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How to Market Your Franchise Opportunity Part 2: Franchise Shows & Traditional Ads

Technology may be changing how people approach franchise development, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t value in some of the more traditional marketing tactics.

To say the franchising industry has taken a new shape in the last two years is a considerable understatement. Traditional marketing strategy has been uprooted in favor of new innovative strategies. However, despite the changes COVID-19 has brought, many brands still find massive success with old-school franchise sales strategies, whether it be franchise expos, direct mailers or television commercials. 

Here are some of the top to-do’s when it comes to marketing a franchise opportunity through franchise shows and traditional ads. 

Stand Out from the Crowd at Expos

Trade shows are a lot more than rows of tables set up in a hotel conference room where business reps are earnestly handing out informational pamphlets. Today, the trade show has evolved to be a place where professionals can come together to have unique conversations about the industry and the opportunities within it. In this way, the franchise expo can be a valuable asset for franchisors, but only depending on their brand strategy, expectations, budget and goals. 

“Franchise trade shows work for a specific type of brand, but for the average brand, the ROI in today’s digital landscape is a tough equation to solve,” said Brent Dowling, CEO of Raintree*. “Ask to validate brands that attend. Some brands do very well, and maybe you are a similar type of brand.” 

And what kinds of franchise brands are those?

“Franchise shows work best for niche brands or those who have a new product or a new industry,” said Dowling. “There needs to be a real education piece and excitement of something new. You don’t want to be lost in a sea of burger and pizza franchises. For example, we have some good success with brands that can show a tangible product. We work with a dog training brand, and they do great at trade shows because they have a dog standing there doing tricks, which is exciting. That makes it easier to have a good ROI on the trade show.” 

Come to Expos Prepared

Before a franchisor decides to exhibit at a trade show, they need to first understand their annual franchise development budget and evaluate how the expo fits into their sales goals. The more prepared they are in terms of understanding their goals for leads, applicants and conversions, the better positioned they will be to get the most out of the trade show. 

“You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression,” said Taylor Gregory, director of franchise development for United Franchise Group. “You want to make sure you have your best sales team in place, a nice booth, brochures, and presentations on hand for your prospects. Don’t wait for prospects to come into your booth. You paid a lot to be at the show, so talk with as many people as you can.”

In addition to talking, franchise expos are a great opportunity to really listen to the candidates in the market. Each individual walking the floor has a business goal in mind and a pain point they want to solve. While the digital landscape makes it hard to connect with this group, a franchise show offers franchisors a rare chance to understand their journey. 

“Trade shows are a great way to get your brand’s name out in front of serious prospects who are looking to purchase a business,” said Gregory. “These people often travel a good way to be at the show and pay their way to get in. These are some of the most serious prospects you can find. In my experience, consumers are looking into a more digital alternative to do their research on brands first; however, many high-quality prospects are still attending trade shows to make themselves more aware of the brands available and get more detailed information by scheduling meetings right after the shows.”

Know Your Traditional Ad Audience

In a world of LinkedIn and geotracking, traditional advertising can sometimes fall to the wayside, whether it be television spots, billboards or newspaper ads. But, depending on their specific franchisee candidate audience, these types of old-school strategies can be incredibly fruitful for a franchisor. 

“You have to ultimately determine what is best for your brand based on your target audience and budget,” said Gregory. “What may work now will not always work in the future, and we’ve noticed that not as many people are reading things like newspapers and magazines, and many are streaming shows without commercials. Tracking leads through traditional ads can also be challenging, so it’s really become more of a brand awareness play.”

In order to determine the validity of traditional ads within the franchisor’s specific budget, Gregory suggests creating a target buyer persona. “Take a look at who your best franchisees are and develop a target audience from there,” she said. “Chances are, some of your best franchisees have similar traits. If you have little to no franchisees, then I would suggest focusing on a target area where you believe your brand would thrive. You can then start growing your brand in a smaller market and create a good base of franchisees to start expanding.”

Go Against the Norm

As television commercials have taught us, the more unique and unexpected the ad, the more successful it is at getting people talking. That is why Dowling says one of his main pieces of advice for franchisors is to “ying” when others “yang.” And today, that may mean taking a more traditional marketing route when others are busy with their digital strategy.

“Similar to trade shows, you are lost in the noise if you are just doing what everyone else is doing,” said Dowling. “Trends are still important, but you also need to find the opportunities to get above the noise. For example, right now, we are seeing a lot of success with direct mail — sending physical brochures and packages to franchise candidates through old-school snail mail. This is effective because other brands are just sending emails. If every other brand is doing it, sometimes it is better to do the opposite.”

While there are more and more innovative franchise development marketing tools available to franchisors than ever before, it's important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. More old-school strategies like trade shows and traditional ads can go a long way for the right kind of franchisors, as long as they know how to best approach them

*This brand is a paid partner of 1851 Franchise. For more information on paid partnerships please click here.