Jamshaid Hashmi, vice-president of franchise development for Toronto-based consulting company WSI Digital Marketing, discussed the rise in popularity of scannable QR codes, LinkedIn profiles, and mobile marketing such as text messaging - which has led to the decline of traditional marketing techniques such as print media or the Yellow Pages phone book.
"Beyond propping you up to see over your desk, I don't see the value of it," Mr. Hashmi said, adding that San Francisco banned the unsolicited distribution of the directory last year.
Mr. Hashmi helped to grow his company from 100 to more than 1,000 franchises in 80 countries, and did so by tracking and measuring user activity.
"(Page) hits are a stupid metric to measure," he said. "If you measure hits, I think you stopped in kindergarten."
Similar to a "like" on Facebook, the information is useless if you're not measuring how users act on that action. People need to be exposed to a brand 5.6 times, Mr. Hashmi's market research suggests, before making an actionable decision.
Franchisors need to have a website devoted entirely to franchise development, and should think of themselves as the publisher of a newspaper when posting online content. Daily, relevant posts such as a blog entry should be published, but if that's not possible then posts should be consistent - one every week or month. Not only does this encourage users to return to the website, but it trains Google algorithms to keep checking the site for new content.
Amidst a changing marketing landscape, some things have remained the same.
Regardless of whether one franchise per town is enough, franchisors should always offer referral fees, Mr. Hashmi said, because they are a great source of new franchisees.
It's also important for franchisors to use brokers, despite the increase in their fees which can be upwards of $20,000 per deal. Regardless, around 50 per cent of WSI's new franchisees come from brokers, the other 50 per cent split between franchisee referrals and online lead generation.
Without a broker, many a deal will be lost because of them lobbying against you and casting doubt in potential franchisors' minds, Mr. Hashmi said.
"These guys were trained to kill deals," he said.
Even if franchisors haven't noticed any improvements when using new media, it's not that the technology doesn't work.
"It's just that your current strategy doesn't work," Mr. Hashmi said.
It was the second meeting of "the ‘Zors" - Ottawa franchisors looking to network and learn more about the local franchise landscape - hosted by Welch LLP. Their next meeting is planned for September.