How to make the most of the exhibition experience

A franchise exhibition will be home to hundreds of business opportunities, so knowing what you want to get from your experience is essential.

With the country having been hit by job losses across all sectors, you may find yourself one of the thousands of people who are seeking to change their lives by finding the perfect franchise opportunity.

One of your research options will be a visit to a exhibition hall housing hundreds of franchisors, who have spent thousands of pounds to showcase their opportunity to potential franchise owners.

With 21 per cent of franchise owners citing exhibitions as their main source of information about brands, trade shows are as important as magazines and franchise recruitment websites in attracting strong leads, according to Insight: An Industry Review Of Franchising In The UK, a new report published Franchise Development Services.

As well as the cost of booking stand space, exhibitors will have invested money to create an eye-catching branded stand, devoted time, travel and hotel expenses to transport themselves and their staff to the event and may have even commissioned a promotional campaign in the national and franchise press to publicise their involvement.

This creates a pressured environment that can be intimidating, so keep in mind your goals: to identify a number of promising opportunities which deserve further investigation after the event and to meet and gain an impression of the management of those franchises, while retaining a level of detachment sufficient to avoid being swept up in the hype and enthusiasm.

Remember that not every franchise is right for you, even if it is affordable and the franchisor makes it sound right. They may be doing so because they need to make a sale to warrant the exhibition investment.

The discerning visitor will set aside a whole day to visit as many stands and talk to as many franchisors as possible. By approaching the event with a strategy, perhaps sitting down with a copy of the exhibition catalogue when you arrive and identifying your ‘must sees’, you’ll have more chance of coming away from the event satisfied that you have gained an accurate picture of the range of opportunities you want to explore.

The Two-Way Interview

Meetings between franchisors and potential franchise owners are often described as two-way job interviews, and this is the best way to approach franchise exhibitors. You are both assessing each other as potential partners in a franchise relationship and, as such, you must strive to maintain a balanced approach to the conversation.

On the one hand, you are attempting to discern the details of the franchise and the philosophy of the management team from your meeting, which may not be with a member of the management. Arm yourself with a list of questions before the event to ensure you make the most of this opportunity – an excellent crib list of questions is The Franchise Magazine’s Checklist.

Conversely, the person you are talking to is charged with evaluating you. Their questions will tend to be open-ended, so that assessable feedback can be obtained as a guide to your potential, while the more skilled stand personnel will be trying to identify you as a serious contender as early as possible.

Due to limited selling time, exhibitors try to ensure no time is wasted on an unqualified prospect. Their aim is to qualify you quickly with upfront questions and filter out those with vague answers about money.

Exhibitors will be asking themselves questions about you. Do you have the capital investment that you claim? Do you have what it takes to operate the franchised business and conform to the corporate values of the model? Are you capable of making the decision to invest or unlikely to commit?

It is possible they may misread your intentions and not class you as a genuine prospect. If this is the case they will likely ask you to fill in a registration card for possible follow-up after the exhibition rather than devote their time explaining the business opportunity being offered. If your interest in the franchise is sincere, make it clear and ensure you are provided with the attention you deserve.

Seminars

At most exhibitions you will find accompanying seminars designed to educate visitors about different aspects of franchising.

Subjects including An Introduction To Franchising, What To Consider When Choosing A Franchise and How To Franchise Your Business are covered, usually lasting the best part of an hour.

Keep Your Chequebook Closed

Most franchisors view the return on their investment as a significant amount of registered interest in their opportunity – a list of leads on which to follow up, with a percentage ‘converting’ by investing in the franchise. Certainly no franchisor should be seeking to sign franchise owners up at the exhibition itself and you should consider any attempt to do so as a highly dubious practise – one which could signal a franchisor keen to avoid too much investigation into its track record, or one desperate for the franchise fee to prop up a dodgy financial situation.

Assess Your Options

Approached properly, franchise exhibitions represent valuable and even fun opportunities to gain access to the people involved with the franchises available and secure the information you need to properly consider the opportunity being presented.

By the end of the day you’ll be returning home with a couple of bags full of brochures and promotional literature, which you can read through during your cooling off period.

Combined with the research you have carried out on the internet and by reading The Franchise Magazine, you should now have enough information to begin identifying the opportunities that interest you the most.

Reported by Fraser McKay