Twenty years ago, before I started in into the MR industry, I worked in the conference and trade show industry. Back then, one of the industry’s key associations – the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (ceir.org) – reported that only 20% of all leads generated at an exhibition were ever followed-up on. Today, with all of the new tools and technology available to exhibitors, that number is still 20%!
Stated another way, 80% of everyone who gives up their time to come into your booth this Fall (at TMRE, CASRO, ESOMAR, QRCA, etc.) will not hear from you afterward! That’s not just bad business… it’s downright stupid!
And you know how it happens… you’re excited about all those new sales leads you’ve gathered… then you head home from the conference… return to your back-to-normal business routine… and before you know it, that pocketful of business cards representing all those warm leads now has a thin layer of frost on it. And the opportunity has passed. To make sure that doesn’t happen to you…
Part 3: AFTER the event
There really is only one thing to worry about after an event… follow-up! That’s it. The question is, what’s the best way to do that?
Here are some proven ideas to help get you started on the right path…
- Immediately after you get back to the office, gather the booth staff to review every lead from the booth… one by one. If you used a booth lead form to capture info on each visitor (rather than just scribbling some notes on the back of their card), most conversations should be pretty easy to recall… helping you decide the best way to follow-up.
- Don’t forget about all those people you met outside the exhibit hall – during sessions, at the social events, etc. Follow-up with them in exactly the same way as the booth leads.
- Make sure every name is entered into your in-house sales database for future marketing… and make a note that you “met them at the XYZ conference.”
- Sort all leads into Hot – Warm – Cool. Then assign each lead to whoever will be responsible for follow-up (often it’s the person they chatted with in the booth). Their job is to then follow-up with all of their leads in the appropriate manner. For example… Hot leads get a phone call within the first three days; Warm leads are sent a thank you note and receive a call within two weeks; Cold leads go into the database and receive monthly emails. You decide what works best for you.
- For some booth visitors, you might want to send a ‘thank you’ note (and make it handwritten). But be specific… you want them to remember you. Cite something from the booth conversation or reference the specific service line that interested them.
- Those that are Hot should be followed up with ASAP. And that doesn’t mean in a couple of weeks… that means no more than a couple of days – before the contact forgets they even met you. And remember… even Hot sales leads might not be ready to buy just yet – have a nurturing campaign ready to implement.
- Did you agree to schedule a follow-up appointment with any of your booth visitors? Don’t delay… jump on that right away.
- Finally, make sure to go back to the goals you set before the event and see how you did… Total # visitors, Hot/Warm/Cold count, # Demonstrations/Conversations, # Appointments scheduled, Others
One last thing… because exhibiting is such a big expense, those that sign the checks will want to know the ROI on an event. Rare is the sales lead that becomes a client during or immediately after a conference. That’s why it’s important to track your sales lead for an extended period of time – e.g. 6-12 months. It requires some discipline, but because of the sales cycles in our industry, it’s important to stick with it.
Bottom line: Be part of the 20% that are effective and efficient with their exhibiting follow-up. Do that… and you’ll jump out to a big competitive advantage over the other 80% that don’t!