Balancing Your Trade Show Exhibiting and Educational Goals
Maximize your trade show investment with clear objectives, attainable goals.
By Renee Israel
When the trade show floor opens and the exhibition hall is filled with attendees, franchisors are faced with the challenge of reaching their exhibiting goals. Traditionally, your main objective is to put your brand in the limelight with prospects, generate awareness and ultimately award a franchise. But if you only approach trade shows with sales goals in mind, you are likely missing a multitude of educational opportunities that could maximize your overall learning experience. Whether franchisors attend the International Franchise Expo, West Coast Franchise Expo or Franchise Expo South, the most successful trade show exhibitors actively prepare for and invest in their success by balancing both their exhibiting and education goals.
Granted, you do not want to participate in a trade show with a laundry list of objectives that will split your focus and limit your team’s effectiveness. However, in order to maximize your investment, it would be beneficial to meet with your team in advance of the show to set clear objectives and identify attainable goals — both for the company and individual team members.
Certainly, you all want to collect leads, but if there is a chance to add another layer of ROI and increase the value of your brand — do it. The right goals and the right shows will take your brand, and team, to new heights and help defend your attendance expenditure.
Maximizing your Booth Strategy
Booth space at trade shows can be limited and carry a hefty price tag; therefore, it is critical to be strategic with booth set-up to capitalize on the opportunity. While verbal messaging and interacting with prospective franchisees face-to-face is a key selling tactic, a visually appealing booth display is just as important in showcasing your brand and the franchise opportunity. An organized, clean booth will attract more attention, allowing you to pull attendees in to give them more information about your franchise opportunity.
Franchisors should also think “out-of-the-box” for unique ways to enhance their booth display. For example, Doc Popcorn, now part of Fischer Enterprises, will showcase a side-by-side booth with another company brand, Dippin’ Dots, at the 2015 International Franchise Expo. As a result, each brand doubles the company’s presence and exposure.
Smaller emerging franchisors can also get in on the action by finding similar concepts to share space and even cut costs. Food concepts also have an easy way to entice attendees to stop by their booth. Doc Popcorn wafts an enticing aroma across the trade show floor by popping fresh popcorn to sample. Brands that do not have the option of offering its products must get creative and build in interactive elements at their booths that invite prospects to check them out.
Managing Time to Give Back and Network
For established franchisors, trade shows are perfect platform to give back and help other emerging franchise brands and aid candidates seeking to learn more about becoming their own bosses. When prioritizing your educational goals, consider purposeful speaking engagement opportunities that allow you to position your brand as a leader. You never know who might be in attendance and what networking opportunities may arise while you are giving back to the franchise community and helping future owners find their way.
Not all business opportunities stem from interactions between the exhibitor and the attendee. In fact, some of your most valuable contacts might be with other exhibitors. By taking the time to chat with them, you might discover opportunities for various partnerships and strategic alliances. It is essential to manage your time and allow for these types of interactions, either at networking events or by making causal appearances at their booths. This can go a long way in establishing invaluable relationships and opportunities that might have otherwise gone undiscovered. For example, I make a point to review exhibitor lists in advance and choose at least three new people to meet that can help me reach my conference goals.
Identifying Educational Seminars that Align with your Goals
Trade shows provide a forum for one of the most comprehensive franchising learning experiences. Industry experts host educational symposia geared toward every stage of the journey. In order to effectively balance your educational goals, your team must review the seminar and symposia offerings and identify and prioritize which make the most sense for your brand at your current phase of development. Encourage team members “to divide and conquer,” and jot down key takeaways so everyone can regroup after the expo to discuss lessons learned and best practices that could be beneficial to implement.
This will take time and due diligence but will maximize efficiency once the show opens. For example, the International Franchise Expo offers more than 70 free seminars along with nine in-depth symposia. Some of the topics are Structures and Operational Strategies for Successful Expansion within the USA, Moving Intelligently into International Expansion, 5 Habits of the Highly Successful Franchise System, Best Practices for Developing your System with Multi-Unit Operators, Master Franchising/Three Party Franchising and more. Be strategic; ascertain what has the most value for your brand right now? Doc Popcorn will put a strong focus on its international development and therefore will be attending symposia such as The Use of Master Franchising Domestically and Internationally.
Trade Show Team Scheduling
A good trade show provides a constant stream of traffic. With upwards of 19,000 attendees roaming the show floor, it is absolutely critical you have enough people to operate your booth and attend various educational events. Having the right quantity and quality of people on your expo team is essential in balancing schedules to achieve both your exhibiting and educational goals.
By mapping a clear schedule for each member of your team, you will ensure that there is balance for your expo goals. There is nothing better than being able to meet prospects in person and begin establishing a relationship. However, at the same time, by walking the show floor, attending seminars, and networking, you can assemble valuable information about everything from new competitive threats to industry trends to clever marketing strategies. Without a clear schedule, these opportunities may slip through the cracks.
Trade shows such as the International Franchise Expo, West Coast Franchise Expo, and Franchise Expo South provide the platform for your brand to make the most of these opportunities. However, it is your responsibility to be diligent with your pre/post-show efforts to maximize results and reach your desired goals.
Renée Israel is the co-founder and a senior director of Doc Popcorn. Find her at fransocial.franchise.org.