Exhibit marketers have long agreed that up to 80% of leads they gather at trade shows never receive the type of follow-up contact that converts them into customers.
Since evaluating leads captured at a tradeshow can be difficult, it makes sense that follow-up isn't always as thorough as it should be. But that's hardly the reason exhibitors so often drop the ball. The real reason? They don't attract the right leads to their booths, or qualify the ones they do.
We'll discuss attracting leads in another post and focus here on lead-qualification.
To convert more leads from a trade show:
1. Focus on follow-up from the start. Every time a visitor stops at your booth and expresses interest in your presence at the event, you should identify the individual's real level of interest and desire for follow-up. Don't leave the show with a stack of undifferentiated business cards or badge swipes! Ask simple qualifying questions and record the answers with the visitor's contact information. Most exhibitors do no more than collect business cards or scan the visitor's badge, relying on memory to help them prioritize their leads back at the office. That technique never works! You need enough information to engage the visitor after the show.
2. Follow up with every lead within a few hours or days, at most. The adage "Strike while the iron is hot" applies. After the show, go through your list of leads and their answers and determine who's most likely to respond to follow-up contact, and begin with them. When you contact them, include a reminder of your booth. A photograph can jog the memory quite effectively. Remember what promises or claims you made at the event, and concentrate on in a direct and forthright manner. Also, be sure your post-show email or direct mail piece offers value. Invite the individual to sign up for your newsletter, download a free report or e-book, or learn from a video or online demonstration. This accustoms the lead to receiving more information from you in the future.
3. Plan on lead nurturing. Don't expect to convert most trade show leads into customers after a few post-show contacts. It's an immutable law of marketing that most leads require seven to thirteen contacts before they convert. Unfortunately, salespeople give up too early. A trade show lead may take two years to convert. So count on the need to nurture them!
4. Leverage technology. Most show organizers provide handheld devices or apps for capturing and qualifying leads on site. Although helpful, they don't go far enough. Not only should you customize the data you collect to your business and marketing needs, you should capture it in a way that lets you funnel it directly into your customer relationship management (CRM) database. By leveraging your CRM, you can automate the process of sending newsletters, marketing emails, and other types of follow-up, and track lead's responses.
5. Assign a lead champion. Accept that lead-conversion may take a long time, and designate a responsible individual or team to track each lead's progress through the conversion process, so none is lost in the ether. Every person who stopped at your booth and expressed interest in your company had a reason to do so. That interest needs to cultivated. You need to build a relationship and establish trust with the visitor. Never push lead management into the background at a show, or settle for bringing home only an excel file or a stack of business cards. Create a long-term strategy and follow it.
NOTE: Want a turnkey lead-gen solution? Ask us about PLAYBOOK.
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