You Care What Happens After the Show?

July 11, 2018

How focused are you on what happens to the leads you gathered once the trade show is over? Perhaps you answered that “It’s not my problem – I simply hand them off to the sales department (or someone else).”But you know what? Even if that’s the case, you want to take steps to ensure those leads are well taken care of post-show.

Because here are the hard facts: paying attention to what happens after that first encounter with a prospect or customer improves the lifetime relationship you have with them, which means increased revenue potential and repeat sales opportunities.

The CMO Council has released two reports on customer attitudes and behavior that could shed light on this topic (“Elevate What Consumers Appreciate” and “Product Ownership: Lasting Satisfaction or Painful Distraction?”). Even though the focus of these studies was on the world of retail, we know trade shows are not that different from the retail environment when it 10x20 trade show display designcomes to attendees “shopping” for vendors and resources.  (Note: The study, conducted by the CMO Council and LiveTechnology, was based on a survey of 2,000 North American consumers and 150 marketing executives, both manufacturers and retailers.)

Here are some of the highlights from the studies (along with my take in italics):

  • 60 percent of consumers rate their post-purchase experience as “underwhelming” (Hmmmmm … seems like that could be the response of many attendees who visited an exhibit as well …)
  • Only 17 percent of consumers think brands care what happens after they purchase (or that exhibitors care after the show closes)
  • 37.8 percent say that products are not supported; companies sell but don’t service (kind of like how exhibitors swipe badges with no intent of following up)
  • Perhaps one big reason for the disconnect is that no one is responsible for the post-purchase experience (or for the post-show follow-up and lead-nurturing experience)

The “Elevate What Consumers Appreciate” report goes on to say that this is often the result of “poorly designed processes and insufficient data integration,” which makes follow-up an afterthought. And as we know, these days, it’s too easy for dissatisfied people to take their business elsewhere – or turn to social media channels to vent.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. In fact, the solution is fairly simple. Have a hand-off process in place before the show so that you know who’s accountable for the post-show experience. Then create a follow-up system for nurturing those leads along a logical path, which ultimately takes them from prospect to customer, to loyal customer. You can even automate much of that process!

Here are a couple of examples of what NOT to do, based on my own personal experiences as a customer, and how each situation could have easily been resolved with some automated follow-up:

  • Software company A failed to notify about an incompatibility issue when upgrading. When contacted for support, they seemed shocked that I didn’t know. “We posted in our social media channels,” they said. So I guess that means all customers are responsible for following their every tweet! A much simpler solution would be to send an e-mail to all registered users in their database, notifying them of the glitch.
  • Consumables vendor B discontinued several items without warning, meaning no opportunity to stock up on a preferred item while it was still available. Once again, a well-organized database can provide the perfect way to reach out to everyone who fits any specific criteria, whether that’s what products they’re interested in, or which trade show they attended.

So back to those CMO Council studies – what do people want and expect?

  • Fast response times (52 percent)
  • Knowledgeable staff ready to assist as needed (47 percent)
  • To be treated as loyal (36 percent)

Those don’t seem like unreasonable requests for companies of any size to fulfill. And dare I say, if you plan to market your business at a trade show, you ought to be prepared to also follow through with the post-show communication necessary to not only win over those attendees, but also keep them as satisfied customers for the long-term.

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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. Exhibit Design That Works (the first book in the YES: Your Exhibit Success series) debuted in July 2017. She’s also the founder of the Exhibit Marketers Café, an online education community.


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