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Is there still value in showcasing your franchise at an exhibition?

Written by James Thomas on Wednesday, 19 December 2018. Posted in Finance

With the ever-shifting paradigms of an informed consumer, one question grows more important with each passing year – are franchise exhibitions still a sound investment?

Is there still value in showcasing your franchise at an exhibition?

The simple fact is that attending franchise exhibitions can be a brilliant idea. However, it can also cost franchises, suppliers and corporations vast sums of money to attend. It’s not just the cost of your stand itself, there are also many other factors to consider – days out of the office for attendees, travel, accommodation and expenses. It’s easy to see how costs can quickly add up.

For many businesses where margins are tight and growth is a challenge, the choice can become ever more difficult and both sides of the big question must be weighed up carefully.

So are franchise exhibitions still a sound investment? There’s little doubt in anyone’s mind that as little as ten years ago, business exhibitions and shows were one of the primary sources of information for prospective investors. Franchise shows are no exception to this rule. Not only are they a great way to learn about franchising as a whole but it’s also an ideal chance to get some face-to-face time with a potential franchisor or franchisee.

What has changed in that decade? What has caused us to ask this question, where once we would have had no doubt? The simple answer is the internet, or more specifically, Google. So much information now lies at your fingertips, whether it be in your pocket or purse, living room or workplace. With the birth of the idiom “google it”, we have to ask ourselves how important exhibitions are.

Where does this leave us? What does this mean, other than a change in the landscape of the modern-day consumer? How has our thinking and buying process evolved? Thankfully, Google has coined the term of that change for us as well: ZMOT, or zero moment of truth. This term refers to the point in the consumer’s journey whereby they make the decision to buy a product or service or, as in the aforementioned case, invest in a franchise.

Before Google, this ZMOT would’ve likely come from one of two touch points with the prospective franchisee – an exhibition or a discovery day. The key reason behind both activities is evident and very much still relevant for most. These are golden opportunities for the prospective franchisee to sit down with the franchisor and learn everything there is to know about the franchise. They get an indication of the setup, their processes, how many are in their network and even some testimonials from existing franchisees. Ten years ago, this was the primary way a prospective franchisee would obtain this information.

The internet, however, has removed all reliance on the franchisor as the sole gatekeeper of all this information. A consumer can now learn everything they need to know, at least in their mind, from their phones, tablets and other devices. This allows them to move that ZMOT to a point of their own choosing – perhaps even before they’ve made direct contact. This, in turn, makes it all the more important for the franchisor to be more conscientious of their franchise’s public and social media profile.

With information readily available and franchisor websites ever more informative of the investment opportunity, you may be of the mind that the time of exhibitions is coming to an end. I too have thought this at various points – mostly when I’ve been twiddling my thumbs at lesser attended exhibitions. However, to move with the shift in consumer ZMOT, exhibitions must also reassess their own paradigms and evolve with this gatekeeper-free world the internet has created for us.

This change isn’t rested solely at the feet of the organiser, either. It’s also the responsibility of the exhibitors to consider and adapt. For an exhibition to be a success, you must create a buzz of excitement and shout about the fact that you’re attending a certain exhibition.

As we’ve established, most prospective franchisees have already had, or are close to that ZMOT as to which franchise they would like to invest in. They’re watching out for any events those franchises are attending, with little or no need for input from the franchisor. 

By creating that hype and giving the consumer a chance to chat with you on their terms, we’re firmly placing that control back with the gatekeepers and subtly taking it from those who assume all information lies on the internet. Ultimately, this question of worth and investment in an exhibition will differ from franchise to franchise and each unique journey they’re on.

I would even dare to say that, depending on the age of the franchise, it would be worth reassessing the importance of attending such events.

In my mind, exhibitions still have their place. They’re still, and will remain, a great source of information for those who wish to learn more about business or franchising. How they evolve and what they will become remains to be seen but there is exciting potential for innovation and development here. With that, there will also need to be a change in mentality, together with a shift in what both visitors and exhibitors expect to gain from such events. 

About the Author

James Thomas

James Thomas

Having worked within the franchise industry as an operations coordinator in the past, Thomas has developed experience of facilitating the relationship between franchisor and franchise network, which led him to become franchise relationship manager at d&t chartered accountants.

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