A cursory Google search for “2022 Franchising Trade Shows” reveals dozens of different expos and conventions and exhibits happening over the next few months. For franchise brands, trade shows should be viewed as “target-rich” environments, as the majority of attendees – sometimes more than 10,000 of them – are interested enough in purchasing a franchise that they’ve paid an admission fee to attend. Many franchise brands have specific budgets and personnel dedicated to the trade show circuit.
With thousands of business opportunities to choose from, it’s quite a competitive atmosphere. Franchisors need to stand out, be memorable and take full advantage when highlighting their value propositions.
To put your best foot forward, here are five ways for franchise brands to get the most out of a trade show.
1. Choose your trade show floor personnel wisely
By now, just about everyone in the franchising industry has attended a trade show, and perhaps even expos and conventions in other industries. They can be visually overwhelming, loud and chaotic, in a carnival-like atmosphere of sensory overload. And that’s just the scenery. Down on the granular level of the individual trade show booths, it’s important to choose your personnel wisely. You want to select brand representatives that are gregarious, outgoing, well-spoken and highly presentable. Among most franchise brands, this isn’t too tall of an order. But it can make a big difference in a one-on-one conversation with a potential franchisee. Staff your booth accordingly, so that someone is always present on the floor. A vacant booth is a bad look indeed.
2. Search for the right fit
Franchising trade shows are not all alike. Finding the proper expo, convention or exhibition can make a huge difference in the target market of attendees. Some shows are geared to address aspiring entrepreneurs looking to buy a franchise. Other shows, in certain industry sectors outside of the traditional franchising scope, might sound like a great idea but don’t exactly cater to those looking to establish franchise ownership. If your brand is in the restaurant and hospitality industry, the annual National Restaurant Association Show may sound like happy hunting grounds, but the majority of its attendees aren’t interested in hearing about franchise concepts. There are franchise trade shows for international brands, emerging concepts and even multi-unit expos. Find the specific fit for your lead-generation needs.
3. Own your space
As many in the franchising industry can attest, exhibiting your franchise brand at a trade show doesn’t come cheap. Booths on the convention floors can cost upwards of several thousand dollars. While that gets you a certain amount of square footage, how you use it to your advantage can help you stand out among hundreds of others on the expo floor. You’ll want to present a clean, captivating place that maximizes your ability to demonstrate the value proposition of your brand. You need table space for brochures, business cards and slick sales sheets. Inviting backdrops that prominently feature your logo, video screens and accent lighting is advisable. If your franchise brand features a particular product or set of products, make sure you have ample space to demonstrate how it works. This can be quite a convincing tactic. Overall, you should own your space. Make it professional, warm and inviting for visitors.
4. Train your reps for face-to-face conversations
The personnel you so wisely chose (see tip #1) should be required to attend training sessions on face-to-face, one-on-one conversations. This lead-generating exercise is the most valuable tactic for any trade show attendee and practice does make perfect. Have your trade show floor representatives participate in mock exercises with purported conference attendees. While your reps should already be skilled at reading their audience on a psychological level, you can have fun by predetermining stereotypical franchise candidates and questions. Scripts aren’t necessary, but a general sense of where the buyer is coming from — and their state of mind — will help your reps sharpen their sales pitch.
Above all else, have them practice active listening – the conscious effort to hear, comprehend, and retain what’s being discussed. Critique their exercises afterward. Routine training for these interactions will have your brand representatives battle-tested and ready to go.
5. Don’t fail to follow up
All of the effort expended in developing an enviable trade show division for your brand goes to waste if you can’t master the simple task of following up. Your trade show floor representatives can even work as a high-functioning team. While one is busy conversing with potential prospects, the other can be monitoring the conversation for notes and clues that will give any follow-up effort a personal touch. And guess what? Those are the follow-ups that make a difference with this particular target audience. The folks attending franchise trade shows are motivated to find franchise companies that they can envision themselves owning and operating. They both want and need a close connection to the brand and its personnel. Don’t let all of your great interactions and collected business cards go to waste. The final stage of any trade show event is one of the most important: following up with those who inquired about your franchise operation.
Related: The Simple Formula for Following Up