The Morning After The Day Before
Trade show success depends on well-planned and timely follow-up on leads your company generates at a show. By the time the event is over, company staff are exhausted and grateful they survived. While it’s tempting to take a week’s vacation to recuperate, or return to the office and idly browse through 500 email messages, your trade show performance isn’t yet finished. So brush the cobwebs off your desk and get serious about your trade show follow-up. Email and other distractions can wait.
Begin by organizing your trade show leads. Ideally, lead organization is completed while at the show, whereby lead contact information is entered in a contact management system or spreadsheet. Organize your leads in terms of product or service category, and/or by “temperature”: hot, warm and cool, depending on the degree of rapport you established at the show.
It’s imperative to have a creative and thoughtful marketing communications follow-up plan. Direct mail, phone calls with sample scripts, face-to-face meetings, product demonstrations, email messages, or e-newsletters are all effective communication methods. Whatever methods you choose, be certain to include your targeted message, company branding, contact information, and your call to action. Also give some thought to special pricing or value-added offers to encourage your prospects to take action.
For direct mail, refrain from sending duplicates of the literature you’ve already provided at the show. Instead, send your prospects a new, more robust information package, or piece such as a direct mail postcard, with additional information and selling points that appeal to your prospects’ needs. A package can include your business card, some company literature, ways your company can help the potential client, and samples or price lists that may quicken the sales cycle. Personalize the package whenever possible. Handwritten notes are excellent and always well-received.
Consider a customized e-newsletter. Based upon your lead list of current clients, prospects, and potential partners, you can create more than one e-newsletter template. This newsletter can be similar to your direct mail content, as well as including links to useful content on your website. An added benefit is that your prospects will be more receptive to phone calls after receiving and reading your e-newsletter.
Phone calls are perhaps the most powerful trade show marketing follow-up tool. Place your initial follow-up call no later than 48 hours after the trade show, then call again in a couple of weeks, and again after a month, to continue developing rapport with your leads. Keep in mind that hot leads might buy within 30 days, while warm leads take longer. Make your sales reps accountable for these prospects, and monitor their progress for at least 6 months. Persistence pays off when it is properly executed.
Did you remember to record some brief notes about each lead you spoke with at the show? These notes are very valuable - they spark your memory, allow you to personalize your follow-up strategies, and show your prospects that you were listening carefully to their needs. For instance, some leads wish to be contacted in a particular manner, or request specific information from you. Potential clients will be pleased to see that you mailed them a catalogue, or contacted them only by phone, as per their explicit instructions. Listening carefully to your qualified leads will help turn prospects into customers.
Time is of the essence. Don’t let a hot lead grow cold because too much time has passed. The longer you wait, the less likely you will be remembered, and your competition will beat you to the punch. Upon their return to the office, your sales staff should ignore emails and other distractions, and instead focus solely on implementing your trade show follow-up plan. Not next week, or next month, but the next day. Evaluate the success of your targeted follow-up plan by tracking the number of sales generated over a fixed length of time.
You will have to juggle volumes of contact information. Prospects must be efficiently sorted. And leads must be pursued swiftly and with perseverance. But by taking action the morning after the day before, you can greatly increase your company’s customer base and justify your trade show investment.
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