The Best Strategy for Making Sales From Franchise Portals

If you aren’t closing leads from portals, it’s time to change your tactics

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Franchisors have a love-hate relationship with franchise portals.

Once the most popular source for franchise leads, portals experienced a drop in results over the past five years, leading many franchisors to stop using them for lead generation.

Last year’s Franchise Update report on lead generation reported a surprising statistic: Of the 100 franchise systems in attendance, 43% of internet sales are attributed to franchise portals. It was the single highest source of closes in the survey.

This, however, contradicts the constant outcry from franchise salespeople who complain that portal leads are “unqualified,” “tire-kickers,” “unresponsive” and “impossible to reach.”  We’ve heard franchise lead characterizations such as “Betty Bon Bon,” the housewife who, late at night when the kids go to bed, fills out contact forms with one hand and stuffs her face with MoonPies with the other. We’ve also heard of “Larry the Looker,” a franchise window-shopper who constantly explores new franchise opportunities but never pulls the trigger and joins one.

Franchise salespeople are constantly hopping from one portal to another, always disappointed with their current lead-to-close results and always believing the leads are better on the next franchise portal. Some companies have stopped advertising on franchise portals altogether, and many have greatly reduced the amount they spend on portals.

Last year’s Franchise Update report makes a case for portal optimism.

As a franchise lead generation firm, we’ve written about some epidemic problems with franchise portals and have publicly chastised them from time to time for trying to generate leads in ways that are inconsistent with how people research franchise opportunities. The more sophisticated portals evolved to reflect franchise buyer evolution. Other portals simply trick visitors into filling out forms and then recycle leads, forwarding names and contact information of people who never requested information about that particular franchisor. That’s why it’s important that franchisors be aware of how each portal conducts business.

So what’s really going on?

Eric Bell, Franchise Gator
Eric Bell, Franchise Gator
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Matt Alden, Franchise Solutions
Thomas Scott, FPG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bottom line is simply that almost all franchise buyers are using the internet to help make franchise buying decisions. And a franchise buyer isn’t going to be too far into an investigation before they come across one or more portals in their Google searches. Some franchise portals are excellent at generating interest from prospects doing research, creating traffic for the portal and the franchisor. These will be the survivors. Franchising needs them. Bonafide franchise buyers need them also because portals offer a robust source of information about brands and options in a side-by-side directory. You can count on two things from quality portals: 1. Bonafide franchise buyers will be in the mix. 2. Lots of contact information will be proffered from people who will do nothing. These folks come along for the ride, and it’s the franchisor’s job, not the portal’s, to distinguish who’s who.

To get to the bottom of what’s really going on and get a handle on the future role portals will play in helping franchisors generate leads, we asked Matt Alden, President of Franchise Solutions and Franchise.com, and Eric Bell, Director of Sales and Service for Franchise Gator, to have a conversation with Thomas Scott, Franchise Performance Group’s lead generation specialist.

What follows is excellent insight into the evolving role franchise portals are playing and some really important, actionable take-aways you can apply to your own lead generation efforts.

Question 1: What is the main role and responsibility of franchise portals today?

Matt Alden, Franchise Solutions | Franchise.com (MA): I’ve always described our role from the standpoint that portals need to serve two ‘customer’ constituencies effectively to generate leads that enable quality sales activity. We need to serve prospective franchise buyers with the utility of a directory and associated ‘Franchising 101’ content while also serving franchisor advertisers with leads. Forever, portals have offered their visitors “free information” while offering franchisors leads that are ready to engage by phone or email. Generally speaking, this worked for many years as visitors submitting inquiry forms were more free with their contact information and more accepting of the idea that taking a phone call from a fran-dev rep was getting the free information they requested.

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infographic courtesy of Franchise.com

This has changed dramatically since the mid- to late 2000s, and the challenge in operating a quality portal continues to be striking the right balance between educating our visitors and compelling them to take actions that deliver value to our franchisor advertisers. Meanwhile, many franchisors continued demanding more and more leads from portals. The result? Too much ‘lead sausage’ being manufactured and delivered to franchisors from too many portals trying to survive on volume alone, with little regard for the end game. I don’t view this as a sustainable proposition, so our role is and continues to be connecting franchise buyers and sellers in a way that drives attractive recruitment economics for franchisors.

The lead form itself is problematic. Today, there is an inherent disconnect between “Mrs. Portal Visitor, submit this form get your free information” and “Mr. Fran-dev Rep, here’s another great lead ready to talk to you.” This dynamic has set up a bit of a perfect storm where some of the best (serious, sophisticated, ready-to-engage) visitors at portals are increasingly less inclined to submit an inquiry form on any third-party site. Yet, these same portal visitors use the directory to identify franchises of interest and then navigate directly to the franchisors’ sites and submit an inquiry there. Closing this loop to enable franchisors to attribute some of their great leads from their own sites to their campaigns with us is absolutely critical.

Franchise portals are a highly trafficked advertising source. With all the changes to the search engines and the way people are now connected and online 24/7, internet usage has evolved in huge ways. Certainly mobile visitorship — now approaching HALF of our total traffic — is an undeniable trend. Some portals continue to evolve in response to usage trends, and that’s one of the reasons you see more closes coming from our leads than you have in recent years.

If we designed a franchise portal from scratch today, it might not use inquiry forms at all, and you wouldn’t base the entire economic relationship on how many inquiry forms candidates submitted. Instead, you would think about what franchise buyers want — the story (emotional) and the key data points (number of units, Item 19, percentage of multi-unit owners, etc.) — and produce content that catered to self-directed research and drives quality traffic to franchisors’ websites, much the same way Google works. The portal would develop a range of content that engages and helps qualify a prospect. It might have ad pages, videos, editorial articles and even interview-style blog articles that give a buyer insight into a franchise system — with integrated calls-to-action (links to franchisor’s site). Franchisors would pay for traffic or clicks, not leads.

We are, after all, in the Engagement Age, the 3rd real ‘age’ of franchise sales. We started out with the Promotional Age, where we advertised our brands in newspapers and magazines, attended trade shows and reached out to our customer base. We moved into the Information Age from 2000-2010, where companies launched websites and franchise portals arose. People now had access to lots of information, and it took the place of traditional, promotional-style lead generation. In 2010, we began to shift into the Engagement Age, an age where people are much more savvy and seek out specific types of information from a wide range of sources to help them make decisions.

Lead generation in the Engagement Age has some dire implications for franchisors, many of whom are years behind in understanding how people now buy franchises. Today, people do substantial amounts of online research before opting in, and companies have to earn trust by being transparent and worthy, by giving prospects what they want BEFORE demanding a conversation.

We’ve been experimenting with this approach, and the early feedback is that it makes a big difference, but it has been hard to get franchisors to divorce themselves from the inquiry form form and the pursuit of more leads at lower costs. No doubt, the future of franchise portals is strong and they will continue to generate franchise sales, but the relationship between the portal and franchisors needs to evolve with the times.

Eric Bell, Franchise Gator (EB): We also really struggle with the disconnect. Forcing the form in the early stages contributes to the core problem — too many portal leads opt in too early in the sales funnel.

Historically, visitors to franchise portals have been much earlier in the sales funnel and they have been less engaged than a company website lead. Often we were their first step; in the beginning, franchise portals were easier to find online and most companies lacked franchise websites, so portals garnered most of the franchise-related traffic.

Leads are requesting information, not necessarily a conversation with a salesperson. They expect a detailed PDF or franchise report. What a salesperson wants and what a lead is seeking are not the same thing, and this creates a disconnect that can hamper performance.

If the relationship changes, it will be when prospects and franchisors are on the same page. Some portals, like ours, are doing much better helping educate franchisors on the gap in information. We’re adding longer pages and more tabs to ad pages. We are adding videos and direct links to the franchisor’s website. We are not trying to trick them into clicking to opt in for another brand at the same time they are requesting information from yours.

The feedback is that this improves lead quality, and we are seeing more closes from clients that work with us to expand the scope of information on our site so it goes beyond a single ad page with a form.

The next step will be to help educate prospects to have better education about brands before opting in. The amount of content franchise candidates need and want is far larger than the majority of brands produce; adding more pages and downloadable PDF reports really works to improve lead flow by engaging prospects so they can learn more before they fill out the form. The number of leads might go down but the quality goes up.

We redesigned Gator in late 2012 and added entirely new types of content. It made a difference — we are now publishing content that helps us rank highly for some of the category searches prospects do, and the feedback from advertisers is that they are getting higher quality prospects in the mix. For sure, we still have lots of early-in-the-process leads, but now we also have more target candidates for companies. I foresee us doing a more focused job of targeting who the franchisor is really looking for.

We also see an improvement when companies add tabs or additional pages to their profile page. Marco’s Pizza did this recently, and the new tabs with a detailed interview with the CEO and long-form interviews with franchisees have helped them grow.

We can get a prospect’s attention and even build awareness of brands they might not be familiar with, but there remains a missing amount of content that builds up the engagement level. The more engaged a prospect is, the easier it is to earn a conversation with them.

MA: Transparency works. Asking a prospect to fill out a form just to get more information is really opaque. A better method would be to say, ‘Here’s what is going to happen when you fill out this form.’ We can’t go there until more franchisors understand that getting more closes involves a lot less leads and much higher Cost Per Lead (CPL.)

Thomas Scott (TS): Franchise portals are first and foremost a highly visible online source of information about multiple brands. Franchise prospects are using internet searches for almost 100% of all franchise purchases and they are hungry for a large amount of information about franchise brands and specific industries.

I think the role portals play in attracting visitors who are seeking more specific information is a key to improving the relationship. I believe it is a myth that leads typically start online searches with phrases like ‘franchise’ and ‘franchise opportunities.’ Today, people are using search engines in much more specific ways, seeking quality, well-written content about segments and brands they already know about.

For instance, if you own a food franchise and want to expand, you might Google the question, ‘What is the best pizza franchise?” You are already experienced and interested in pizza, and you want information that ISN’T on a brand’s website. Franchise portals have an opportunity to become aggregators of franchise information akin to an online newspaper that provides information about the company and the industry and offers advice to help candidates make better decisions.

For instance, wouldn’t it be valuable to a candidate if portals published Item 19 information?  Wouldn’t it be interesting if portal users were able to upload their forecasts and business plans?  What if users all researched franchisors using a standard business plan format and were able to share information like Spotify shared music files?

entrepreneur.com has taken a leadership position in publishing meaningful content. Google, with its 29 updates in the past two years, is making articles and information easier to find because it wants to serve up the most relevant results possible. Franchise portals have a largely untapped opportunity to publish information that does a better job of engaging leads. entrepreneur.com ranks well because its articles are well written, detailed and very helpful for prospects.

Having been a franchisor, I can say that when I spent money to advertise on portals, I wanted one thing: franchise buyers. I think a lot of franchisors get frustrated because the economics are so focused on cost-per-lead and having a set number of leads coming in. The whole relationship has been focused on the wrong metric.

As an industry, we forget that it only takes one lead to buy a single franchise. We have been mired in the numbers — it takes 100 leads to sell a single franchise. We accept that the overwhelming majority of leads are no good. The problem with this is, who told the 99 out of 100 people that fill out lead forms that they weren’t good?

The core issue is that some people buy franchises and some people don’t. Either portals evolve to give buyers what they want and do a better job of handing connecting these engaged buyers to salespeople in non-threatening ways, or they will continue to struggle.

Question 2: How are advertising options changing?

EB: At Gator, we switched everyone to a pay-per-lead rate. We realized that attracting quality traffic for a specific brand can be costly, and if we deliver better leads and charge a set rate for each lead, we can scale up traffic to our site.

The quality of traffic we get directly impacts the quality of the leads. Portals today can choose to spend money on paid search, organic search, content publication, retargeting, banner ads and a range of other display advertising to generate traffic. Ultimately, the higher the quality of visitors to a portal and the more interested they are in specific industries, the more likely we will be to deliver franchises buyers and not just leads.

Converting from a flat rate to a pay-per-lead program gives us the opportunity to tailor a lead generation program for a client that fits better. Some segments are more expensive to generate traffic for than others, and pay-per-lead puts the responsibility on us to get the highest quality we can.

MA: We are constantly thinking of ways to open the funnel and get more visitors on our site directly connected to a franchisor. This includes using shorter forms — we don’t think longer forms with more fields produce better results.

It also includes doing away with forms altogether, something we’ve started experimenting with this year, launching pay-per-lead and pay-per-visitor programs. We like the idea of sending visitors to franchise websites and changing the economics from paying for leads to paying for traffic. That way the franchisor has total control over how a lead converts and can display as much content as needed.

While diverting traffic doesn’t work well for companies that have outdated, brochure-type websites, it does work well for some of the newer, article format websites and for franchisors. Our clients using these tactics tell us they see a spike in traffic and a corresponding spike in leads. Since these are leads from the franchisor website and not ‘portal’ leads, they are having better conversations and are able to reach a higher percentage of people.

In the end, it’s all about being flexible and not forcing all franchisors into a single lead generation strategy.

TS: I agree with you both, and it is refreshing to see some portals become much more flexible. For years, portals have been rigid, afraid to change practices or experiment to increase results. Some portals remain like this today in spite of data showing they underperform. Your search ranking, lead counts and traffic don’t matter if you don’t deliver closes.

For some clients, flat-rate advertising makes sense and generates results, especially if the brand is well known or the category is hot. Frozen yogurt or pizza, for instance, are categories that can lower advertising costs by opting for a flat rate. For others, pay-per-lead is a better option. This aligns the goals better so everyone is focused on generating buyers, not just leads.

I’m really a fan of the pay-per-visitor approach. I like linking directly to the franchisor’s website. A franchise portal is, after all, a directory of different companies, and what prospects want most of all is to have free access to drill down and satisfy their appetite for information. Linking to the site, especially if the site is deeply structured with content that answers prospect’s questions, works. With this approach, you are purchasing traffic so the problems with the form go away — you just tell your story online and let prospects opt in when they are ready.

To the untrained eye, that might appear to lower lead count. In reality, franchisors want buyers, not leads. A strong franchise opportunity website with a compelling story may decrease what we now call “leads,” but it actually increases buyers.  Finding franchise buyers is all that matters. That’s the game we are all playing.

Unfortunately, some brands still only have a franchise information page as part of their consumer website, or, if they have a separate website, they only have a handful of skimpy pages that look and read like an online brochure. Sending traffic to these types of websites won’t produce a better result. Think about it: If you’re interested in renting a beach house for vacation, you’ll spend more time considering the home that has 40 photos and a virtual tour than you will thinking about the home that has only a single photo. Buyers crave information, and buying traffic from a portal is smart if you’re publishing what people want.

I’d like to see a lot more flexibility from portals in the future, giving different brands whatever it takes to help that brand hit its expansion goals. I don’t think one advertising solution fits every franchisor.

I also think opening the funnel is smart —John Henning from Verified Franchise Leads did a recent study of several thousand leads and found that a staggering 70% of the information people entered on forms was inaccurate. We know this to be true, yet we hesitate to let go of the lead form.

Franchisors often are afraid to lose the fields because they fear the manpower in pre-qualifying leads manually. Salespeople, who have incentive to close deals, work the pipeline and don’t like wasting time working with ‘unqualified’ leads. Unfortunately, being able to sift through and qualify leads from all sources is an essential part of being a high-performance salesperson today. Saying you don’t want to work with unqualified leads is the same as saying you only want to buy winning lottery tickets — the world just doesn’t work that way.

Aside from much shorter and user-friendly forms, I would like to see portals send a detailed PDF to leads in an email auto-response that is geared towards how to contact the specific brand they requested information about, much the same way higher performance franchise websites do today. After all, unqualified leads are often opting in because they have questions the page doesn’t answer; they really just want information, not necessarily a conversation with the salesperson. Giving them a company-branded email tailored to that franchise just helps increase engagement.

Question 3: What role does salesperson performance play in portal advertising results?

EB: Here’s a fact few franchise salespeople realize: A large number of franchise broker leads start out as portal leads. Although not all brokers use portals for lead generation, many brokers advertise brands on portals to generate leads.

Brokers are closing deals with the same portal lead that you might get when you advertise. In fact, if you had advertised and were able to properly work the leads, you might have had that close.

Why is it that franchise brokers are much more successful in converting portal leads into closeable deals than the typical franchise salesperson? I would say it is because brokers treat portal leads differently than franchise salespeople. They call faster, they use systems to keep touching leads, and they do a lot more listening and fewer scripted conversations. It works.

Salespeople need to learn how to work a portal lead. It is very different from a company website lead and is typically less engaged and educated. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a lead you can have a conversation with, just that the sales skills and process are very different. After all, every existing franchisee started out as a tire-kicker at one point.

Most franchise salespeople follow a strict sales process and tend to treat all leads the same way — they make calls at the same times and have similar, scripted conversations with leads. Generally, they don’t distinguish the lead source or adapt much.

Franchise portal leads are typically less engaged and it takes more skill to produce closes — one of the reasons some salespeople close more from portals than others. The type of structure needed and the sales skills themselves are different because a portal profile page piques interest, but it doesn’t always drive engagement the way a company website might.

The biggest issue is the time it takes salespeople to respond, followed by the type of first and second conversations people have with a prospect. These affect performance the most. I’d like to see immediate call response — within 5 minutes if possible — and I think using a call screener with sales experience can make a huge difference.

I think few franchisors realize that a portal lead is a lead from a franchise directory and that the typical prospect is filling out an average of four forms at one time. Whoever calls first gets to work the lead.

If you are the first caller, you think the lead is amazing; the other three stragglers who don’t call quickly think the lead is awful and soon begin complaining about lead quality, when it was mainly a call response issue. I think that’s what brokers do much better — they don’t have to balance out working a pipeline of complicated deals about to close, they focus on the early pipeline calls and produce a more consistent result.

MA: I agree on call response. It is really no less shocking year after year to hear that almost 50% of the franchisors represented at Franchise Updates’s annual Leadership & Development Conference don’t call leads at all. I’d say we have an industry-wide problem not holding salespeople accountable for performance, and we lack the ability to properly track call performance.

Question 4: What is the future of franchise portals?

MA: From the standpoint of being the place that franchise seekers begin and continue their research to identify companies of interest, not much different than today. There will still be a prominent search interface, and visitors’ primary interaction will be within a paid directory.

How portals facilitate connections between info seekers and their advertisers will likely be changing, however. Things like ‘single-click’ inquiry and a direct path to an advertiser’s site or landing page will begin to replace the conventional inquiry form.

EB: Matt’s answer is spot on, as far as I’m concerned. What will have to evolve with these developments is better tracking and better communication between the franchisor and franchise portal.

TS: We are already seeing portals flex a ton when it comes to levels of advertiser content and in options for connecting prospects with brands. What’s going to change for franchise portals is the role they play in the research and discovery phase of learning about and researching franchise options.

I think prospects are looking for somewhat neutral, off-the-franchisor’s-website information about brands and have a need for detailed sources of comparative information. If you are curious about all the options for self-serve frozen yogurt, you can use a search engine but you may not see each brand equally represented. Franchise portals are going to continue to be important and have directories because of this.

I predict that the better franchise portals will evolve into editorial organizations, publishing a wide range of content about the industry and its segments. Prospects have an immense need for all types of content, and portals are in a unique position to offer this. I tend to think of a portal as a trade publication that happens to have a directory attached more than a directory with some occasional content. People gravitate towards what’s relevant and useful; if franchise portals embrace this, they will see an increase in quality lead generation.

Also, based on our own lead tracking, I suspect most portals are lagging behind in how they handle SEO and PPC. Buyers — people who are qualified and further along in the process — are using search engines in specific ways, often much more focused on individual categories and segments. Portals seem to miss this golden opportunity to target real buyers, and I suspect they’ll have to improve their SEO strategy over time.

Question 5: What can you do to get a better result from franchise portals?

MA: I’d open the funnel wider by using a much shorter form. Despite what franchisors want, longer forms do not equal higher quality leads. Shorter forms generate more inquires and overall more franchise buyers. Franchisors increase their opportunity to engage ready and willing prospects and build a bigger database of folks to continue marketing to as the franchise system grows.

I wouldn’t use financial data to qualify or prequalify candidates, either. Franchise buyers have money but rarely want to put accurate information on a form. If they are forced to, they often fail to complete the form at all and you miss your opportunity to earn a conversation. Widening the funnel creates more work for the franchise brands, but it’s worth the effort.

Here’s a potential lead engagement process for franchisor consideration:

Tell a short and inspiring brand story, supported by key data points about the franchise system, and make the call-to-action about opting in (short form — name/phone/email/zip code) to download more information. Then:

  1. Send real-time email verification message
  2. Send email with prompt to download an aptly named PDF — “<Company Name> Franchise Business Report” or “Introduction to <Company Name> Franchise Business”
  3. Tee up immediate phone follow-up on each prospect that downloads the PDF
  4. Use phone to set appointments for development reps
  5. Email appointment confirmation with link to page where prospect can enter some key questions he/she has, describe why they’re interested and believe they may be a good candidate for the franchise system, etc.
  6. Prior to call No. 1, development rep searches prospect name for LinkedIn or any other social network profiles
  7. Enable database email marketing campaign to all who don’t download PDF and to all where phone contact is unsuccessful, working leads until the buy or opt-out

This same process can be applied starting with information on the portal OR starting with information on a franchisor site or landing page that portal visitors link directly to.

EB: I think franchisors have to have immediate call response, within five minutes of the lead coming in. I’d use a call qualifier so you could have immediate contact. I think franchise salespeople are really far behind the curve when it comes to how important call response time is for leads.

I’d also make 3-5 callbacks over a short period of time. One to two calls spread over a week just isn’t enough to touch a portal lead.

Here’s how I’d respond to some common misconceptions about portal leads:

“I only want to speak with prospects who list their timeframe as 1–3 months.”  The timeframe field should be done away with. When a prospect is at the beginning stages of their search, they don’t know their timeframe. If they put “6 months or more,” all that means is they aren’t sure of their timeframe and they can’t envision themselves starting up any quicker. But the truth is, if they find the right opportunity and a quick path is laid out in front of them, that “6 months or more” can quickly become “3 months”.

“A prospect who doesn’t submit their correct phone number or mailing address can’t be a serious candidate.” There are many reasons a prospect may not submit their correct information. They could feel uncomfortable doing so on a site they’ve never heard of. (While the franchise industry knows most of the franchise portals very well, we are an unknown outside the industry.) Or, they’re just not ready for a phone call. They could just make a simple typo. Franchisors need to understand they are catching the prospect in the beginning stages of their search, and it’s up to the sales team to work the lead and make them serious.

“Information on a profile page is meant to sell my franchise opportunity.” This one page of text and images cannot be expected to sell the prospect. The best it can do is pique their interest. And that should be the goal. Pique their interest enough to get the prospect to want to learn more, at which time they’ll fill out the form and begin the exploratory process.

“I only want to speak with prospects that request information on my opportunity.” Statistically speaking, a shopper (of any product or service) is more likely to buy anything if they compare 3–5 options. I’ve personally kept a list of leads that have been reported back to me as conversions, and on average these individuals submitted 4.4 leads. Fewer than a third of these prospects submitted only 1 lead. It’s really just lazy to make this statement.  Kind of like saying, “I only want to talk to qualified prospects.” Sometimes some sales effort is necessary.

TS: I believe most franchisors underestimate the length and quality of content on the ad page. Start with having a professional brand storyteller craft your copy. You only have one chance to make your brand story stick with a prospect, and the better the story, the better the result. Start by reworking your copy and continue to rework it on a regular basis — you can’t really just post it and leave it. Use excellent quality, non-stock photos and embed a video if you have one.

For me, call response is crucial. If you are going to spend money on portals to generate leads, you HAVE to call leads as quickly as possible. In fact, you have to have the systems and talent to call them many times — coaxing a sale out of portal leads is very possible, but it takes more skill and structure than the average franchise recruiter possesses today. I’ve watched PostNet close regular deals from the same stream of portal leads that other clients get and complain about. Sure, there are tire-kickers and unqualified candidates and sure, it takes a lot of time and effort to work those leads, but if you execute well on the sales side, have a clear process, use an article-based website and call leads quickly, there are closes in the mix. PostNet recruiters just do a better job of not cherry-picking leads, and they don’t qualify candidates in or out of the process before talking to them; they just call every lead and start conversations, no matter what the lead source is or what the form data says.

I also recommend shortening the form so you have just name, email, phone, state and a message. I’m a fan of using a message field that says ‘tell us about yourself.’ I find you get better leads overall with this type of form than the long forms the industry tends to use. Long forms are just not consistent with how people buy franchises, and using them costs you more deals than you realize.

Don’t assume that the portal can create your ad copy for you or that the portal’s marketing department is a substitute for creating your brand story. Take responsibility for that and assume that you will have some cost associated with developing your portal copy. You wouldn’t let an outsider build your website without your involvement, and your portal page presence is just as important.

Don’t use the same copy on every portal – I recommend creating different versions of copy for each portal. It may share the same elements but it should offer visitors something unique. Prospects often visit more than one portal, anyway, so why not stand out?

Finally, the most important missing elements are simply transparency of data and feedback. Our lead generation clients get better results with portals because we maintain constant communication with the portals we work with. We let them know what portal leads are in our pipeline. We share conversion and lead source data. We let them know about closes. We ask questions about how many forms a particular lead filled out and we push portals to do more of the advertising that generated the good leads. I think if the communication was better between portals and franchisors, portals would understand which types of traffic pan out and which types don’t, and they could adapt. I often hear from portals that I’m one of the few people in franchising that shares data.

When sales don’t happen, the lead source is always the first to get the blame. Having worked with many teams, I can honestly say it is often a breakdown somewhere else that causes the result. Portal leads are not as good as a company website lead and it does take more leads to generate a close, but they are worth having in the mix. If you take the time to understand what they are and know how to work one correctly, you’ll see your closing rate climb.