E-Mail System Tracks Potential Franchisees for Restaurant Group

Allied Domecq Quick Service Restaurants is using the Internet to recruit new franchisees for its Dunkin' Donuts, Baskin-Robbins and Togo's brands.

The company is working with Franchise Solutions, Portsmouth, NH, on an automated e-mail system that handles inquiries on a range of sites on which Allied Domecq has advertised.

Called Sales Lead Pro, the product forwards potential franchisee requests via e-mail in real time to Allied Domecq. Simultaneously, the prospect is entered into the system, setting into motion a series of e-mails offering information about the franchise opportunities.

“The challenge is to help them identify the most motivated and qualified prospective franchise buyers on an accelerated timeline and, secondly, an opportunity to lower their costs associated with fulfillment expenses about franchisees,” said Matt Alden, general manager of Franchise Solutions.

Franchisers like Randolph, MA-based Allied Domecq typically get many inquiries. These requests are funneled through a fulfillment house. Often, even unqualified applicants receive an expensive franchise kit with the pertinent forms to complete and mail back.

“It's incredibly inefficient, and the costs associated with that approach are just prohibitive,” Alden said.

Allied Domecq received 19,500 leads in the past 12 months, mostly from a toll-free number. Of those, it signed only 86 as franchisees for 321 Dunkin' Donuts, Baskin-Robbins or Togo's stores. Of course, many of these came through offline means.

So, the company in July began running banner advertisements across leading franchise sites. Media was bought on franchisesolutions.com, bison.com, franchise-update.com, franchisehandbook.com, entrepreneur.com and the International Franchise Association's franchise.org.

Still, that did not address the issue.

“We get hundreds of leads from these places, but we really had no way of tracking whether they responded or what sort of action they took,” said Jane Litton, Northridge, CA-based franchise marketing manager at Allied Domecq.

“A lot of these places would send me a click-through rate, but I had no way of really seeing what these people that were visiting the site were doing,” she said. “Now I can go into Franchise Solutions and see how many referrals I got from each of these Web sites and whether they've clicked on 'For more information' or filled out an application.”

The Sales Lead Pro tracking system was installed a month ago. Its operation is simple. Once a prospect clicks on, say, a Dunkin' Donuts banner and fills out an information request form, the system automatically sends an e-mail. Based on the response, another e-mail kicks in.

In all, there are six e-mails. The first is an introduction to the brand. A second discusses real estate issues. Another e-mail has testimonials, links to an Allied Domecq site for more information and an online application. E-mails from the company franchise manager in the prospect's geographical area also go out as part of the system.

This back-and-forth is done over a few weeks if the dialogue continues.

Allied Domecq signed a six-month contract with Franchise Solutions, which recently launched franchisebuyer.com to connect prospects with franchisers. The restaurant chain pays about $5,750 for using the service, including e-mail set-up fee.

“We really are going to be able to track how effective our advertising is on different sites where we use this system,” Litton said.

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