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Posted on Jan 02, 2011

Annual Franchise Conventions- A Waste of Money?

The typical franchise convention is an expensive shindig, with a price tag that can easily run into six figures. So what are you getting for that money? An expensive theme party or a stronger organization? A convention is an opportunity to improve your business-something most franchise organizations fail to do according to Rick Cornish of Flying Colors, a premiere convention production company. "A franchise business needs to do two things: sell more units and make franchisees more successful. The average annual convention does neither," says Cornish.

A convention should be the centerpiece of franchisee communications, says Cornish. "You have to realize that franchisees are thinking, 'what have you done for me lately?' They feel they're out on the Russian front while the franchisor is back in the ivory tower with no clue about what's happening out in the real world. A well-planned convention can promote a greater emotional connection and turn a lot of those 'have-to's' of franchising into 'want-to's' for the franchisee."

A good place to start is to structure the convention around a specific objective that will help grow business. "For example, let's say there's a product that's being introduced and a significant percentage of the network has been slow to adopt it. First, create the message around the benefits of introducing this product and how easy it is operationally to add to existing store operations. Then make the franchisee the hero.
You might say, 'meet three franchisees who have increased their same store sales by 5% by promoting this product.' A really brilliant CMO or CEO can get up on stage and talk about how great it is. But when peers gets up there and talk about how it worked in their stores, the reaction is 'gee, those guys aren't any smarter than me, they're just making more money.' Now the attending franchisees have a reason to do what they can relate to." One reason many conventions fail is because they don't meet franchisees' expectations. "Franchisors often think it's ok to do a homemade kind of convention, but that projects an unprofessional image. An increasing number of franchisees are coming out of corporate America; they know what a good meeting looks like. When they see something that's been done on the cheap, it undermines the franchisor's credibility. The mistake is in not taking it seriously enough." All that planning and money-how do you know if it's worth it? Find a way to measure the effect your convention has on attendees such as a survey. "We have an instrument called eMotivate, a 5-minute web-based tool that measures how franchisees are feeling on a quantitative basis. We run it prior to the convention and then again to conduct a post-convention 'post-mortem' to see where we've moved the needles. Invariably, the franchisor is surprised at some of the findings."

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