trade-show-peopleWe hear it all the time: Trade shows are a waste of time and money. We stand around, selling our hearts out, and what do we have to show at the end of the day? Nothing!

Well, that’s the result you should expect, if you’re like most exhibitors, and neglect the most crucial aspect of tradeshow participation, which is: Following Up

What happens at the trade show is obviously import to your success, but equally important is what happens after the show ends. This is where most exhibitors drop the ball. Differentiate your company from its peers and maximize the full value from your trade show participation. To truly benefit from all the hard work that went into exhibiting, you must ensure that appropriate follow-up activities take place.

Follow Up Begins After the Show

Research tells us that over 80% of leads gathered at trade shows are never contacted. That’s a phenomenal number, especially when each lead has the potential to generate profit for your company.

Why do so many leads fall by the wayside?

It’s because show leads have a reputation for having no substance – they’re either just cold business cards or similar basic information imprinted on a company lead card. There’s nothing there to give already busy sales professionals a reason to follow up.

Even if salespeople do follow up, there’s only so much they can learn from a business card or bare bones information. For salespeople to view leads as being worthwhile for follow-up, they need good data.

For this reason, it is vital that before the show you spend time going over the lead collection process. Clarify exactly what types of information will be recorded on lead cards. Explain the importance of the information you are gathering. Make sure everyone knows exactly how to operate the card readers and use the printouts and the lead cards.

Everyone working the show should know exactly what results you want to achieve at the various trades shows you attend. Each show should have its own set of specific, clear, quantifiable, realistic goals. These goals should be in line with your company’s overall marketing objectives.

These goals give staffers something to strive for, but they also serve as benchmarks to evaluate and measure team and individual performance.

Develop a Follow Up System

To achieve and perhaps surpass your specific goals, you need a follow up system. The best time to develop your follow up system is during the planning and training stage for the show.

Use this time prior to the show to establish how the leads will be handled. For example, select a team member to take responsibility for collecting all “hot” leads at the end of each day and sent them ASAP them to the corporate office for immediate action. Assign someone at the office as a “follow-up” manager. This person takes charge of the entire follow-up process and should be someone who does not attend the show. Their job is to carry out the follow-up system that was established before the show.

Timeliness is of essence with all leads, not just the “hot” ones. Obviously you’re not going to overnight every single lead back to the office, but there are steps you can take to ensure you stand out from the crowd of exhibitors.

It is important to send something, such as a letter, email or catalogue to everyone who came to your stand to thank them and let them know when they can expect to hear from your company again. do this within two to three days after the show. Remember, if you don’t follow up, your competitors will.

Measuring Results

At the end of the day, management wants to know their money was well spent. Keeping track of your leads will allow you to measure sales directly attributable to your tradeshow participation. Recording this data will allow you to provide qualitative and quantitative analysis of the show.

For example, you can calculate the ROI to demonstrate the effect trade shows have on the bottom line. To measure the cost per tradeshow lead, simply divide your total show expenditure by the number of leads gathered. To measure the cost per sale, divide the total show expenditure by the number of sales.

Qualitative data, such as types of prospects who visited the booth, dates and times of their visit, products/services of interest, buying intent, and results of any pre-show promotional activity often proves invaluable when planning future show participation.

The key to trade show success is wrapped up in the lead management process. It starts with knowing at the outset what you want to achieve, then continues through establishing a strategy that is user-friendly, and finally the actual follow-up operation leads to bottom-line profitability. With a little forethought and planning the results will speak for themselves.

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