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Trade Show Lead Capture & Management

Few marketing initiatives provide as much customer face time as does attending a trade show, exhibit and or conference. It's an opportunity to meet directly with your market's main influencers, your customers' key decision makers and the surest way to generate the most qualified leads. If marketing is measured by its ability to grow market share, increase revenue, produce qualified leads, lower the costs of customer acquisition and increase marketing ROI (return on investment), then few marketing strategies can match the benefits of going to a well attended trade show.

Unfortunately, far too many companies decide to “wing it”. Far too many fail to seize the moment and far too many fail to recognize the inherent benefits of being able to meet with so many customers at one time. It’s an opportunity to shorten the company's sales cycle, build for the future, offset cyclical business patterns and forever set the stage for increasing market share. Success requires a thorough understanding of how best to capture leads, manage those leads and feed them to a proactive and willing sales team. So given the importance of attending these trade shows, what must your enterprise do to ensure that each and every show is a resounding success? More importantly, if one were to come up with a list of trade show best practices, what exactly would that list entail and how best should your team manage the qualified leads long after the show is over?

Preplan Checklist

Plan and execute. If ever there was one single aspect of success when attending trade shows, this simple rule would be it. Take the time to define your marketing & sales team’s goals and objectives, as well as each team member’s roles & responsibilities. Who is ultimately responsible for answering any technical, and or service related questions? How many team members must be present in the booth? Most importantly, who is in charge and should they be appointed as such? It's always a good idea to anoint one team leader and give them the responsibility of ensuring a minimum number of booth attendees at all times. Always have someone senior in place, ready and able to deal with high level customer discussions.

Trade Show Conduct

We've all heard of the rule of never sitting, yawning or appearing bored at a trade show. In this regard, the conduct and appearance of team members often means the difference between success and failure. However, we also know that it's unrealistic to expect team members to stand indefinitely. Therefore, be sure to schedule breaks and times where individuals can leave and stretch their legs. It's always a good idea to define who remains at the booth, who walks the floor, who attends exhibits and conferences and ultimately, who is responsible for keeping track of booth attendance.

Predetermine Qualified Leads

Why do so many companies fail to seize the moment at trade shows? In order to answer this question, think of how important it is to determine what a qualified lead is before attending the show. Think of how that alone will make it easier to determine which prospects have the most potential. Your company must determine what a qualified lead well beforehand. Will it be based on the types of products they buy, the amount they are likely to spend, their business model, their market niche or simply their willingness to make a purchase? Defining your customer segments will go a long way to determining which customer leads your company is in pursuit of. Understanding your target audience allows all team members to provide a tailor-made value proposition. That only happens when your company clearly distinguishes between a qualified and unqualified lead.

Incentivize Leads

Perhaps the best approach to securing qualified leads is to make an effort at becoming a market expert. Today's companies aren't measured by being first or last to market, but instead are measured by their market knowledge and expertise. Every trade show offers its exhibitors an opportunity to hold conferences and information sessions. The best way to reach your target audience is to hold a training session, a session that meets the unique requirements and interests of what you’ve predetermined to be qualified leads. You’ll have plenty of leads emerging from your booth, but it's always best to incentivize prospects by giving them a reason to attend an informative and engaging training session.

Lead Tracking

Understanding what a qualified lead will empower each team member to determine which leads are most important. A good rule of thumb is to gain access to the trade show’s attendance and exhibitor list and preplan lunches and or meetings with existing customers and potential prospects. The surest way to close on opportunities is to understand them beforehand and plan accordingly. Will your company use barcode scanners to capture leads or rely upon enterprise mobility solutions and register prospects via mobile devices? While both of these are advantageous, a simple and inexpensive solution is to get the prospect’s business card and immediately write down pertinent information.

Be sure to qualify the qualified leads. No, that’s not meant to confuse. What it means is that your company must come up with a predetermined method of qualifying the urgency of the leads generated at the show. For instance, you might decide to separate leads into hot, warm or cold based on their need for immediate proposals. Or, you might determine the urgency of the leads based on their sales cycle or sales volume potential. Whatever the case may be, determine how your leads will be classified and be sure to segregate them in terms of their importance.

Lead Management & Follow Through

How important is lead management? Well, when you consider that a majority of leads are largely ignored, or forgotten altogether, then it's a pretty fair assumption that it's important. However, how can your company ensure that those “hot prospects” remain hot long after the show is over? Success depends upon your company's ability to segregate these leads within your sales team. If you've predetermined what a qualified lead looks like before going to the trade show, and have qualified the opportunity's importance at the show, then the rest is merely follow through. In essence, your company needs to get these qualified leads into your sales funnels. Do it by sales territory or location, but following up should be a much easier process if you've both determined what a qualified lead is, and have qualified the opportunity at the show.

Most companies rationalize their inability to properly manage the leads emerging from trade shows. Chalk it up to inexperience, indifference or plain stubbornness, but a large majority of companies fail to enact some simple strategies when attending exhibits. Don't make the same mistake. Seize the moment and be sure to reach as many qualified leads as possible. When you do, close them.

Further Suggested Reading

Exhibit City News • Managing lead management

Exhibitor Online • Illegible Leads

Article by Datch Haven