by Rob Orme
In all our years guiding and supporting franchisors in recruiting franchisees, few channels stimulate as much debate around their usefulness and success for quality lead generation as the Franchise Expos.
I’ll spare you the potential frustration of reading this article and getting to the conclusion expecting a silver bullet answer regarding whether you should do it or not. The answer, predictably, is “it depends”.
But what does it depend on?
And what can you do to maximise your chances of success and getting that goal one or two franchisee signs ups that make the aching legs and agonising papercuts from the numerous exchanges of business cards REALLY worth it?
Here are some key considerations as franchisors ready themselves for a couple of days on the show floor…
This might seem unbelievably obvious. You’d hope so anyway! So WHY is it that time and time again guests rock up at an expo and see that small handful of brands who look like they‘ve spent 5 minutes pulling a design together, sent it to the printer and prayed next day delivery is an option.
Don’t be that brand. Seriously, don’t do it.
It’s not just about how the stand looks. You’ve invested a lot of budget in being at an exhibition, so don’t put off prospects by coming across as uninterested and unapproachable. Now, I’m not for a second saying you shouldn’t grab a few minutes to sit down and get some respite for your feet; but what I am saying is ensure there are ‘front of house’ team members stood up, with smiles on their faces, no coffee cup in one hand and half eaten Subway (other brands are available) in the other.
Make sure your hard-earned investment is not wasted – getting this wrong is the definition of falling at the first hurdle.
Pre – Show
As with most things in life, preparation is key. Unless you’re Eden Hazard (well known for putting 5% effort into training and then coming to life on a Saturday and banging in a hat-trick for Chelsea), you really should think about getting the preparation in early.
Who do you have prospect-wise in the pipeline that could benefit from a face to face visit? Have you invited them along? Have you got your social media schedule drafted and ready to go on the run up to, during and post event? Have you arranged a stand timetable to ensure people have adequate breaks to be on top form during the two-day period? Do all guest facing personnel have a clear understanding of your pitch and objectives?
Make the most of your time and financial investment, pull those levers to get as many qualified people at the show as possible and be open to new people discovering your brand for the very first time.
A real biggie. In franchising terms, you’d expect the end customer experience to be of an equally high standard whether they are in conversation with a franchisee in Central London or Liverpool, Birmingham or Banbury. So, when briefing your team for the day, make sure you are crystal clear with expectations and objectives.
Have a team huddle for five minutes, re-run through the key messages you want prospects leaving your stand with, ensure you’re gathering all the information you need to maximise the follow up efforts.
The majority of franchise brands out there are backed and run by good people. But there are a few bad apples that can tarnish the name for the rest of us. It’s not uncommon for prospects to have a hint of concern or scepticism when talking to the ‘Franchise Sales Manager’, because of course you’re going to be outlining the many benefits and highlights of becoming a franchise owner of brand ABC.
How powerful it is to be able to introduce those hot prospects to a real-life franchisee, someone who lives and breathes the brand, talks the talk but walks the walk and isn’t afraid to give the warts ‘n all reality.
Sure it might cost you some extra in travel expenses and a thank you meal, but this could prove a real gamechanger. We know it works.
Qualification of Leads
Be clear about who you do want and who you don’t want. Agree a strategy in advance for minimising time spent with prospects who it quickly make it apparent they are not what you are looking for. That could be sharing literature with them for further reading, it could be that you need to head off for a pre-arranged appointment, or it might be that best practice ‘we aren’t right for each other because ABCD, but you should check out brand EFGH because they are looking for people just like you’.
Whatever your approach, be consistent and make sure the whole team is on the same page, don’t waste time in your follow up efforts chasing people who aren’t made of the right stuff.
The Follow Up
THIS – this is what it is all about. You’ve spent a lot of money getting to this point, you’ve invested time, energy and effort, do not let that go to waste.
Have your follow up plan in place before you step foot in the exhibition hall, know when you are going to call, email, WhatsApp, Zoom, send a carrier pigeon or whatever you decide is best to do.
Then actually do it. As planned. Monitor it, make sure it happens. Look at engagement, learn from what works and what doesn’t, then improve it for next time round.
Like I said, there is no silver bullet answer, but if you get the above right, you should be on a pretty good track to getting good results from your efforts.