The Trade Show Follow-up Top 10 List
10. What’s the game plan?
Funny how everyone has an elaborate plan for the trade show itself, but then go into catch-as-catch-can mode when it’s time to follow up. Not a good idea, since the follow-up stage is where sales actually occur. It’s better to sit down and create a follow-up plan that includes a schedule (don’t worry…this doesn’t have to take more than an hour). Devise a plan on how you’ll prioritize leads, how you’ll communicate with each group, the timing, who’s doing what and, last but not least, what goals you plan to achieve.
9. Set goals and you may even set some records.
When developing your plan (above), make sure to include definable goals. A trade show, like all business investments, has an ROI. Discuss with your team what your target ROI is for the trade show. If the show was $50,000 and you received 500 leads, your cost-per-lead is $100. Depending on your industry, that cost may be low or high. The key thing here is that you realize a trade show is a big investment, and you need to set goals to not only recoup your investment, but make a nice profit as well. So if you need 25 new clients (at $4k each) to recoup your $50,000 and make an additional $50,000 in revenue, then you’ll need to close 5% of your leads. By establishing reasonable goals and sharing them with your entire team (including your boss), your odds of achieving those goals go up considerably, as everyone’s on the same page and knows what they need to accomplish.
8. Call in healthy.
If at all possible, try to work from home the first and second day back from your trade show. This allows you to return important e-mails and voice mails from clients and co-workers, but not get pulled into time-devouring meetings and conversations at the office. The extra hours you’ll save by not being at work (and not having to commute) can give you a significant edge over your trade show competitors as you execute your follow-up plan.
7. Categorize leads into three groups: A+, A and A-
Why all the high grades? Because the minute you categorize them as A’s, B’s and C’s, the B’s and C’s rarely get followed up on. Obviously, you need to separate the great leads from the good leads from the dud leads, and some may need to be thrown out completely, but it’s going to pay in one form or another (referrals, brand awareness, etc) if you follow up with everybody in at least one way or another. You’ve enjoyed the rare opportunity of meeting prospects face-to-face—keep this relationship warm. Like all forms of sales, you’ll want to qualify each trade show prospect (does she really have a need for your product/service? the authority to buy? funds in this year’s budget?), and then prioritize them accordingly. If at all possible, e-mail all of your prospects the day you return from your show and let your hottest prospects know you’ll be calling them within the next few days. This will keep you top-of-mind with all prospects, while giving a heads-up to your best prospects.
6. Be the early bird.
Before post-trade show amnesia sets in (and your prospects forget those interesting conversations you had), get in touch with them by both e-mail and phone WITHIN 3 BUSINESS DAYS. You’ll never lose points for being proactive. Be enthusiastic on your call and jog their memory if necessary (“Remember us? We’re the folks with the golf ball finder? How did you enjoy the show?”). Keep in mind that your prospects just got back from the trade show, like you, and may be inundated with catch-up work. So be courteous. When you call them, find out if it’s a good time to talk and if it isn’t, ask if you can call next week. Have your sales script and objection responses ready either way.
5. You were social at the show… keep it going online.
While your face-to-face interaction is still top-of-mind with prospects, connect with them online. (Again, you’ll want to use the 3-day rule.) Immediately add your new contacts on LinkedIn. Tag them with the name of the show to make your follow-up easier. Also, see if there’s a LinkedIn group for the show and join the conversation, asking and answering questions. Next, start following and engaging with your new contacts on Twitter. Show them that you’re a thought leader in the industry by sharing both original and “curated” (retweeted) ideas and articles. Finally, write a blog post or two about your experience at the trade show and what you learned that may be helpful to others. Then share it with your new connections, as well as your existing clients.
4. Avoid blending in with an ample dose of creativity.
When following up by e-mail, snail mail and phone, keep in mind that hundreds of other companies like yours are following up, too. You’ll want to make your communications stand out. For those receiving a mass e-mail, show some personality so it doesn’t come off as a mass e-mail. Write your e-mail in an engaging manner, from subject line all the way down to your P.S. Like all communications, you never want to “go rogue” and create something that’s not consistent with your company’s brand/personality, but at the same time you want people to take a moment out from their busy day and actually read your note. There are several unique ways to follow up via snail mail that’ll help you stand out, as well, such as sending out a friendly greeting card. Greeting cards have the highest “open rate” among paper mail. They also have a long “desk life” because they’re unique and personable by nature. If you use a greeting card, try not to make it look/feel like a B-to-B mailer. Creativity should play a role in your phone call approach as well. Try to script some dialogue points that’ll grab each prospect’s attention.
Regarding sales and marketing collateral (brochures, sell sheets, direct mail, etc.), try to use different yet complementary materials before, during and after the show. Some companies will hand out a brochure at the trade show and then mail the prospect the very same brochure a week later when following up. This is not only a missed opportunity to share more information about your company/product/service, but it sends a message that your firm isn’t environmentally conscious, as duplicate brochures are almost always thrown away. Using different (yet brand-adherent) marketing touch points shows that your company is a forward-thinking marketer. Since these materials can be e-mailed as well, you can save on printing and postage if you’d like.
3. Keep promises made on the trade show stump.
It’s simple. If you promised to get back to someone right away with product specs, pricing, references and the like, do so immediately.
2. Hurry! Offer ends soon!
Without sounding like a late-night potato peeler commercial, try to communicate a sense of
urgency to buy your products or services. If you were offering a discount during the trade show, perhaps you can extend it for a month, allowing prospects a few weeks to get authorization to make the purchase. Obviously, not all purchases can be made quickly. If your sales cycle is usually 9-12 months, you can’t expect it to be accelerated just because you’re offering a discount. However, communicating early and often with your new prospect will grease the proverbial skids for purchases down the road.
1. When the going gets tough, the tough get caffeinated.
No two ways about it—following up on a trade show while catching up on a stack of mounting projects back at the office can be a daunting task. Since trade show follow-up is the stage where sales are actually made, it’s vital that you work extra hard during this time (even if your eyelids are telling you something different). Try to delegate as much work as possible to anyone at your office who can help. “Calling in healthy” (see #8) is also an effective approach, allowing you a little extra time to dedicate to your follow-up plan and communications.
The author of this article, George Brumis, is president of RFP MD, a Los Angeles-based proposal writing company that serves clients nationwide. Looking for more RFP opportunities? Make trade shows part of your prospecting plan. Be sure to get there on the first day of the show, when Marketing and Sales VPs are often in attendance. For more articles on finding and landing new accounts, visit the RFP MD website.