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Just like a plant needs sunlight to grow, a franchise brand needs exposure to potential leads so that it can expand. However, the places where and the manner in which franchisors sow their seeds in order to recruit new franchisees and grow their franchise network has changed significantly over the past decade.
Here in the U.K, the BFA/NatWest Report on the franchising landscape produced at the end of last year reported that over the past 10 years, the two most consistent methods of recruiting new franchisees have continued to be been the franchisor’s own website and word of mouth/networking. Unsurprisingly, the use of social media as a means of reaching out to prospective leads has skyrocketed over the past decade. Not even meriting a mention in the aforementioned survey ten years ago, 40% of franchisors reported social media to be a useful method of recruitment in 2018. I’m personally slightly surprised the figure wasn’t higher than that, speaking anecdotally from my own conversations with other franchisors.
When it comes to exhibition events, 30% of the U.K franchisors surveyed in the report stated that for them, attending exhibitions remains a useful method of recruitment (This statistic was not broken down further into franchise-specific expos and other relevant exhibitions such as trade events). This is actually a slight increase over the past decade, up from 19% in the 2008 report. It’s clear therefore that despite the increased importance of online activity to attract new franchisees, attending events which afford face-to-face contact with potential franchisees can still be a very valuable recruitment tool. But as most significant expos run over multiple days and involve considerable cost, franchisors should consider the following before signing the paperwork to commit to attending any event as an exhibitor :
Know Your Target Franchisee And Where They Will Be Hanging Out
The important starting point for any franchisor when deciding where to invest their marketing budget for any franchisee recruitment must be to have a clear idea of a) who their Ideal Franchisee Persona is and b) where their Ideal Franchisee Persona will be hanging out, either in real life or online.
Franchise expos are wholly dedicated to the franchise sector and cover the industry in its entirety. Not only will they have a significant number of franchisor exhibitors looking to position themselves in front of prospective franchisees, but they also feature providers looking to sell to franchisors and their networks. Franchise exhibitions will of course range widely in size, from the huge International Franchise Expo which takes place in New York at the end of next month, to more regional events. As a franchisor myself, I don’t currently exhibit my own brand at franchise expos – I’ll explain why below. I love attending them as a visitor though, as a great chance to network and to keep up to date with what is happening in the wider franchise world. I do however know many franchisors who do exhibit at franchise-specific expos, some with really positive results and some with more mixed results. It comes back to giving due consideration to who your target franchisee is and if they are likely to be in attendance at a franchise-specific exhibition. That will depend in part on what sector you’re operating in and the price point for your franchise opportunity. Franchise exhibitions tend to attract potential leads who have money in the bank to invest in a profitable business opportunity, and who are open to considering investing in a wide variety of different sectors. Franchise events such as this provide an ideal opportunity for individuals to explore a diverse range of franchises and compare them side by side. Of course, these large scale events can draw in huge numbers of attendees, providing the franchisor with unrivalled potential face-to-face exposure to potential new franchisees.
Trade shows provide an alternative form of exhibition-based franchisee recruitment opportunities. Trade shows will attract individuals with a specific interest or affinity to that sector – think the World Dog Expo for canine lovers who would love to open a franchise business inspired by the dog in their life, the Childcare Expo which attracts early education providers who might just be looking for a change of direction, or the Fit Expo for fitness fans seeking a business opportunity which allows them to generate an income from their passion. These types of events enable franchisors to meet individuals face-to-face who might not even realize they are looking for a franchise opportunity until they stumble across one in that environment. There are also now expos here in the U.K but also worldwide specifically targeting certain audiences – exhibitions such as the Women in Business Expo attracting women looking for business opportunities or the Muslim Lifestyle Expo showcasing products and services that cater to the Muslim audience. For my own franchise brand, in the children’s activity industry and targeted at the “parentpreneur” market, a trade or audience-specific exhibition experience is much more likely to attract my Ideal Franchisee Persona than a traditional franchise expo. Often also the lower cost of exhibiting at an event like this versus the potential return on investment if the exhibition results in a franchise sale makes it a more attractive alternative. Which leads on to my next point…..
Know Your Numbers
Traditional marketing methods such as magazine print adverts and stands at franchise exhibitions generally involve significant financial investment and therefore any franchisor looking to spend such amounts of money on an exhibition stand will need to be fairly confident that it’s a worthwhile investment. What is the income generated from the sale of one, two or more franchises at the end of a successful event versus the cost of attending the event, including not just the stand itself but associated travel and expenses, staffing, marketing literature, and promotional materials?
Have A Clear Plan
Whatever type of expo or show you choose to exhibit at, it’s the personal contact opportunities that events offer that must be the main reason why exhibitions continue to be reported as a useful means of generating leads for franchisors. Those who have read some of my other articles will know that I am a firm believer that you can’t beat the personal touch and putting your own face in front of your business when it comes to marketing your brand, your franchise branch as a franchisee, or your franchise opportunities as a franchisor. That’s why I continue to love exhibitions and events as a means for meeting potential franchisees, and spreading the word about our brand generally.
When attending an expo it’s vital to ensure that your brand stands out in what is likely to be a crowded hall in which visitors are bombarded with bright lights, noise, freebies galore and information from left, right and center. As well as taking time to plan the visual layout of your space and marketing materials to accompany it, inviting existing franchisees along to play a part at the event will also help to bring your franchise opportunity to life. Have a clear and cogent plan for promoting your attendance at the event in the lead-up, a strategy for dealing with individuals approaching your stand during the event, and a process for follow up too.
If the figures stack up then just one exhibition encounter that leads to a franchise sale can make the whole event worthwhile. And the fourth top tip, whether attending as a franchisor exhibitor, potential franchisee or simply a nosy visitor?
Don’t forget to pack some comfortable shoes!
April 26, 2019 at 08:36AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs