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Making the Most of IFE Round Two in New York City

Sometimes adding a new spin on old techniques is all that’s needed to attract additional candidates and make the expo count for your brand.

In today’s digital world where most business is done online or on a smartphone, it’s surprising that hundreds of major franchise brands still purchase a booth at a trade show to promote their franchise opportunities.

Last year, the International Franchise Expo switched venues from Washington, D.C. to New York City, attracting a record-breaking number of exhibitors and prospects to the show. Many franchisors reported having signed more deals than ever, proving that one-to-one conversation secures franchise deals.

This year the show will be conducted June 20-22 at the Javits Center. How can franchisors repeat the success of last year? Most importantly, how can they turn those leads into signed deals? Here are some thoughts as you plan for the expo, which is sponsored by the International Franchise Association and produced by MFV Exhibitions.

Plant Your Seeds: Pre-Market to Prospects in the Area

In speaking with brands that had the most success at last year’s IFE shows, many of them had one thing in common: they marketed to prospects before the show. It’s unrealistic to think that when the doors to the show open, your brand will suddenly have qualified prospects appear at your booth.

While some candidates do actually discover the franchise opportunity of their choice when browsing the trade show floor, most often, the deals done either at the show or immediately after are with candidates who were already exposed to the brand with some kind of “touch” made by the franchise sales or development team.

This could have occurred through previous marketing outreach in the New York-New Jersey region (direct mail, PR, advertising or other avenues) or perhaps the candidate visited the booth in previous years and the sales team followed up to invite him back.

Even if your brand has been around for 20 years, is well known and growing, it is important to make your brand relevant every year.

Imagine being a prospect interested in opening a franchise in the New York-metropolitan area. Someone is more likely to visit the websites of those franchise opportunities to submit an inquiry after receiving a direct mail piece, seeing a news item about the brand’s plan to expand in the area or seeing the franchise opportunity advertised. If the franchise sales team has reached out to someone to make contact and set up a meeting at the show, that lead has been pre-qualified to the point where it would be surprising if it didn’t land in a deal.

Be Relevant

Even if your brand has been around for 20 years, is well known and growing, it is important to make your brand relevant every year. Why should a prospect look at your brand this year? Is there anything different about your brand that wasn’t showcased last year?

If your brand has area developers or master franchisees, ask them to participate in the expo too. This will make your brand relevant to the area, and candidates will feel more connected to the brand speaking with someone familiar with their territory.

If your brand offers the potential for multiple revenue streams, be fully transparent and honest. Multiple revenue streams are a huge attraction to investors and multi-unit franchisees, so this information should be at the forefront of your exhibit. For example, in addition to product sales, Cartridge World offers e-commerce opportunities, a B2B platform, and an opportunity for a “store within a store,” which are all attractive to potential candidates. We make sure this information is at the forefront of our presentation, both visually and conversationally.

Visually Describe Your Brand

Make your brand visually appealing. This goes far beyond having an attractive, innovative booth. Demonstrate exactly what you do. For example, if you’re a technology concept, create visuals to break down your product and service, showing the need in the marketplace and the solutions your brand provides. If your system is a food concept, cook at your booth. There’s no better way to experience a food brand than to taste the food. Many times, the taste of the food will be the tipping point for a prospect to jump on board, not your innovative idea, creative marketing strategies or position as a leader in the market.

This year, Cartridge World plans to physically show the difference between an original equipment manufacturer’s ink and toner products and remanufactured ink and toner products found in Cartridge World stores. This creates a value proposition directly in front of the eyes of your potential candidate, showcasing the quality and capability of the brand.
In addition to visually showing your products and services, it is important to visually show the opportunities available to potential candidates. Above all else, they want to know if the area most relevant to them is available or not. A good way to do this is to have a large map portraying available markets, as well as markets that are up for sale. People walking by your booth may be completely unfamiliar with your brand, but notice that a territory is available in their home market, prompting them to stop and take a look.

Extend Your Stay

The IFE may last only a few days, and we often see exhibitors packing up their booth during the last few hours of the show. But, the work doesn’t end at the close of the show. It might be worth your while to extend your stay in New York, making yourself available for meetings with potential candidates in the area.

The IFE experiences so much traffic and with so many exhibits to see, the average attendee only spends a few minutes at each booth. That means your franchise has only a few minutes to make an in-person impression, unless your representatives encourage interested candidates to meet for a one-on-one discussion after the trade show.

Not only is this convenient for prospects, but it makes them feel that you are genuinely interested in them and readily available to answer any questions they may have, even more than a phone call would accomplish. Making yourself physically accessible provides top-of-mind awareness for the candidate and he or she will definitely appreciate the effort.
Sometimes adding a new spin on old techniques is all that’s needed to attract additional candidates and make the expo count for your brand.

William Swanson is global chief financial officer and CEO of Cartridge World North America, a leading ink and toner retailer and franchisor in the $80 billion printer cartridge industry. He can be reached at 815-321-4415.

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