Growing the Economy, One Trade Show at a Time
Events like the IFE provide a perfect forum for franchisors to showcase development plans and growth.
It’s no surprise that franchising accounts for a large part of the recovering American economy by contributing significantly to two critical elements, job creation and GDP. The franchise industry outperformed the economy as a whole in 2012. According to the International Franchise Association’s 2013 economic outlook, franchising is projected to add more than 10,000 franchise establishments, account for nearly 8.3 million jobs by the end of the year and contribute a GDP of $472 billion, about 3.4 percent of U.S. GDP in nominal dollars.
Mirroring this steady growth is the increasing number of franchisors participating in trade shows like the International Franchising Expo to strategically grow their systems. Last year’s event marked its debut in New York City after being conducted in Washington, D.C. for 20 years.
The Lure of the Big Apple
The IFE, sponsored by the IFA and produced by MFV Expositions, saw a significant increase in nearly every aspect of the event – from exhibitors to booth activity to quality and diversity of prospects – with its move to the Javits Center in Manhattan. The three-day event hosted 334 exhibitors, which included more than 100 first-timers, showcasing their concepts to a collective 14,313 visitors.
The 2013 IFE will continue in this vein with more than 400 franchise brands on display for the public during the 22nd annual event June 20-22, conducted once again at the Javits Center, featuring a show floor twice as big as 2012. Visitors and exhibitors alike attend the IFE for its reputation of offering the most comprehensive event in franchising, including more than 70 free seminars along with in-depth symposiums.
Last year’s success reflects both the growing franchise industry, as well as the benefits of bringing the nation’s largest franchise event in arguably the most vibrant business hub in the world. Hosting the expo in New York was undoubtedly a draw for those franchisors looking to expand specifically within the N.Y. tri-state region. The travel-centric location also catered to a wider variety of prospective franchisees, attracting visitors from almost every state and more than 90 countries.
In addition to increased attendance by exhibitors and attendees, hosting an expo in the Big Apple provides easy access to some of the most coveted and well-respected national business media in the country, as well as an abundance of local outlets. As small-business development will continue to be a highly relevant topic, politically and economically, franchising will be at the forefront of these discussions. The 2012 IFE received coverage from such media as the Wall Street Journal, FOX Business Network, CNBC.com, Entrepreneur.com and more, both on the national and local levels.
Events like the IFE provide a perfect forum for franchisors to showcase development plans and growth, but also to get in front of influential journalists who are thought leaders in the competitive business environment.
Tangible Results Move the Needle
The IFE is responsible for the opening of hundreds of small businesses and creating thousands of jobs. Exhibitors are eager to return to the IFE because it delivers the tangible results that any business needs and looks for when investing in trade shows. Franchisors with a significant number of leads have the potential to turn them into signed agreements. Some are even able to finalize a sale at the event itself.
“We were thrilled with the results from exhibiting at the 2012 expo,” said Tim Courtney, director of franchise development for CruiseOne, Inc., a home-based travel franchise. “The quality of traffic at the IFE was second to none. In fact, we awarded six franchise units to the attendees we met.”
Growing the Economy, One Qualified Lead at a Time
Franchisors are putting more emphasis on trade show attendance and performance to expand their brands. Many have incorporated shows like the IFE into their sales and growth strategies. They have come to depend on these opportunities for both meeting new prospects, as well as closing the deal with those who’ve already begun the process.
One of the biggest takeaways and appeal of the IFE, especially after its move to Manhattan, is the quality of prospects who attend the show. And, while often higher quality correlates to a slightly lower quantity, according to exhibitors at the 2012 show, this was not the case.
“The quality of attendees at IFE in New York City was outstanding; the leads we received were incredible,” said United Franchise Group CEO Ray Titus. “From the opening bell, the aisles were jam packed; attendance on Friday alone was more than two days of what we had in 2011. It’s a huge success.”
The IFE is able to attract the types of franchisees that many exhibitors are looking for based on reasons that include: it’s well-established and respected history as a trade show, the variety of exhibitors and the unique forum coupled with educational value. After last year’s show, many franchisors attributed the move to New York City as one of the main reasons for a lead-rich environment.
“The quality of the visitors attending IFE seems really strong,” said Soft Pretzel Franchise Systems, Inc. President Martin Ferrill. “It really felt like these visitors were ready to get into business. I think the IFE was re-energized by relocating to New York City.”
While one of the main goals is to get in front of thousands of new investors and potential franchisees, franchisors often use expos such as the IFE as an opportunity to build personal relationships with their prospects who are already qualified. Knowing they will be at the IFE gives exhibitors a reason to reach out to those who may be undecided or still in the early stages of discovery. As face-time and personal relationships become an increasingly important aspect of the sales process, the IFE can prove to be the ideal forum to move prospects forward.
“We’re very happy that the IFE moved from Washington, D.C. to New York,” said DCAP Insurance President Abe Weinzimer. “New York City is the lifeblood of the country. Before the show we had some prospects that showed interest and we really felt good that we were able to invite them to a show. It gave us a lot of validity being part of a credible event and franchise group. I think they were impressed at the atmosphere of the expo.”
A survey of last year’s attendees reported 43 percent of visitors planned on investing $100,000 or more, 14 percent planned on investing $500,000 or more and 7 percent planned on investing $1 million or more.
Many exhibitors echoed these sentiments, thrilled that those who were stopping by their booths had already done some homework, knew what they were looking for and had the capital to invest. A survey of last year’s attendees reported 43 percent of visitors planned on investing $100,000 or more, 14 percent planned on investing $500,000 or more and 7 percent planned on investing $1 million or more. The survey also reported that 63 percent of attendees have owned a business in the past.
“The people we met at the IFE in New York City were typically high-net-worth people, people who are looking to get into business and are serious prospects,” said Goddard Systems Director of Franchise Sales Jeff Travitz.
Joel Goldstein is the group marketing director for MFV Expositions, the producer of leading franchise events worldwide. He can be reached at 201-881-1628, Ext. 112 or firstname.lastname@example.org.