Sites we developed and managed earned 38% of the top 50 awards for best performing franchise recruitment websites
Franchise industry trade publication 1851 magazine recently published their 2020 Franchise Development Website Awards – and websites built by Brand Journalists dominated the rankings.
Of the sites that 1851 highlighted as being the best in the industry, for their effectiveness, their design, their user experience, and most importantly, conversion rates, 38% of the sites ranked in the top 50 were developed by Brand Journalists, and 33% of those recognized in the top 100 were developed by our team. Brand Journalists produced more award winners than any other marketing firm in franchising, one of the reasons Entrepreneur Magazine consistently ranks us as a top industry supplier.
So what did we get right? Well, it starts with our deep understanding of how franchise development works, and how to engage prospective buyers in a way that leads them across the finish line.
Thomas Scott, CEO of Brand Journalists, recently spoke with Sarah Baumann, Staff Writer for 1851 Franchise, about what makes a strong franchise development website, why interest in franchising continues to spike, and how brands can capitalize on the growing surge in entrepreneurship, and more.
Check out the full interview here, or read the full transcript of the conversation below:
Thomas Scott on 2020’s Best Franchise Sales Websites
Sarah Baumann: Hello everyone, I’m Sarah Baumann, a staff writer here at 1851 Franchise. Today, I have one of our judges for 1851’s, 2020 Website Awards, Thomas Scott, of Brand Journalists. Hi Thomas, thank you so much for joining us.
Thomas Scott: Hi, thanks for having me. Excited to be here.
Sarah Baumann: Absolutely, as you were reviewing these websites, do you have any overall thoughts that you’d like to share, and any trends that you noticed?
Thomas Scott: Well, 2020 has been an interesting year. One of the things I would say that’s really important is there’s been a tremendous surge in franchise interest. Based on Google Trends data, we have seen upwards of a 150% increase in people looking at franchising making the size of our potential audience for franchise recruitment triple this year. Although the role of a website has always been an important part of a brand’s development marketing program, with more people at home it is more important now than any other point that I can remember.
Looking at these different brand’s sites this year, it feels like even though we have been building recruitment websites for a couple of decades, some companies have slid backward into styles and methodology for website design and storytelling that has been proven to not work very well, and I was a little disappointed to see that. At the same time, there are brands that are doing an excellent job of storytelling and reaching out to people in better ways. It is just a mix across the industry.
Sarah Baumann: It sounds like there are some indicators for what is a good website and what is a bad website. So what are some of those good traits that every website should have and what are some of the bad traits?
Thomas Scott: Number one, when you build a recruitment website, it has one purpose in life and that’s to educate and engage people, then convert them into a lead that a salesperson or recruiting person can talk to. This is our number one measurement for whether or whether not a website works or doesn’t work. How does the site convert visiting traffic into a sales funnel that the recruiter can work? It’s one thing to build a beautiful website, a site with great wall structure or one with storyteller and informative content. What doesn’t work is companies who do that and but don’t include the basic architecture for lead conversion, nor understand what it takes from the designer to create a visible path that layers on itself.
You want visitors to go from one side of the site to the other and actually convert into a lead. Whether they convert through structured forms that are easy to fill out, mobile design, a trackable phone number, texting or whatever. This is the number one issue with so many sites, really poor architecture for lead conversion.
Second would be, again, you’re not thinking about the path that a user takes through the website. A lot of times when people build websites, they look at other websites and say, “We should have an about us and investment and some standard navigation on the top of the site.” However, if you’re a really sophisticated developer of websites today, you’re building websites that look like an app and have the navigation at the bottom. Today, having the top navigation is much less important than layering the site’s path in a way that someone on a smartphone or laptop can reach conversion.
Last, it is that some sites are way too skimpy. Franchise sales is a very high ticket item and has a very long sales cycle. People think about this type of purchase for years, making buyers’ appetite for information really substantial. We see brands all of the time who get their website right and their recruitment skyrockets. Then others think buyers don’t have time, or are too sophisticated and don’t want to read all that stuff, but you’re a writer, and we know they will.
Sarah Baumann: Yes! As a writer, I appreciate good content and I even think visual means of content more audible content, like podcasts, can be also helpful. Were there any good examples of websites that you saw that really utilized different forms of content, like a podcast or some kind of video?
Thomas Scott: AAMCO’s site was in this year’s awards and last year’s, and maybe even won an award last year, but the reason I like their site is not that it’s been around for a long time. They integrate podcasts into the flow of conversations and they have quite a bit of quality video. This video isn’t like we’re going to put somebody in a logo shirt, stick them in front of a logo wall and ask them questions making it all sound really aggressive as if somebody is forcing them to make artificial statements. AAMCO’s video is very documentary-style, where you receive an emotional connection to a franchisee.
Their podcasts were the right length, 20 – 30 minutes, allowing someone to listen to them on their commute as a wood refinishing franchise they have an extremely well thought out podcast strategy. Brand Journalists builds podcasts on every website we build today. I don’t know why a brand wouldn’t include podcasts on their development site. Wienerschnitzel is another one that had very good podcasts.
Obviously content such as, the written funnel consisting of 1000 or 1500 word articles working to explain what the franchise costs, how franchisees get customers, and common questions such as, how much franchisees can make, and who the brand’s senior leadership team is. You have to include that stuff on your website, but you’re really going to leave people hanging if you don’t add the really thought-provoking content that people can consume such as podcasts, documentary videos, or infographics. Take the big stats that are important and make beautiful infographics out of them, and a good designer would lay all that out in the path through the website.
Building recruitment websites is very different from building your consumer website or really any other type of website you would build in business. The process is very much a specialty and it’s good that there are firms that specialize in doing this, because it’s really easy to get wrong, and when you get it wrong, it can cost a brand millions of dollars in lost sales.
Sarah Baumann: You mentioned infographics and other mediums that are all successful, and I think of storytelling, which is something you mentioned earlier. What kind of stories should brands be telling about themselves and who should be involved in them?
Thomas Scott: That’s a great question. To best explain, and to explain how Brand Journalists does things, we think about it in the role of the website. All of the site’s content, the written content in particular, really should take the place of an hour’s worth of a very personal inclusive conversation with a recruiter. If you’re reading the website, the tone should be inclusive in the way it’s written. The copy should include things like “when YOU start your business” and “when WE get started in this partnership.”
You want to think about all of the pieces that make for a good, engaging, first conversation with a salesperson. If you know a lot of franchise salespeople, you know really good ones aren’t pushy salespeople because the best way to sell something is not to sell it. I saw a lot of marketing that was aggressive, in all of the content on those sites. Good content tells the brand’s actual story. In the end, franchise recruitment is a series of connected stories that help people understand really abstract and big concepts, and there were some brands who were better at that than others.
If you were selling a pizza franchise and you’re whole marketing strategy was to get yourself a “slice of business” with this pizza franchise, it’s too generic, unspecific, and really artificial that it doesn’t work. However, if you see that a second-generation immigrant American buyer bought a pizza franchise, turned it into an empire, and now live in a house as big as a city block, and you incorporate that story into your strategy, it’s really awesome, because that is the kind of story that people are looking for.
Sarah Baumann: To that point, unfortunately, what is a big part of a lot of franchise stories right now is the COVID-19 pandemic. So did you see any websites address that head-on?
Thomas Scott: I did, but you have to be careful. I look at all of the video we’re shooting right now and all of the stuff we were writing about for franchise systems, and everybody’s got masks on, it’s very dated, and we’re going to have to ultimately redo it.
I think you’ve got to balance out the wanting to talk about COVID as a here and now item and talk about the long term. As a country, we won’t be in this time period forever. We’ll move on. What I think is really helpful is thinking about the idea that COVID came and it altered our society and it shifted what is important to consider when you’re going to invest in a franchise.
Brands that said, look, here’s how we did in COVID, not “what we did” got it right. They shared that they learned they could reduce labor, cut costs, offer four different operations models, that is what buyers care about. COVID forced brands to rethink their systems.
Biggby Coffee for example went to this BQ shipping container model that dropped down on the pad, as a drive-through coffee concept, and now they’re doing a million dollars in sales and those little things. This isn’t something that would have been their main go-to before COVID, but it’s all they’re doing now. Brands that have the ability to be nimble enough to rethink your whole model top to bottom are getting better results now. If you have the same big casual dining concept and you didn’t really change it (through COVID), and you’re just waiting for the tide to go down, I think you’re going to be less attractive to buyers.
I can’t think of a brand that doesn’t need to spend time reworking the development side of their story to make it relative to people today. It’s a different time period.
Sarah Baumann: Absolutely! Thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate you participating in this year’s awards, and I think you’ve given a lot of really great insight for developers.
Curious about your franchise website?
2021 is a challenging year and now is a perfect time to rethink or reconfigure your franchise development strategy for the year ahead. There are a lot of reasons to invest in your marketing – there are 150% more buyers in the market and they are looking for brands that will succeed post-pandemic.
If you want to learn about your site performance, understand some opportunities to grow, and get an idea of what your 2021 budget should look like, schedule a free discovery call with us.