Ten Tips For Better Follow-Up on your Trade Show Leads

You’ve heard it said again and again: “studies show that trade show leads don’t receive adequate follow-up.” In fact, you may have heard an exact number: “80% of trade show generated leads don’t receive any follow up.” The figure is usually attributed to research done by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR).

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But I’ve got good news and bad news. CEIR has heard this same figure quoted often, but it’s not from any research they generated. That’s the good news.

Here’s the bad news: In a 2010 survey (sponsored by Lynch Exhibits and In4med Corp), less than 70% of exhibitors had any formalized plan in place for how leads were followed up after the show. That should be disturbing!

We now live in a time where we can send everyone who entered our trade show booth the same impersonal email message. And we can do this immediately upon returning to our office.

But just because we can do something, that doesn’t mean we should.

I want to suggest ten tips for an effective follow up program for your trade show leads.

I’m going to assume your staffers do at least the minimum amount of qualifying with their leads (hot/warm/cold). That way, the high priority leads are immediately turned over to Sales for prompt, personal follow up. This is about what to do with the rest of those leads.

1) The early bird catches the worm.
Don’t wait until you’re back in the office to begin designing your follow up program. It should be ready to launch the minute you return. A prompt, professional and personal message is a great way to stand out from other companies who may take days or weeks to respond.

2) Sales is usually unimpressed by trade show leads.
Why? Because most of the trade show leads that get turned over to Sales are lousy leads, and Sales has their own funnel of leads to churn through. Unless your booth staffers understand how to qualify leads, your trade show efforts are essentially useless. Train them in the basics, at least.

3) Give your prospect a range of ways to say “yes.”
A prospect may not be ready to buy, but they may be ready to say “yes” to something that could indicate buying behavior. For example, downloading a white paper, requesting a demo or a newsletter subscription. When they’re given the opportunity to “buy in” at a lower level, you’re still building rapport and getting your company’s name in the prospect’s hands.

4) Change is good for business.
If you’re using the same follow up email after every show, your message will get ignored in a heartbeat. Change the subject line and the message itself from one show to the next. Always include the specific show (by name) in the subject line and again in the first paragraph. Then, be creative with the rest of what you say.

5) Tell them what to do.
Everybody ends a marketing email with “to learn more…” or “for additional information…” Don’t do that. Instead, be specific with your call to action. Tell them exactly how they can engage with your company: “here’s the link to a free white paper.” Or “hit ‘reply’ to request an in-office demo of our Widget 1000.” Or “watch this three minute YouTube video about our newest products.”

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6) Tell them what you told them.
In your follow up email, you have a great opportunity to remind prospects of any announcements you made at the show. But keep it brief. Prospects are interested in what’s in it for them, not in reading a thinly disguised press release about you.

7) Forget what you’ve learned about marketing best practices.
The traditional school of thought was one offer/one call to action. But emails that follow up on trade show leads are a rare exception. If you offer only one option (“request an in-office demo…”), you’ll only hear from that subset of leads who are interested in that option. Given more choices (as in #5 above), you’ll get more action.

8) Make it personal.
Introduce each prospect to his or her assigned representative, and include that rep’s phone number and email address at the end of your message. Why? Someone who attended a trade show may already be interested in talking with Sales. Remove all the barriers for him or her to do so.

9) It helps to be photogenic.
Not you; the booth. If you can, include a photo of your trade show exhibit, taken at an especially busy time when it was filled with prospects. This can remind show visitors which exhibitor you were, out of the dozens (or hundreds) they spoke with at the show.

10) Feed the leads.
Your follow up plan shouldn’t end with what happens to the hottest leads after the show. You should also plan what you want to do to nurture warm and cold leads after your first follow up email.

Most companies just dump these leads into their marketing database. There, they receive a monthly newsletter or some other form of regular communication from the company. If it’s happened to you, you know how annoying it is to receive emails from companies you aren’t that interested in, or only did business with once.
So do unto others the way you’d want them to do unto you.

The minimum level of sorting should be to point each lead into an email track according to their particular product interest or vertical market. You might think of trying an automatic program of two or three emails in the two weeks following the show. Offer different informational content in each one, so prospects have some way to engage with you, without waiting weeks to hear from you.

To get leads, you need to stand out on the trade show floor. One of the best ways to do that is with a well designed trade show exhibit. That’s what we specialize in here at American Image Displays. We’ve got a great collection of modular exhibits from desktop size to 40’ x 40’ (and even larger).

For more, read quality vs quantity for leads or how to create a perfect lead card.

If your booth isn’t getting the attention you deserve, let us design a new look that will capture the attention of show visitors and move them into your exhibit. Call us at (888) 977-8076 or email [email protected].

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