Published September 2019
Updated August 2021
That is astonishing. You spent the time and money to exhibit at a trade show and yet failed to follow through to capitalize.
One of your primary goals when you attend a trade show is generating leads. At the right event, you can achieve in one weekend what might take months under ordinary circumstances. To accomplish your trade show goals, however, requires advance planning and preparation. In particular, lead generation and management are two elements that can’t be left to chance. Without a good strategy in place, you risk losing leads, and in the long term, losing sales.
The surveys differ, but not by much, on the following statistics:
- 87% of show leads are never effectively followed up. (Exhibit Surveys)
- 76% of sales people view trade show leads as cold calls. (Exhibitor Magazine)
- The average exhibitor takes 26 days to vet their show leads. (Fish Software)
- Only 1 of 4 exhibitors knows what becomes of their leads. (CEIR)
Poor lead management not only limits or prevents a company from obtaining ROI, but it can also negatively impact a brand in the market. Worse yet, it can limit the value attendees get from their time with YOU in the exhibit hall.
You’ve selected a trade show based on criteria after reading the article How to choose a trade show. Now you’re at the event, and you’ve set up your exhibit booth space according to what you read in the article Planning Your Exhibit Space.
You’re ready to go.
Create a Lead Generation Plan
As the doors are opened and the crowds are unleashed…you prime yourself.
Let’s back up just a tiny bit…before the event you and your staff created a plan whereby you will speak with prospects, answer their questions and rate your leads/booth visitors according to a certain criteria.
- Rank leads in terms of qualification, and in terms of follow-up priority.
- Maintain a tracking system, so you can continue to identify lead sources as they move through the sales process. This is important for gauging the success of the shows you attend and other lead-generation efforts.
- Nurture your leads in the long-term with a well-designed content and marketing program that provides potential and current clients with valuable, useful information.
You have the criteria written out so all sales reps in the booth are on the same page. As the sales reps begin having conversations with attendees, answering their questions about your product or service they keep engaging until they know the prospect is at their stopping point. Once that happens, they take the information that was filled out on the lead card and place a number on it corresponding to the rating system you’ve already come up with. Something like this:
- Ready to purchase
- Needs to think about it some more, call to nudge and they’ll be ready to buy
- Has a few more questions—needs a call back or a meeting to go more in-depth to see if our solution will work for them.
- They are intrigued, know this is the perfect solution to their problems and are ready to purchase but need other approval and/or financing. Call to walk them through this.
- They are open. You see the light in their eyes and know this will solve everything for them, but it’s just too new of a concept right now and they’ll need more data, evidence, social proof, or a demo to be convinced. You need to be on top of this lead to nurture it.
You do this all day long the entire length of the show and at the end you have 5 huge piles. Get to it!
Simplify this process and remember there are apps to do this electronically and EASIER!
Note: your sales reps should be excited to get started on these leads as they are no longer cold, but rather warm leads. They can start a conversation with these leads by picking up right where they left off when speaking to them at the event.
INVEST IN LEAD SCANNERS OR A DATA COLLECTION TOOL
Lead scanners are key and worth the investment. With a quick scan of an attendee’s name badge, you’re able to capture an attendee’s full name, title, company, and contact details.
Some lead scanning devices allow for customization, and specific qualifiers can be added to the system. These qualifiers include a temperature rating (how hot this lead is--not if they have Covid), a list of follow-up actions to choose from, and a notes section.
Depending on the trade show, these pieces of technology can be expensive. If you’re working on a budget, consider creating your own method of data collection. Also consider bringing iPads for attendees to enter their contact information via a Google Form.
There are also apps & phone capturing processes that allow you to easily upload all your leads, based on the category you rated them at, and then upload them to your crm. These apps change and are updated frequently so it is best to google it or ask other companies what they use.
What next? Follow up!
Return home or back to your office and START CALLING!
You’ve developed this strong lead retrieval system and now you need to follow through. Your sales staff should be chomping to get at those #1 rated leads! (If not, hire new sales reps).
Let your reps go after these leads accordingly-- making the sales and placing these leads gently into your sales funnel to continue working them and you will reap the benefits of having exhibited at this trade show.
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