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Fixing The Missing Links In Trade Show Lead Fulfillment

Fixing The Missing Links In Tradeshow Lead FulfillmentIf you think you are doing a great job following up on your leads, unfortunately, the visitors to your trade show exhibit may not agree.  What you consider good lead fulfillment may look very different to them.

In a blog post on her Trade Show Institute blog, Traci Brown tells a sorry tale about her visit to the AIBTM show, where she happily had lengthy meetings with over 20 exhibitors.   Unfortunately, after the show, only one exhibitor truly followed up with her.  Sure, the other exhibitors followed up with big glossy brochures, email campaigns, and the like.  But they were all generic follow up messages.  Only one exhibitor had specific follow up that answered the specific questions she raised while in their  trade show booths.

Why is that?  Because most exhibitors’ lead fulfillment process is simply not designed for individualized lead fulfillment.

Most exhibitors get leads, and if they are somewhat prepared, they have pre-set fulfillment packets ready to go before the show starts.  Then after the show, they put names on letters and send them out.  It’s all they have time to do.  But at the trade shows, we don’t meet with generic leads, we meet face-to-face with real, live individuals.  Individuals with specific needs, that if you ask and listen, they’ll even tell you right at the show.

The First Missing Link: The Transfer From The Booth Staffer To The Field Sales Rep

The first missing link in most exhibitor’s generic lead fulfillment is passing on to the field sales rep what your trade show visitors told you.  And that all starts with your booth staffer.  Your booth staffers must capture what your visitors said is their situation, and what they were looking to solve.  Your booth staffers must also write down what they promised your booth visitors would be the next step – someone will call to set up an appointment, we’ll send you info and prices on the new products you liked, and so on.  Without knowing what your booth staffer promised, you can’t fulfill on that promise.  And when that conversation is accurately and concisely captured, it must quickly be routed to the appropriate sales rep, so they can take the right actions after the show.

The Second Missing Link: The Fulfillment Package

The second part of fixing trade show lead fulfillment is customizing what you mail or email.  You have to be willing and able to customize what you send to your booth visitors based on what they said to your booth staffers.  At minimum, your cover letter should say that your company “was pleased to meet you at the XYZ show, and that you’ve enclosed your requested items, and that our company representative will soon follow up about your needs discovered in our booth.”  You only send the company brochures related to the products your booth visitor asked for.  You don’t send 10 product brochures, when they only showed interest in one product.  And for sure you send the brochures for that one product!

If you want to truly fix the broken link in your trade show lead fulfillment you tailor each followup letter to directly respond to your booth visitor conversations.  Writing in the letter that your booth staffer learned you ask for ____, and so we will be sending you a price quote/calling for an appointment time/talking with our engineer about your project/gathering up samples to show you, or something else appropriate for the next step.

“We can’t do that, can we?”

Now, I hear your objection to this:  “We don’t have time for this high level of customized lead fulfillment!  Our booth visitors expect an answer fast!”  Yes, booth visitors do expect a quick answer — but as Traci’s experience shows, even more they want the right answers.

But you can pull this off.  You just need to also qualify your leads while in your booth.  Your “A” leads are your best leads – immediate needs, have a budget, and authority to buy.  So the smaller portion of “A” leads are the first ones you fulfill, with letters and products customized to their requests.

Then, fulfill the “B” leads, which may have a need, but not immediately, and perhaps without an approved budget.  Once those are out the door, then fulfill your “C” leads…which may get the more generic “Thanks for visiting our booth at the XYZ show” letter any how, because that’s how far the conversation went.

More effort?  Certainly.  Worth it?  Definitely.

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About the Author

Mike Thimmesch is the Principal at Thimmesch Marketing. For over 25 years, he has created and implemented innovative marketing, lead generation, and exhibiting strategies that profitably grow company sales and brand awareness. Mike rose to Director level at Skyline Exhibits, where he helped generate over a half million leads, resulting in over $1 billion in sales. He published 11 industry white papers and eight exhibiting books, presented over 100 trade show webinars, and wrote over 200 exhibit marketing blog posts.

6 responses to “Fixing The Missing Links In Trade Show Lead Fulfillment

  1. Mike, I’m so glad you wrote this post. This is an issue that exhibitors need to address otherwise they will be losing business. I’ve had conversations with AIBTM after posting my article. They were very concerned. I’ve also had this discussion with other trade show organizers.

    Part of the problem, we think, is that the person we communicate with on the exhibit side is often the exhibit manager. Not sales and not the brand manager. The exhibit manager is not responsible for following up on leads. Perhaps we need to also be reaching out to brand managers and sales directors as well to ensure they have a lead follow-up system in place. Also to let them know of all the marketing opportunities that are available to them as part of their exhibit package.

    But the other part of me wonders how on earth a company even exists when they can’t do something as simple as following up on a qualified lead?

    The story just gets worse for me unfortunately. I attended HSMAI a few weeks after AIBTM. It appears the show management gave out attendee e-mail addresses to all the exhibitors. Now I’m receiving e-mails from vendors I never met with saying how much they enjoyed meeting me and do I know how great their venue is for weddings? I am innundated with generic e-mail blasts that have no relevance to me. What I do have that is valuable is a spreadsheet of venues I will never do business with as a result.

    1. Traci, thanks for the great add-on to the cause and potential solution to this troubling problem. It gets back to considering exhibit managers as just logistics people and not a core part of the sales and marketing team, responsible for delivering great sales and marketing results. The goal is to generate and relay qualified leads, not move a crate for the least amount possible. And really understand what it take to follow up on a lead well.

  2. It’s funny how we come back to the issue of effectively following up leads again and again…will this ever go away as a problem do you think?

    I like the idea of seeing a tradeshow as a series of linked processes that need to be completed in order to achieve success (starting before the show itself and ending long afterwards). But as you say, one of the big problems is making sure personnel at each part of the process realise the importance of those preserving and nurturing leads.

    One last thing – you’re on my blog roundup of tradeshow pieces again (and you’re the only recurring author too):

  3. Great article Mike! I just can’t fathom the idea of exhibitors dropping x-amount of thousands of dollars and not investing just a couple more thousand on creating customized post-show lead follow up. I equate it to buying insurance. Everyone knows they need it …

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