Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.
Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.

lead generation

What is a Lead?


Do you count the leads you bring home from a tradeshow? How do you determine what is a lead – exactly? Is it the name and contact information of a person who has expressed interest in your product or service? Is if a business card from someone who dropped it in a fishbowl at your booth because you were giving away a prize? Is it a name on a list of contacts that you know are buying your type of product or service?

Gathering the leads from a tradeshow is important. But just as important, perhaps more so, is knowing the quality of those leads. Do your new leads have an interest in what you do? Are they in the market? Do you know what their buying time frame might be?

The more information you can glean from your contacts, the better you can categorize those leads. As long as your prospect possesses the criteria that you set they have the essential qualities to eventually become a customer – and they’ve become a lead.

How much is your lead worth? If you’re going to a tradeshow to sign up distributors, and you know that in the past your distributors have ordered on average $20,000 worth of goods from you in the first year of being a distributor, and you also know that you have signed up one out of four qualified leads in the past two years – each new lead is worth about $5000 the first year.

Let’s look at it from another angle. Say you spend $28,000 exhibiting at two industry shows a year and gather about 350 leads through those shows. Your cost per lead is $80 ($28,000 / 350). If you are able to consistently show that one in four leads converts to a sale, your lead-to-sales conversion rate is $320 ($80 x 4).

So now you’re able to put a number on those leads that’s realistic. Let’s say you have a salesperson who can close one out of three qualified leads. His cost per lead is lower, and his lead-to-sales conversion is higher. If you have a salesman who’s not performing as well, his cost per lead is higher. Or, look at is this way. Since your leads are worth on average $5000 the first year, by closing on just one out of five leads, that represents a lost opportunity cost of $5000.

Key point: be sure to differentiate between contacts and leads

Now that you can estimate the value of your leads, it becomes that much more important to make sure you’re following through with your lead generation and capture process at your tradeshows. After all, you’re investing thousands in those leads! Make sure they pay off!

What system should you use? Anything that works. It could be an electronic scanning device. It could be a clipboard where you fill out a short bit of information. But to make it workable, it should be quick, convenient and accurate.

Before capturing the contact data of the lead, confirm that they’re qualified. This may be as simple as asking a question or two to determine that they’re interested in your product or service, to running through a longer process of Q and A, depending on the complexity of your offering.

Key Point: Convenience and Accuracy are the most important in gathering leads

Sifting through the visitors

The first thing when it comes to choosing whose data to capture is to immediately take the attitude of disqualifying everybody. Once a person confirms they are NOT interested in your product, you know you do NOT need to capture their information.

At the top of your list are those prospects who are ready to buy. For these you may have a sales person talk to them on the spot. Even if they say they are ready to buy, take a moment or two to run them through the few steps or questions prepared by your sales team to confirm their stance.

In between the non-buyers and the hot prospects are the rest – those who are expressing a level of interest, but may not be ready to buy right now. If you’re able to, you should determine the time frame that they might want to purchase. If not, you can at least indicate that on your data capture so the sales person has as much information as possible. The more information you can reasonably gather before the show is over saves time and money on the follow up after the show.

Your lead data form can include anywhere from a few pieces of information to 20 or 30 points that you may want to cover. Certainly you’ll want to make sure each lead has basic information such as the employee who captured the data, what show you obtained the data at, the show date, etc. Your contact information would include as much or as little as possible – the more qualified the lead appeared and the more receptive he was to information, the more data you’d want to get from him. But each person should be handled on a case-by-case basis, so that the information is individualized – which is they way they’d probably want to be treated, anyway!

The next step, of course, is to hand all of the leads over to your sales group after the show to turn those leads in to revenue as soon as possible.

Key Point: Leads are Potential Cash

Look at each lead as a source of potential revenue because that’s exactly what it is. Based on your past performance, you can safely determine about how much each lead is really worth. The more you refine and test your lead generation system, and try new things, the higher the value of each lead. You may find as you refine your process of qualifying leads, the actual number of leads may drop – but the potential value of each lead increases.

Now that you have determined how important each lead is, what’s your next step?

Make sure that your sales group is in immediate follow-up mode once the leads come back. It’s been said that anywhere from 60 to 80% of all tradeshow leads are effectively trash-binned because they’re not properly followed up on.

If you can effectively follow up on even half of your qualified leads, you’re going to lead!

Communication on the Tradeshow Floor

The tradeshow floor is a unique place. It’s artificial and unreal. Thousands of people are darting about the show floor, all with different agendas and schedules and goals.

So how do you communicate in such a wacky, upside-down environment?

Keep three things in mind:

First, remember YOUR goal(s). If it’s to qualify a prospect, keep that at the forefront of your mind. If your goal is to make a sale or gather leads, keep that present.

Second, you have a limited time to assess whether your prospect fits your goals.

And third, once you have completed your goal, move on to the next person.

So how does this work in the real artificial world of the tradeshow floor?
The first – remember YOUR GOAL – must take place before the show opens. This is usually a simple statement or understanding of your company’s reason for being at the show. And remember that your company’s goals may change from show to show, depending on the nature of the show and the attendees.

One horizontal industry show might demand that you just gather leads. Another more vertical show might lend itself to racking up sales.

So if your stated goal is, for instance, ‘qualify prospects and determine if they’re in the market for our product or service in the next 90 days,’ you’ll just keep that in the forefront of your mind. It doesn’t mean that you ignore people that don’t fit the profile. In fact, you may want to gather those leads and keep them separately.

The second part of communicating on the tradeshow floor: you’re under an immense time pressure. You may not feel the pressure of time, but here’s how it works: let’s say the show is open for three days, a total of 8 hours a day. That gives you 24 hours of ‘show time.’

If there’s an expected attendance of 10,000, here’s how your numbers break down (thanks to the Tradeshow Manager’s Activity Level Planner slide chart):

* Visitors with a mission: 1600
* Likely to shop: 768
* Likely to be drawn to your exhibit: 576
* Likely to shop and talk: 328
* Visitors per hour: 14 – 24
* Staffers needed: 2 – 3
* Literature needed: 500

If you’re averaging 7 to 12 visitors per hour per person, that gives you approximately 5 to 8 ½ minutes per person during the time each person is engaged in a conversation.

That may seem like a lot, or it may seem like very little time, depending on your context. For most sales people who like to sit down and engage a prospect and really uncover their needs with question after question, it would seem like a short time.

Now that you know what your time frame is, it helps you approach the encounter with the booth visitor knowing what you want to accomplish.
First, you’ll want to find out who they are. Chances are they’re wearing a name badge.

Next, determine what they do for the company. Even if there’s a title on their badge, it’s appropriate to ask what kinds of things they do on the job. Use these questions to break the ice with them.

Next, you’ll want to find out how your product can help them. It will help you immensely if you go over a handful of potential opening questions before the show. Rehearse them with your co-workers.

Ask things such as: “What does your company do?” “How familiar are you with (your product)?” “What’s your most important need regarding (your product or service)?”

Now that you’ve asked the question, STOP TALKING and LISTEN! Don’t stand there trying to think of your next question or statement or sales pitch. When you listen, really listen, to the prospect, it gives them a chance to give you information which will mostly likely be useful to you. What they say will determine your next statement or question.

If they’re interested in your product, it’ll show. If not, you’ve disqualified them. So here’s the third part of communication on the tradeshow floor: politely disengage and move on to the next attendee. Even if they are a hot prospect, chances are you’ll want to just get their information and talk to them after the show when you’ll have a chance to expand your conversation and find out how you can really help them.

Of course, in the real world you may find that it’s important to spend a much longer time with the prospect. It may make sense to go into their situation in much greater detail – you’ll have to use your judgment on that. You might be able to meet them at a later time during the show when you’re not on the show floor.

Bottom Line: keep your communication pointed, specific, friendly and upbeat. You have a limited time to gather your critical information. Once you have done that, make sure you follow up back at the office!

How to Successfully Work a Tradeshow

It’s been said the best way to learn about tradeshows if you’re new to the industry, or new to the experience, is to attend one or two shows before you attempt to organize or handle the actual booth.

So DO IT! Spend a few days. Get there early and watch the set-up, booth designs, and stick around for the tear-down, too. It’ll help you get a look at the strategic behind-the-scenes planning and an overall feel for how tradeshows work.

When it comes time to actually display, many small companies vying for attention have found that it makes more sense to invite the buyers to come by booth and set up appointments. With thousands of people streaming by your booth over the duration of the tradeshow, it’ll give out a much better impression if you look organized. If you look disorganized, how will you convince a potential buyer or distributor that you can deliver the product?

Before adding a show to your exhibit list, you might strongly consider attending as a visitor, which will give you a good sense of who is there, who your competition is and who’s on the guest list. With the large number of shows that can touch on your industry, or even your niche of your industry, it’ll help you determine which shows are right for your company.

Look at tradeshow marketing as just one prong of your marketing efforts. No smart marketer will put all his eggs in one basket.

But spending time at a tradeshow either as an exhibitor or a visitor is a great way to meet a large number of potential customers and business partners in a short period of time. It’s a compressed experience: your time is compressed and the amount of people you can meet is also quite compressed.

The key to success whether as a visitor or exhibitor is to be over-prepared. Know who you’d like to meet, know what companies you want to see, whether as a competitor or as a potential business partner or customer. Do your homework before you leave for the show, and spend a little of your down time in your hotel room updating and making notes.

It’s all about taking control. Take control and you’ll be a success!

10 Ways to Get More Attention at Your Next Tradeshow

There’s nothing quite like being the one booth in your aisle that’s grabbing all the attention – whether it’s from the food you’re giving away, the demo you’re giving, or the pseudo-celebrity signing autographs.

Try a few of these ways to get more attention for your next show!

1. Pre-show promotion. Target your market, send them a clever promo piece with enough value so that they feel compelled to stop by your booth. One of the most famous in recent years is the company that sent one very nice glove and said the other one was waiting for them at the booth when they stopped by. Another approach would be to offer a high perceived-value premium gift to the prospect when they stop by – something that the normal tradeshow attendee won’t get.

2. Offer good food. Now of course this depends on the show and the rules at the show. At a Natural Foods Products show, of course, everybody’s offering food, so at those shows this may not be the best way to stand out. But at a tech show? Fios, Inc. of Portland, offered smoothies at a tech show – and had people lined up for much of the show. The Catch? Attendees couldn’t get a smoothie until they had their badge scanned.

3. Unusual or Extreme Demos. Self-defense weapons maker Taser offered to shock attendees. Hundreds took up the offer and ended up on the floor – some taking up to ten minutes to recover. One company selling a fire and trauma survival blanket had a company executive walk through a fire wearing the blanket. Microsoft once handed out nearly a thousand pocket PC’s and randomly sent out a messages on MSN Messenger. The first 100 people to find the mystery woman’s location received a token and a chance to win a pocket PC.

4. Re-think your Strategy. Why are you at the show? What is the purpose of your exhibit? Are you looking to sell products or focus on the company’s brand? By asking these kinds of questions – starting from scratch in the whole planning process and questioning all previous assumptions – you may find that your tradeshow booth needs a complete makeover. Or not. Maybe you’re doing everything the way it should be done – you just need to focus on execution better.

5. Fix the Mistakes in Your Graphics. If your booth graphics take more than a few seconds to read, you’re losing much of your prospective audience. Graphics paraphrase…the conversation you engage in will explain. Fix the text: show benefits to your prospect, don’t brag about awards your product has won. No one cares except the guy who created the product! Don’t use clever, artsy fonts; don’t use too small of type; make sure your background and foreground text have enough contrast so that it’s actually readable! Get your text up off the floor by at least 4 or 5 feet – people don’t want to read anything below eye level. Also keep graphic clutter down to a minimum. Use these rules: Simplicity Sells; Clean Design Attracts.

6. Ask the Right Questions. Once the visitor has been attracted to your booth with the right graphics and ‘look and feel’ of your booth, engage them in a short conversation. Asking the right questions means quickly qualifying the person, finding out what their needs might be in regard to your product, answering any questions they have and getting all the information necessary for prompt follow up. Then move on to the next person.

7. Hold a Media Event. IF –and it’s a big if – you have something new to offer or unveil, holding a media event will draw interested parties and experts out of the woodwork. Don’t just bring in your company officers. Ask some well-known industry folks and observers to attend and chime in with statements on your behalf. If they offer observations as to why the new thing is important and the industry should sit up and take notice, they usually will. Also make sure your hot prospects are a part of the event as well. But one caveat: unless you really DO have something new, don’t do this, it’ll annoy the press and you’ll waste your money.

8. Offer To Introduce Them To Someone Special. If people know they are going to meet someone they really want to know, they’ll have a big incentive to show up. It could be an industry bigwig, a local politician, a sports celebrity. Most celebrities can be hired for a day for a fee, if they’re available. If you found out your biggest prospect was a huge fan of some retired baseball player, and you hired that player for a few hours – don’t you think your prospect would walk on fire to get to your booth? Depending on your budget, you may be looking at someone local of note. Some celebrities are quite reasonable, others are outrageously expensive. Don’t forget to figure in travel and lodging expenses.

9. Offer an Ethical Bribe. Autographed merchandise has a high perceived value: baseballs, basketballs, books, etc. Or get an autographed artwork or a football signed by a major star from your hot prospects home town. With a little sleuthing you should be able to determine what will hit the prospect’s hot button. Then it’s a matter of footwork – and sometimes cost – to get the autograph on an item. Sometimes its just a matter of contacting an entertainment agent in your town and letting him know what you want. Rule of thumb – whatever you offer, it shouldn’t appear to be a bribe. Lots of companies have rules prohibiting their executives from accepting articles worth more then $50. The PERCEIVED VALUE is what’s important.

10. Shoot A Commercial At The Show. If you create a product that folks can sample and purchase on the spot, set up a video camera and record testimonials. Set up some studio lights and photo backdrop with your TV camera. Have signs up announcing that you’re shooting testimonials for future commercials. You’ll attract a lot of attention from people who want their 15 minutes of fame. This works on a lot of levels: not only will you attract attention from attendees, but you’ll have the public selling the public on your product; you’ll gather excellent testimonial footage for future use and the people on camera will come up with their own sales pitches. A few caveats: make sure you ask EVERY PERSON ON CAMERA this question: “Will you allow us to use your voice and image to sell our product without payment for as long as we want to?” When they answer yes, you’ve got their talent release – on tape. When they’re done with the testimonial, hand them off to your sales guy, who will hand them an order form for the product. If they hesitate, you can say, “But from what you said on camera, you love this stuff. You really meant it, didn’t you?”

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Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

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