There’s a long-standing statistic shared in the trade show world that 80 percent of leads are never followed up. While some may doubt the accuracy of that number, I must say it seems pretty on-track with what I’ve experienced as an attendee. And even though I understand how this happens — leads tend to get lost in the post-show shuffle — I really can’t imagine why it’s allowed to happen when there are so many things that can be done to prevent it.
So here’s how to avoid this happening with your trade show leads:
- Focus on understanding more about your leads and what they really want. This goes back to asking better qualifying questions in the booth and making notes on the conversation. You can’t count on memory, and what about if someone else is responsible for doing the follow-up? Write it down! Simply handing over a database of scanned badge information just won’t cut it.
- Make that first follow up timely and appropriate. Be sure to reference the show name and what was discussed in the booth. (You’ll know that because you wrote it down!) You could even include a photo of your booth to refresh their memory. Don’t be like a politician — fulfill on any promises you made on the show floor. Send them something memorable so that they’re a warm lead when a sales person calls. Give them one specific call to action — to download a report, click to watch a demo video, etc. And remember that the sale often goes to the vendor that follows up first. I had a team member that learned that the hard way … she waited to follow up and then when she finally did call, her competitor was sitting in the prospect’s office at that very moment!
- Create a specific, systemized plan for ongoing lead nurturing. Most sales (as much as 80 percent) are made after at least 5-7 contacts with a lead, and some prospects may take up to a year or more to buy. Yet nearly half of all sales people give up after only one contact. I know I’ve found this to be true. I once had a lead who contacted me referencing a postcard I sent her nearly two years before, which she’d kept on her desk until it was the right time.
- Leverage available technology for gathering and nurturing your leads. At the show, that may mean using the badge scanning technology provided. But that’s not a solution in and of itself. You need to customize the information you gather. And where will that data go? If it’s a dead-end road, it will make ongoing follow-up much more difficult. Develop a way to funnel leads straight into your customer relationship manager (CRM) so they’ll begin receiving any standard newsletters or other ongoing communications. You could also segment the leads based on specific needs or interests to make follow-ups even more customized. And don’t forget to have a backup strategy so leads won’t get lost before being entered into your overall system. Too often I’ve heard of paper leads accidentally being thrown away, or digital files getting mysteriously wiped out.
- Remember lead management is a long-term process. Have someone who’s accountable for keeping track of the status of trade show leads so that no one falls through the cracks. Then focus on building a relationship and a high level of trust, which is often required before a sale can occur. And studies show that nurtured leads make larger purchases than non-nurtured leads.
Lead management should never be an afterthought. By having a strategic plan in place before the show you can be sure your leads will be well taken care of and that many will turn into sales in due time.
Guest Blogger: Marlys Arnold. With experiences as both an exhibitor and a show organizer, Marlys Arnold has a unique perspective on trade show exhibiting. As an exhibit marketing strategist, she travels the country consulting and training on how to create experiential exhibits that produce significantly higher numbers of qualified leads. She’s led workshops for events ranging from local consumer expos to some of the largest trade shows in the U.S. She hosts the Trade Show Insights blog/podcast, and is the author of Build a Better Trade Show Image, the Exhibitor Education Manifesto, and the ExhibitorEd Success System. She’s also the founder of the Exhibit Marketers Café, an online education community. To request an “Extra Shot of Exhibit Success” go to www.ExhibitMarketersCafe.com.