By Joel Goldstein
Statistics can be quite convincing. Companies use them all the time to suit their needs, usually to support the need for their product or service (i.e., “One out of every 10 dentists recommend our toothpaste” or “Over 90 percent of Americans’ diets are dangerously lacking in calcium,” says the calcium supplement company). The problem is that stats have been so overused; people have become desensitized to them.
That’s why, when it comes to franchise development, experts can throw out all the stats about what methods work better to help attract quality leads and convert them to sales, but often the strongest way to illustrate the most effective approach is the good old-fashioned real-life anecdote – success stories involving real franchisors and prospects.
So here it goes, true story, as told directly by Tony Foley, President, United Franchise Group Services: “We met with a couple on the first morning of the IFE, and by the afternoon, they had returned to our booth with the completed profile application for being our new Master Franchisee for Sign*A*Rama in the country of Jordan. They came specifically to meet with us, this was the concept they wanted.”
Kim Nunez, Development Manager of Global Franchise Group, reported that her company had invited a prospect that they had been speaking with for about 4 weeks prior to the West Coast Franchise Expo. The prospect showed up at the Expo with all his paperwork, a business plan in hand, and bought a Marble Slab Creamery. She had the opportunity to connect him with their real estate development manager, as well as the Vice President of the company in their booth.
At last year’s IFE, nearly 8,000 domestic and international visitors came to explore and talk business with 200 franchise companies, each offering a wide range of opportunities at virtually every investment level. Here, success stories like the two told above are plentiful – too many, in fact, to include in a single magazine article.
Such examples are becoming key drivers of the industry trend toward franchise expos, mostly due to the power of face-to-face interaction. Attendance at all MFV expos continues to climb among both prospects and franchisors alike. While prospects realize the value of attending expos to more deeply investigate the brands of interest and actually look their future potential franchisor directly in the eye, more franchisors are re-allocating funds to exhibit.
Franchising is, and always will be, about establishing and building relationships. At expos, prospects can put a face, a voice and an “aura” around the person they’ve been communicating with over the phone, email or social media. Similarly, franchisors view expos as a way to seal the deal with their internet leads. Bottom line, franchise deals are often seeded on the Internet, nurtured on the phone, and sealed at the expo once a voice and face can be tied together.
For many emerging franchisors, expos are considered powerful tools to create brand awareness, as well as network and learn with other franchisors. Often, the peers they meet at franchise expos develop into long-lasting professional relationships. Many new and established franchisors, as well as prospects, also value expos for the educational benefits they offer. At last year’s IFE, over 30 free educational sessions were conducted during the event on topics that included franchising basics and ways to obtain financing.
With budgets still tight, franchisors can take several steps to maximize ROI of the expos they attend. First, they should be choosy about which expos to attend. Factors to consider include the target audience, opportunities for meeting quality leads, the credibility of the hosting organization and networking opportunities with other franchisors. It’s wise to conduct due diligence by asking others around the industry which expos have been most beneficial for them on all levels.
Exhibitors who get the best results tend to do some prep work before the expo. To set themselves up for success, several weeks before attending, they will seek out leads in the area and target them with direct mail, advertising and public relations, thus creating more qualified leads once they arrive and set up their booth.
For example, Greg Delks, Director of Franchise Development for Firehouse Subs, takes several measures to set the lead-drive stage before the IFE.
“We didn’t just meet the people walking the show – we sent a pre-expo email invitation to our database of prospects to drive additional traffic right to our booth,” Delks said. “The quality of people that are here are educated and ready to buy a franchise. Nothing beats the face-to-face opportunity of being here at the IFE. It’s the best way to start a relationship. We see the IFE as our chance to build long term relationships with the best candidates to grow our business.”
The most “successful” exhibitors also have a positive attitude at the show. Conversations with prospects or peers should showcase the exhibitor’s excitement for the brand they’re representing, as well as positive discussions around the franchising model in general. Prospects are attracted to and can sense genuine positive aura, so it should emanate from your booth.
Finally, follow-up is a huge factor contributing to expo ROI. Promptly follow up with prospects and provide requested information as soon as possible. Expectations also need to be properly set. Often, it can take attendance at multiple shows and continuous follow-up to strike the ultimate deal, according to Dave Schaefers, Senior Vice President of Franchise Development at Driven Brands.
“We haven’t just met with new prospective franchisees at West Coast Franchise Expo, we’ve met with people that we’ve met with a year ago, six months ago who are still considering buying a business and who have gone through our process and remain interested,” Schaefers said. “We have met with folks who have been in our pipeline, and WCFE was a great opportunity to reconnect with these prospects. Either you’re in the business or your not. We’re in franchising for the long haul. If we don’t award a new franchisee at the expo this year, we’ll get one next year.”
Whether it’s to increase brand awareness, meet a certain number of realistic potential prospects to start the conversation process, or to seal the deal with a prospect a franchisor has already been working with, expos provide an ideal environment. No matter how many “conversations” you’ve had over the phone, via email or on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social networks, nothing beats a straight-up, eye-to-eye conversation. However, expos are not magic bullets – like anything else, preparation, positive attitude and diligent follow-up with prospects will maximize your investment.
Joel Goldstein is the group marketing director at MFV Expositions, the producer of leading franchise events worldwide. email@example.com
Trade Delegation to
International Franchise Expo,
Washington D.C. USA
April 1-3, 2011
The mutually beneficial relationship that exists between franchisors and franchisees makes franchising unique in the world of business. It provides entrepreneurs with an affordable means of accelerating expansion and achieving development goals more quickly than might otherwise be the case, and with far less risk. Similarly, franchisees have a head start because of the support provided by the franchise system. Franchising means being in business for yourself but not by yourself. Whether it’s accounting and financing, advertising and public relations, personnel management, purchasing, or inventory control, franchisors are there to provide “hands on,” one-to-one assistance. While franchising does provide opportunities, it does not create miracles. Franchisees combine knowledge and resources with entrepreneurial drive and spirit to form a business relationship unique to franchising. Franchising is a field of expanding economic opportunity in which each and every person can play a part based on talent, initiative, and dedication – International Franchise Association
The United States Embassy in Kuala Lumpur is organizing a trade delegation to the International Franchise Expo. The International Franchise Expo (www.IFEInfo.com) April 1-3, 2011 is one of the largest and most important annual tradeshow in the United States for the Franchising industry. U.S Embassy delegates will have the opportunity to meet face-to-face with executives of the exhibiting franchisors and to attend free seminars as well as other symposia sessions from the world’s leading franchise experts. Please visit IFE’s website for a complete list of exhibitors.
The US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur led IFE delegates will receive:
50% discount off symposia
Assistance in setting up Meetings with participating exhibitors
Invitation to a reception during the weekend of the event
Access to the International Business Center
Separate Registration to pick up visitor badges
Contact us today to connect with the best U.S. Suppliers.
For more information on participating in IFE 2011, please contact
Tracy Yeoh at phone: 60-3-2168-5089 or email: Tracy.Yeoh@trade.gov
Embassy of the United States of America,
U.S. Commercial Service,
376 Jalan Tun Razak
P.O. Box 10035,
50400 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 60-3-2168-5089, Fax: 60-3-2142-1866