Not Quite Strangers, Not Quite Clients
Waiting to follow up on leads generated at a trade show, or even neglecting to do so at all is the biggest waste of time and money in the trade show process. While every visitor has your information and your pitch in mind, each one also has the same from all your competitors. If you delay in contacting the leads you gathered, you can be sure that one of your competitors already has, and you will lose any chance of developing new clients.
The first step in contacting your future clients is to sort your leads by priority. Using the information you collected from surveys, lead cards, or in meeting with attendees, you should separate them into categories similar to the following:
- Hot Leads – contacts looking to do immediate business with your company and/or have a budget in place
- Medium Leads – contacts looking to do business with your company but are missing a fixed budget and a firm timetable for purchasing
- Mild Leads – contacts possibly looking to do business with your company sometime in the future
- BBQ Leads – these are contacts that simply dropped off their business card or seemed disinterested in your products or services.
Hot Leads are the first people your sales or marketing department should contact. Your goal is to touch base with these people before your competition does. Ideally, you should contact them as soon as possible, but no later than two days after the trade show. Once your company has finished addressing your Hot Leads, you than contact the Medium and Mild Leads in turn. Give yourself about a week to make contact with these leads, but make sure not to forget about them entirely.
Don’t worry about contacting the BBQ Leads. These contacts leave you unsatisfied and yearning for a spicier Lead (as I personally feel BBQ wings do), and you can forget about them.
When contacting all levels of Leads, here are some helpful suggestions to keep in mind:
- Visitors may not remember what you told them, but they will remember what they told you
- Make all your correspondence friendly and personalized for each of your contacts
- Include any offered or requested literature, to reinforce the idea you follow through on promises
- All information should re-iterate and expand upon that from pre and in show
- If you offered both a pre and in show promotional item, include a third tie-in gift to complete your promotional marketing strategy
- If you supplied the attendees with a gift, inquire to how they are using and enjoying the item
- Address any immediate needs through a quote or by suggesting a meeting
After you have completed your initial contact steps, you will want to follow up with at least a monthly correspondence with your leads. This can be in the form of personal emails, calls, or even a company newsletter. Remember, people are more likely to start and continue business with a company that engages in regular correspondence and treats them more than just a one-trade show stand.
Fishing for Leads In-Show
Exhibiting at a trade show is a lot like fishing. First you want to lure the fish (attendees) with some bait (giveaways or a presentation), than you want to hook them (with your business pitch) and pull them onto your boat (add them to your clientele). To help you catch customers, you need to understand what they are looking for and why. Do they need a new product or service to expand their business? Or are they simply looking to replace their current supplier?
When meeting visitors for the first time, avoid a generic greeting they will hear from every other booth on the block. Instead, welcome them into your company’s environment, or try an open-ended question to assess their business needs. This will show you’re open to listening to your customers, and help you determine whether or not they are worth your time. If a visitor seems disinterested, or is trolling around looking for free swag or literature, it’s not wise to waste your time or best sales pitch. Once you have a worthwhile attendee engaged in conversation, here are a few tips to help your dialogue shine:
- Keep it short and simple. Attendees spend the whole day listening to people talk, so don’t be the one to wear out their patience
- Listen to what each person says so you can address individual issues and offer solutions
- Let visitors know you follow through in dealing with clients’ problems and needs by citing a concrete example they can relate to
- Ask for a business card, and than use it to take notes about the person
- Maintain steady eye contact to convey interest and friendliness
- Smile! It may sound simple, but the visitor will feel welcome and it will make you more enthusiastic
- Avoid being aggressive by entering attendees’ personal space, maintain at least an arm’s length between you and them
- Make sure to gather as much information as possible about the lead (see Pt. 1 of this article for ideas)
Always end every worthwhile conversation with a firm handshake and a brochure and/or gift. The brochure should reinforce everything you told the visitor, and the gift should be something they will use on a daily basis. This will keep your company and your pitch in attendees’ thoughts long after your meeting has finished.
On a side note, it is important that both you and your staff have adequate break times during shows. You want to sound fresh and excited to each and everyone you meet. Remember that confidence is key. If you believe in your company, than so will they.
This series will conclude on Friday with follow up techniques and tricks.
The driving factor behind exhibiting at a trade show is to generate new business for your company. According to the attendance survey done by Exhibit Surveys, 80% of trade show attendees either recommend or handle purchasing for their companies, and 47% of them are looking to buy within the year. While those numbers are good, considering the cost of exhibiting and having your competitors sharing the show floor, you cannot afford to waste the opportunity to show off for potential clientele.
Winning over attendees to your company shouldn’t start with the first day of the tradeshow. The sooner visitors know who you are, where you are, and what you offer, the better your chances in earning their business will be. A good way to start off your trade show campaign is by utilizing direct mailings. Usually, your event organizer can provide a list of people who plan on attending the show and their contact information. Here are a few tips to help your mailer stand out from bills, junk mail, and what not:
- Sort out your target audience from the list of attendees
- Tie your mailer theme into your display design
- Tease people with what will be at your booth, make them want to come see you
- Tell about a special offer at your booth: a contest, a product demonstration, a guest speaker
- Include a small promotional item to tie in with another at your booth: i.e., pen in mail, notepad at booth
- Make your mailer noticeable with an unusual size or shape
You will also want to rehearse the pitch you will be giving to attendees as they meet with you at your booth. On average, you will have 30 seconds to pique the interest of the people you will talk to, so don’t waste time on useless information. You will also never want to be caught off guard by not knowing what to say next. To avoid the dreaded “ummm” word, here are some ideas for what you and your staff should be versed in:
- What sets your company apart from the competition?
- What are some examples of how you’ve helped clients’ needs in the past?
- Are there any new services or products you are showcasing at this event?
- How do you handle and solve customers’ issues and problems?
Also, it’s a good idea to plan ahead of time how you want to collect visitor’s contact information. Since you don’t want to be stuck relying on your staff’s memory, here are a few options you can use:
- Write a short survey asking open ended questions that key you in on what a lead wants and how your business can help that lead’s needs
- Create a Lead Card to gather detailed information about contacts
- Collect business cards, either by hand or by means of a drop box
- Rent or buy a scanner to electronically collect data from attendees’ ID badges
Drop by Wednesday to read about helpful in-show tactics.