The Top of the Funnel

Lead Generation

If you are a franchise sales & development professional, you likely already know that you can’t put two franchisors in a room without this subject coming up! Should you use portals or not? Are brokers worth every penny, a necessary evil, or a bane to our industry? Is Content Marketing the new PPC? There are as many opinions on lead generation as there are people in our industry!

I am of the belief that all forms of lead generation have merit. The key to franchise sales is understanding that not all leads are created equal. Portal leads are often just starting on the thought process, whereas broker leads have already gone through several time-intensive steps.


Many searches for franchises on the Internet lead to one of the popular portals; Franchise Gator, Franchise Direct, BizBuySell, and others. I believe that presence on the top performing portals is essential to any good franchise development plan.

“Wait,” you say, “I have heard portal leads are a waste of time!” I am sure, if you have been speaking with other franchisors, you have heard something like this. Why? Because portal leads require A LOT of work. They require relentless follow-up. If you don’t have the wherewithal or staff to follow up on these leads properly, you are wasting your money and should consider other sources. However, with a proper franchise sales process, they are definitely a benefit, and I have personally sold hundreds of units this way.

Franchise Shows

Trade shows allow you to interact with 15,000 or more in a three-day period; Individuals paying for the right to speak with you. That is the exact scenario with a national franchise show. These are really a no-brainer for a robust requirement strategy. Again, though, you have to execute correctly.

I am constantly shocked when I attend franchise show and see exhibitors that spend between $5,000 and $10,000 to attend, sitting on a chair in their booths looking at their phone. Franchise shows are exhausting, painful, and lucrative. If you don’t have the first two, you won’t have the last one.


Brokers, coaches, consultants—they are known by many names. Basically, franchise brokers are responsible for generating their own leads, and they refer interested parties to franchisors. If their referrals end up purchasing your franchise, you will pay them a substantial fee, typically a minimum $20,000 but often more.

In my opinion, most franchise broker systems are worth it for most franchisor, with some exceptions. Many young franchisors should not pay the $10K+ initial investment that some of the higher-end portals charge, and some brands are either so niche or have such slow growth plans that the broker networks just don’t work for them.

If you chose to work with brokers, and I think most franchisors should, then you need to learn how. This is not a set-it-and-forget-it model, though it is often treated as such. I recommend that, once you list with a broker network, you get in touch with as many of their individual brokers as you can. Share your passion with them. Learn about them. Also, most of the networks have conventions each year, and you should attend. This is an event to send your top salespeople AND at least one C-level individual.

On-Location Recruiting

If your franchised businesses have a physical location, such as a retail store or restaurant, incorporating franchise recruitment into your build-out and store design can be a boon to franchise sales. In 2009, Quiznos® estimated that 70% of its franchise inquiries came from on-location recruitment, simply from the “now franchising” tag at the bottom of the company’s napkins and drink cups.

A good way to augment on-location recruiting is to offer a small incentive to franchisees that refer prospective candidates, and also give recognition to them. Depending on the costs of your franchise, a small spiff of between $500-$2,000 back to the franchisee who refers a successful candidate can go a long way in producing these kinds of leads. It is imperative that any such franchisee incentive program be reviewed and approved by your franchise counsel, however, as too much of an incentive can turn your franchisees into defacto franchise sales people, triggering all sorts of franchise laws.


Thee are many other methods of lead procurement, including social media, print publications, on-location recruiting, your corporate website, etc. These are covered in great detail, along with sample budget ranging from the low thousands to the high hundreds of thousands, in the book How and Why to Franchise Your Business.

Lead Source Tracking

This is something I see missing from many franchisors; tracking the actual source of a lead. It’s important to understand that, as an example, while it is very possible that someone came to you website by searching best ____ franchise, it is equally possible that they saw you (as applicable) on a franchise portal, in a magazine, or visited one of your locations. It is imperative that for every candidate you speak with, you discover where their first exposure to your brand was, and what prompted their inquiry.

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