Early Evidence Shows Franchise Development's Resilience to COVID-19's Effects

Lead generation could be the ultimate indicator in the current economic climate.

Especially with franchises, people seek to make big investments, and expect a business return on that. If they’re still considering such an opportunity, that’s not just a good sign, it’s a great sign.

Imagine somebody anticipating opening a franchise. That means they have money ready to spend, and so do their buyers. This represents an incredibly high level of consumer confidence, in two ways. First, the franchisee is spending this money to create this entity. And secondly, consumers must have confidence to buy at that particular location.

The sky may not be blue, but it’s not falling either.

Today we’re going to talk about the relationship between sales, leads, franchising and economic turbulence. If you haven’t washed your hands in the past hour, I’ll pause for a moment before continuing.

Examining the franchise journey

FranFunnel is in the lead nurturing business. Our technology helps bring prospects from being just a lead -- some contact information of an interested person -- and helps turn them into proper candidates. This is how FranFunnel helps sales and development professionals close more deals.

And thus far, we haven’t seen compelling evidence that this space has been disrupted yet, despite the current economic climate. There may be fewer leads, but from what we’ve seen, the engagement between potential investors, and the franchise development representatives, has not suffered.

Why is this the case? Here’s my hypothesis:

There are as many ways to approach how we act in this global business climate as there are people, but a helpful heuristic is thinking in terms of archetypes. Allow me to share two examples.

The first archetype is the extreme self isolator. This person wants to make sure they and as many others are isolated, and all business activity stops. Theoretically, if done to a perfect degree, this behavior could get everyone back to normal ASAP, but also brings the economy to a screeching halt in the interim.

The second archetype is the people who are saying, “We think everything should stay as it is. It’s business as usual around here and we’re not going to let this public health emergency keep us down. It’s unfortunate to have to weigh the unemployment of millions against the health risk of tens of thousands, but we’re going to keep going about our businesses, because the economy is just that important.”

Those are the two ends of the spectrum, and there’s a lot in between.

For better or for worse, the franchise community seems to attract and nourish people closer to the second camp. They believe we should not let this health risk cause an economic disaster; they have an immense amount of fortitude, and are excited to keep on carrying on. There is a commitment to keeping the economy, and their own personal way of life, moving forward as much as possible. This speaks volumes about the robust resilience of those working in the franchise space.

What the data story tells us:

Here at Franfunnel, we’re located in a densely populated city, at an epicenter of COVID-19, and we work for a technology company where our team has the capacity to upend our lives. Initially, with everyone working from home, it felt like something big was happening, and there was plenty of anxiety to go around. I was hoping to find something encouraging.

With my security clearance as Platform Lead, I have access to swaths of data, and can see actual human connections happening in real time on a massive scale. It’s not just the numbers, which are telling the part of the story about lead volume and engagement. I am able to analyze what people are actually saying. From my vantage point, I can watch every message, written out, come in to FranFunnel.

Franfunnel, as a reminder, is a messaging platform. We help franchisors communicate with people who are interested in becoming franchisees. They’re going back and forth with people with capital hoping to own a business. We watch these conversations play out all day, and it’s fascinating.

These deals ultimately usually close on the phone or in person. What we see in the text messaging is often a means to an end. Ultimately, this texting will turn into a phone call.

So what have I learned? What are the people researching investing a significant amount of money during this crisis, saying? Here are anonymous transcripts of messages that stood out to me and why:

To me, this data story is highly encouraging. How are your conversations going?

Uniquely positioning yourself for leverage

The bottom line is, of course, each business has to tackle these circumstances their own way. Franchisors are looking to the government to be bailed out, not unlike the auto industry in the past, and if that deal goes through, it could have a massive impact on millions of franchisors, franchisees and potential franchisees.

The ultimate upside in the franchise space is, you’re not alone. Whether you’re a franchisor, a franchisee, or someone who works in between, it’s not only in your interest to succeed, but it’s in the whole ecosystem’s interest that you succeed. Because if any one small business owner is struggling right now, they’re fortunate to be part of a community of many other identical businesses who are supported by a larger brand.

Does that mean it’s all blue skies ahead? Probably not.

But that same sky isn’t falling, at least, not yet, and not for people in the franchise community.

Eli Rosenthal is Platform Lead at Franfunnel. He lives in New York City, so maybe it's just the concrete jungle getting in the way of seeing the blue skies.

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