By Joel Goldstein, Director of Marketing for MFV Expositions
There's more than one reason the International
Franchise Expo has become the preeminent franchise trade show. In 2007, there
were over 13,000 reasons. That's how many visitors flowed through the Washington
Convention Center, making the 16th annual event one of the largest shows in IFE
history. The show also provided an opportunity to mark a milestone for the
International Franchise Association and its highly successful VetFran programme.
Over 300 franchisors were on hand to showcase their concepts and for
many, like Concerto Networks, the quality of prospect was better than ever. "IFE
was another successful event for us," said Raymond Hivoral, CEO of the
international computer and Information technology franchise that provides
technology solutions to small and medium businesses. Hivoral says his team is
now working to close several franchise deals from the IFE. "It provided us with
a perfect forum to interview qualified, prospective franchise owners to see if
we are a fit," he said. "I'm sure we made some matches because of the IFE show
and new Concerto Networks franchises will soon be awarded."
D'Arezzo, Vice President of Franchising for Fatburger, was equally enthused.
"The IFE provided great exposure to the right prospects, both domestically and
internationally. The show provided a great opportunity to network with current
franchisors and franchisees, meet with franchise suppliers but most importantly
to build the brand awareness necessary for our expansion."
History One of the highlights of this year's Expo was the announcement
that the IFA's VetFran programme had produced its 700th
veteran-turned-franchisee. During the Expo's opening ceremony former Marine Alan
Martinez was recognized by US Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson for
his purchase of a Virginia Barbeque franchise.
The Veterans Transition
Franchise Initiative, or VetFran program, is a voluntary effort made up of
nearly 250 IFA member-companies that offer financial incentives to
honorably-discharged military veterans looking to acquire a franchised-small
Virginia Barbeque was founded by Rick Ivey and is
headquartered in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The franchise has seven restaurants
in operation and three in development. As part of the VetFran program Ivey
discounted US$5,000 from Martinez's initial franchise fee. "The IFA has done a
wonderful job of promoting VetFran and we are honoured to be part of it," said
Ivey. "Alan's franchise is up and running and business is already booming. We
are excited to have him as part of the Virginia Barbeque family and proud to
support the veteran community."
Finding The Right Fit From an
entrepreneur looking to buy her first franchise to franchisees looking to invest
in multiple locations and concepts, this year's IFE delivered a range of highly
qualified prospects. In fact, several exhibitors mentioned the growing success
they are having in growing their concepts through the IFE and other shows.
"Trade shows are making a renaissance," said Jim Squire, Director of
Franchise Development for The Honeybaked Ham. "The IFE brings us quite a few
great prospects. The IFE is really important because it's the premiere show.
It's a bellwether event for our concept and has proven very effective for us.
The main reason we exhibit at the show is because it's endorsed by the IFA,
which lends lots of credibility. Show Management does a fabulous job marketing
and promoting the show."
Jennifer Woolfolk, Marketing Director at
Quizno's, agreed that attending visitors were experienced and serious about
investing. "Almost everyone at the show is familiar with our concept," said
Woolfolk. "We assist prospective franchisees in researching a variety of lenders
to help them secure the financing they need to get started, and a lot of the
people we spoke with are extremely qualified."
Relations As usual, international attendees played a major role in this
year's International Franchise Expo. International prospects were at an all-time
high as businessmen and women from other countries arrived with aspirations to
find successful concepts to develop in their homeland.
Ham's Squire was impressed by the quality of this year's international crowd.
"We've met some great people here at the IFE," said Squire. "Folks from the area
and international visitors who want to bring our concept home. We've already met
a number of people that would be great candidates for our concept, and we're
looking forward to subsequent discussions."
Another exhibitor, Andrew
Brooke, CEO of Bark Busters, sees the increase in international attendees as an
opportunity to expand his brand's concept. "Tradeshows are brilliant for
exposure," said Brooke. "It gives us a domestic springboard to build our
business here in the US, and with international visitors to continue our
international expansion. We decided to come to the IFE because it's the biggest,
the best, and the most well known event. It delivers quality candidates, both
domestically and internationally."
Building The Brand Of
course almost every exhibitor says one of the top reasons to attend the IFE is
the opportunity to build brand awareness. Presence at the IFE gives their
concepts immeasurable brand visibility.
Randy Sidwell of Open2view.com,
a franchise group that delivers photographic and virtual tour services to real
estate professionals, said the Expo delivered for the company this year. "It's
important for us to exhibit at shows like IFE because it gives our concept
exposure to a lot of people coming through," said Sidwell. "We will definitely
be at future IFE events to continue to speak with the broad spectrum of
qualified people interested in our concept."
With access to thousands of
prospects, franchisors also had the chance to discuss what their brand has to
offer in a one-on-one capacity. "It's important for us to exhibit at shows like
IFE to plant the seed and create brand awareness for both the domestic and
international prospects that visit the show," said Fatburger's D'Arezzo. "It
allows us to speak with attendees about what separates our brand from others."
Until Next Year Plans are already underway for the 2008
International Franchise Expo which will be held 11th-13th April. Based on the
strong reactions from this year's Expo, many leading franchise companies are
already booking their space for next year in order to lock in prime trade show
real estate. "Based on the results we've seen, we're very interested in
exhibiting at next year's show," said Bark Busters' CEO Andrew Burke. "The
reasons we're here include exposure, networking, branding and the international
connections we've made."
For more information about exhibiting at any of
MFV Expositions upcoming tradeshows, visit www.mfvexpo.com or call 201-226-1130
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