Multiplying a Positive Trade Show Experience
Make the most of your trade show experience by determining your objectives, marketing to candidates in advance, engaging and interacting with prospects and always following-up.
By Alicia Linden
Participating in industry trade shows is a large investment of time and resources so it is important to understand each show’s value and how to make the most of your experience. CruiseOne is a home-based travel franchise active with the International Franchise Association and participates in up to seven franchising trade shows a year with the ultimate goal of recruiting new franchise owners and becoming a dominant force in the travel franchise industry.
Why Participate in a Trade Show
Everyone has different motives for attending a franchise trade show, but the one common denominator is that we all want to build brand awareness for our franchise. Franchise Expo South, West Coast Franchise Expo and International Franchise Expo are strategically hosted throughout the United States making it possible for franchisors to get in front of qualified prospects from different regions.
According to MFV Expositions, the franchise trade show planner that coordinates the IFA’s annual shows, nearly 50 percent of the attendees at its most recent show were either serious prospects interested in franchising or they were finalizing their decision on which concept to purchase. These candidates often come well-prepared with questions as they have done their preliminary research. They want to meet franchise representatives face-to-face so they can get a feel for the company culture and if it would be the right fit for them. Many times these in-person interactions can seal the deal for prospects who are on the fence about which franchise they want to purchase. At CruiseOne, we close anywhere from two to seven franchise units per show.
Trade shows also are a valuable place to meet candidates who are interested in franchising, but are not sure which industry they want to pursue. Whether prospects are familiar with your company and have not yet inquired or they have never heard of your franchise opportunity before, an in-person meeting is important to making a strong first impression to get them excited about taking the next step.
Pre-Show Marketing Musts
Participation doesn’t mean a franchisor should leave the marketing up to the event organizer and do nothing on its own. Use this opportunity to reach out to prospects who live near the trade show venue via email and social media communications letting them know you will be in their area. This serves two purposes: first, the prospect may not be aware of the trade show and second, it creates another touch point for them to keep your franchise top of mind.
In addition, speak with the trade show organizer and find out what marketing opportunities are available as part of your membership and exhibition fee. Since the organizers will be doing their own publicity to generate larger crowds, try to leverage their resources as much as possible. Volunteer for interview opportunities or panelist and speaking opportunities to position yourself as an expert, and ask for inclusion in any pre-event publicity materials which list participating exhibitors. Through our VetFran and DiversityFran memberships, CruiseOne often is asked to participate on their panels as an expert source, giving us the chance to get in front of even more people who may not have considered travel franchising. These opportunities open even more doors in addition to exhibiting.
The Day of the Trade Show
In addition to closing sales, trade shows are a good opportunity to collect leads and attract new prospects who may not have been familiar with your franchise prior to attending. It is important to use multimedia communications and have an interactive booth that engages and educates attendees. The CruiseOne booth, for example, broadcasts travel videos and has computers on hand to demonstrate what technology tools are available to our franchisees. Have brochures available, but don’t have them all on display at once. Limiting the number of brochures and hand-outs not only encourages the prospect to ask for more information, but it also gives you more opportunities to ask qualifying and engaging questions.
The team working the booth should be friendly and welcoming to all who pass by. The members of your franchise development team serve as your brand ambassadors and it is important they make a strong first impression. When conversing with prospects, it is important to pay attention, ask questions and listen carefully to their needs and determine where they are in the franchise selection process. Be sure to take notes of what is most important to them and use technology to collect prospects’ contact information and to register them for upcoming webinars. Don’t force them into making a decision; give them the information they need to digest, and walk them through the due diligence process so they can determine if your franchise will meet and exceed all their needs.
A fun way to collect leads of people who are at the beginning of their franchise discovery process is to host a raffle and give them the option to sign up for exciting consumer promotions. If possible, invite current franchisees who live in that area to attend the trade show and share their experiences with prospects. Performing due diligence is an important step of the franchise process and meeting face-to-face is the best way to get a feel for the company culture.
According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, 80 percent of trade show leads receive no follow-up, which means an easy way to stand out from the competition is simply taking the time to follow-up with qualified prospects. This is crucial to further engaging with your prospective franchisee and closing the deal. Follow up with every prospect within two weeks of the show and reference the notes from your previous discussion to personalize the conversation. This will impress prospects and let them know you have a vested interest in them.
Participating in a trade show gets you in front of the right people; however, to make the most of the experience it is important to determine your objectives, market to candidates in advance, engage and interact with prospects and always follow-up. These key steps will result in a more productive experience with a positive return on investment.
Alicia Linden is a marketing recruitment specialist for CruiseOne. Find her at fransocial.franchise.org.