Richard Erschik of TradeshowLeadstoSales.com joins me for a fun and very useful conversation about how to generate (and follow up with) great leads at your next tradeshow. What are the five questions you need to ask before you’ve identified a good lead? Watch or listen now:
Maybe these should be not-so-frequently-asked tradeshow questions. Or as we like to call them: NSFAQs. Because I don’t know if these questions ever get asked. But maybe they should.
What do I do when the exhibit doesn’t show up? Hmm. It comes down to having a plan B. Or being able to think quickly on your feet. Being resourceful. Being like MacGuyver! It might mean printing up a quickie banner at a local print shop, getting a couple of rental chairs and table, setting up a laptop with a slide show. Anything to show your guests. Yes, of course you’ll do your best to track down the exhibit and it MAY get to you in time. But if not…
Why do exhibitors do dumb things?
We’re only human. That’s why we left all but a half dozen business cards in the office. That’s why our eyes glaze over after a long day right when that big prospect comes up and asks a really good, engaging question. That’s why we can’t sleep in an uncomfortable hotel bed and we show up at the booth with eyelids and tail drooping. That’s why – when we do all of these things – we still suck it up, put on a smile and make the best of it.
Why did the company decide to invest in a HUUGE island booth but only provide three staffers? Or the flip version: why did the company cut corners with a small inline booth but have 15 people scheduled? Could be bad planning. What do you think?
When did your co-worker take that weird/ugly/goofy photo of you and decided to post on your company Twitter account with the show hashtag and now you’re getting lots of comments? When you weren’t looking. Are you going to get even?
Why am I standing next to a handful of booth staffers who think they need to keep checking their phones 85 times a day, eat a sandwich in the booth, and ask questions of visitors such as: “Can I help you?” Here’s one with an easy answer: they’re newbies and nobody bothered to tell them that tradeshows are a unique environment. It’s a sales environment, but atypical. You need to discern if your visitors would use your product, if they’re in need of it now or the not-too-distant future, who is the decision maker and do they have the budget? Once you know that, you have a qualified prospect and you can set a follow-up that both sides agree on.
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!
Sure, millions of people head off to tradeshows worldwide every year, but are they really tradeshow prep experts? Are they ready, I mean really ready for the tradeshow? Let’s take a look at what the average tradeshow manager should be doing to show they’re truly a tradeshow prep expert.
You plan a whole year in advance. Yes, the show is over, but did you already book next year’s space and check to see if you could upgrade to a better space?
You reach out to your exhibit house at least 3 – 4 months ahead of the show if you have minor graphic upgrades on your schedule. Reach out 6 months in advance if you’re planning to create a new exhibit or are anticipating major upgrades to your current booth. Sure, the exhibit house can turn around graphic upgrades in just a short time, but the further in advance you are of the delivery date, the better for all parties concerned.
You know what messaging you’re going to send to your potential booth visitors at least a few months prior to the show. Some folks will get emails, some may get a nice snail mail package, others will get a personal phone call. This means prioritizing your prospects and doing your best to set appointments with the hot prospects and getting warm and cool leads to at least come by the booth for a chat.
You’ve downloaded or otherwise saved the show manual or information at least a couple of months prior to the show, and know what it takes to coordinate shipping, I&D and other logistics.
You have your housing booked the day it opens or shortly thereafter. Depending on the show, the housing can go quickly.
You book your flights and rental car about 6 weeks out. I’m told that this is the optimum time for best pricing for book flights. If you book a car, this is also a good time to do that.
You’ve coordinated with other parts of the company to make sure you have products and/or services ready for launch prior to the show.
You have shift schedules prepped and distributed at least a week ahead of time.
If your booth staff is wearing special colored and branded clothing, it’s been ordered at least a couple of months prior to the show.
You know exactly what you’re going to wear at least a week before the show – and it’s packed a day or two ahead of time.
You especially know what shoes you’re going to wear!
Okay, you may have more – but if you’re doing all of this and more, you’re definitely a tradeshow prep expert!
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!
I’m in Las Vegas for the IFT 2017 show (that’s the International Food Technologists), and I spend a few minutes discussing how I approach walking the floor of the show. Also, a quick look at the Beatles Cirque du Soleil show.
Well, these might not be actual tradeshow marketing secrets, simply because by its very definition, a secret is something that is not well known. The following items are fairly well known and no doubt you can easily find them online – but the question is: are you using them to their full capacity and capability?
First, let’s look at first impressions. Hey, you only get one chance! And as you know, in tradeshows, perception is everything. Make your first impression strong, and the second piece of the puzzle will fall into place a little easier.
Next, know that the image you put out at a tradeshow isn’t just a random piece of your brand – it’s your whole brand. It IS your brand. If you miss the mark here, your next puzzle piece just got harder.
Up next: your staff. You can have the sweetest exhibit at the show, but if your staff sucks, it will all go for naught. Which means that your staff should not only know what they’re doing and be presentable and friendly and good with people, they should be well-trained in the challenges of dealing with hundreds of people on the chaos of the tradeshow floor.
Now, be sure to have something for people to do when they arrive at your booth. It could be a product demo, an interactive tool, a video to watch, a virtual reality headset to wear – anything that engages them for more than 8.4 seconds.
Ninety percent of success is showing up. Of course, you say, you’ll show up. But do you really? Are you really there for the full show? Are you there ready to listen to a client’s complaints and respond? Are you there to jump in when there is a problem or challenge and not leave it for someone else? Be there. All the time. Not just when you’re on the clock.
Cross your T’s. Dot your i’s! Details are important. When you slip on an important detail, someone – perhaps a potential client – is bound to notice.
Yes, details are important, but so is keeping your eye on the bigger picture. Tradeshows are a powerful way to reach markets that you otherwise would not be able to access so easily and economically.
Really, it’s all in the follow-up. Yup, I was kidding back in that earlier paragraph where I said the key to tradeshow marketing success was to draw a crowd and then know what to do with them. You’ve got to have a good follow-up plan in place. And be sure the work the plan.
Finally, be flexible. Sometimes, you just gotta MacGuyver things and adjust to a changing landscape. Be willing to go with the flow and see where it leads, as long as your overall strategy doesn’t change.
Time for another list – this one is called 7 tradeshow exhibit “must-haves” and it’s pretty simple. What 7 things (items, people, plans) are essential to making your next tradeshow appearance a whopping success? Let’s count them:
Branding that is clear as an angel’s giggle. A visitor should know at a glance what you sell and what kind of a company you are. She should be able to intuit so much with that glance: how you approach the marketplace, how the company culture works, how you view the environment, wha
t kind of company you are. A good 3D exhibit designer working with a knowledgeable and responsive marketing team can work magic with the right design.
Professionalism that is as obvious as, well, Captain Obvious. Your fully-trained staff will know how to approach visitors in a friendly and engaging way, and how to either answer their questions or get them to the right person. Staff training goes a long way and is worth more than you’ll ever spend on it.
Lead capture system as effective and smooth as a glass of fifty-dollar bourbon. Once you have a prospect in your sights, make the transition from visitor to prospect so easy when gathering contact and follow-up information that they’ll barely know it’s happening.
Interactivity that engages and draws a crowd. Okay, not every activity can draw a crowd at all times. But what if you had something in your booth that was interesting and engaging enough that once a few people got going, it attracted other people? And if that activity was directly related to your product or service, wouldn’t that be about the best you could do? Well, you could top that by making sure you were gathering contact and follow-up information from as many of those people as you could, once you qualified them.
A comprehensive tradeshow marketing plan that covers months leading up to the show, through the show, and through the follow-up period. This would mean pre-show marketing, show execution and immediate follow-up with the hottest prospects.
Enough STUFF: business cards, lead sheets, sell sheets, samples, demos – all of the stuff you need to hand out to visitors, show they what you do and so on. Take more than you think you’ll need. Unless its dated, you can always repack it and use it next time.
Comfortable shoes. Ha! You saw this one coming, didn’t you?
Secrets to tradeshow success? There’s no secret! It’s all out in the open. Actually, it’s all lurking online somewhere. Just for fun, I plugged the search term “tradeshow success secrets” into the Google to see what I came up with.
Success is measured by how much effort you want to put into it. I suppose that’s true of pretty much anything you do. But good effort is important.
Trade leads and information with other exhibitors (that aren’t your competitors). I admit, I’ve only heard this one a time or two, and I suspect it’s rarely done. I wonder if you could actually get anyone to do that with you.
Let people play with things. Yes, adults like to get hands-on experience as much as kids do. Create an experience where visitors can interact with something and they’ll stick to your booth longer than others.
Have a booth host that knows what’s up. A trained staffer is worth their weight in gold. The really connections are person-to-person.
Speak at a show. If you can’t speak at a show, sit on a panel. It’s better than nothing. If you can’t do either of those, create your own event that you speak at and invite everyone in your database.
Steam live video from your booth. With the advent of Facebook Live, it’s easy to pull out your phone and go LIVE! Interview guests, do product demos and more.
Stop people in their steps with creative flooring. Put your logo or some other attractive graphic at foot level. It’s still enough of a new thing that it’ll stand out and get people to stop.
Know what to say to people. It’s great to have a trained staff member, or to have booth staffers who are knowledgeable on the products you offer. But spend time honing a brief 30 second pitch that focuses on the pain people have around things that your products can solve. For instance, if you sell roofing with a lifetime guarantee, ask visitors if they experience leaks, or if they are due for a new roof but are afraid of hiring some fly-by-night firm that won’t back up the roof installation. Let them identify their pain, then tell them that your product can resolve that pain.
Follow up. When you do get leads, don’t sit on them. Pick up the phone and get back to them. Nuff said.
Once the tradeshow is over, it’s easy to let a few things slide because, after all, you’ve been working your fanny off for 12 or 14 hours a day for several days straight! But if your tradeshow followup can manage to do just a few things prior to taking that five minute well-deserved rest, here’s where to start:
Make sure the leads are delivered to the sales crew. Depending on the size of your operation this may be hundreds of leads and 10 or more sales people, but it might be a lot less. Make sure the leads have good contact info, and correct follow up info (who gets what and when), and make sure they’re graded in terms of importance and urgency.
Check the booth crate(s). It’s easy to let this step slide, because the crate may not get back for days, or even weeks. But take a half a day or whatever time you need, make sure the crates were packed properly, make sure all items are there and in good shape. Make a list of what’s missing and what needs repair before the next show.
Compile and file all of your reports: travel expenses, products sold, samples given away, booth personnel, comments from the staff, costs of the show, and so on.
Gather photos and videos. These could be useful for social media, your company blog, and checking to make sure that the booth is in good repair, or to document damage.
Gather any social media, media or PR stats. How many tweets and Facebook posts went up during the show? How many retweets or interaction? How many videos were posted on YouTube and how many views did they gather?
Give a report to the boss. Not only will this show them the overall results, it’ll help justify your position (if it needs to be justified). Added benefits include having that information spread throughout the marketing team and management, show trends from show to show, and give you a go-to place for questions about the booth, shows or anything related.