Exhibiting 101: Following Up On Trade Show Leads

This is the seventh in a series of articles about the basics of exhibiting that began with the first post of the New Year. This article focuses post-show, on reeling in those important trade show leads.

Trade shows are truly unique in that people come to the event, essentially with cash in hand, looking for a product or service that will solve their problem.

This environment doesn’t exist anywhere else, so it’s important to make the most of this matchless opportunity.

Modified VK-2923 Visionary Designs Showcases with LTK-1136 Reception Counter

Modified VK-2923 Visionary Designs Showcases with LTK-1136 Reception Counter

If you’ve followed the past several articles, you’re well on your way to succeeding as a trade show marketer. This article will focus on how to follow up on the trade show leads you collect at the show.

You may have heard an often quoted figure that 80% of trade show leads are never followed up on. I’ve talked to several other experts, looking for the origin of that factoid, and nobody’s found a trustworthy source.

So let’s just agree that following up on leads gathered in trade show booths isn’t always done as effectively as it could be.

To do it right, here’s an action plan you can follow:

  1. Strike while the iron is hot

The time for designing your follow-up campaign is not after the show. Everything should be in place so that action can be taken even before the show is over.

As soon as names are entered into your database, the next action should happen automatically.

Most exhibitors aren’t going to do this, so your prompt and professional lead follow up will make you stand out from the crowd.

When the prospect returns to his or her office and finds your materials waiting, this sends an important message: that you’re on the ball and ready to do business.

  1. Make follow-up easier on your staff

If you hand off a database of trade show leads that hasn’t been qualified, your sales department won’t be happy, and it will leave a bad taste in their mouths for the next time you give them more leads.

Instead, get input from the sales department about what information they’d like to see on a lead card.

Whether you’re using paper forms or a state-of-the-art lead management system, you should always include multiple-choice questions (so your staffers can hone in on the prospect’s needs) and an area for taking notes.

This could be where your booth staff includes a cold/warm/hot rating or anything specific about the prospect’s requirements. But without this, your salespeople will be going into each follow-up situation blindly, when it would have been so easy to give them what they needed.

  1. Don’t give them what they want; give them what they need
    LITE display 10x30 with shelves

    LITE display 10×30 with shelves

When asked, a prospect will usually request a brochure or a catalog as a next step. But that may not be what they need.

Your first follow-up should be an email thanking them for stopping by your booth—but beyond that, it should include specifics about the show, so they know where this message is coming from (“It was great meeting you at the XYZ Show in Chicago earlier this week”).

If staffers included something specific in their notes, this should also be part of your immediate follow-up. To get at what they really need, restate the booth’s overall message.

Include links to additional information (think product demo videos or blog entries with relevant information). This way, they can explore your site under your direction, gathering more information along the way.

Follow this up with an offer to learn more: download a white paper, request a catalog, meet with a salesperson, tour your plant, etc.

But don’t stop there. Offer your trade show leads a “show special” or some other reason for the prospect to take immediate action.

  1. Solve their personal problems

If your prospect merits it (with a warm or hot rating), follow up on the first email with a second one a few days later. Here, state the specific benefits your company offers over the competition.

Show how your product or service can solve this particular lead’s problem.

This shows you’re serious about helping, and provides proof that your product or service can fix whatever keeps this lead up at night.

VK-1951 SEGUE Backlit Portable Display with Tension Fabric Graphics, Wings, and Modified MOD-1267 Pedestal

VK-1951 SEGUE Backlit Portable Display with Tension Fabric Graphics, Wings, and Modified MOD-1267 Pedestal

Make sure this email will drive action, not just restate what the prospect has already heard.

  1. What about the ones that got away?

There were undoubtedly plenty of prospects who didn’t make it to your booth, because they didn’t go to the show or didn’t have time while they were there.

Get the list of attendees from show management, so you’ll be able to crosscheck who you met with and who didn’t stop by or speak to a staffer.

Combine this with your house list for the “Sorry we missed you at Chicago’s XYZ Show last week” email. The main message and call to action can be virtually identical to your email going out to those you met with.

  1. Drip on them

You don’t want to invest all this time and effort into follow-up for just a couple of bites at the apple. Ideally, you’d like your company to be clearly in mind whenever a prospect is ready to buy.

For that reason, be sure to continue to give your trade show leads some valuable content over time (a relevant blog post, a recorded webinar or a customer’s story).

As much as possible, keep this information relevant to the prospect. Segment those leads! Unrelated information will be seen as a nuisance, and will be counterproductive.

  1. Add it up

By tracking how many trade show leads convert to customers, you can prove the effectiveness of your trade show program. Figuring the ROI from your trade shows will help you determine whether the specific show was worth the time, energy and money required to make it a success.

If you don’t measure your results, your program could be on the chopping block. And you won’t have any evidence to change managements’ minds.

Does your trade show booth help or hurt you on the show floor? Is it the right size, with the best looking modules, along with eye-grabbing graphics and all the accessories to make your show successful? If not, let American Image Displays show you what we can do to help you attract all the attention you want at every show. Call (800) 676-3976 or email [email protected]

For more, check out our article on making leads into clients or how to convert leads at a trade show.

See full list of Exhibiting 101 articles here.