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Trade Show Participation Drivers and Changes

Why should your company participate in a franchise trade? Why not?It’s a great place to meet people and introduce your brand to a new market.
Minuteman Press has been franchising for 37 years and has become one of the largest printing and graphics franchises in the world with more than 900 centers, primarily through franchise shows. A franchise show allows your business to concentrate its sales efforts toward a local area. For example, if your company representatives worked a show in St. Louis, the majority of people attending that show will be from the greater St. Louis area. The shows give your franchise business a great way to build its brand systematically.

That was Then
In the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, there were shows scheduled almost every weekend and sometimes two or three per weekend. To cover them, companies either needed a large staff that didn’t mind living out of a suitcase or local representation. What Minuteman Press did to get started was to open our first three centers on Long Island and run them ourselves to prove our concept worked. Once they were making money, we went to our first franchise show in the New York Coliseum looking to build our brand in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
The show was a huge success, with most of the attendees from the tri-state area. There was a good lead from Los Angeles and another one from Boston. But we knew we could not support someone in Los Angeles from Long Island, so we did the next best thing. We went to them. The franchise opened six company-owned centers to provide support where it was needed. The company opened centers in Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, Atlanta, Denver and Los Angeles as well. This allowed us to test market other areas to make sure our concept would work, but it also allowed us to get our support people in place running and working in our own centers. This enabled our support team to gain the knowledge they would need to support our franchise owners.
In addition, there were so many shows in the 1970s and 1980s that companies were able to build their franchise systems state by state. There were years when our company participated in 75 to 80 shows. If that sounds hectic, consider the expenses involved. However, it was well worth it. When participating in trade shows, companies are not only involved in the show to sell franchises, they are doing it to promote their brands. By being onsite at these various trade shows, franchise organizations are getting an opportunity to speak with hundreds of people every weekend about their business and creating that brand awareness that businesses are all looking for. This helps to answer such questions as: How many leads does your company work without even meeting the applicant? How does the organization properly cover its leads when they are spread all over the country? This doesn’t happen at a show because company representatives get to meet as many local people as they want.

Evolution of the Trade Show Experience
Over the years, shows have changed. Because of Internet advertising, the people who attend the shows seem to be from everywhere. This is great because your company gets an opportunity to present its brand to a national audience in person, face to face.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the show attendance seemed to consist of about 80 to 85 percent of local people. Today, with Internet and local advertising, the show attendance seems closer to 50 percent local and 50 percent from everywhere else. If your franchise business is really looking for that brand awareness that most systems all seem to be talking about or if your company is looking to build the brand internationally, there is help. The International Franchise Association sponsors and MFV Expositions promotes three of the largest trade shows each year in the United States: Miami, Los Angeles and this year, instead of Washington D.C., they are going to New York. At these shows, participants get an opportunity to not only meet people from all over the nation, but people come from Europe, South America, Asia and Canada. For example, last year we spoke to a few people from Australia and New Zealand as well. Many of the international visitors are looking for businesses to take back to their countries and become developers or master licensees, which is another way to grow and expand your brand.
Today, there are many ways to spend your money to obtain leads. Unlike the Internet leads where a lot of people are simply gathering information and they are really not prospects, the shows bring those quality buyers your business is looking for: people who are actually looking to go into business. The best bang for your buck and the best way to control your growth is with franchise trade shows; I just wish there were more of them.
A franchise show allows your business to concentrate its sales efforts toward a local area.
Final Advice
Here’s some advice to consider in making the most of the trade shows: have an attractive-looking booth, wear comfortable shoes, be prepared with plenty of brochures and if you run out, there’s sure to be a Minuteman Press Center nearby ready to come to your rescue. Make sure to get to the vendor area; there are many vendors that can help build your brand. There are vendors to sell your franchises, find your locations, train your people and even collect your royalties for your company. It all depends on how your franchise is structured and how many employees there are to carry out everything that needs to be done to run a successful franchise company.
Remember, in the franchise company, an organization is only as good as the people it has in business. So, it is vitally important, especially in the beginning, to put the right people into the business so your system will flourish. Your business needs owners who are going to follow your system and not try to reinvent the wheel. There are even vendors that attend trade shows that have created tests for applicants to take to ensure your business gets the right people for your franchise. Above all, talk to as many people as possible. It is always a lot easier to communicate with someone face to face at a show as opposed to following up on an Internet lead. Happy hunting and I’ll see you at the show. 
Bob Titus is CEO and president of Minuteman Press International, Inc. He can be reached at 631-249-1370 or btitus@mpihq.com.

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