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How Franchisors Can Turn Content Creation Into Lead Generation, Part 1

Because technology has such a significant impact on the way people research and buy franchises, content marketing has proven to be one of the most powerful strategies for generating new leads.

Implementing a strategic, holistic and unique publishing strategy will help your franchise build its digital presence, increase trust, become more competitive and ultimately expand its brand.

But where do you start? And how do you keep the content engine going?

In this new series, we’re going to be sharing a wealth of high level strategies and philosophies, (along with tactical action items and tools!) to help your franchise plan and elevate its content generation and distribution efforts. We’ll even throw a little inspiration and encouragement in the mix, just to keep your spirits up.

Today’s post will focus on the viability of content marketing in the current business landscape and ideas for how to get buy-in with your franchise. We’ll also give you several strategic questions to help build your initial content audit to generate a list of potential material you can publish.

Grab your keyboards, let’s go!

Mass adoption of content marketing as a viable strategy

If you’re a franchisor who’s looking to expand, content marketing is no longer a nicety, it’s a necessity. In part, because franchise marketing is so complicated. Especially for business owners who are new to the space. If there was ever a segment of the economy in need of compelling, useful storytelling, franchising would be it. The good news is, the more content you deploy, the more knowledge potential leads have, the more their perception of fear and risk changes, and the more likely they are to get on the phone to talk to you about buying into your franchise system.

HubSpot recently released their annual report of marketing data, and dedicated an entire section to content marketing statistics. We recommend you read the full study, but here are the numbers most relevant to your franchise’s marketing strategy:

  • 70% of marketers are actively investing in content marketing.
  • Content marketing gets 3x more leads than paid search advertising
  • 51% of b2b marketers prioritize visual assets as part of their content marketing strategy.
  • 72% of marketers said a good content strategy was a major key to their success

This strategy cannot be denied anymore. It’s viable, and more importantly, it’s possible. You have the opportunity to use content to educate potential franchisees on why your system offers a perfect fit for their skillset, personality and career. Brands who aren’t taking that chance are missing out. If there is anyone on your team at different store locations who is still skeptical about the role of content in franchise lead generation, share a few of those numbers with them and get them onboard!

Yeah, but what’s the ROI of content?

Let’s address the elephant in the room before going any further into this topic. The one question every busy franchisor is asking is about return on investment. Now, while content marketing may not initially seem to drive revenue directly to your franchise, rest easy knowing that it brings tremendous value in building a relationship with your consumers and employees. Building helpful content like newsletters, blogs, texts, articles, and videos that communicates with your leads no matter where they are in their franchise decision process positions you intelligently. With every new piece you post, you not only create value attraction to your own business, but you also create a rising tide that lifts all boats within your franchise system. Particularly if you own more than one location, you’ll be glad to have everyone aboard your content train.

This content approach proves you’re taking active steps to support customers beyond just selling them a franchise. That’s the kind of organization entrepreneurs want to invest in. A brand that makes them smarter. Not the franchise that rushes out of the gate selling, which only makes potential owners put up their defenses and resist being sold. Only the leaders who bond with customers through the power of education make their transactions ultimately more buyable. Any business can lead customers down a path, but only smart franchises can help their customers discover the path on their own.

Think of it this way. Potential leads are people who pay your salary, they’re pupils who attend your class. Part of your job is using content to enroll them. Call it consultative selling, call it education, but the principle is the same. Make your prospective franchisees smarter, and you’ll make your business bigger. Period.

As for the specific ROI, here’s the challenge. The effectiveness of content marketing is notoriously difficult to measure. I’ve run content departments at my own company, for multiple employers, as well as worked with hundreds of clients big and small to develop their own. It’s hard, but it’s not impossible. Content is certainly not as straightforward as installing a pixel for paid media efforts, tracking UTM sources of the advertisements and measuring conversion events like submitting online forms. But it is measurable.

Every franchise is different, so your ultimate content metrics will need to ladder up to the goals of your overall marketing strategy. We’ll talk more about KPI’s in part three of this series, but for now, we just wanted to acknowledge that it can be difficult to launch a new strategy without having a guaranteed return on investment. You or people on your team might talk themselves out of content marketing because of that uncertainty. Just know it does work, and like most good tactics, it takes time, patience and consistency.

With that, let’s transition into some nuts and bolts of generating ideas to use for your strategy.

Running a knowledge management audit

Knowledge management is the systematic process by which information needed for an organization to survive, is created, captured, shared and leveraged. The key word here is leveraged. Because that’s how information scales. Its value multiplies in direct proportion to the extent that we use it. All content strategy begins with this larger initiative. And the good news is, just like any franchise itself, there’s a system for it too.

One tool we recommend to franchises who are new to the content game is a knowledge management audit. If you are a franchise who wants to measure twice and cut once with your marketing, you’re going to love this process.

Now, there are many frameworks you can read about in various academic and professional publications on what steps to follow. But to keep it simple, I’m going to share a list of key questions you can ask your team, customers, prospects, colleagues, and of course, yourself. This will help you get into the right mindset for building out your franchise’s content strategy.

  • What resource or process would help save customers time and stress?
  • What do you do intuitively, but you haven’t documented, that people would love to learn?
  • In what areas do you find potential franchisees asking the same types of questions repeatedly?
  • Is there anything people are not asking you for, but you give to them, and they love it?
  • What pieces of content (yours or other people's) have you seen resonate most with users, clients, customers, readers, etc?

Consider asking these questions in person, via email, on your website, or if you want to be more formal, set up a Google Survey and send your knowledge management audit out to everyone in your network. You’ll be amazed at what kind of content gold people provide you. Plus, once the content is published, you can give them credit where appropriate and show them how much you appreciate their feedback.

As I learned as an employee of Ritz Carlton, “radar on, antenna up.” Address your customer concerns, questions and needs, both expressed and unexpressed. Thread that material through your content, and you’ll build a loyal tribe of customers who are giving you permission to educate them, not just a group of strangers who are annoyed at you for marketing to them.

Remember, when it comes to knowledge management, intention and attention are powerful levers for effecting change through your content strategy. To quote my mentor, if you don’t write it down, it never happened; and if you can’t find it, it doesn’t exist. You need to be absorbing knowledge from every possible source and opportunity. This will make the content generation process much less of an uphill battle.

Here’s one final question you might add to your audit.

Over the years I’ve consulted with dozens of hotels, hospitality associations and other customer service organizations. And in my experience, one of the best questions to ask a customer at the end of a conversation is not, “How else may I be of service to you?” but rather:

“What else can I help you learn?”

When you’re on the phone with potential franchisees, it’s critical that you listen as loudly as possible. They will tell you exactly what their fears are, and your job is not only to listen, but to use that feedback to reverse engineer custom material in the future. Because if one of your customers is scared of something, odds are, they’re not alone. If you’re struggling to come up with new ideas around which to generate new content, you’re not paying attention. It’s all there, your job is to mine it out, and push it through your system to close that loop and ultimately close more sales.

Measure twice, cut once

We’re just getting started. If your franchise is ready to elevate its content generation and distribution efforts, reading this article already puts you at an advantage. You now know the viability of content marketing in the current business landscape, along with how to get buy-in with your organization. Combine that with your knowledge management audit, you should have adequate fuel to get your content engine churning.

Next week in part two of this post, we’ll talk about how to approach the creative process, case studies on the importance of volume and continuity in your publishing schedule.

Until then, keep turning content creation into lead generation!

Scott Ginsberg is Head of Content for Metric Collective, the parent company of Franchise Help. He wears a nametag 24/7 and makes amazing guacamole.

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