LinkedIn Company Pages: Optimized for Franchise Development
Behavior and research patterns of how franchise candidates are educating themselves and communicating with your brand are evolving.
According to the 2012 Annual Franchise Development Report from Franchise Update Media Group, an estimated 46 percent of a company’s franchise development marketing budget is allocated to public relations, search engine optimization and social media. The result is that an estimated 39 percent of awarded franchise licenses in 2011 were attributed to SEO and social media.
Public relations effectiveness has historically been difficult to quantify, but has become an increasingly important competency as awareness grows of the value of public relations content that is optimized for online use. When this medium is tailored for search engine optimization by promoting PR content in online channels like LinkedIn, it has the capacity to show measurable return on investment by driving engagement in social media and generating inbound links, which influence page authority and rank for SEO.
An estimated 39 percent of awarded franchise licenses in 2011 were attributed to SEO and social media.
Nick Powills, CFE, chief brand strategist at No Limit Agency, a public relations firm specializing in franchising said “Brands should no longer silo communications. PR, social media, marketing and advertising must work together in order to provide maximum value for each medium. While communications in silos is challenging to quantify the singular value, when impressions are spread across multiple channels, the results are maximized. Lead generation is not about a magic moment, rather many magic moments merged together and repeatedly.”
Franchise organizations know that social media is becoming more important as both a communication tool in the sales process and a conversion channel for lead generation. Spending on social media for franchise development rose in both 2012 and 2013. The social media channel that is garnering the most interest from franchise executives and could provide huge dividends for the franchise sales community is LinkedIn.
People join LinkedIn to showcase their careers, work expertise, and find content, information, individuals or business opportunities that advance their professional lives. Also, when someone visits LinkedIn, the person is most likely in a business-focused mindset, helping business’ content perform inherently better. In a recent study of more than 5,000 businesses, HubSpot found that traffic from LinkedIn generated the highest visitor-to-lead conversion rate at 2.74 percent, almost three times higher (277 percent) than both Twitter (0.69 percent) and Facebook (0.77 percent).
Paul Litterer, the senior sales executive of national accounts and franchise partners at HubSpot said, “LinkedIn is a great place to start online lead generation on several fronts. You can monitor and participate in groups that represent your industry or groups that contain the right prospects for your industry. Using topics covered in such groups, you can start to strategize your own online marketing program around the questions and concerns of people within your market.”
How does a brand, and specifically franchise development, take advantage of LinkedIn company pages to showcase the business-ownership opportunity?
1. Create a Company Page. This is a free tool that will help you craft a better corporate brand and further communicate your brand story and value propositions to your target audience.
2. Main Header Images. Take advantage of company pages’ new expanded header image (646×220 pixels) functionality. Add a variety of images that reflect a range of business priorities, lifestyle and representations of your ideal franchise candidate, marketing campaigns or promotions.
3. Banners. Create banners that show the vibrant nature of your business and culture. Showcase the franchise owners and employees that a candidate will engage with throughout the franchise ownership process from investigation, to meet-the-team day to training and the business launch.
4. Products and Services. Build your “Products and Services” pages to showcase both the services you offer the consumer and the franchise ownership opportunity. Craft this content to be rich in the keywords and phrases that are defined in the brand’s development SEO strategy. There is also the opportunity to greatly increase lead conversion on the Products and Services pages. In the eight areas where a prospect can convert into the sales funnel, make sure these are correctly optimized with images, calls to action, content, and landing pages that link into your customer relationship management and to automated marketing programs such as HubSpot.
5. Recommendations. Don’t be shy about asking for recommendations of your products. Develop campaigns that recommendations from your customers of the services your franchise provides and ask your top validators to provide recommendations on being a franchise owner.
6. Posting Updates. One of the many “silver bullets” in this channel is content curation. This is repurposing all of your public relations articles, both past and present, nationally and locally. Share your blog articles and reshare content from other sources that educates your audience on your brand, how to be a business owner and franchising. The key to success is to make sure you have optimized these posts for SEO, unique calls to action and landing pages. This sets the stage for conversion into the sales funnel and placement into a lead nurturing campaign as further investigation of your franchise opportunity continues.
7. Engagement. Post status updates, share blog posts and curate content that speaks to your audience and then be there to continue the conversation when responses occur. It can’t be all about your brand. The ideal candidates that are looking to purchase a franchise are interested in very specific things: entrepreneurship, career change, business funding and planning, SBA loans, 401(k) rollovers, work-life balance and franchising as a whole. These are the themes you need to incorporate into your brand and content strategy.
Service Brands International is a great example of a franchisor using LinkedIn for franchise development. The company has a family of brands − Molly Maid, Mr. Handyman and ProTect Painters − all engaging in company pages that market the franchise opportunity while the parent company page integrates all the brands. The affiliate marketing strategy that has been applied to the products and services pages can be a powerful mix to generate awareness and secure brand real estate on search engine results pages.
In March, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions released a case study on how Service Brands International uses company pages for franchise development lead generation and SEO. The results showed, “after 12 months of renewed focus from the franchise development marketing team on all the brands’ LinkedIn company pages, the Service Brands company page increased followers by 70 percent; the Mr. Handyman page by 38 percent; the Molly Maid page by 67 percent; and the Protect Painters page by 83 percent.”
Lana Khavinson, a senior product manager of company pages at LinkedIn said, “LinkedIn is committed to supporting its members as they build communities and develop brands. As advanced targeting evolves within the LinkedIn network, franchise companies have a great opportunity to recruit new employees, find experienced vendors and connect with professionals that are uniquely qualified to be franchise owners.”
The behavior and research patterns of how franchise opportunity candidates are educating themselves and communicating with your brand are forever evolving. They are engaging with social media, having conversations, and consuming content from a variety of channels that need to be aligned to work in conjunction with your website and other marketing channels. Take advantage of all the great lead development tools that LinkedIn has created and connect with the 2 million-plus members that participate in this business network.
What are you waiting for? Start your conversation today. nNicole Hudson is a digital marketing consultant and Ryan Vaspra is vice president of media services for Aviatech. Hudson can be reached at 248-808-9922 or firstname.lastname@example.org and Vaspra at 858-777-5000 and email@example.com.