Picture this: you’ve just returned from a trade show (as I just did). You spend three to five days at the show, total, between setup and booth duty, and you invest valuable time harvesting leads and opportunities. Your company has made a significant investment just having a presence at the show. Acquiring a trade show lead is not an inexpensive proposition!
You’d think these leads would be top priority for the overall organization and sales team. If you consider the expenses involved in buying booth space, paying trades, bringing booth staff to the convention center, and entertainment and travel expenses, a trade show lead should be as valuable as gold to any organization that makes the commitment. However – the opposite is true! Did you know that 20% or less of trade show leads get the attention they should? In the spirit of the season and the Peanuts-Great Pumpkin episode…AAUGH! Think of that missed sales opportunity as the elusive football Charlie Brown so desperately wanted to kick. (OK, I’m showing my age.)
Charlie Brown and Lucy, Characters of Charles M. Schulz
So, as I sit here wading through business cards, Excel sheets of badge scans and lead acquisition sheets, I keep hearing little voices saying “Follow up with me…PLEASE!”
At first I thought I was hearing things (it is pretty close to Halloween), but then I realized — my pile was beckoning me. The business cards were basically taunting me to ‘get on it.’ This reminded me of the years when I, as a product manager, was responsible for managing trade shows, and the frustration I would feel when these very valuable leads sat dormant. Well, here I am, responsible for setting up another show, but in a twist of fate, also responsible for the actual follow up. Suddenly I began to feel empathy with the sales teams of yore! This pile of leads was asking me to follow up and daring me to do it. Just like Lucy taunting Charlie Brown!
I don’t intend to be lulled into missing the football again due to lack of planning. Instead, my mind is set on reaching out to all of these opportunities, in a prioritized fashion. I want to kick the football! For anyone that is suffering the same potential fate, I’d like to make a few suggestions.
Get all your opportunities into an electronic format. Including any notes and conversations you had at the booth or while canvassing.
Create a rating system to prioritize your leads and help you focus, e.g., Hot, Warm, Cold, 1,2,3, etc. Whatever works for you.
If you have a sales force automation tool, load your data immediately!
Assign the leads to your sales staff or yourself.
Based on your priorities in aforementioned point #2, begin your outreach. Personally reach out to your hot leads. Set some appointments.
If time does not permit you to personally follow up with warm or colder leads, assign them to an internal resource or engage an external resource or company for nurturing. Get help warming those leads up! After all, you have existing customers to maintain.
Integrate your new leads into your digital marketing efforts so they’re included in any inbound programs you may be engaged in.
Track all your trade show leads as a separate campaign, something you can tie back to return on investment and close rates from the show.
Close some business!!
OK, sounds simple and I know it’s not. It takes persistence and a commitment to optimize the expenditure of time and money you and your company have made in order to be at a trade show.
In the spirit of the Halloween season, listen to those voices haunting you…”Follow up with me…Please!”
Mike is an Electrical Engineer and has spent the better part of the past 20 years as a product management, marketing and sales development specialist, specifically in the manufacturing and industrial automation B2B marketplace.