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Moving Your Next IFA Trade Show Forward

The world of franchising is a relationship-building exercise, not a quick-sell.

Trade shows can and should be an important part of your system’s strategy to attract new franchisees. They create an environment that attracts aspiring entrepreneurs who are interested in the franchise business model, and provide you the opportunity to tell your system’s story face-to-face.  Exhibiting at trade shows is a smart and effective way to get your system’s message out, and it’s a great opportunity to introduce your concept to entrepreneurs who may not be aware of your offering.

To be successful in capturing trade show attendees’ attention, you will need to be ready to deliver a dynamic and concise presentation that plants a seed in their minds, and encourages them to strongly consider your opportunity as a viable option.  Many of these entrepreneurs are looking for the next phase in their careers and are open-minded about their options.

It’s important to end your presentation in a manner that leaves them wanting to explore more about your concept.

It’s important to end your presentation in a manner that leaves them wanting to explore more about your concept. A very wise franchise development professional once said, “If you want to sell more franchises, quit selling franchises.”  The world of franchising is a relationship-building exercise and not a quick-sell. Take the perspective of the trade show as one of an introduction to a friend and build from there.

Geographic Diversity

The International Franchise Association hosts three major shows with tremendous geographic diversity. The International Franchise Expo in the heart of New York City draws from the entire Northeast and is a great location to launch your brand in a new area. It is very well attended and offers the opportunity to showcase with some of the best brands in franchising. Food, service and product brands will all be there. Just the fact that you will be included in this group indicates that you are among the best.

The Franchise Expo South will be conducted for the first time in Houston this year, and is sure to bring buyers from all over the South and southwestern United States.

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If you’re expanding west, then the West Coast Franchise Expo in Anaheim is a must-attend for your franchise business.

Greg Delks, CFE, is vice president, franchise development for Firehouse Subs, which currently has 706 restaurants open in 37 states and Puerto Rico.

Greg Delks, CFE, is vice president, franchise development for Firehouse Subs, which currently has 706 restaurants open in 37 states and Puerto Rico.

Goal: Get Their Attention

Exhibiting at these exciting shows is only part of the equation for success. You have probably observed over time that some companies always seem to be busy at any time of day during the trade show. These companies are working the show, have sent out emails inviting their franchise candidates and provided them with complimentary admission tickets. These are also the ones who set appointments before the show gets under way to arrange opportunities to introduce themselves to prospects. They are not the companies that simply show up and settle for what they get.

There are many opportunities to provide an elevated level of exposure as well. Firehouse Subs purchases cover cards for magazines, escalator banners and other additional branding opportunities to drive traffic to its display booth. The small, incremental expense pays handsomely. Keep in mind that the goal of the trade show is to drive attention and to gain at least a minute of attention from attendees.

Local Marketing Opportunity

Make the event a local marketing opportunity if you have any franchise presence in the area. Notify franchisees that you will be driving traffic to their location from the trade show so they will be on their “A” game. There is nothing better for a prospect to project themselves into your franchise concept than meeting and speaking with an enthusiastic franchisee.

Free sandwich cards have helped local Firehouse Subs franchise operations gain new customers that turn into lifelong customers and franchisees. Personal experience is a very powerful driver for franchise purchasing. IFA-sponsored franchise expos can provide a great platform to showcase the strength of your brand. Be patient and use your time wisely by preparing for the show and coming prepared to do business.

Greg Delks, CFE, is vice president, franchise development for Firehouse Subs, which currently has 706 restaurants open in 37 states and Puerto Rico.  Find him at fransocial.franchise.org.

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