Getting The Most Out Of A Franchise Discovery Event

Discovery Events may come in all different shapes and sizes, but they are all based around the same principle : traditionally called “Discovery Days” because, in days before the Internet, prospective franchisees used them to “discover” a franchise brand they were interested in, they’re a great opportunity for any potential franchisee to find out more about a franchise opportunity on offer.

A well planned discovery event should have 4 main aims :

  • The potential franchisee will learn more about the franchise brand
  • The franchisor can “sell” the franchise opportunity fully
  • The franchisor can assess the commitment of the potential candidate, their suitability and “fit” with the brand
  • The franchisor can get feedback on the candidate through their discussions with other team members

Some franchise Discovery Events will take place at the business HQ, whilst others will take place at hotels and conference venues. Some might take place in a local franchise branch. Most will involve a presentation, some may offer the chance to be immersed in the product or service and most will involve the opportunity to meet some real-life franchisees and other team members too.

With the increased use and efficiency of technology, I’ve witnessed a growing trend in some areas towards online Discovery Events. However I take a maybe “old school” view that the face to face nature of a Discovery event should be preserved as an essential part of the franchise sale and recruitment process. I struggle to see how the 4 aims above can be achieved effectively online, but am always open to hearing other’s experiences on how this might work for them!

The role that a Discovery Event plays in the franchise sales and recruitment process has undoubtedly changed over the past decade however. With so much information available now online, before a Discovery event takes place the potential franchisee will have have been exposed to a large amount of information about the brand and opportunity – through online information, the franchise prospectus, social media, video and more. In fact the danger is that having SO much information out there could remove any reason for an interested party to attend a Discovery Event! The key is understanding that there needs to be a balance – giving out enough information to potential franchisees whilst explaining that attendance at a Discovery event is essential to really gain a detailed understanding of the brand and the opportunity on offer.

Prior to the day the franchisor should also have carried out their own key inquiries to establish the potential suitability of the prospect – background and qualifications, finances, geographical location and territory requirements and so on –  making sure that people invited along to the Discovery Event have met the essential criteria for their Ideal Franchisee Persona. Therefore the advantage now is that all of the attendees at any Discovery Event are likely to be a) suitable candidates on paper and b) pretty serious in their interest – meaning an event like this is now less part of the sales process and instead more of a process of consolidation and validation on both parts.

Whatever format a Discovery Event takes, it’s important that both franchisor and franchisee make the most of this once-only opportunity to suss each other out – a less than positive experience on either side is likely to mean the end of the line for that potential relationship.

From a franchisor’s point of view, a Discovery Event is their time to shine and really showcase the brand personality.  A franchisor should of course already know who their target franchisee is and be sure to structure the event to suit them – whether that be the timing and location of the event, the style of the day (formal or informal?) and the format of materials for attendees to take away at the end of the day. It goes without saying that the event should have a clear structure and be well organised – those first impressions really do count! In my own brand our target franchisee is a working parent so we run our Discovery events in easily accessible locations on weekends and ensure that the whole event is as short in duration as it can be as many have young children they need to get back to! The franchisor should consider welcoming spouses/partners/other family members on the day – it’s vital to the success of any franchisee to have a support network behind them and purchasing a franchise is a significant decision for any family.

A potential franchisee should be well researched, armed with a list of concise questions and prepared to actively participate in the day and make the most of opportunities to interact with existing franchisees and other team members – it’s important to have the chance to chat openly to people already working within the brand to find out more about the culture of the brand and how they’ve found their experiences of running their own franchise. Seeing who else is also invited along as an attendee proves an interesting insight into the brand’s target market. And for any franchisor, allowing candidates access to team members as part of the day provides an ideal opportunity for prospective franchisees to open up – chatting to other franchisees and the wider team means they are likely to relax a little, be less guarded and reveal more about their personalities.

At the end of a well run Discovery Event, both parties should leave with a positive impression, an understanding of the next steps and very hopefully a desire to move onto the next stage. There should be no commitment to sign anything on the day or pressure to make quick decisions – the part of the process is to consider carefully all of the information gained during the event and most likely there will be more discussions and interviews before moving towards the stage of considering the legal documents.

It’s important for both parties to keep at the forefront of their minds that the Discovery Event is a two way process. For the franchisor, it’s an invaluable part of the recruitment process. And for the potential franchisee – a Discovery Event is your chance to impress and stand out in the room as a serious prospect and someone who would be a great fit for the brand. The good fit between franchisor and franchisee is so fundamental to the success of the franchise brand that, despite the emergence of technology that could in theory replace it, I personally believe that the “traditional” Franchise Discovery Event is here to stay!