PART 3 – POST-SHOW FOLLOW UP
Your company’s sales team just returned from exhibiting at a big trade show. It was a great show. Everyone prepared for the show. The company’s booth got noticed. There was plenty of attendees walking the exhibit hall. But now the staff is tired and their feet hurt. It’s tempting, after so much preparation for the show and hours standing on the trade show floor, to get back to the office and collapse. After all, while everyone was away, emails piled up and desks are overflowing with mail and work. But there is a huge collection of business cards awaiting follow-up…. and the real value of a trade show — why it’s worth the money — comes when the staff takes the time to follow-up on show leads.
Don’t assume that the people that visit your company’s booth at a trade show will call because they received your company’s brochure. In fact, after walking a trade show floor and meeting hundreds of vendors, they may not even remember your company. To secure a return on your trade show investment, there needs to be a follow-up system in place to ensure that leads are contacted. Here are some strategies that can help.
1. Start at the show.
Most people return from a trade show with a stack of business cards. At best, they’ve written something on the reverse side of the card to remind them why a contact is important. At worst, business cards are stuffed into different pockets or purses with no notations as to who the people are or what they need.
Organize leads while still at the trade show. Track contacts and leads as they are received. For those who prefer a low-tech strategy, one good way to track leads is to bring a spiral bound notebook and stapler to the show. Staple all cards into the book, making notes about who they are and what follow up is needed. If there are multiple salespeople, use a notebook with various sections so each person’s cards are stapled into their own section. NEVER let that notebook out of your sight. It is worth all the money spent on the show. For those who prefer a high-tech approach, get a card reader or keep a lap top at the booth to enter card information and notations.
2. Regroup and assess.
Have a follow-up “summit” to review leads immediately after everyone returns to the office. Everyone who has follow-up responsibilities should go over their leads, set follow-up goals and establish deadlines. The idea is to turn the business cards into an action plan.
But, before you begin follow-up, deal with issues that have come up with existing clients while you were away. Do not sacrifice existing clients for potential new clients.
3. Follow-up with all leads.
Then, although tempting to put it off, start the follow-up process within 24 hours of returning to the office. Yes, there is a stack of phone calls to return, e-mails to answer, and mail to open. Yes, everyone is exhausted. However, it is imperative not to lose the momentum created. Attendees typically return from trade shows re-energized about their businesses, so it is a good time to move fast.
The simplest way to touch all leads for the first follow-up is to send each an e-mail. Thank each contact for visiting your company’s booth. Remind them of what the company does. Tell them they’ll be hearing again from your office soon. Personalize the message with something discussed or remembered about them. Don’t be too vague in the subject line, so the message isn’t viewed as spam.
4. Do all action items.
If there were good interactions with strong leads and a salesperson promised to do something for them after returning to the office (for instance, send a sample report or draft proposal, or get them some prices), do what was promised — immediately. Move fast to connect with your strong or ‘hot’ leads.
5. Add leads to the CRM system.
Within a week of returning from the show, make sure all new leads and contacts are added to the company’s Customer Relationship Management system. Make a notation of your first follow-up email, and calendar a time to follow-up again. That will make it easier for these leads not to fall through the cracks.
6. Build up your referral network.
Don’t forget to add to your CRM system those people at the show who weren’t in the market for your product or service immediately but are still involved in your industry. They are most likely to know others who may be interested in your company’s products or services, and can be a good source of referrals. Use your trade shows to build up your referral network too!.
7. Follow up again.
Clearly, your contacts will also have been away from their office and will need some time to catch up, so a second follow-up may be required. Don’t be discouraged. Trade shows are one of the most effective and efficient ways for entrepreneurs to build business.
Call the most serious prospects. Continue to execute good prospecting and sales techniques to develop a professional relationship.
8. Assess the show.
In addition to following up with leads obtained at the show, one of the most important post show activities is to conduct a post show analysis. By answering some basic questions, your company identify things that will help you when planning future events.
Key questions to ask are:
How many people attended the show?
How many leads were generated?
What the cost per lead?
What didn’t work?
Was the booth functional?
Was the booth in the right location?
Is this a good trade show to attend again?
Did the show attract the right kind of leads?
What was learned from other exhibitors?
What was learned about any competitors?
Once all leads have been exhausted and all business that resulted directly from the trade show identified, it is possible to do a full evaluation of the show’s ROI. After all, anything that requires this much work before, during and after should be worth it, right?
However ROI is only one of the ways to measure trade show success. Keep in mind there are usually other benefits as well. Benefits include reinforcing relationships with existing clients that attend the show, reinforcing the company’s brand, community awareness, educating the public, and building new relationships and alliances with other companies.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“As many as 80% of all trade show leads never receive follow-up contact!” Trade show industry resource
© 2010 – 2011, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.