10 Reasons to Factor Expos Into Your Game Plan
Face-to-face recruitment is still a highly effective method
to meet quality prospects and build sustaining relationships.

April 2011
By Joel Goldstein

Remember when a status update meant actually speaking with somebody face to face about the latest developments in their personal or professional life? Hard to believe, but there also was a time when chatting actually meant having a conversation with a person using your voice … not your thumbs on a keypad.

As technology forges ahead at rocket speed, expos like the International Franchise Association’s Franchise Expo South and the International Franchise Expo continue to demonstrate that face-to-face recruitment is still a highly effective method to meet quality prospects and build sustaining relationships.

In fact, 2011 marks the 20th successful year of the IFE bringing quality candidates and great franchise brands together in a truly live forum. Through all the ups and downs of the economy, the IFE and other expos continue to survive and thrive.

Next year, to continue to deliver strong results for exhibitors and evolve into the future, MFV Expositions recently announced the IFE will move from Washington, D.C. to the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City, the most visited city in the country and the financial capital of the world.

Include Trade Show in Brand-Recruitment Mix

As franchisors look at their strategies for branding and recruitment for the remainder of 2011 and into 2012, here are 10 good reasons to consider working expos into the mix:

  1. Prospects are serious investors, taking time out of their weekends to visit the expo.
  2. Candidates at expos typically have access to capital and are ready to buy.
  3. Expositions inevitably lower your cost per lead and in many cases lower your cost per sale.
  4. The IFE delivers the best pool of domestic and international visitors to fuel your expansion, particularly your domestic expansion in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic.
  5. For international expansion, the IFE features nearly 2,000 visitors from more than 60 countries from around the world.
  6. The IFE is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Buyer Program for brands expanding outside the United States.
  7. USDOC staffs an international business center at the IFE to welcome international delegations and visitors.
  8. The IFE features in-depth workshops for franchisors, including courses with CFE Credits presented by industry experts.
  9. The IFE is promoted in trade publications, online, through targeted e-mail marketing, foreign commercial service offices, network and cable television, radio, local newspaper and billboard advertising bringing in a large, varied and serious pool of prospects who are ready to invest.
  10. The IFE is the longest running, largest franchise event in the United States and is sponsored by IFA.

Trade Shows Cater to Serious Investors

One false perception about expos is that they tend to attract tire kickers who are only looking to get free food and giveaways at booths. While every expo has its share of those types, the vast majority are serious candidates. In fact, an expo is often one of these candidates’ final stages in the search process. Fast Fix Jewelry & Watch Repairs Franchise Development Director Gary Biltis said he decided to participate in Franchise Expo South because the franchise has specific locations available in the Southeast United States.

‘Overall, FES has been very positive for Fast Fix,’ Biltis said. ‘The visitors we’ve met are not tire kickers. Quite the contrary, they are in true buying mode. The base capital they are coming to the table with seems to be considerably higher than previous years. We’ve seen very few candidates with less than $50,000 to invest, so the quality of people has been very good.’

Some franchise companies use expos as a way to launch a new concept in a region that makes sense for the brand. Ken Lewis, director of franchise development for Kaña Cuban Coffee, said FES in Miami was a shoe-in for branding and recruitment, since the company is based in South Florida and the concept is a fit for the Hispanic market.

‘FES feeds into the market we are looking to penetrate very well and we saw great results from the show,’ Lewis said. ‘We hosted a seminar theater right in our booth. The presentation allowed us to deliver what would be a 20-minute discussion in the aisle into a concise, five-minute presentation in the theater. We were able to focus on delivering the key information to prospects that they need to know to better get to know our brand.’

Introduce Your Product

Another benefit of expos, particularly for franchise companies with food or other tangible products, is that it allows an opportunity for product introduction. Jimmer Bolden, director of franchise development for Robek’s Franchise Corporation, said Robek’s recently signed its first international deal with a partner in Tokyo to open 500 stores over the next 10 years in Asia, and sees further opportunities for international growth. The company’s brokerage partners advised it to exhibit at FES as the organization targets Florida and South America for development.

‘We met some great international visitors from Venezuela, Peru, Brazil, Columbia, Dominican Republic, the Czech Republic, Kuwait, and Dubai,’ Bolden said. ‘For us, exhibiting is not just about the value of face to face. We need people to taste our product and we can blend it right onsite and share it with many visitors who are not familiar with it. They can taste it for themselves, and that provides a great lead in to a discussion about our concept. There’s nothing better than enthusiastic investors enjoying your product while you build new relationships.’

Lowell Hawthorne, president and CEO of Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery, said Golden Krust exhibited at the IFE to maximize brand exposure, but wound up getting leads from serious candidates who were already familiar with Golden Krust and had been following its development.

‘We met with candidates who have expressed tremendous interest in our concept from all over the world from places like India, the Philippines, and are looking to take Golden Krust back to their countries,’ Hawthorne said. ‘These visitors have the disposable income and equity to start their own business right away and we’re looking to forward to working with these folks to help make their dreams come true.’

One recurring theme among all expo fans is the benefits of personal interaction with candidates. With an increasing segment of the population now heavily reliant on social networks and mobile applications to stay connected with people, the opportunities to meet with people in person have become an extremely valuable commodity.

‘You can’t beat the face-to-face opportunity of being at an expo,’ said Chris Bailey, director of franchise development for Bojangles’ Famous Chicken & Biscuits. ‘Looking at a visitor, having the candidate look back at you, they see your organization, see your booth display. It’s just a better connection than any other way you can field a prospective franchisee. We appreciate every lead we collect, but nothing beats meeting face to face here at the show.’

After exhibiting at the IFE for more than five years, Bailey said the expo also keeps the company in touch with the international community, while simultaneously driving candidates from nearby regions to the show to consider investing in the concept.

‘People who are attending the IFE have invested their money and their time to be here. So you’re seeing a more serious candidate on the show floor,’ Bailey added. ‘The attendees we’ve met at the IFE are already successful businesspeople. They bring their experience with them and the leads have been consistently excellent.’

As franchisors continue to enhance their lead generation methods with technology, social networking and mobile application tools, they should never overlook or underestimate the value of meeting people in person, where real transactions and serious business decisions are most often made.

If you are looking for a good example, check out the ways MFV Expositions uses Twitter and Facebook to promote upcoming franchise expos and offer discounts to registrants and specials to exhibitors. More information on West Coast Franchise Expo, Franchise Expo South and the International Franchise Expo is available at mfvexpo.com.

Joel Goldstein is the group marketing director at MFV Expositions, the producer of leading franchise events worldwide. He can be reached at jgoldstein@mfvexpo.com. For more information about exhibiting at any of MFV Expositions upcoming trade shows, visit www.mfvexpo.com or call 201-881-1666.