The trade show that you've exhibited in has come to a close, and now you're are back in the office, winding down, but the show's not over yet! Ensure trade show ROI by working the leads that you gathered from the show floor.

The PROCESS EXPO team sat down with Food Industry Trade Show Consultant, Bob Milam (aka Trade Show Bob) to discuss the importance of Post-Show Lead Follow Up. Trade Show Bob was on-site at PROCESS EXPO 2015 and met several exhibitors when he conducted E3 Exhibitor Effectiveness Evaluations.

Thanks for joining us today, Bob! What are some major problems that exhibitors face after a show? 
Everybody wants to design the exhibit. Nobody wants to follow the leads.” It’s been an ongoing statistic for the past ten years that 80% of trade show leads are never followed up. This is due to two factors:

  • Problem #1: Taking too many bad leads
  • Problem #2: Not being committed to post-show follow-up

How do exhibitors determine if the leads are qualified leads? Not every encounter at the show will result in a qualified lead. Almost always – without many exceptions – less than 30% of the overall attendance at a show will have any interest at all in what you selling. You need to adopt the mindset of a baseball hitter, who, while failing 7 out of 10 times, sits at the top of his profession. It’s a little like finding needles in the haystack. You can expect to sift through lots of waste to find a single diamond in the rough. However, this sifting process must take place quickly. That’s because the trade show is a very time-rationed environment. You need to get down to brass tacks and not waste time with disqualified visitors. Similarly, you need to spend quality time with your best prospects, to identify them, find out their issues, and set up future progress toward closing the sale.

Is there a way or process to ensure the quality of leads? Follow this simple 3-Step process to do this with each visitor you encounter. Ask these questions, in this order:

  1. What does your company do?
  2. What’s your role?
  3. What are you working on now?

After question #1, you’ll know whether there is any potential to do business. If not, dismiss the visitor politely, explaining why there’s no potential for further discussion.

After question #2, you’ll know if you got the right person. If not, ask for a referral and again politely dismiss.

After question #3, you will know why they’ve come to the show.

If they pass all 3 questions, you’ve found somebody who works for the right kind of company, in the right job, with projects you can address. This is someone to spend time with. Deliver your message and take notes about their situation. If you follow the 3-Steps outlined, you’ll eliminate or greatly reduce Problem #1.

Great. Now that you've addressed the first problem, let's discuss Problem #2 and trade show follow-up. Why should exhibitors stay committed to post-show follow up? It is simply a matter of will and committed resources. However, if you’re looking for an edge to have over your competition here it is. Remember, only about 1 in 5 trade show leads is ever followed up. If you’re looking for a cost-efficient way to separate yourself from your competition – do a better job here.

Can you describe a situation in which exhibitors can separate themselves from the competition (by following up with leads)? Here’s the typical situation: You just had a detailed conversation with a targeted prospect who needs the solutions you provide. Yet once he returns home from the show, chances are the best he’ll get, is a “form letter” response saying “thanks for stopping by our booth, be sure to visit our web site for more information”. Guess what? He already did that. Don’t insult his intelligence or make him start the relationship over by treating him like a “window shopper”. Individually follow up with each key contact (if you did your job well at the show, there won’t be an overwhelming number of them) with exactly and precisely the information they need/want.

Is there a wrong way to follow-up with trade show leads? Yes! Don’t bother with mass follow-up campaigns. Personalize it. Individualize it. This will build trust, memorability, and move the prospect forward along the path toward purchase. If all you needed was a list of contacts for cold calls, you could have obtained it without the trouble and expense of exhibiting.

Following these two simple rules will set you apart from more than 90% of your competing exhibitors. And, more importantly, you will close more business, and cause future show attendees to seek you out among the sea of competitors, because they know you will take them seriously and help them solve their problems.

Great advice, Bob! In summary, exhibitors should qualify leads on-site to reduce the number of bad leads gathered at the show AND conduct customized follow-up campaigns with qualified leads to build trust and move them forward in the the sales cycle. Thanks for taking the time to share these follow-up tips with us.

By Grace Cular Yee