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Part two of our phone interview with Demco Marketing Manager Michelle Montgomery talking about collecting, recording, and nurturing trade show leads.

Listen to the episode here.

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We cover a lot of ground in these talks, if you'd like to dig deeper on these topics, check out some footnotes here:

Matt Johnson: What are some ways to collect and record leads?

Michelle Montgomery: You first need to identify what your company determines as a lead. Some people might consider a lead something that’s going to generate a sale, while the guy next to you might think that a lead is just the name and email address. One of the first things you can do on a shoestring budget is a fishbowl giveaway, or something that collects all the names. If you’re looking to really beef up your mail list or email list, one of the best things you can do is leave that fishbowl out there and give away a small prize. They can drop in a business card and you’ll do some kind of random drawing for that. If you’re looking for just those pure lead-qualifications, “might be a sale down the line,” people that require a follow-up, something you can do if you don’t want to go with the fancy tools provided at the conference center is draw up a lead form. An 8.5x11 works great because it’s not too small and won’t get left behind. On our lead form that we have in paper form, we actually write the words: “staple the business card here.” This keeps everything organized and keeps everyone answering the same questions. Then, bring a folder or a basket so that everybody knows where to put the lead form when they’re done with it. If you want to go with technology, don’t forget that most cell phones or tablets all have voice-to-memo. That’s a great way to get those notes down in a fast way that you can email over later.

MJ: I guess the trick here is before moving on to the next prospect in your booth, you need to have the discipline to stop, fill out that form, staple the business card, and file it. It seems like there could be a temptation to not follow through with that part of the process, right?

MM: That’s a great point. In our booth, we actually provide incentives for not only the number of qualified sales leads that come back, but also the sales person who fills out the most complete information. So we know who’s filling out the lead forms with the most information. This helps with making sure you have all the information you need to follow through when you get back.

MJ: What essentials are needed when collecting lead information?

MM: You need to first verify with the attendee that this is their actual information. You’d be surprised how many times people register with their home address. You need to be careful of contact information. Sometimes people are borrowing; sometimes their purchasing department did the badge registration for them. You also need to consider a person’s preference for being contacted. Some people prefer email or phone calls. So, make sure you find out how they want to be contacted when they get back. Now, when you start filling out the forms, you just need the basics. What are they looking for? What type of project do they have? What products did you show them in your booth? Then, the sales staff will know where to start when they follow up. Also, what’s their purchasing time-frame? Is this a hot lead where they want to buy in the next week, or is this a project for a year down the road? Also, make sure they’re the person you should be contacting. Sometimes they’re just gathering information and taking it back to, say, a Safety Director. Are they the decision maker or the influencer? Those are great questions to ask ahead of time.

MJ: That seems like it can be an awkward question to ask. Do you just come right out and say, “Are you the decision maker?”

MM: Usually I say, “Are you going to be part of the process of purchasing this product, or is there anyone else we should be contacting?” Then, they’ll usually come right out and tell you.

MJ: That seems critical because we could be chasing somebody who, ultimately, doesn’t have the stake in the game that the person who is behind them has. But let’s say that we’re ready to invest in some sort of lead generating software. What would you say to that?

MM: What I’m seeing in the industry is that it looks like they’re going more toward technology and mobile devices, whether you rent a mobile device from them that has their software on it or you download an app on your device that lets you scan the badge that way. It’s becoming harder and harder to rent a table top device that lets you scan badges. We’ve gone to almost all of us downloading apps and using our own technology. You need to weigh out the cost of how many leads you plan on generating versus how much it’s going to cost. This last show we just did, it was about $300 per app. If you have 14 people working your booth, it can be quite an investment, so you have to decide on how to best divvy up your apps. We decided on using iPads in a central location.

MJ: What are some features you’ve seen out there in terms of contact management?

MM: Most of them are now cloud-based software, so you can see in real time who you’re collecting. One of the benefits of having this on your iPhone is that you don’t have to be in a convention hall, tethered to a desk, to take a lead anymore. It is all real time, so anybody back at the office can see this list and start on your leads before you even get home. Most of the apps you see now are lead retrieval systems. What we use is a custom survey question. We ask up front what market they’re in. This helps us identify who back in the office is going to follow up with them. But you can ask almost anything in a custom survey, and you can put that up ahead of time so they can go in the app and answer some of the questions your company feels are important.

MJ: How important is strategy in regard to post-show follow-up?

MM: There’s a statistic out there that the majority of leads collected at trade shows are never followed up with. Either the sales department doesn’t feel like it’s a qualified lead, they get lost in transit, or there is no process for follow-up. Having a follow-up plan before you even get to the trade show is key to successful follow-up, and having everybody on board with what’s going to happen when we get back. Most of the time, these leads will be in some sort of Excel spreadsheet that you can download into your CRM system. One of the things we’ve done is put a checkbox in the upper right corner that says “hot,” and this helps us identify who needs to be followed up with in a week or less. We just want to make sure that those don’t get forgotten about in the shuffle of leads that come home. Like I said earlier, we use a cloud-based app system, and we actually have people back in the office looking at the leads every day. Having a support staff back home is key to follow-up as well.

MJ: What if I don’t have a team, or I don’t have the time to follow up with my leads within a day or two?

MM: A post-show email is great. It thanks them for stopping by, and it lets them know that you were thinking about them. This is something you can draw up before the show. You can highlight a few products you were showcasing in your booth with links to your website showing the products you were trying to feature. If possible, add some type of value-added content, like the trends we saw at the show or what we’re hearing about in the industry. Giving them a little nugget that lets them know that you’re keeping up with the industry is great until you can sit down and follow up with each of them individually.

MJ: How do we nurture a lead to a point where they’re ready to be our customer?

MM: We just discussed sending a thank-you email. Another thing you can do is, when you get back to the office, have someone divide the leads up by territory or interest so that the person who’s contacting them is the same person who will eventually become their salesperson. Are there some leads that need to go to distributors because we’re not going to contact them directly? Are there any leads that can be handed off to an assistant because all they want is a catalog mailed to them? Get the simple contacts off your desk as quick as possible so they don’t forget about you. For the contacts that are a little more complicated, make sure they get to a salesperson so they can nurture that lead. We usually sit in a conference room and make stacks of papers: either easy ones that just need catalog requests or those who need to go to inside sales or outside sales.

MJ: After we get back, go through the leads, and divvy them up between their appropriate departments, we’re essentially saying goodbye, are we not?

MM: Correct. Sales and marketing still have their hand in it. If we’re going to do a thank-you email post-show, that’s usually the marketing department. A great step for marketing to do for their sales team is to provide them with a list of products that were actually displayed. This is helpful for anyone who has contact with the leads after the show. It helps to eliminate a disconnect between the sales and marketing departments.

MJ: How can I measure the ROI of my marketing efforts? Does it require getting detailed information about my leads?

MM: From a company point-of-view, one of the best things you can do is come up with really good goals coming into a trade show. These have to be really specific goals, and they have to be measureable. Then, since we have a CRM system, we will actually mark it by the trade show. There’s a little bit of question sometimes when the customer may already be in the system. So, it gets a little bit muddy on who really gets the claim to fame when the sale closes. One of the biggest things I always try to explain to executives is to remember that trade show marketing is also face-to-face and involves simply being visible in the industry. Don’t discredit your name being seen by 10,000 people. You can measure more than simply if the sale was made after the show. They might not have a need today, but they might have one six months from now, and they’ll remember your brand. 

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