Companies invest a lot of money in exhibiting at trade shows with the explicit aims of raising awareness about their brand and attracting new business. By the time you’ve spent money on your stand, staff, accommodation, travel, and expenses, you could be looking at tens of thousands of expenditure over the course of a few short days. It’s therefore vital to ensure you follow up with all of the leads you gather at trade shows, right?
You might be surprised to hear something Salesforce found out when they conducted a survey on trade show sales: 85% of leads aren’t followed up after an event. Crazy! In an increasingly competitive world, particularly in B2B sales, the speed of initial follow up is an absolutely vital part of the sales process yet event leads are often left behind. It’s pretty clear that prompt follow-up is key to getting the most out of your investment in trade shows.
Make sure you have a strategy
It’s so important that you develop a plan of action before you go to the event - if you decide to ‘just wing it’, you might as well just throw your money down the train. As Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”, and we’re inclined to agree. Have a strategy in advance for how your team will gather leads at the event, and make sure you also develop a plan for following up with your leads in a good amount of time. Regardless of your industry, there are a few things you should consider when developing your strategy, that will help you minimise the risk of prospective customers falling through the cracks:
Before the event
Do as much prep as you can to make your follow-up process as efficient and effective as possible. This should involve a clear plan for each type of lead collected, and a discussion with your sales or event team to ensure they are clear on this. You might want to have your initial follow-up email drafted and ready to keep your leads warm before the full follow-up occurs. The copy of your email should remind people of your engagement with them at the show and clarify how you can benefit their business.
During the event
Make sure you have a solid lead capture system in place so you can build a profile for every single prospect your team talks to. This is where software like Integrate Events comes in - allowing you to quickly and easily capture the details of your leads as well as the key qualifying information required.
Use your event lead capture system or marketing automation software to categorize your visitors - do they seem ready to buy immediately, or is it likely that they’ll need quite a lot of nurturing? You can simply use ‘hot’, ‘warm’, and ‘cold’ to classify leads so your team can follow-up accordingly, or you may be able to further streamline your efforts by integrating the lead capture system with your existing Marketing Automation or CRM system.
Tell your prospects that you’ll be following up with them as part of the conversation, whether that’s by saying you’ll provide them with some information they requested or letting them know you’ll be in touch in a few days - this primes them for the follow-up and also increases the chances that you’ll do it.
Communicate with your team frequently to make sure everyone knows what they’re doing and to find out if there are any issues with your approach.
If your trade show team aren’t the ones who’ll be following up on the leads, make sure the individuals who are carrying out this task have all the information they need in order to be as effective as possible. If you’re using Integrate Events, this is incredibly easy, as all the data collected at the show can be automatically sent through to your Marketing Automation software or CRM platform so follow-up can start straight away. On the other hand, teams using paper-based lead retrieval systems will need to get these forms to their colleagues for transcription and processing as soon as they can (not an approach to be recommended!)
Automating the follow up with apps can be efficient, but caution is necessary; if you’ve had a great conversation and developed a rapport with a lead at the show, a generic follow up email wouldn’t really be appropriate. In this instance, a personalized email referencing points covered in the initial contact would be a good idea, followed by a call swiftly afterwards. When using Integrate Events, we often recommend using our automated emails as a great “keep warm” approach before the full follow-up occurs. Those “keep warm” emails have a very high open rate and are a fantastic way of starting the initial nurturing of the lead during or straight after the event.
Whether you choose to follow up with a call or email is likely to depend on what’s standard in your industry - but you may well have more success with your high priority leads if the person they spoke to at the show calls them directly and nurtures the lead themselves.
Regardless of your method of communication, make sure the potential new client is clear on how they can progress if they want to. Suggest a date to talk, or ask what their availability is for the next week.
When you should follow up?
The straightforward answer to this is pretty simple: as soon as possible! However, you may come away from a trade show with dozens or maybe hundreds of leads - so what’s the best way of working through these?
As previously mentioned, it can be extremely helpful to categorize your leads during the show so you know who needs following up with immediately. If someone’s particularly keen or has requested specific information, contact should be made within hours of the initial conversation taking place - again, lead retrieval/capture apps like Integrate Events enable teams to do this straight away, even before the show is over. For warm leads that you’re still keen on exploring, set a time to get in touch with them once you’re back in the office. Sometimes deciding how long to leave it can be a matter of intuition and knowing your market. As a rule of thumb try not to take any longer than a week to start following up on the conversations you had at the trade show.
As a rule of thumb try not to take any longer than a week to start following up on conversations you had at the trade show.
Cooler leads should still be followed up with when you can; even if they’ve just displayed a passing interest and wouldn’t be top of the priority list, they could still turn out to be worth the investment it would take to keep them in the pipeline and nurture them. This may involve adding them to your marketing pipeline for nurturing at the top or middle of the funnel. Perfect if you’re using a Marketing Automation platform such as HubSpot, Eloqua or Marketo.
What not to do
There are a few things you should avoid doing if you want to make sure you stand the best chance of bringing your prospects on board:
Don't give up too easily
With all leads, make sure you don’t just give up after the first attempt. People live busy lives and can forget to reply to emails that they have a genuine interest in; by throwing the towel in after the first go, you may be losing leads that you would have stood a good chance of converting into customers.
Don't harass them
Although we’ve just said you shouldn’t give up too easily, be conscious of the fact you shouldn’t go too far the other way. Too many attempts to contact people in a short space of time will make it seem like you’re just not getting the message, and could potentially damage the reputation of yourself and your company. If they’re not getting back to you, take a moment to review your interaction with them at the show and try to work out why this is; they could not be interested, or you might not be saying the right things to them. Simply just chasing leads does not work, you need to be providing value each time you follow up with them. Also, try giving them the option of telling you to cease your efforts or ask if it would be worth you trying again in a few months.
Don't fail to get back to people
If you think your job’s done when you’ve reached out to people, you’re mistaken. Ideally, lots of your leads will get back to you; make sure you don’t lose these prospects by failing to continue the conversation. Reply promptly to their emails and give them all the information they need and don’t go cold on them. Particularly in the B2B sales world, with sales cycles of many months and the fact that leads will often not be ready to purchase, persistence and following up in the correct way, at the right times, is the hallmark of a successful salesperson.
Trade shows can be a fantastic way to find new business, but getting the best return on this investment requires a strong follow-up strategy. If you’d like to improve your methods of following-up with leads after shows, we've covered integrating events with your sales and marketing activities in our downloadable guide.