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How To Take Advantage of Your Time at Expos, Trade Shows and Conferences

No Limit Agency CEO and industry insider Nick Powills discusses how to get the most bang for your buck at a conference.

By Allison Stone1851 Contributor
SPONSORED 10:22PM 12/09/19

In the tight-knit franchising industry, conferences, trade shows and expos can be crucial gatherings for franchisees, franchisors and franchise executives alike. These events aren’t inexpensive to attend either, and professionals in the industry need to plan carefully in order to maximize their time and resources. Each new year promises a new onslaught of opportunities, potential connections and eye-opening innovations—but how do you know which events are the right ones to attend? And once you’re there, how do you make the most of your time? No Limit Agency CEO and publisher of 1851 Franchise, Nick Powills, has the answers on how to set yourself up for success at your next conference, trade show or expo. 

Let’s start at the very beginning—why even attend a trade show, conference or expo in the first place? Powills said that, from the perspective of a franchisor, “A trade show is inviting to a very specific audience. For a franchise brand, the majority of those who attend the show are most likely interested in one of two things: selling you something as a supplier, or exploring buying a franchise.” This means there are going to be buyers in the room, and franchisor attendees have a fighting chance to leverage that event for growth. 

Budget Carefully

In that same vein, Powills urges discretion when it comes to budgeting. ”Only exhibit at shows in regions where you’re interested in growth. If you want to push the pedal down a little harder, bring a franchisee to the show who can help validate the opportunity in real time to potential buyers.”

“A piece of advice for buyers is to be very careful with their budget,” said Powills. “Understand the term ‘working capital,’ and that you will need additional funds on top of the costs of the franchise to offset the time it will take to drive profitability. Always prepare for additional expenses on top of the costs, because it will help you better understand what types of brands you can potentially afford.”

Reach Out

Powills encourages franchisors to set themselves up for success by reaching out to contacts before the conference has even started. “Sift through your dead lead list and see if there are any leads in the market to let them know you will be in town,” Powills said. “Understand that buyers need time to buy, and may not buy at the show. Create marketing moments leading up to and following the show.” Powills further advised creating paid promotions through Facebook and LinkedIn as great ways to reach your audience. 

Nail Your Messaging

As a franchisor, Powills says making a sale at conferences is all about nailing your messaging. “Ask yourself, ‘Why your brand? Why now?’ Have both of those nailed in booth design, print media and messaging in order to win,” Powills said.

Prioritize People

As so much business is now conducted remotely, whether through phone, email or video, conferences are a great opportunity to get up-close-and-personal and make a lasting connection. Many forms of this old adage prove to be true time and time again; as Powills emphasizes: “Brands don’t sell brands—people do.” Being welcoming goes a long way in the world of franchising. 

“Franchisors can make a great impression through how welcoming they are when people walk by,” said Powills. “Don’t oversell it, just be real and talk about what makes for a great franchisee.”

Don’t Sleep on Social media

While in-person human connection is paramount to conference attendees, paid social media advertising is a great way to extend the life of those connections and spread your message to other attendees in the area. “I would recommend doing a pin drop within a 10-mile radius of the conference location. That way you can deliver a message to those nearby and pique their interest,” said Powills.

Connections Come First, Money Comes Later

“Because shows are extremely expensive, my advice is to set realistic expectations,” Powills said. “Know that they can be a crapshoot, but that it is also an opportunity to leverage being in a market to create awareness that you are looking to grow there.”

In Powills’ own personal experience, setting realistic expectations has always garnered the best results. “I don’t always expect to get a deal out of the show; I expect to raise awareness and build connections,” Powills said. 

In other words, use conferences as a chance to sow the seeds that build connections—the money will come later. 

“Create the most holistic approach to how you spend your marketing dollars to win,” said Powills. “I am confident when making connections that something will eventually come from them—but before investing in the costs of a conference, I understand that immediate return may not happen.”

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