Understanding The Buying Decision Process

New Year, New Career? It’s January, the start of a brand new year and historically January is a month when franchisors are flooded with an influx of  inquiries from potential recruits whose New Year resolutions include looking for a new career or challenge, seeking a change in direction or simply trying to escape a role that they hate!

And with franchisee recruitment becoming increasingly competitive, the new year brings with it an excellent opportunity for franchisors to review their franchisee recruitment methods and processes. There’s so much competition out there that a savvy franchisor must ensure that they are standing out in a crowded marketplace where their franchise offering is likely to be compared with their competitors, scrutinised and pulled apart before a decision (if any) is made.

Investing in a franchise is likely to be one of the most significant purchases that an individual will ever make, and a potential franchisee should be viewed as any other consumer buying a product. The philosopher and psychologist John Dewey back in 1910 introduced us to the concept of the Five-Stage Consumer Buying Decision Process and that Process can provide a very useful reminder to franchisors reviewing their recruitment methods and looking to make the most impact at each stage of the prospective franchisee thought process.

The five buying stages are :

  1. Identifying the need/pain point
  2. Research, research, research
  3. Evaluating the options
  4. Making the decision
  5. Post Purchase Behaviour

When buying anything significant, we research, research and then research some more!  According to the principles of marketing, a consumer will demonstrate high involvement or low involvement in the process of buying. Low involvement products are routine things we buy without giving much thought to it, as the consequences of making the decision to buy say the wrong brand of spaghetti or shower gel aren’t likely to be very far reaching!

By contrast, high-involvement products are often expensive or carry a high level of risk – and for most potential buyers the purchase of a franchise would tick both of those boxes. In a high involvement purchase, the buyer has a requirement for a significant amount of information before any direct engagement, and in this day and age this translates into a significant amount of time carrying out online research.

Hand in hand with today’s need for instantly available online information and research material, we have the growing reluctance on the part of many of us these days to directly communicate with another human being – at least at stages 1-3 of the buying process! Even though we have our mobile phones glued to our hands, most people’s preferred forms of contact involve text message or email rather than picking up the phone and having a conversation. Even then the contact must be timely and unobtrusive.

Add then into the mix our desire for positive reviews and recommendations to reinforce our opinions – as consumers we want reassurance from others who have quite literally been there, done that and worn the T shirt!

So what does this all mean for franchisors and how they set out to win over potential franchisees?

It means that a switched-on franchisor will ensure that all of the initial information needed is readily available online (presumably on their franchise website) for any prospective franchisee find easily, in their own time and on their terms and without having to make a direct approach.  A potential franchisee will want to know in a nutshell what the business is, how much the franchise costs, what’s included, what support is available, and of course the likely income. They will also need to know how the franchise opportunity in question stands apart from the competition – what are the USPs of the business and franchise package?

Once their interest is piqued, the potential buyer will enter the research phase. And this is where having an Ideal Franchisee Persona comes into play. A franchisor should know who their target franchisee is, what their needs and desires are, what type of language they use and what appeals to them. Knowing where their target franchisee is hanging out online will allow a franchisor to make sure that targeted and engaging content is carefully placed in just the right places so that the consumer stumbles across it whilst doing their research homework.

Following on from the initial research stage, a potential buyer will then seek out reviews. These should also be readily available online and in the right places. And because people buy from people – online video content sharing franchisee stories can be invaluable.

With the online research done and reviews digested, a potential franchisee will then to carry out the evaluation process – considering a number of different options, stacking them up side by side and reviewing the pros and cons of each. From this they will go on to draw up a “shortlist” of  potential suitors. During this stage, the aim of the franchisor should be to continue to drip feed targeted and engaging content to continue to remain in the prospect’s consciousness, wet their appetite and ultimately persuade the prospective recruit to take the next step towards some direct contact and meaningful discussions. In some franchise sectors there may be dozens of companies who are offering very similar products/services and franchise opportunities. And at this point it’s the franchisor’s story, personality and the relationships behind the brand and within the team that could very well win the day – and the franchisee!


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