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Lead Generation Tips for Franchise Trade Show Participants

Franchise trade shows, including those sponsored by the International Franchise Association and produced by MFV Expositions like the West Coast Franchise Expo, Franchise Expo South and International Franchise Expo, can be incredibly beneficial if franchises know how to make the most of them. Although the thought of long hours spent in a booth might not sound like the best use of your time, it’s important to remember that your brands is there to make an impression. If your organization goes into an expo well-prepared and with the right attitude, it may just come out with some fantastic new leads.

Do Your Homework

Having a great trade show experience means doing your homework before going to the show. Knowing the details of the region that the conference is being conducted and being prepared to talk about available territory and zone agreements for that region makes a great first impression on new prospects. If the location happens to be in Southern California for example, knowing areas that are available for development can be incredibly important to any prospect, especially if they are able to visualize the area or if they have their eye on a specific piece of real estate.

It’s still crucial to communicate clearly so people understand your brand, what it does and what the brand is all about.

Another way to stand out is with an attractive booth stocked with the right materials that can explain or sell your brand, as well as provide investment levels and available discounts to supplement conversations. Many people who attend franchise trade shows have not decided on one specific franchise and tend to be shopping around, so the more attractive and knowledgeable your representatives appear by creating a strong and lasting brand presence, the easier it is to explain what your brand does and why it’s relevant. Within these conversations, franchise staff will be able to better distinguish where prospects are in their due-diligence process, how passionate they are about the brand and gauge their level of interest.

Before, During and After the Trade Show

Once your company’s representatives start seeing an increase in traffic to your booth, it’s your job to ask the right questions to quickly gather information in the limited time spent with prospects. Many of the questions are similar to those asked during your brand’s discovery day, but the dynamic is different at a trade show where conversations may be more causal than staff members are used to. However, it’s still crucial to communicate clearly so people understand your brand, what it does and what the brand is all about. It is possible to weed out candidates that aren’t a good fit by making sure to present your company in an honest light and share the realities of becoming a franchisee to let them decide if they want to be involved in a brand like yours. Ultimately, on-site company members are conducting a two-way interview to determine if the person is passionate and would connect with the culture of your brand.

If Pita Pit is attending a trade show in an area where it has received a lot of inquiries, another strategy we employ is traveling to the area two to three days ahead of time, setting up meetings with those candidates and inviting them to the trade show. It’s an easy way to gauge genuine interest in your brand, let candidates explore other concepts to showcase the uniqueness of your company and generate positive buzz around your booth. Attendees of the expositions can also speak with other prospects about the company and gauge receptiveness first hand, which is important with a brand as young and unique as ours. Although some brands may not want to invite hot leads to the conference, we believe it’s a way to show our confidence in the brand and letting prospects choose for themselves if we are the right fit.

More importantly, we started testing the idea of staying a day or two after the show has finished meeting with local leads that had visited the booth and quickly recognized that it has become one of the most important times for retaining and converting strong leads to signed deals. By spending a little more time with strong candidates whether it be taking them out to dinner, exploring available real estate or meeting them at an existing location, it enables companies to build even stronger relationships with prospects and work with them while your brand is top of mind. Your company has already paid the expense to travel to the trade show, and the cost of arriving early or staying a few days after is completely worth it to show your franchise business is dedicated to a candidate’s individual success, whether or not he or she becomes a new franchisee.

If the staff members attending the trade show are veterans and have had hundreds of conversations with attendees, they’ve probably built a strong sense of which people may actually be serious about franchising with your brand and which ones aren’t. However, it’s been our experience to not make that judgment too quickly: it’s simply a best practice to follow up with every established lead. Your representatives don’t have to meet face to face with all of them, but lead generation doesn’t begin or end with the show.

Keep Lines of Communication Open

Continued open communication with prospects after meeting at the show makes a lasting impression and is crucial in converting leads from just prospects to signed franchise agreements. A lot of this communication happens through phone calls and emails to establish ongoing relationships while learning more about a candidate’s individual interests and goals.

Our goal is to develop an honest line of communication and to be available to answer any questions or concerns that a prospect has. Making the decision to leave your career and shift to a small business can be daunting, so we want to be accessible. Clearly this communication will vary depending on each person’s experiences in the franchise industry, but in the end, we focus on communicating honestly and setting the right expectations for people who are consistent with the reality of what we can deliver as a brand.

Although a trade show may not be the most exciting two or three days for those company staff members on assignment, they can make them incredibly beneficial and a lot more stimulating if they go into the show well prepared. They need to be on top of their game all day, every day of the conference if they want to generate great leads, because in the end, they never know when that great lead might stop by the booth. It may be in the first hour of the show or the last 10 minutes. If your staff members hit every visitor with energy and passion, they’ll not only stand out, but they may just find that great new lead your company has been searching for. ⎯

Corey Bowman is vice president of franchise growth of Pita Pit.  He can be reached at 208-765-3326 or corey.bowman@pitapitusa.com.

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