Expos = Lead Generation for Top Franchisors

The average prospective franchisee now walks into a franchise exhibition with their mind set on a specific industry. They have done their research, often painstakingly for over a year and know what they can and what they want to invest in

When the International Franchise Expo (IFE) launched nearly 20 years ago, a top priority for the show's producers was to create an event that would deliver high quality leads for exhibitors. Today, that remains the number one goal of the IFE as well as for the newest franchise trade shows sponsored by the International Franchise Association (IFA).

Since their debuts, Franchise Expo South and the West Coast Franchise Expo (WCFE) have continued to grow at explosive paces. The reason? Quality leads. The unparalleled dedication to bringing qualified, strong prospects through the front door keeps these shows going strong year after year and is the reason they have become must-attends for the USA's leading franchisors.

'If you were to pick the best three franchise shows in the United States, they would be the MFV's shows in Washington D.C., Los Angeles and Miami,' says Ray Titus, President of United Franchise Group. 'The quality of attendees at these shows is far superior to any other trade show we do. Having a great show is contingent on the promoter getting people through the entrance and these expos are the highest attended franchise shows.'


Of course a major reason that the shows drive quality leads is the combined power of the IFA and MFV Expositions. Put those two together and you have the highest quality franchise trade shows around the globe.

At a time when more people are searching for a personal, one-on-one approach, trade shows like West Coast Franchise Expo are have secured their place as lead-generation leaders. 'I believe that every franchise system should have a diverse, multi-pronged approach to franchise sales,' adds Ray. 'Trade shows are an important part of that, and MFV runs the best franchise shows - period.'

The West Coast Franchise Expo, which is gearing up for its fifth anniversary, still maintains the strong buzz that surrounded it at its debut. 'We've participated in the West Coast Franchise Expo for the last four years,' says Dave Messenger, Vice President of Market Development for ServiceMaster Clean. 'This is the only show we participate in. We decided to come to WCFE because we're targeting Los Angeles and the Southern California market, so we think this show is a great way to meet people from the area, have the chance to talk one-on-one and get a pool of qualified applicants from the region.'

Concepts specifically targeting the West Coast couldn't ask for a better platform to reach prospects. 'At last year's WCFE show we saw some very qualified attendees and prospects,' says Mark Kienkenapp, Vice President of Franchise Development for LA Sunset Tans. 'It's important for us to be there for brand recognition. This is one show we wouldn't miss. It helps us target the west and help us with our expansion plans. I've been doing these shows for 20 years and the events get better every year.'


With as many as 10,000 plus attendees typically expected, the WCFE and other IFA-sponsored events are known as high-traffic events. 'We've already booked our space for WCFE 2008,' says Dave of ServiceMaster Clean. 'It's important for ServiceMaster to exhibit at West Coast Franchise Expo because we're expanding in the west, and we use expos to target the geographical areas where we plan to grow our business. You can't target a region any better way than exhibiting at a franchise expo event.'

The sheer number of people walking through the expo offers franchisors the chance to generate not only leads, but brand awareness. 'The event introduces franchising to over 10,000 visitors - we want to be here for those prospects who want to buy,' says Brent Alvord of Lenny's Sub Shop. 'The team (behind the expo) does a phenomenal job and really brings the quality attendees into the show.' Adds David Gollersrud, Vice President of Development for Garlic Jim's Famous Gourmet Pizza: 'The traffic was great (at the 2007 WCFE). We decided to exhibit at WCFE after speaking with fellow franchisors who shared the success they've had at previous expos and wanted to capture that same success for our concept.'


Sure West Coast Franchise Expo, IFE and Franchise Expo South bring in the quantity, but it's the quality that really counts. After all, a lot of tyre kickers walking through that front door don't deliver any value to exhibitors. 'We found that there were some really qualified leads at the IFE show; leads with the right background and aptitude for our business,' says Thomas Scott, Director of Operations for Showhomes Franchise Corporation. 'Speaking to people in person and building a more personal relationship with someone makes a big difference. At a trade show you can get a much better gut reaction to a candidate and get a good feel for his or her fit in your franchise system. While you won't get hundreds of leads, what you get should be higher quality and that is what counts.'

Not only are these attendees qualified, but they've done the research required to buy a concept. 'The IFE and shows like it provide the platform to share your concept with serious buyers who have done their homework and understand what franchising is all about,' says Carlotta Lennox of Hey Buddy Pet Supply. 'This is the perfect venue to showcase a quality business and get it into the marketplace.'

Attending a trade show also gives prospects that unique opportunity to physically experience the brand they are considering. 'We have had great success at the West Coast Franchise Expo,' says Brent of Lenny's Sub Shop. 'It's good to exhibit at events like this because these shows attract a different audience. Visitors can touch, taste and see the concept - as opposed to many of the leads we capture through internet portals, where the visitors doesn't really have a tangible connection to the concept.'

With the popularity of trade shows growing, prime space can fill up fast. As a result, experienced exhibitors know to reserve their spaces as early as possible - often prior to the conclusion of the previous year's show. 'Last year's show was wonderful and we've already committed to exhibiting at WCFE 2008,' says David of Garlic Jim's Famous Gourmet Pizza. 'We met quite a few qualified prospects at the West Coast Franchise Expo. MFV and IFA put on a wonderful show here in Los Angeles and we'll be exhibiting next year and the year after.'


Though there's no real science to generating leads, many exhibitors leave the expo with a strong sense of how many actual, true leads they received. 'We had a busy booth, thanks to creative pre-show marketing and a well-staffed booth,' says Showhomes' Thomas of the IFE. 'We walked away with about 75 quality leads, 15 of which are working through our sales pipeline. For a small franchise company with about 30 units, that's huge.'

Positive results like those are the top reason franchise concepts attend a trade show and why many companies are investing more of their franchise development budget into traditional trade shows. Or, as Brent puts it: 'It only takes one deal for the expo to pay for itself.'


  • Arizona Franchise & Financing Expo 4th-5th October Phoenix Convention Center
  • West Coast Franchise Expo 7th-9th November LA Convention Center
  • Franchise Expo South 9th-11th January 2009 Miami Beach Convention Center
  • International Franchise Expo 20th-22nd March 2009 Walter E. Washington Convention Center
  • Atlanta Franchise & Financing Expo 2nd-3rd May 2009Cobb Galleria
  • Boston Franchise & Financing Expo 6th-7th June 2009 Hynes Convention Center
  • West Coast Franchise Expo 2nd-4th October 2009 Los Angeles Convention Center
  • North Texas Franchise & Financing Expo 21st-22nd November 2009 Dallas Convention Center