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Trade Show Lead Management Tips

Trade Show Lead Management

According to a study by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), 80 percent of leads generated on the trade show floor go unfulfilled. Essentially, eight out of every 10 leads you painstakingly collect at shows might just as well go directly into the trash along with 80 percent of your program's value.

Successful Lead Management

You went to the show, wowed attendees with your impressive exhibit, gathered hundreds of leads, and passed them on to sales. Your work here is done. Or is it?

You might think it's not your responsibility to worry about whether or not the sales department does its job, and maybe you're right. But if your leads go unfulfilled, it's nearly impossible for them to translate into sales, making the expense of exhibiting difficult to justify in an era increasingly driven by ROI.

From organizing your attack to resuscitating dead leads, here are ways you can help increase lead fulfillment and protect the value of your program in the process.

Plan Your Attack

  • Many marketing groups simply pass a disk full of leads from the scanning machine to the sales team, but there's no organized plan for following through.
  • Sales and marketing need to get together on the issue of lead fulfillment, because there's no way to pound that hammer unless there's accountability on the sales side.
  • Sit down with your sales manager to determine how sales associates will follow up with leads after the show. Will they call or e-mail contacts? Approximately how long after the show will follow-up take place?
  • This information allows you to be more specific with the promises you make to attendees (e.g., "A sales associate will contact you next week to answer your questions."), and it creates a set of expectations you can use to hold sales accountable.

Define Your Customer

  • A lead is little more than a business card if it doesn't provide information about the prospect, including his or her needs, buying influence, budget, and time frame. This information, usually obtained through a series of qualifying questions, is what helps you and your sales department learn about your prospects, customize communications, and prioritize follow-up. To help ensure that your sales department will actually follow up on the leads you provide, the qualification criteria must meet their expectations.
  • Work with sales to identify the five to seven bits of data that they must have to qualify or discount leads, then craft questions to help obtain that information from trade show attendees.

What is a Qualified Lead?

  • Must prospects be looking to purchase within three months to make them qualified leads, or is six to 12 months more realistic?
  • What types of need should the prospects demonstrate in order to qualify them?
  • Should the prospects be buyers or influencers, or can either position qualify as a lead? For example, does it need to be a company-wide purchase, or is individual or small-group need sufficient?
  • Do the prospects need to have defined budgets in order to be qualified? If so, how large of a budget is needed?
  • Once you know how your sales department defines a lead, you'll know exactly what information you need to obtain from attendees in order to qualify them.

Appoint a Lead Sheriff

  • You can't keep a promise you don't remember making!
  • In one company's case, no one at the show was writing anything down. They weren't recording 80 percent of the promises they were making to attendees, so those promises were never being fulfilled. That was the real reason they weren't seeing as many show-related sales as management wanted.
  • To alleviate the problem, they designated one of the company's administrative assistants as the exhibit's lead sheriff. Her responsibility was to observe interactions in the exhibit, and following attendees' conversations with booth staff, approach the staff member to make sure the lead was recorded, along with any promises made, immediately following the conversation.
  • The lead sheriff helped the company increase the number of recorded promises from 150 at the 2004 show to more than 700 in 2005.

Contact Us

For more information about trade show or event marketing, give us a call or Contact Us. We welcome the opportunity to assist you with your next event.

Article Author:

Mel White, CEI

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