Over the past year, digital solutions have allowed franchises across the world to continue engaging with investors and, in some cases, even make time and financial savings. So, is the importance of attending franchise exhibitions as great as it once was?
While the pandemic has stopped many franchisors meeting would-be franchisees in person and inviting them to their headquarters, most have reported a successful transition to virtual discovery days in particular. Business owners have been able to start a conversation with prospective investors and even introduce colleagues and provide a tour of offices and existing franchise units.
In fact, a large proportion of the franchisors to successfully switch to virtual solutions have said they would like to continue using them after the pandemic restrictions have been lifted. But does this move towards digital communication signal a future decline in the popularity of franchise exhibitions?
With digital tools like Zoom and Google Meet becoming the de facto way of doing business after COVID-19, Discovery Days have similarly made a virtual transition. And while the face-to-face method was the accepted tradition of the past, the move to virtual platforms presents some logistical advantages that could render the in-person practice obsolete.
Do franchisors need to attend franchise exhibitions?
Industry events are a great way for franchisors to get their brand name out there and meet aspiring franchisees face to face. Let’s run through the pros and cons of attending franchise exhibitions.
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Advantages of attending franchise exhibitions
- You can reach a wide audience - Franchise exhibitions attract hundreds - sometimes thousands - of people, so setting up a stall displaying your business’s branding can get your name out there quickly.
- You can find suitable investors - Unlike releasing magazine or social media adverts, attending franchise exhibitions will help you reach people who are genuinely interested in franchising - perhaps even in your particular sector. You won’t waste time or money trying to sell your opportunity to those with no intention of investing.
- You can talk in person - You’ll be able to discuss your franchise opportunity with prospective investors face to face, which will help you gauge their interest and establish a rapport early on.
- You can invite people who have already registered their interest - By encouraging people already considering the opportunity to visit your franchise stall, you can demonstrate your professionalism and willingness to invest in your brand’s growth.
- You can display new products - Franchise exhibitions offer the chance to show off any new products you’ve recently introduced. You’ll be able to explain how they work and demonstrate their value for your business.
- You can give away merchandise - It’s common for franchises to provide branded products at their exhibition stalls. You’re unlikely to tempt investors with a free pen, but you’ll help keep your brand in their minds if they take merchandise home with them.
- Small businesses can shine a light on their brand - It can be difficult for small franchises to appeal to budding investors while larger brands can afford high-profile advertising campaigns. But franchise exhibitions allow every stall to shine, no matter the business’s size.
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Disadvantages of attending franchise exhibitions
- It involves a significant financial investment - You’ll need to pay for the stand space, design materials and marketing products. Plus, there’s travel and accommodation for you and your colleagues to think about, which isn’t a problem for franchisors organising virtual events.
- You’ll be competing against lots of other franchisors - Few prospective investors go to a franchise exhibition just to find out more about one specific brand, so you can expect most visitors to judge you against your competitors.
- Turnout could be low - If the event organiser doesn’t manage to secure high-profile guest speakers or advertise the exhibition effectively, you may not reach many people.
- You’ll have to judge how much help you’ll need - Franchise exhibitions can be busy at times and quiet at others, but you risk losing potential franchisees if you don’t have enough stall attendants to engage with everyone.
- You’ll have to follow up on leads - If you promote your opportunity on directory sites or use social media adverts, prospective investors get in touch with you. But after franchise exhibitions, you’ll be left with a list of interested parties to contact.
Other ways to advertise a franchise opportunity
As you can see from the factors above, virtual events can offer a range of advantages over franchise exhibitions, but traditional meet-and-greets still have their own unique set of benefits. Generally, they help visitors immediately judge the franchise and get a sense of whether the opportunity is right for them, which is more difficult to do over the internet.
However, there are several other effective ways of attracting new franchisees. Firstly, directory sites like Point Franchise can give would-be investors an in-depth understanding of your opportunity. They list your investment criteria and describe your business’s history, values and goals. Then, they send suitable candidates straight to you.
Secondly, there’s the British Franchise Association (BFA). By gaining accreditation from this high-profile industry regulator, you establish your brand as a first-rate franchise with ethical trading practices and attract high-quality investors.
Ultimately, in-person meetings will always exist. At some point prior to signing, it is critical for the franchisor and candidate to break bread. Executing deals with external prospects without meeting them in person isn’t a pathway for sustainable growth. - Larry Sidoti, Garbanzo Chief Development Officer
Alternatively, you could create targeted adverts to find suitable franchisee candidates. As part of the process, you could use your social media profiles to engage with potential investors and build up a rapport to establish your franchise as professional and accessible.
Also, if you run a franchise with physical premises, you could even display posters advertising your investment opportunity. Current employees or even customers might be interested in joining the brand if they’ve already had a good experience with it.
The role of franchise exhibitions in the future
While many brands have seen success after running their discovery days over the internet, this networking opportunity is unlikely to replace in-person franchise exhibitions.
Generally, discovery days are a helpful tool to engage investors who are in the middle of the sales funnel, as opposed to right at the top. They’ve already narrowed down their list of franchises and use the event to get an inside perspective of the business. Meanwhile, the franchisor can sell the opportunity fully and assess the investor’s suitability.
Even virtual franchise exhibitions have their drawbacks. Being able to meet potential business partners in real life is useful for both franchisors and franchisees. Ultimately, this type of event will always have its benefits, and is likely to remain one of the many avenues for franchisee recruitment.
Find more helpful business guides right here at Point Franchise.
Alice Tuffery, Point Franchise ©