According to the Franchise Development Report, Internet leads are still the dominant source of franchise sales, but what are franchises missing by putting by all their eggs into the lead portal basket?

Buying a franchise is a lot like buying a car.

  • It’s an expensive purchase that is usually paid for with financing.
  • The sale typically can’t be completed without interacting with some kind of sales person.
  • The customer will browse many different opportunities before settling on one.

If you’ve purchased a car recently, you’ve probably noticed that the buying process has changed dramatically in the last decade.

Today, auto buying customers have it better than ever before because, almost entirely because of the internet. It used to be that if you wanted a car, you went to the local dealership of the brand of your choice, and eventually drove off with whatever they had on the lot. Maybe you had a choice of colors, but maybe you didn’t. Perhaps the color you wanted didn’t include the features you’d prefer. In whatever case case, you ended up compromising on something.

Way back at the beginning of car buying, Henry Ford said that customers could have his Model Ts in any color they wanted, as long as it was black. In many ways, franchise buying is still just just like this.

Today, customers have much more information at their fingertips than ever before. With just the click of a mouse, they can customize a car to their exact specifications and either order it configured perfectly directly from the factory, or find the exact one they want at a specific dealership.

They can review and compare safety ratings, professional reviewers insights and other customers’ feedback — all from the privacy of their own home computer or smartphone.

They can also purchase buying guides from companies like Consumer Reports that reveal the previously secret pricing numbers that car salesmen use, and so then, instead of negotiating down from the price listed on the car’s window, they can negotiate up from the actual dealership’s price for the automobile.

There are even flat rate auto dealerships, where you can buy a car without an negotiation or selling at all.

Franchise buying is a lot like car buying before the internet. In fact, it’s a lot like buying a black Model-T from Henry Ford. Potential franchisees are expected to complete information request forms just to receive the most basic information on a specific franchise. Their information is then sold by lead generation portals to franchise companies, who’s salespeople then constantly badger the potential franchisee in an attempt to close the sell.

Prospective franchise buyers want information. They want to know who runs the franchise, what it’s like to be a franchisee, what locations are available, and how buying into the franchise will affect their lives. Not only that, they want to find out what other people think of the franchise, what other franchisees like and dislike, and what the outside would thinks of the franchise.

According to our unpublished research, hiding this kind of information behind lead generation forms turns off thousands of potential franchisees per year. Buying a franchise isn’t the only option for starting a business, and potential entrepreneurs know it. Business opportunities and business for sale are two, less restrictive options, while creating a startup from scratch is another.

If franchisors keeps selling franchises like Model-Ts, they’ll continue to loose thousands of sales per year.