Working the Trade Show Circuit

Recognizing value and evaluating best practices for your lead gen efforts

It’s no secret — trade shows are one of the most powerful marketing opportunities a franchisor has to generate high-quality franchise prospects. A few times a year, business owners from across the franchise world print off their best brochures, pack up their table cover and hit the road to hold their own at the next big trade show. But, far too often, franchisors make the mistake of putting all of their eggs in one basket — relying on trade shows as their main, or only, source of lead generation.

Finding the right show and planning your strategy—including meeting with prospects or gathering leads, cost, messaging, positioning versus competitors, and training staff—is crucial to ensuring you’re adequately prepared.

The Value of a Franchise Trade Show 

Franchise trade shows offer the stirring potential to generate hundreds of leads for your brand, in a short amount of time while genuinely expressing the enthusiasm for your brand with prospective candidates, face-to-face. And, since most of those attending franchise trade shows are serious about a potential investment, they’re among the most highly qualified prospects.

Trade shows are also a great way to investigate competitors, as well. Spend a few minutes walking the show floor, visit your competitor’s booth to learn about their business model, their unique selling proposition and their marketing program. Ultimately, getting an up-close look at your competition only can benefit your business model.

For franchisors, trade shows also serve as an educational forum to keep up on the latest happenings in the industry. Although you’ll spend most of your time speaking to prospective candidates, don’t forget to take advantage of the endless networking and forum opportunities. Whether it’s conversing with experts or attending scheduled seminars, franchisors that make the most of their trade show experience walk away with new connections, industry tips and a solid foundation for business growth.

The Trouble with Trade Shows

While the opportunity to speak to enthusiastic attendees and prospects is a great way to expose your brand to dozens of interested franchisee candidates, it also means spending valuable time post-show sorting through potentially unqualified leads. Meeting enthusiastic franchisee prospects is a great feeling, but if they are not financially capable of investing in your concept, you may be wasting the time and resources that could have been used to speak to qualified leads.

Additionally, trade shows are fiercely competitive, with hundreds of other concepts fighting for the same attention. Like any marketing strategy, it takes proper preparation and strategy to find success. A cookie-cutter approach to lead generation at a trade show is a recipe for disaster. Your exhibit should catch a prospect’s eye; be crafted so that prospects can identify with it, showcase the depth and breadth of your experience and differentiate you from your competitors.

Possibly the biggest setback to trade shows, especially for emerging concepts, is the cost. Between travel, booth rental, printed marketing materials, hotel stays and staff expenses, the cost of attending a trade show adds up quickly. All the more reason to ensure that generating those highly-qualified leads is paramount.

Supplementing the difference

Trade shows aren’t the only place to generate those leads, though. Sure, they are an ideal place to find those hungry for their chance at business ownership, but in today’s digital age, a strong majority of leads are generated through digital marketing and a franchise recruiting website. Franchisors need to think big-picture and prioritize ongoing marketing efforts. A set it and forget it approach isn’t going to cut it.

Once you’re able to establish a comprehensive marketing program that makes use of public relations tactics, search engine optimization, content marketing and website development, you’ll notice two things. First, the quality of leads you’re generating through targeted and refined approaches are likely to be highly qualified. Second, you’ll gain a better understanding of where your company’s marketing strengths lie and how to best promote your unique selling proposition.

This approach will not only give your brand year-round relevance, but it’ll also help to better position your concept for future trade shows. Strong brand awareness is one of the most attractive selling points of a franchise concept, so work the marketing game throughout the year and you’ll be the next big thing come trade show season.

Matthew Jonas is the president of TopFire Media, an award-winning integrated public relations and digital marketing agency specializing in franchise marketing and consumer branding. Together with the leaders of iFranchise Group and Franchise Dynamics, Jonas established TopFire Media to provide a strategic and synchronized method for digital marketing in the franchise industry. As a digital marketing strategist with more than a decade of in-depth experience in SEO and PPC, social media publishing, conversion based marketing, inbound marketing, sales management, and online lead generation, Jonas has built a career dedicated to delivering an integrated marketing approach that achieves client success and long-term relationships.

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