The Franchise Sales Solution’s John Armatas Shares How He Brings Together Qualified Entrepreneurs and Franchise Brands (Part 1 of 2)

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photo2If you’re a franchisor, I know you’re looking for qualified franchisees. I also know how difficult this task is, and it’s only getting harder. I had the pleasure of meeting with John Armatas, principal at The Franchise Sales Solution. I talked to him about how his company helps franchisors rise above this difficult situation. This is a two-part interview. Tune in next week for the conclusion.

 David: Explain to us what The Franchise Sales Solution offers the franchise community, please.

John: Sure, we are a full-service sales company. We’re not brokers, even though we do play that role from time to time. To some degree, we like to see ourselves in the “back of the house” for a franchisor and their franchise operations. We do the work to help up-start and well-established brands grow strategically and rapidly by bringing them qualified entrepreneurs who are ready for the right franchise opportunity. We can do this because of our many years of experience in the franchise industry. We have developed a system to match the right prospect with the right franchise. Even though we operate independently from our clients, I tell folks they should feel like we’re just two doors down from the founder’s office. We’re providing what they would have in-house but just as an outside provider.

David: Tell me about your background and how you got into franchising.

John: I spent the first part of my career with the YMCA. A good friend of mine, at the time, owned a franchise called The Entrepreneur Source. It piqued my interest in owning my own business. He guided me through a sales process, evaluating a number of franchises to see if one was a good fit for me. Eventually, I decided to purchase a Fast Signs franchise. It’s interesting because what my friend taught me back then has been instrumental in guiding what I’m doing today. I really liked the way he walked me through the process. I never felt like I was being pushed into a brand. I was being guided and counseled through the purchase of a franchise. After I purchased the Fast Signs business, which I owned for eight years, I gradually moved into franchise development and really focused on the sales side. We purchased The Franchise Sales Solution in 2010. My in-roads into the business were actually as a franchise owner with Fast Signs. That started my passion for this business.

David: So, you actually purchased The Franchise Sales Solutions; you didn’t start that from scratch?

John: It was a business in name only. There wasn’t anything going on with it. I was part of a development company, but nothing was happening on the franchise sales side even though the company was setting there. I decided to purchase the rights to the sales side because I thought that was where I was best suited.

David: Let’s talk about your company and the kind of clients who are a good fit for your business.

John: We are most able to help franchisors who are busy running their day-to-day operations and their company store, dealing with the operations of their franchise system. The ideal fit is a franchisor who is looking for someone to come in and take over the sales process and integrate it with their operations and their team. It’s important for us to be seen as part of the team from the very beginning. We make a real effort to get to know as many of the staff as we can, either on the operational side or the franchise side from marketing to training so that we can better understand what they do and how they do it. We’re focused on the kind of client who doesn’t want to worry about his franchise sales strategy or process but would rather turn it over to someone who he knows is going to take care of it for him and, hopefully, qualify people and bring to the forefront those best suited to his opportunity. So, we do our due diligence and don’t bring prospects to our clients to talk to until well into the process. That’s by design. We want to involve the franchisor at the right time to get the prospect excited and not bog down the franchisor in details they don’t want or shouldn’t have to deal with.

David:  When you are interviewing a client, before you agree to represent them, what gives you an idea of whether or not they are a good fit for what you do?

John: First and foremost, we try to determine what the client is looking to do. Obviously, they are looking to outsource their franchise sales side, but why? Knowing the answer to that question is really important. That guides us to see if they are going to be a good fit. If their perspective on it is that their in-house sales guy isn’t doing a good job or they don’t want to spend the money to have an in-house person do the job, that’s not necessarily indicating to us that the client recognizes what we bring to the table. Ideally, our clients look to us because they recognize that they aren’t experts in franchise sales and we are. They want our team of experts to help them grow their brand. Then, we dive into the roles of who is going to be doing what in this synergistic world of theirs. Whom will we be working with? If it’s just the CEO, that’s limiting for us. We need to be involved and have a direct line of communication with different people in the client’s organization. We want an expansive role that enables us to be engaged.

Five Calls-To-Action That Drive Website Conversion

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Driving leads down your sales funnel is the heart and soul of any lead generation program.  A productive call-to-action strategy can make the difference in meeting your monthly traffic-to-lead conversion objectives.

Here is a list of five ways to use call-to-action to help with your website conversion program.

1.  Content

Content offers like e-books, white papers, booklets, and brochures not only provide a valuable trade (the prospect’s contact information in return for the free content) but also help with building interest and moving the prospect down the sales funnel. Different types of content yield varying results.  This is called “progressive profiling” where value and a measurement of interest are placed on the significance of the content.  For example, a prospect who opts to enter a contest is not as valuable as one who downloads information on how to get financing. As you read though this blog post, I’ll take you through various stages of a progressive profiling strategy, from very low commitment call-to-action form grabbers to high level of interest prospects.

2.  Contests

If you are seeking to grow you database, contests are a great way to go. Have fun with it, but be sure that the contest has some relevance to your brand.  Surveys, questionnaires, and social media driven photo contests work well. Be sure to set your objectives, prize(s), and promotional options before you start.

3. Subscriptions

As I mentioned earlier, if you are using progressive profiling as a strategy to qualify your leads, a newsletter is a great way to generate a low-commitment introduction to your brand requests. Use a mini-form to capture the lead’s name and e-mail address, and segment this database for future nurturing.

4. Video Series

Video series content is a powerful offer that combines telling your brand’s story with client testimonials. Anticipate questions that prospects have about your brand and gear the videos as frequently asked questions.

5. Tour and Webinar

Prospects who take your tour and attend a webinar are, of course, your hottest and most engaged.  These leads are at the bottom of your lead generation funnel and ready to be integrated into your CRM.

Eight Tips To Improve Your E-mail Delivery Rate

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I have recently received multiple inquiries regarding how to design and deploy effective e-mail campaigns.  I have three thoughts I’d like to share on the matter.  First, you can review my previous posts on the subject by reading through the Lead Generation category of my blog.  Second, sign up for my free booklet 34 Ways to Improve Your E-MailFinally, follow my top eight tips below to help you increase your delivery rate. We all know the more e-mails you can deliver, the better the results. Be sure to share what you have learned as well!

  • Keep your e-mail short, which makes it appear more powerful while also making the e-mail more deliverable.
  • Stay away from spam detector giant images.  Eliminate Flash and JavaScript as well.
  • Write a subject line that fulfills a benefit to your target audience.
  • Sign the e-mail with a valid e-mail address.
  • ALL CAPS IS A REAL NO-NO, as it’s usually flagged as spam.
  • Words like FREE, for only, bonus, no-investment, and so on are what I call “spammy” words that can affect your delivery rate.
  • Add color to your links. And, make sure your link to is to a valid location.
  • Use title links as an alternative to “click here.”

Three Helpful Ways To Segment Your Leads

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There are an almost endless number of ways to segment your leads.  However, for the purposes of the One-Minute Lead Generator, I’ll walk you through my three most important and key parts of my lead generation funnel: (1) Attract (2) Activate, and (3) Acquire.

1.  Attract

In order to generate leads, you need to drive traffic to your website.  Attracting attention is the process of creating traffic to your website through connecting a marketing message to your target audience.  My previous posts have outlined multiple ways to attract traffic, and I encourage you to spend a few minutes reviewing these tactics.

2.  Activate

Simply put, any prospect you targeted through multiple digital and traditional marketing strategies and impactful messaging who virtually raised their hand and said, “I might be interested in speaking with you” I call “Activated” leads. In most cases, this is the process of a lead spending time on your website and visiting multiple pages, maybe taking a tour of your franchise offer. Or maybe they may have just opened an e-mail or provided you with their name and e-mail address. Hopefully, the lead asked you for more information.  Maybe, if you’re lucky, they asked you to contact them.  But, in most cases, this is the first step in what I like to call “progressive profiling.”

The good news is that if you have captured their name and e-mail address (maybe their phone number, too), you have a way to contact them to determine if this lead is worth moving to the next step of the marketing funnel.

3.  Acquire

A lead is “Acquired” when they have taken the next step in the funnel. For example, maybe the prospect has provided more information about himself (i.e. business, title, money they have to invest, etc.). Or perhaps they downloaded a white paper, eBook, or signed up for your blog. In any case, they have provided you with their contact information as well as taken some “action” that suggests that they have some level of interest but are not quite ready to buy.

Before the age of marketing automation and CRM, you might have just “sprayed and prayed,” sending these leads an e-mail or (if budget permitted) sending a mailer using traditional postal mail and then praying for good results. Luckily, today’s marketing technology allows you to segment, target, and run multiple campaigns to this group based on real-time information.

It’s very important to focus your marketing efforts to this group.  You never know when they are going to be ready to buy. Stay after them! Test various offers. Split the group into two and test one offer against another (A/B Testing).  I like to recommend to my clients that this group have a 21-day shelf life.  What I mean is test at least one campaign weekly for a 21-day period. If you do not get the traction you seek, move them into a sub group I call the “keep in touch” group. Then periodically send a note, testimonial, or offer that will eventually help get them engaged.

If you have the resources, Acquired leads should be followed up by a trained Lead Qualification Specialist.  The purpose of a Lead Qualification Specialist is to contact the prospect and determine if they meet your brand’s qualification criteria.  Remember, not all leads are necessarily worth your time and money.  Have a list of questions to ask the inquiry to ensure that they meet your qualifications. Then, after the Lead Qualification Specialist has completed the initial inquiry, prospects can be handed off to the Account Sales Executive for further qualification, relationship building, and turning the inquiry into a customer.

I also recommend that all Acquired leads be entered into your CRM.  Using CRM to track and further contact these “leads in the pipeline” with direct contact and e-mail will help accelerate deal flow and cut the time it takes to close a sale.

What To Do With The Non- Responders

If you have ever done any direct marketing, you know that 99% of your target does not respond.  And that’s on a good day!  Don’t give up!  Segment your No Response Group out for future marketing campaign testing. Test text style e-mail, graphics, multiple messages, and offers. Your goal is to move this group up the marketing funnel – Inquiry to Evolution, Evolution to Empower, Empower to Client!