Maximizing Success at IFA Trade Shows
First-time and established franchisors can benefit from trade show experiences.
By Marty Welch
International Franchise Association-sponsored expositions are an opportunity for franchisors to build brand recognition and establish credibility. If many new franchise operations are drawn to these events to introduce a company and concept to attract the interest of potential partners, how do established companies generate buzz and attract prospects?
In my experience, there is tremendous potential for new and established companies to utilize these trade shows to introduce or re-introduce their brands in the franchise industry. The key element is to clearly define goals and have a well-thought-out expansion plan.nternational Franchise Association-sponsored expositions are an opportunity for franchisors to build brand recognition and establish credibility. If many new franchise operations are drawn to these events to introduce a company and concept to attract the interest of potential partners, how do established companies generate buzz and attract prospects?nternational Franchise Association-sponsored expositions are an opportunity for franchisors to build brand recognition and establish credibility. If many new franchise operations are drawn to these events to introduce a company and concept to attract the interest of potential partners, how do established companies generate buzz and attract prospects?
Make a Good First Impression
As a first time exhibitor, attending the IFA trade shows can seem like a daunting task. It is not enough to just register and attend. From booth and brochures, to your brand’s website and relevant marketing and sales materials, it is important to understand that every detail counts. Consistent messaging is important. It is imperative that all representatives at the show are aware of key goals and initiatives, and are on the same page when meeting with attendees.
While verbal messaging is necessary, a visually appealing booth display is just as important when showcasing your company at any show. Cellairis has been an established franchisor since 2006, but we were a first-time exhibitor in October 2012, and therefore strategically built a world-class 10’ by 20’ booth to showcase our franchise system, attractive retail designs, and innovative products and services. A skirted table with pop-up banners may work for some, but as a newcomer to the exhibitor scene, it is often more effective to create a booth that is visually appealing and leaves a lasting impression with attendees.
As costs are not minimal to attend these shows, make it worth your time and money to invest in the necessary displays that will draw in attendees. Do not stop at just the design; additional components can enhance footprint perceptions that may create a much more memorable experience. Since our brand is a social and interactive tech company, we included engaging content, audio and visual components, and other on-site activations that aligned with our brand, but were also relevant to attendees. We incorporated a large television that played our commercials and images and a digital presentation controlled by touchscreen monitors.
Attend the Right Shows
While attending a trade show is beneficial to your organization, it is much more important to attend the right expo. How do you know which one is right for your company? Consider the market of the show to determine the best expo to exhibit.
For international exposure, attend the New York International Franchise Expo, a launching pad for many new and successful franchisors. The show stands out as a global event that continues to bring together franchise concepts for investors of all kinds and capabilities. It presents a great opportunity to expand internationally as entrepreneurial travelers from all over the world including Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa; attend the annual show in June at the Javits Center in Manhattan.
The show also offers perfect opportunities for face-to-face interaction with industry leaders. While this show attracts prospects from around the world, it will also have a significant presence of attendees from the New York City metropolitan area. The synergy of international and domestic attendees makes this show a must. It has the highest attendance of all the domestic shows.
For regional growth in the western part of the United States, exhibit at the West Coast Franchise Expo. This event brings together hundreds of the leading franchise companies along with thousands of entrepreneurs from California and many western states hungry to start a business. Hosted in Anaheim, Calif., WCFE is the largest franchise event on the West Coast.
Previously located in Los Angeles, the show’s move to Anaheim was very successful for us. It brought in our first international master franchisee from Dubai in 2012. Don’t underestimate the diligence of international entrepreneurs that may seek out a franchise opportunity at any of these shows. The regional move brought in fresh faces and even though a majority of the attendees resided in Southern California, we successfully signed multiple deals in various western states as well.
The Franchise Expo South primarily serves the Texas market, Mexico and the Caribbean. With many individuals driving in from Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and even Mexico, this show brings together the South’s most qualified audience. Previously located in Miami Beach, the show’s regional move to Houston has been distinctly favorable. The region has a thriving business climate with a skilled workforce, world-class infrastructure and a Texas-grown pro-business environment. All of these attributes stimulate entrepreneurial business-minded individuals rather than stifle business growth. Cellairis attended its first show in Houston this year and that appearance created a lot of buzz surrounding our franchise, which resulted in multiple franchise signings.
Know Your Growth Goals
Franchise expos are a great opportunity for established companies to reinvent their perceived persona and showcase to attendees what they can offer. Our company has been franchising since 2006 in malls across the United States, but we learned many individuals did not know we were part of a robust franchise system with single-unit, multi-unit and master franchisees in the United States and seven other countries. Our system has thrived in a franchise setting and has grown to more than 700 units. In fact, about 90 percent of our business is franchising. This lack of public franchise awareness led us to utilize the IFA Franchise Expo as a tool to magnify our franchise program. By attending IFA expos, we showcased our franchise concept in prominent shows and successfully broadcast our growth potential, both domestically and internationally. The continuance of this plan is expected to fuel the company’s growth for the next decade.
As your company begins to expand internationally, be aware of the specific countries and regions you want to target. If you have a smaller budget, the New York International Franchise Expo is a great starting point for global expansion. Many experienced and highly qualified international brokers attend this event.
If you opt to utilize the services of brokers, select carefully and check references. It will also eventually be beneficial to attend some of the many higher-attended international franchise shows. There are other IFA-affiliated franchise expos in various parts of the world, specifically Brazil, France, Mexico and the United Kingdom.
As a franchise in a major international growth phase, we have our international, multi-lingual team attend all events. It was crucial to have the ability to communicate with prospective franchisees from Latin America, and thus we brought on team members with the ability to converse in Spanish and Portuguese. As your company begins to grow internationally, attending the necessary shows allows you to stay relevant and top of mind.
Exhibiting at a franchise trade show is extremely beneficial, not only for emerging brands, but for well-established companies. Proper planning with interactive booths and an engaging, knowledgeable staff will help you achieve your goals. Conduct research and attend the necessary events. As an existing brand, use these shows to stay relevant. Have meaningful conversations with attendees, be diligent in your post-expo follow-up and soon you will be closing more franchise transactions.
Marty Welch is vice president of franchise sales for Cellairis, which provides cutting-edge tech accessories and wireless device repairs at kiosks and retail stores in North America, Latin America, the United Kingdom and the Middle East. Find him at fransocial.franchise.org.