There is no unicorn in Website design; best practices will vary by the brand
by Nick Powills
When evaluating 200 franchisor development sites, one major takeaway stood out – there is no standard blueprint for building a successful franchise development site.
Whether it is a one-page or multi-page experience, with little content or a ton of content, with blog posts or without – the conclusion of the panel of experts was that none of that mattered. The structure of a site was primarily valuable for the preference of the creator – not for the overall outcome of the site.
Since the structure of a site did not automatically dictate a significant increase in growth, the budget best practice was irrelevant, too. Of the 200 franchise sites evaluated, budgets varied drastically – with the highest reported budget for a franchise site coming in at around $150,000 and the lowest coming in around $5,000. The results between the $150,000 site buildout (creative, structure and technology) and the $5,000 site were minimal.
However, there were two consistencies that bubbled to the top of importance.
First, search engine marketing was more important than search engine optimization. A one-page experience site with little content was still able to make it to the top of Google page 1; the same place of that of a brand that spent $10,000 on SEO. Getting people into the site through interceptive tactics was the most important characteristic of making a development site really work. PR, marketing, advertising and social activities were the difference makers in traffic drivers – no matter how much was initially invested into the site.
Second, all the money invested into a site for structure, SEO and SEM was suddenly worth zero when validation and the brand’s positioning was subpar. Thus, the website, no matter how good, is just lipstick on a pig.
So, while many brands focus on building the landing spots of the brand (which are necessary), the order of importance seems backwards. Should you always have a place for inquiries if you are a franchise? Absolutely. Should you budget a crazy amount for it when your franchisee’s profitability is struggling or your franchisees are not validating? Maybe.
The answer is maybe because the sites that provided the best positioning were those that highlighted franchisees who validated through great videos and content. The sites that created the best stories were those that created great content around future growth plans – thus proactively answering the issues that may exist in discovery.
So, is your site a sales site or a development site? A sales site is simply there to take names, phone numbers and emails so your sales team can call, call and call again. A development site gives the prospect the tools to perform due diligence, helps them understand the “why” of your brand, teaches them what it will take to be successful and continues to motivate them to consider joining the brand. Development sites win.
So, what makes a great site? A great, easy to find form; easily visible financials (costs and potential profitability); franchisee highlights; and amazing SEM driving outside awareness of the brand, the brand’s positioning and the brand’s “why”. How much should you spend on the site? A good plan should be somewhere between $10,000 – $20,000. Save as much as possible for driving leads in and nurturing them with retargeting strategies.
Also, budget on an annual basis. Websites still cost a lot and you should be careful with the bells and whistles. What worked three years ago has changed. The opinions about tons of content has changed. And regulations (for example, for those with disabilities) is changing. Make sure your development site isn’t overly crazily built – so that you can be flexible with direction in the future without having to reconstruct the site from scratch.
Whether it’s the brands featured in 1851’s Franchise Website Awards; franchise or product consumer websites; or a simple site showcasing an agency – websites are expensive and change quite frequently – so, be careful in the way you invest into the foundation of your site.