This article first appeared in the August 2014 Issue of Franchising World Magazine, Convention Planning for Success. I would like to say a huge thank you to publisher Stephen Caldeira, Executive Editor Alisha Harrison and Publishing Manager Laura Fenwick for the opportunity to have a by-line in this months edition. Franchise World Magazine is both an established print publication and online news source that provides insight and education on the International Franchise Associations mission and vision: The Preeminent voice and acknowledged leader for franchising worldwide that protects, enhances and promotes franchising.
~ Nicole Hudson, Founder and President of Inbound Lead Solutions
As technology has advanced, social media has become a mainstream form of communication and education. ComScore data indicates that over 82% of the world’s online population is reached by social networking sites and 75% of B2B buyers have claimed social media would likely have an influence on a future purchase. Even the most entrenched social media recluse cannot help but see the presence of these networks all around us.
Franchise candidates are educating themselves much earlier in the decision process than in years past. No doubt in-part because information has become so accessible through the internet. SiriusDecisions reports that 70% of a buyer’s journey is completed before they speak to a sales professional. This means your brand’s digital lead generation strategy must also include online reputation management and understanding the story the internet is sharing about your brand. Your lead generation strategy must also include participation and training in social media for the brand’s franchise development teams, along with the consistent production of relevant content around the franchise opportunity.
75% of B2B buyers have claimed social media would likely have an influence on a future purchase.
With almost 300 million members, LinkedIn is the greatest source of business to business (B2B) sales intelligence that has ever been invented. The Investis IQ Audience Insight Report says 64% of all corporate website traffic that comes via social media channels is from LinkedIn. This kind of tool has never existed before.
Hubspot Social Lead Generation Graph
Awarding a franchise opportunity is a unique hybrid of a B2C and B2B sales process. Bryan Kramer, the CEO of PureMatter summed it up nicely, “There is no more B2B or B2C, it’s only H2H: Human to Human.” While many traditional aspects of the B2B process still apply within a franchise opportunity model and LinkedIn facilitates those connections, a huge personal relationship component exists. Franchise organizations are still, ultimately issuing an invitation to be a part of a greater business family when they award a franchise. One’s professional network and community is the environment in which the relationships are built that will drive both the decisions to award and invest into franchise system. The skillset development teams must master is building relationships through thought leadership and connecting with people within social platforms that are designed for professionals to enhance their networks and grow their careers.
Social Media has fostered an environment where our target buyers, prospects and customers are actually publicly providing information about themselves in real time – These behaviors can give us major clues about who they are and what stages of life they are in or at what stage of the funnel they reside. Key indicators of financial stability or personality traits can also able to be deciphered from online activity, and social media offers development professionals the ability to engage with future franchise owners directly without picking up the phone or becoming an interruption to the daily lives of prospective franchisees.
Social Selling with LinkedIn
What is Social Selling?
Social Selling is the practice of leveraging social networks and the associated tools in the overall sales function – from lead generation, to closed deal, to account management. Social selling doesn’t replace the fundamentals. Instead, it enhances good franchise development professionals, making them more effective and efficient.
The four major components of social selling are as follows:
1. Build a Personal Brand
Franchise Candidates are making decisions about the relationships they develop with the franchise team at the same time they are evaluating the brand and franchise opportunity. The three key elements to building a personal brand are social profiles, contributions to relevant social communities, and the content you share. This is the opportunity to build trust with your network and new prospects before you even meet, letting your social persona show your understanding of franchising and being a business owner.
LinkedIn Execution: I. Develop a full LinkedIn Profile for all executives and franchise development team members II. Use LinkedIn’s publishing platform to post and share uniquely developed content about being a small business owner, the company or brand and the franchise opportunity. Curating content from a Company Blog, The IFA, Industry Trade Publications and business media like Entrepreneur, Fast Company and INC. are all great places to start. III. Have a Company Page to showcase the Parent Company and Brands, in addition have Showcase Pages support the franchise development opportunity. Note: Products and Services within LinkedIn was discontinued in mid 2014 and has been replaced with Showcase Pages.
Maid Right Franchise Opportunity LinkedIn Showcase Page
I. Download the LinkedIn App Card Munch to take a photo of any business cards you acquire and the app will add them to your contact list and send them an invitation to link. (Update) Card Munch transfers to Evernote. II. Join and participate within LinkedIn Groups. You can join up to 50 groups for your niche or industry. The IFA, Entrepreneur, and various other organizations dedicated to starting new careers or business ownership opportunities exist.
III. Start a blog, contribute to your company blog and offer to provide unique content to networking organizations you belong to. Make sure you share this unique content through email drip campaigns, social media channels and as a sponsored LinkedIn post on your Company Pages.
PostNet Franchise Opportunity Blog
3. Use Sales and Lead Intelligence
The best business development organizations include call planning into their day-to-day activities. Social Media should get the same treatment. Social media channels when populated with the right content can help teams discover key decision-makers, influencers, and potentially any competitors candidates are researching. Having marketing automation software like HubSpot or Infusionsoft integrated into your CRM system like SalesForce, FranConnect or FRM is a key component to gaining insight into the buying cycle and allowing a deeper look into the behaviors of prospects. You also need to really develop a profile of your buyer persona’s and have robust email lead nurturing campaigns that integrate into your CRM system and marketing automation systems in-addition to aligning with your social media and content marketing strategy.
If you don’t have an advanced sales funnel solution architecture as mentioned above, starting with overlaying your social media and content marketing strategy with an email marketing solution like Constant Contact or Mail Chimp that utilizes a landing page generator like Unbounce is a great place to start.
Don’t forget that social media advertising, especially LinkedIn Sponsored content of your blog posts and video launched with Tru-View and advanced behavioral targeting solutions like Sightly can be a great way to develop insight into your sales prospects at the same time you are generating leads. These tactics all working together will really help get you started building your sales funnel with social media and content marketing being a top of the funnel lead acquisition tool.
LinkedIn Execution: I. Use TeamLink, one of LinkedIn Sales Navigator’s features, to identify hidden work connections in your 3rd degree network. Use these new connections as referral requests to have a warm lead.
II. Use the 3×3 analysis for all inside sales professionals and lead qualifiers: Before a call is made to a prospect, have them spend 3 minutes and find 3 things on LinkedIn to talk about with the candidate.
III. Upgrade to the premium level of LinkedIn and see more profiles with advanced search functions. This allows you to search for exact information that fits your targets.
4. Social Listening and Local Conversations
Many tools exist for sales professionals to listen in on their market in real time and manage their social properties. From free apps like Hootsuite to more advanced subscription platforms like Manalto and Rallio. Based on the size of the franchise, the business goals of the organization and how the brand develops a social strategy, each of these products provide unique solutions to the franchise space both on the consumer and franchise development side.
Based on feedback from existing franchise clients Inbound Lead Solutions began consulting with both Manalto and Rallio on the evolution of their social products to include features like LinkedIn’s Company Pages and Groups API that support Franchise Development and unique hyper-local customization for the franchisee within the consumer marketplace that can feature a specific location, franchise owner connection or an offer for redemption with unique tracking. If your brand has a Master and Unit Model these solutions can also be customized to support communication, marketing and lead generation in both consumer and franchise development. Manalto and Rallio’s unique technologies developed for franchising and multi-location companies with brands all over the world are robust solutions for supporting this niche.
Anthony Owen, the CEO of Manalto explains, “Social Media is such a powerful tool for franchise brands within all levels of the organization all over the globe. It takes a lot of moving pieces to be done right and the Manalto software creates a foundation with its unique features that will establish a control and organizational hierarchy for both the consumer and franchise development needs of the company that can help large brands scale communication and gain the control and insights they need. However, having a well-developed strategy that includes content development, integration of other social channels and trained franchise sales professionals or franchisees in social media is a key component to brand engagement and lead generation success”
Chuck Goetschel, the CEO of Rallio shares, “It all starts with content, conversation and a well developed social media and content marketing strategy that marries franchise development and the consumer verticals of the brand. I believe a challenge within the franchise space was a social management platform needed to be designed specifically to scale both content and strategy for multi-location businesses that had both corporate and individual locations. It also needed to address other departments like franchise development that need to create their own voices within the definition of a larger brands products and services. A social engagement solution that serviced this unique business model, provided a content management and distribution solution, that also aligned with social strategy and content development, and facilitated the needed control at the corporate level while maintaining relevant social engagement at the local level would be a unique offer to the marketplace. To round out the success of a management and distribution tool I believed it needed to be built around strategic service providers that are well trained within the platform and franchising sector who can provide that content and strategy.”
Social Selling begins and ends with listening. It is not about how much information your brand can push out, but about comprehending your buyers’ wants and needs and then providing solutions and guidance with unique support, content and education.
LinkedIn is a great social channel to establish your brand, and those who are a part of it, as thought leaders by growing the online presence of executives, franchisees and employees. Sharing what Simon Sinek coined, “The Why” and the personal stories of the franchise brand, employees, vendor partners and franchisees is a powerful narrative. Those stories will ultimately resonate on all levels of the organization and amplify across all areas of business. As we like to say here at Inbound Leads Solutions, what are you waiting for? Start the Conversation, but don’t forget to listen.
Nicole Hudson: Founder & President, Inbound Lead Solutions
Inbound Lead Solutions is a Marketing Technology Firm focused on integrated digital strategies in Social Media, ContentMarketing, Blogger/Influencer Outreach, SEO and Lead Generation for franchising. Founder and President, Nicole Hudson is a certified Hub Spot inbound marketing professional and chairs the Detroit user group (HUG). Her specialization in social media, franchising and multi-unit local marketing strategies has been recognized by Franchise Update Media Group with a Star Award for social media in franchise development, a recently released LinkedIn case study on Franchising Search Engine Optimization and Lead Generation. Hudson has recently presented at the 54th Annual IFA Convention’s Digital Marketing Summit with Google, Moz, LinkedIn & Constant Contact about social media sales funnels. She published a book collaboration with Bulldog Reporter (Infocom), The Advanced LinkedIn PR Handbook and recently hosted a Master Class PR University webinar with LinkedIn, Citi Bank, Dell and JCPR. She has also developed social media strategies for two national television appearances, Be the Boss and Undercover Boss. Nicole is a member of the International Franchise Association, sits on the Marketing & Technology Committee, FranTech Task Force, and is a contributor to Franchising World Magazine, regular speaker and trainer on social media, content marketing, local search, online reputation, technology, software and lead generation.