Expos: producing leads for top franchisors: quality leads are the reason franchisors exhibit at trade shows year-after-year.
Since their debut, Franchise Expo South and the West Coast Franchise Expo have continued to grow at explosive paces. The reason? Quality leads. The dedication to bringing qualified, strong prospects through the front door keeps these shows going strong year-after-year and is the reason they have become must-attends for the nation's leading franchisors.
"If you were to pick the best three franchise shows in the United States, they would be the MFV's shows in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Miami," said Ray Titus, president of United Franchise Group. "The quality of attendees at these shows is far superior to any other trade show we do. Having a great show is contingent on the promoter getting people through the entrance and these expos are the highest-attended franchise shows."
It's all about the leads
Of course, a major reason that the shows drive quality leads is the combined power of the IFA and MFV Expositions. Put those two together to create the highest-quality franchise trade shows around the globe.
At a time when fewer leads are being generated online, and more people are searching for a personal, one-on-one approach, trade shows such as the West Coast Franchise Expo have secured their places as lead-generation leaders.
"I believe that every franchise system should have a diverse, multi-pronged approach to franchise sales," adds Titus. "Trade shows are an important part of that, and MFV runs the best franchise shows, period.
The West Coast Franchise Expo, which is gearing up for its fifth anniversary, still maintains the strong buzz that surrounded it at its debut.
"We've participated in the West Coast Franchise Expo for the past four years," said Dave Messenger, CFE, vice president of market development for ServiceMaster Clean. "This is the only show we participate in. We decided to come to WCFE because we're targeting Los Angeles and the Southern California market, so we think this show is a great way to meet people from the area, have the chance to talk one on one and get a pool of qualified applicants from the region."
While many exhibitors have made WCFE a must-attend event for the last few years, many first-time exhibitors are catching on as well.
"This will be the first year we've done the West Coast Franchise Expo," said Thomas Scott, director of operations for Showhomes Franchise Corp. "Like many franchisors, we are discovering that lead generation from online franchise portals has dropped off significantly both in quality and quantity. We see other franchisors beginning to attend trade shows in place of Internet advertising and we are no different."
Concepts specifically targeting the West Coast couldn't ask for a better platform to reach prospects.
"At last year's WCFE show we saw some very qualified attendees and prospects," said Mark Kienkenapp, vice president of franchise development for LA Sunset Tans. "It's important for us to be there for brand recognition. This is one show we wouldn't miss. It helps us target the West and help us with our expansion plans. I've been doing these shows for 20 years and the events get better every year."
It's all about the numbers
With more than 10,000 attendees typically expected, the WCFE and other IFA-sponsored events are known as high-traffic events.
"We've already booked our space for WCFE 2008," said Messenger. "It's important for ServiceMaster to exhibit at West Coast Franchise Expo because we're expanding in the West, and we use expos to target the geographical areas where we plan to grow our business. You can't target a region any better way than exhibiting at a franchise expo event."
The sheer number of people walking through the expo offers franchisors the chance to generate not only leads, but brand awareness.
"The event introduces franchising to more than 10,000 visitors--we want to be here for those prospects who want to buy," said Brent Alvord, president of Lenny's Sub Shop. "The team [behind the expo] does a phenomenal job and really brings the quality attendees into the show."
Added David Gollersrud, vice president of development for Garlic Jim's Famous Gourmet Pizza: "The traffic was great [at the 2007 WCFE]. We decided to exhibit at WCFE after speaking with fellow franchisors who shared the success they've had at previous expos, and wanted to capture that same success for our concept."
It's also all about the right audience
Sure West Coast Franchise Expo, IFE and Franchise Expo South bring in the quantity, but it's the quality that really counts. After all, a lot of "tire kickers" walking through that front door don't deliver any value to exhibitors.
"We found that there were some really qualified leads at the IFE show; leads with the right background and aptitude for our business," said Scott. "Speaking to people in person and building a more personal relationship with someone makes a big difference. At a trade show you can get a much better gut reaction to a candidate and get a good feel for his or her fit in your franchise system. While you won't get hundreds of leads, what you get should be higher quality and that is what counts."
Not only are these attendees qualified, but they've done the research required to buy a concept.
"The IFE and shows like it provide the platform to share your concept with serious buyers who have done their homework and understand what franchising is all about," said Carlotta Lennox of Hey Buddy Pet Supply. "This is the perfect venue to showcase a quality business and get it into the marketplace."
Attending at a trade show also gives prospects that unique opportunity to physically experience the brand they are considering.
"We have had great success at the West Coast Franchise Expo," said Alvord. "It's good to exhibit at events like this because these shows attract a different audience. Visitors can touch, taste and see the concept-as opposed to many of the leads we capture through Internet portals, where the visitors don't really have a tangible connection to the concept."
With the popularity of trade shows growing, prime space can fill up fast. As a result, experienced exhibitors know to reserve their spaces as early as possible-often prior to the conclusion of the previous year's show.
"Last year's show was wonderful and we've already committed to exhibiting at WCFE 2008," said Gollersrud. "We met quite a few qualified prospects at the West Coast Franchise Expo. MFV and IFA put on a wonderful show here in Los Angeles and we'll be exhibiting next year and the year after."
It's all about the results
Though there's no real science to generating leads, many exhibitors leave the expo with a strong sense of how many actual, true leads they received.
"We had a busy booth, thanks to creative pre-show marketing and a well-staffed booth," said Scott of the IFE. "We walked away with about 75 quality leads, 15 of which are working through our sales pipeline. For a small franchise company with about 30 units, that's huge."
Positive results like those are the top reason franchise concepts attend a trade show and why many companies are investing more of their franchise development budget into traditional trade shows.
Or, as Alvord puts it: "It only takes one deal for the expo to pay for itself."
The 2008 West Coast Franchise Expo is scheduled for Nov. 7-9 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
2008-2009 IFA franchise event calendar includes:
Arizona Franchise & Financing Expo
Oct. 4-5, 2008
Phoenix Convention Center
West Coast Franchise Expo
Nov. 7-9, 2008
Los Angeles Convention Center
Franchise Expo South
Jan. 9-11, 2009
Miami Beach Convention Center
International Franchise Expo
March 20-22, 2009
Walter E. Washington Convention Center
Atlanta Franchise & Financing Expo
May 2-3, 2009
Boston Franchise & Financing Expo
June 6-7, 2009
Hynes Convention Center
West Coast Franchise Expo
Oct. 2-4, 2009
Los Angeles Convention Center
North Texas Franchise & Financing Expo
Nov. 21-22, 2009
Dallas Convention Center
Joel Goldstein is the group director of marketing for MFV Expositions. He can be reached at email@example.com.