We are awash in data, no matter what business we’re in. TradeshowGuy Tim Patterson talks with Oz du Soleil of ExcelOnFire (YouTube channel) about how to handle all of that data: how to make sure it’s clean, how to analyze it and much more.
ONE GOOD THING: For Oz, it’s cigars. For me, it’s the beginning of football season – college and pro!
This is a guest post by Charles Dugan of American Image Displays
There is no such thing as a closing a sale by luck at a trade show. The process of generating and closing leads is defined even before the event begins. Believe it or not, although most exhibitors collect leads during the trade show, many of them have no plan in place for following up. According to a study by Exhibitor Media Group, 98 percent of trade show exhibitors collect sales leads at trade shows, but less than 70 percent have a formalized process in place to follow up on those leads.
Trade show success is a result of strategic actions taken before, during, and after the show.
Before the Show
The actions you take during the pre-show phase will directly impact how effective you are at generating quality leads. Here are four pre-show tips:
Choose the right show
When it comes to choosing which shows to attend, think quality over quantity. It’s better to select a show that has one hundred attendees with a need for your product, than a show with thousands of attendees who aren’t looking for the type of solution you offer. Select trade shows based on industry, location and size; events where there are high quality leads that fit your customer profile.
Perfect your pitch
Make sure to practice your pitch before the show. You should be able to answer questions fluidly and naturally, building attendees’ trust in your knowledge and authority.
Reaching out to attendees
View the trade show’s mailing list (if available) to see who will be attending the event. Reach out to these individuals and introduce yourself through email or social media. LinkedIn works especially well for this.
Implement a lead collection system
Whether your system is as simple as jotting down each lead’s information on a clipboard or as complex as using a full-scale CRM software; be sure it allows information to be recorded efficiently and in an organized manner. Collect as much important information as possible. These details can come in handy later during the follow-up.
During the Show
Follow these steps during the show to build rapport and set the stage for a successful close.
Reserve a private room
Consider renting a private room. Trade shows can be noisy and busy. By reserving a private room, you will have a quiet place to bring leads to answer their questions, discuss pricing, and even draw up contracts; without the distraction of the surrounding convention.
Utilize call to actions
Use every appropriate opportunity to prompt attendees to complete a specific action. These call to actions could include signing up for a free trial or a demo, or scheduling a consultation. At the end of each interaction, let each person know what to expect for the next steps – whether it be an e-mail, a phone call, or another form of contact.
After the Show
The trade show may be over, but the job is not done yet! Follow these tips to close more leads post-show.
Be persistent in your follow-up, but understand there is a fine line between persistence and annoyance. If you can, mention something specific about your conversation during the first follow-up message so they remember your interaction.
Network with social media
Invite leads to connect with you on LinkedIn or other social channels. This way, they are part of your network for the long-term and can become more familiar with your business.
Tailor your message
Don’t use the same follow up message after every show. If your email looks like a form letter, it will be ignored. Instead, tailor your message to each lead. Be friendly and always make yourself available to answer questions.
If there is one reason to attend a trade show, it is to earn more business. Remember that successful lead conversion doesn’t start or end at the show. Have a plan in place to ensure you have the best chance of attracting quality leads to your exhibit, and closing deals.
About the Author
Charles Dugan is the President and Owner of American Image Displays, a trade show display and equipment company based in Seattle. He has over 20 years of experience consulting businesses with their trade show marketing.
Tradeshow post-show follow-up is one of the critical keys to your tradeshow marketing success. In recent conversations with exhibitors, there often seems to be some hedging around the concept of complete follow-up. In other words, there are some missing pieces and the leads that are generated at a tradeshow – at great expense – are not always followed up in a timely manner, if they’re followed up at all. So let’s look at some of the most common mistakes people make with post-show follow-up.
Not grading or evaluating the leads. If a sales person that is tasked to follow-up on the leads can’t tell the difference between a HOT lead and a COOL lead, it makes the task of follow-up that much harder.
Not being specific about the details of the follow-up. Some prospects want a sample sent next week. Others just want a sales sheet PDF forwarded in a month. Others want an in-person meeting in two weeks. Whatever the follow-up is, it should be noted on the lead sheet so that the person doing the follow-up understands exactly what is needed.
Not tracking the response from the follow-up. Whether you use Salesforce, and Excel spread sheet or a custom CRM, once the follow-up is initially made, notes on what happened during that follow-up should be entered in detail. Most follow-ups require more than one step. In fact, if it’s a bigger sale, the process may involve several steps and more than one or two people. Keeping detailed notes along the way will ensure a better chance at success. With NO formal system in place to track the follow-up process, your chances of success drop drastically!
Not following up in a timely manner. This mistake usually comes from not asking the prospect the question: when would you like us to follow up? If both parties understand when the follow-up is expected – and it actually happens at the right time – chances of closing a sale increase. In the event that no timeframe was addressed, it’s safe to say that the sooner you follow up the better your chances of making a sale. Some experts say do an initial follow-up via email within 24 hours. Others say that making a phone call within 48 – 72 hours after the show shows the prospect that you have a genuine interest in them. I realize that some people are just impossible to reach in a week, or two, or three, or more. In that case (which has happened to me), keep trying.
Giving up. Even if you can’t get in touch with someone right away, keep in mind that you have no idea why they’re unreachable or unresponsive. It could be they’re suddenly wearing three hats at work and simply don’t have the time – or a personal issue may be preventing them from even working. Who knows? Don’t assume they don’t want to talk to you until you actually hear that from their own lips. I’ve made sales to people that were hard to reach for months – but when I finally did reach them, we made something work.
One of the first things I heard when I entered the tradeshow industry in 2002 was that “80% of leads are never followed up on!” It astonished me then and it astonishes me now. It’s one of the most fixable mistakes that tradeshow marketers have. Do yourself and your company a favor and do your best to not be a part of that statistic. Make the effort and follow-up!
When it comes to achieving tradeshow success, actual time spent at the tradeshow gets all the attention – so where does that leave pre-show marketing? Out in the cold, of course.
So bring pre-show marketing out of the cold and into the daylight.
The two questions to address are simple: what is my pre-show outreach, and who do I reach out to?
The ideal scenario of pre-show outreach is built on multiple touches: email, snail mail (postcards are good and cost-effective), and social media. Each of these could be broken down a bit more. Mailings could include more than just a postcard: if you have some high-value prospects in mind, send something a little more special and high-end that whets their appetite and gets them to your booth. Social media can include tweets and Facebook posts about your new products and services, or industry-famous guests at your booth. You can also create videos to promote your appearance at the show and share those as well.
So who gets the communication? The first channel to address would be your in-house list of clients, prospects and those that have inquired over the years. They know who you are and even if they’re not planning on going to the tradeshow, your invitation may help them change their mind. At the very least, they’ll know you’re exhibiting, which shows them you care enough about your company and brand to put it out there for all to see.
The second channel is to use a list provided by show organizers. But don’t just assume you can import the information into a spreadsheet and do a mail-merge and click send or print. No, you should go over the list to weed out competitors and non-prospects so they aren’t on the receiving end of your pitch.
It sounds easy – and in theory, it is. But pre-show marketing takes time and attention to detail. Create a plan that includes a timeline for each item, and then create the content and promotional material that will go out. Once execution of the plan is underway, track results as best as possible, and of course do your best to track the names and companies that actually responded and showed up to your exhibit.
What does it take for great tradeshow lead generation? Success comes mainly from paying attention to details. For instance, you probably made the effort at your last tradeshow to either scan someone’s badge, or got a business card and made a few notes on the back. But to really go the distance for a great lead, know that the success comes in executing the follow-up.
Naturally, you’ve gotten the lead’s name, company and contact info. But to be thorough, make sure that you’ve also got:
What product or service they’re interested in: be specific
How best they prefer to get a sample, if desired. Is it email, snail mail, telephone call, in-person visit?
When do they prefer to be contacted for follow-up? Date and time of day that works best for their schedule.
Where? If you are meeting offsite, such as a coffee shop, confirm the address. If it’s at their place of business, make sure you have the right address and not a satellite office or production facility.
Who are you meeting with? Is it just the main contact, or will there be other people involved?
Why are you meeting? Is the meeting a preliminary discussion, or is it to close a sale, or something in between?
When I was in journalism class in high school, we were instructed to get the 5 W’s and the 1 H: who, what where, when, why and how. It’s the same with sales follow-up.
Finally, make sure that your prospect understands the method of follow-up, along with the other pieces so that there is no mutual mystification – make sure all parties understand what is going to happen and when.
Once you’ve done that, you’ve nailed down a good lead. You’ve done your job on tradeshow lead generation. Now go close the sale!
It’s a good question: what does a tradeshow manager do? And frankly, you can come at this question from a few angles.
For instance, is the tradeshow manager (or coordinator, or project manager) employed by the company internally, to make sure the tradeshow appearance is as flawless and successful as possible? Does the tradeshow coordinator work for an exhibit house, tasked with making sure the new (or stored) exhibit is shipped to arrive on time, and get set up, dismantled and shipped back? Or does the company find a third party to coordinate the logistics from show to show on an as-needed basis?
There are several things to determine, such as: what is the scope of work? What tasks are expected of the tradeshow coordinator? Is there a marketing department that makes decisions on which shows to attend? Who determines the budget and where does that money come from? And so on.
Wearing several hats is not uncommon for someone with the larger and somewhat vague title of tradeshow coordinator. Mainly, she is responsible for:
Determining what shows to go to (usually in coordination with a larger team that vets the various options)
Scheduling or securing the booth space and coordinating logistics such as electricity, internet, cleaning, badge scanner and more
Work with vendors such as exhibit houses or printers for any updates to the exhibit
Scheduling exhibit shipping, I&D (installation and dismantle), return shipping, storage
Booth staffer hiring, training, scheduling and coordination of any special clothing such as branded t-shirts; develop and/or coordinate any pre-conference training for staffers
Coordinate with sales and marketing for any special product demos, etc.
Hire in-booth presenters if needed
Track expenses as required
Coordinate lead generation activities, system and delivery of leads to sales post-show
Pre-show marketing: mailers, emails, any specific phone invitations
Post-show follow-up communication
Record keeping: maintain show schedules, project checklists, exhibit management, photos from each show, logistic and travel expenses show to show and year over year
Each individual position may include more or less from this list, but these are the main tasks on a tradeshow manager’s job description list.
And, just for fun, I looked at tradeshow manager job listings across the USA recently. There are a ton of openings. Just sayin.’
When I was a kid, my basketball coach used to tell me to follow through on shooting free throws and making basic passes. When I started playing golf, the instructor told me to be sure to follow through on my swing.
Frankly, I wasn’t impressed. My instinct was to believe that the initial movement, not the follow through, was important. Hell, the follow through had nothing to do with the original shot or pass or golf swing, so what was the point?
But have you tried to swing a golf club without doing a proper follow through? It’s like you’re doing half a swing. How do you pull up short? Even if the club swing has nothing to do with the trajectory or distance of the ball, for some reason, it does play an important part.
Same thing with your tradeshow marketing. If you don’t have a good follow through, you’re only doing half the show. And in your tradeshow efforts, it makes a bigger difference than your free throw or golf swing, because without a good follow through or follow up, you’re leaving money on the table. A LOT of money. In fact, it could be said that without a good follow up on your tradeshow marketing after the show, you might as well not go.
When I first got into the business of tradeshow marketing, the one statistic that stood out like a sore thumb was that almost 8 out of 10 tradeshow leads are NOT followed up on. That’s still pretty true. Yup, somewhere between 70 to 80% of tradeshow leads don’t get followed up on for any number of the following reasons:
Not properly scored (cool, warm, hot), so the sales person making the call has no idea where the prospect is in the sales process.
Incomplete contact information.
Incomplete follow up info: what does the prospect want from the call and when does she expect the follow up?
Lost between the show and the office.
Sales people don’t understand the importance or urgency of the lead, so it sits on their desk for way too long until it doesn’t matter anymore.
Any of these means that money is left on the table. Follow up is simple.
Well, actually, you can probably narrow it down to the one most important reason to exhibit at a tradeshow: to build your business! To grow! To see your bottom line increase!
Sure, but in a sense, pretty much any good reason you can think of to exhibit has a chance to fall into the top three of any list, depending on your company’s overall goals. And remember that your specific goals can, and probably will, change from show to show.
So let’s start with reason Number One. To generate leads. Not just any leads, but qualified leads. The definition can vary from business to business, but it boils down to this: a prospect who has shown interest to buy, is qualified to buy, and is planning on making a decision in the near future to purchase whatever it is you’re selling. So let’s be clear on what a lead is NOT. A lead is not a business card that lands in a fishbowl where you’re giving away a par if Bluetooth speakers. A lead is NOT scanning a badge of virtually anyone who passes through. No, a lead is ONLY someone who has passed the tests of being interested, having the ability to pay your price and are in the process of making a decision soon. And by exhibiting at the right shows, your company is reaching markets and new leads that would otherwise be difficult and expensive to reach.
The second most important reason to exhibit at a tradeshow is to show off your brand. A damn fine exhibit can do that in the most eloquent and engaging way. But your exhibit is not the only thing that represents your brand, although it’s critical. First impressions are imprinted on visitors’ minds, and they carry that impression with them for a long time. But beyond that, the impression your people leave is as important than your exhibit, and probably more so. Is your booth staff friendly, prepared and trained to handle the onslaught of visitors and the chaos of a tradeshow floor?
The third most important reason to exhibit at tradeshows? I hinted at it in reason number one: the expansion of your market reach. Bob Moore, the iconic Bob of Bob’s Red Mill, has stated in more than one interview that their consistent exhibiting at tradeshows gives them access to markets they could not otherwise reach. Period. When you exhibit at tradeshows, be prepared to interact with potential clients that are in a position to either purchase your products or services, or help you bring them to new audiences that will help grow your sales.
There are other reasons to exhibit at tradeshows, but by focusing on these three items, all other reasons will almost take care of themselves.
How do you create tradeshow buzz? You know the one: the exhibit that keeps getting talked about. Don’t you want to be that exhibit? Don’t you want to be working at that one location where everyone seems to be heading?
Buzz is not something you can automatically turn on like a light switch. And even the best-laid plans to create buzz don’t always work, especially if some other company has gotten a plan afoot to outbuzz you!
A few things to consider that may get you to the place where you are creating buzz:
Giveaways: do you have that one thing that people want to have? Do you have that one game that everyone wants to play?
Interactivity: what is it people are doing in your booth that draws a crowd. Is it a virtual reality station? Is it a hands-on demo that leaves people talking?
In-booth demos: with the right pitch man or woman pitching the right product or service at the right show, a crowd can magically appear. Is it because the demonstrator is doing baffling magic along with a pitch? Is it because of their charisma and stage presence?
Celebrities: face it – most celebrities at shows are not the top name draws, such as Brad Pitt, Will Smith or Jennifer Lawrence. But there are a lot of second-tier celebrities (and third and fourth) that may mean something to your target market.
Beyond the in-booth activities, or the exhibit itself (which, is a stunner, can create buzz), look beyond:
Public Relations: Prior to the show, connect with influencers who might be interested in your products or services. Media, bloggers, industry wags and more can help build advance buzz.
Advance planning: get the word out before the show using pre-show advertising, social media engagement, direct mail, email, broadcast and internet opportunities as you see fit.
Press conference: if your product launch is truly newsworthy (and you should confirm that with industry media folks), throw a press conference. If you’re not used to putting on a good press conference, hire a pro.
Be crazy: this takes chutzpah and frankly, most companies probably don’t have it. But if your CEO is a leading edge person with an outlandish outlook, maybe saying something crazy about your product or service will bring people to your exhibit.
Unusual promotions: Spy at Moz was a promotion that invited attendees to track down ‘spies’ at the conference who were waring special red stickers, take a picture and then tweet it out. If you can co-promote with a couple of other exhibitors, the word will spread quickly.
It may be somewhat trite as an expression, but thinking out of the box can go a long way to generating tradeshow buzz. What are you willing to try next time?
What’s the truth about your tradeshow appearance? Did you get as many visitors as you think you did? Was your product launch as successful as you felt it was? Was your staff as helpful and experienced as you anticipated?
Getting to the truth of what’s going on is important. A recent Seth Godin blog post made me think of the same topic in relation to your tradeshow appearances. As Godin put it, your results are based on the honesty and accuracy of the information you have at hand.
If you think you got 1500 visitors to your booth a day, but it was really only 1000, your final analysis of ROI and lead generation will be skewed. If you graded 300 leads as “hot” when in fact only half of them were really “hot,” your sales crew will be disappointed when they begin their follow up.
Truth and the subsequent results are based on trust, as Godin observes. If truth gets lost somewhere, trust is lost. An opinion is just that. A fact, however, is a fact. If it’s measurable and verifiable, you can call it a fact. If it’s an observation based on gut feeling or instinct or experience, it’s just an opinion. Learn to separate the two.
After all, if you felt the tradeshow appearance was the best ever, yet the sales that result from the appearance felt far short of being the ‘best,’ perhaps your appearance wasn’t the best ever.
Count everything you can, and make sure the counting is accurate. That way you’ll know if your tradeshow marketing is working, or if it needs a lot more work.