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Trade show tips and tactics: how to be successful at a franchise expo.

In good times and bad times, economically speaking, franchise concepts always have to be sold. Some concepts seem to sell themselves, and some concepts are easier to sell than others, but every stable concept relies on a consistent sales presence. Nowhere is that presence more important than at an exposition where thousands of people come looking for franchise opportunities. Concepts that aren't visible aren't likely to be purchased.

As a franchisor, or the person charged with franchise development, you'll want to be certain your concept will be successful at a franchise expo. Here are some questions, and answers, to help you prepare.

What's my justification for exhibiting at an expo?

Ultimately you want to make sales. However, your goal should be to generate leads by meeting face-to-face with qualified prospects. You may also set a financial goal to justify your exhibit. As an example: To sell franchises at half the marketing cost of print advertising.

How much literature do I need to distribute?

Savvy exhibitors know that it's senseless to give away expensive brochures at an expo. Prospects are not expected to buy your franchise at the show. Your literature should be designed to get the prospect to say, "I want to learn more." A simple one-page flyer or a direct response card may be all you need to use. Be prepared to handout an inexpensive flyer to almost the entire projected attendance of the expo.

Who is responsible for promoting the expo?

You should expect the show's producer to promote the expo, but the most successful exhibitors take additional measures to drive traffic to their exhibits You should issue press releases in advance. You can also advertise your presence at an expo in local media. The most cost-effective promotion you can do is to send a personal invitation to existing prospects in proximity of the expo. People who have contacted you in the past may be eager to visit with you personally. Letting existing prospects know you are participating at an expo tells them that you are going to develop that market, with or without them. Besides making arrangement for personal meetings, you can also set up "Discovery Days," conduct site inspections, and other activities.

How many people will I need to work at an expo?

The answer depends on the length of the expo and the anticipated attendance. A one-day expo with a few hundred attendees doesn't require more than a couple of people. However, a three-day event. attracting many thousands of visitors, may require as many as six people: to work the show. Franchises providing food samples should have staff for that promotion and additional staff and room to conduct business. Successful exhibitors "work" the show. That is, they stand in their booths and meet and greet passersby. They do not sit in their booths and watch people pass by. Do not keep tables and other furniture in front of the booth, allow for easy access to your booth, It takes energy to meet and greet people so bring enough help to allow your personnel some time to rest. A rule of thumb: one sales person can ho]d four-to-six 10 to 15 minute conversations per hour.

How do I select the best booth space?

You do not need the biggest booth to be the most successful. However, your booth space needs to be appropriate for your exhibit, and the number of people who are working your booth. Consider different options for booth size such as corners, islands, first impact and last impact, main aisles and peninsulas when you select your space. Corners give you the ability to work two or three aisles of traffic as opposed to an in-line location. island spaces, usually 400 sq. ft. or larger, are open on all four sides and provide greater visibility. Most important: wherever you locate your booth, make it visually appealing and you will attract attention. Rely on your expo sales representative to advise you in selecting a good location. Best advice: book early.

How many sales should I expect from an expo?

Once you have a history with expos, or with a particular expo, you will be able to accurately answer that question for yourself. The answer varies from concept to concept. However, successful exhibitors do not go to an expo thinking that they are going to make sales. They go thinking they will meet qualified prospects that they can turn into sales. It's a huge mistake to think that you will meet people at an expo who are ready to buy your franchise--that all you have to do is give them some information, hand them your disclosure document, and expect them to call you on Monday to close the sale. The expo is your opportunity to cultivate relationships. Pique the prospect's curiosity. At the same time, evaluate the prospect. Is this someone you would want in your franchise network? The expo setting is an excellent opportunity for you to build rapport, to collect and record key information about the prospect, to provide additional information about your concept, and to make arrangements for your next point of action and contact.

At how many expos should I exhibit during a year?

Get a list of all the expos that cover your markets, both nationally and internationally. The number of expos you participate in should be directly related to your staff's ability to follow up on leads generated at each expo. There's no sense paying to generate leads if you can't follow up in a timely fashion.

Note that the face to-face evaluation at an expo tends to accelerate the selling process. It will be important that you keep up with their pace. Franchise expos are one of the most cost-effective means for selling franchises. They've existed since the beginning of franchising. Use them to your best advantage.

The 13th Annual International Franchise Expo (IFE)

If you are looking to expand nationally, or internationally--the International Franchise Expo (IFE) produced by MFV Expositions (201-226-1130) will take place at the Washington, D.C. Convention Center April 30 to May 2. The IFE is sponsored by the International Franchise Association. For detailed information visit www.franchiseexpo.com.

Serita Sethi is director of marketing for MFV Expositions, procedures of the International Franchise Expo. She can be reached at 888-872-2677, ext. 204.
COPYRIGHT 2003 International Franchise Association
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Title Annotation:Marketing For Franchise Growth
Author:Sethi, Serita
Publication:Franchising World
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2003
Words:1048
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