Guidance for Franchisors: Setting out your stall for exhibitions

An exhibition stand can be expensive, but with the right preparation it can raise awareness of a franchise opportunity and provide franchisors with the chance to talk to potential franchisees face to face. FDS Northern franchise consultant Tony Urwin offers franchisors his tips on how to maximise the potential that exhibiting provides

The fact that people take the trouble to come to a franchise exhibition indicates a certain level of serious interest in becoming a franchisee. Your task now is to identify among them the individuals who are right for you.

Your success in attracting interest from potential franchisees starts from the moment they enter the exhibition hall. A well designed and presented stand will immediately attract attention. If possible, add an interactive element that invites passers-by to engage with your business in a hands-on way. This will help them to remember you and give your exhibition staff an opportunity to engage them in conversation.

The function of an exhibition is to impart information quickly and creatively. Your exhibition staff should be well presented, well informed and under strict instructions not to sell!

Most visitors to a franchise exhibition are exploring the marketplace. They want to assess the opportunities that are available and get a feel for the types of businesses and people they will be dealing with should they decide to proceed. Hard sell tactics are more likely to scare them off. A friendly, informative discussion, followed by an offer to post out further information is often the best way to proceed.

While it is a good idea to hand out an information pack, be careful of giving out too much information too soon. If your prospective franchisees already have your complete prospectus, what do you then have to follow up with?

Be aware of your exhibiting competitors. Know your unique selling points and the benefits for a franchisee of investing in your franchise rather than another.

The secret to gaining the maximum benefits from an exhibition is to act quickly. Contact your potential franchisees immediately in the days following the exhibition, while they are still enthusiastic about what they have seen and they can still remember who you are.

Follow up is best done by post at first and then with a phone call. Include your initial application form and invite them to send it back. If possible send a stamped addressed envelope for this purpose.

We are all familiar with the comparison of a franchise relationship to a marriage. For many of us, an exhibition is the initial meeting that sparks off a mutual interest and how you follow up on that meeting can be compared to the courtship.

Statistics indicate that relationships that go through a long courtship are more likely to last. Nurture your prospective franchisees. Take the time to get to know them and let them get to know you before entering into a commitment. This way, the contacts that you make through a franchise exhibition may well become your next, and best, franchisee partners.