WHY EXHIBIT? Part 2: Nurturing Trade Show Leads & Sales

Part II of our Why Exhibit? blog series is how to incorporate “Nurturing Leads & Sales” into your Trade Show Strategy. Read on for ideas on how to set your goals, meet them, and measure success when you want to develop leads and sales as part of your exhibit marketing plan.

If creating new leads or nurturing existing prospects is your top goal then you’ve probably already established your company and brand in your market. You have some existing leads and prospects you’ve either met with at trade shows before, or whom you expect to see on the show circuit. Even if you’ve never exhibited before, your brand has enough clout within your industry that many show attendees will recognize your name.

In a broad sense, your goal is to meet with existing leads and help move them along the sales cycle, and to create new leads—even if those don’t lead to immediate sales. Your goals might include:

  • Generate new sales leads
  • Build on existing relationships with prospects
  • Advance sales cycles with existing leads
  • Cross-sell existing customers
  • Face-to-face interaction with existing prospects
  • Meet with geographically diverse purchasing groups

When developing your overall and individual show strategies, be sure to set more specific goals. How many new leads are you aiming for? How many existing clients are you aiming to meet with? How many sales cycle advances are you trying to achieve. Concrete numbers make it easier to measure success, and help you reflect and improve on future events.

Your focus should be on the visitor’s experience, from start to finish. Consider your target demographic and your product, and think about what you’ll do to:

  • Let them know you’ll be at the show, such as email or mailed invitations to attend, blogging or social messaging, even phone calls.
  • Capture their attention on the show floor, from graphics to demonstrations to celebrity guests.
  • Engage prospects and move them forward in the sales cycle, like product demonstrations or on-site estimating or ordering.
  • Encourage them to take action during the show (like getting an estimate), and to prepare them for follow-up action after the show is over, when your sales team catches up with leads.

When nurturing leads is your focus your entire exhibit should be geared towards meeting their expectations and providing them with valuable information—and a method for easily capturing and streamlining their information into your own database or CRM.

In this case, lead capture software is your best friend.

You should be planning how to capture your leads’ information well in advance of your next show. Scanning badges works, but is quickly becoming outdated. Take time to research what methods are available (the technology changes and improves every year) and to find a system that will integrate smoothly with your customer database.

In this article from Exhibitor Magazine, eight of the key features of any lead capturing system are explored in detail, which will give you an idea of what to look for when making your own lead capture plan.

Measure your success in four stages: First, gather anecdotal information from your sales staff immediately after the show. Debrief them as soon as possible, at a post-show dinner, on the trip home, or the next day at the office. What were their overall impressions of your visitors and leads? Is the overall impression positive, or negative, and why? Did they feel the quality of their leads were affected by the display, message, booth space, neighbours, timing, etc.?

Second, review the information from your lead capture system or software. Remember those concrete numbers you generated when setting your goals for the show? Within a few days of the show close, compare your results to your goals and see how you did—taking your staff’s anecdotal information into consideration.

Third, ensure all those leads you captured are quickly and thoroughly followed-up with. Staff often find themselves catching up with missed work immediately after a show and can too-easily fall behind on their show lead follow-ups. Leads should be hearing from you within no more than two weeks of the show close date!

Fourth, review your sales and leads from the show in another six months. You should have a better idea of how many leads from the show turned into sales, the value of those sales, after six months have passed. When you combine all four of these items you should have a very clear picture of how successful your show was, how to set new goals for the next show, and what changes you may need to make to capture more leads and sales.

That’s everything you need to start incorporating a plan to nurture leads and sales into your Trade Show Strategy. In our next Why Exhibit post we’ll cover Making Sales & Signing Contracts as part of your show strategy.

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