to announce the availability of new market areas. A television or radio campaign may be the answer you are looking for. Perhaps a full-page ad in geotargeted business publications will send people to your doors. These are the questions that professionals can help you sort through and prioritize. The answers to these questions may change from time to time. Good communications and partnership with your agency or in-house experts will give you the opportunity to improve and keep pace with this growing industry.
Dwight C. Gould is CEO of Aviatech. He can be reached at 858-777-5001 firstname.lastname@example.org