Generating Leads and Capturing Customers

Posted by Amy Chan on December 24, 2014 0 Comments

Getting your business into a trade show is of critical importance, but it is not the end all be all and solution to your business’s financial success.  You have to show up to the show and maximize its efficacy.  That alone is the goal when we talk about generating leads and capturing customers.

The biggest mistake people make in this world is to think that getting someone’s business card is your lead.  It seems like some sales rep will think that a card from a potential customer is gold and, once acquired, it’s time to get on to the next person milling about the booth in the pursuit of another card.  Oh, how many sales were lost when the follow up fell upon deaf or uninterested ears.  There are ways to market your business that will get people to your show booth, but marketing and promotion is a mere surface scratch.

Cultivating a lead and turning that into a customer is done at the show, during the post-show follow up, and onward into the future. 

It starts with the sales reps at the booth.  First of all, they need to be well-training, and legitimately sold on the product.  If they are not into the product, that will be detected by the customer.  A lot of it is subtle, but it’s not going to be lost on the masses over many shows.  Everyone who is part of the sales team, and even the whole company ideally, must be on board. 

A sales lead has to be full of information, which is why a business card is not enough.  Provide your sales reps with lead forms, actual full pages that can be filled out with a enough data collection that when it comes to follow up, the person calling remembers, or can claim to remember, a lot of pertinent information about the client.  That goes a long way. 

Before sending a lead to a sales rep, make sure the rep who was at the show does the initial follow up.  Customers love the personal touch even if they claim not to care.  When the person they actually met phones them, that will be well received. 

When there’s a strong lead and you’re in the process where they are given to the qualified sales rep to close the deal, make sure you’re tracking the information in a database.  Keeping close track of the leads will make sure none fall through the cracks

So that’s the system, but what information do you need to acquire at the show itself?  What should be on the lead generation form?  Instead of just their name and contact info (i.e. a business card), make sure you know all of this after your sales rep interacts with the lead: complete contact info, product of interest, budget and buying time frame, other buying influences (powers that be?), comments made about special circumstances, name of trade show and date held, any information about follow-up preferences, personal information gleaned like attire/vacations/personal touches, name of rep filling out the form, and maybe most importantly: a system for prioritizing the lead.  This last bit is purely subjective and not always correct, but it can help focus the attentions of sale reps in the right places so that a hot lead is cultivated first, and a cooler one wastes less time, even though it could turn into a sale.

A lead can be lost more easily than it can be gotten, so make sure you are maximizing your leads in a trade show environment. 

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Pre-show Planning

Posted by Amy Chan on December 17, 2014 0 Comments

When companies assume that all they need to do in order to get the most out of their trade show is to show up, they are missing many opportunities to make good connections that can help their business boom.  The pre-show planning is probably the most important part of the process, and oddly the most overlooked.  Or if it isn’t overlooked, it’s put off until too late to really get any constructive work done.  Don’t delay, get your planning in months if not a full year ahead of the show.

There’s a fairly easy business startup checklist you can use to make sure you’ve covered all your pre-show bases.  So when you’re getting your plans in order, make sure you hit on all of these topics:

  • Show objectives
  • Preshow analysis
  • Budget planning
  • Target Market identification
  • Choosing display products
  • Advertising and promotional plans
  • Company personnel coordination
  • Determining show staff and size
  • Staff responsibilities
  • Lead generation and conversion
  • Post-show follow-up

Many of these must be taken care of before the show, and especially in terms of promotion and advertising, it must be done well in advance of the show.  And since those require being part of the over all branding strategy and part of meeting objectives, all of these pre-show planning must be done way in advance.  The good news is that recognizing that will force you to actually do that which will be great for your company.

You have an advantage when you recognize just how far out some of this work needs to be done: a strict deadline.  You can’t push back the show!  So if you lay out a checklist with time tables, you can force yourself to get the thinking and work done on time that can let you do the pre-show planning work with minimal stress or crunch of time.

If you allow yourself enough time, you can allow your budget and your timeline some flexibility which it will no doubt require on its own. 

Start with the over-arching goals of the trade show and work backwards.  Really set an actual number of either leads or sales you think your company needs, and then you can use math to determine how many people an average salesperson can realistically talk to, in what length of time, in what amount of space, with a realistic success rate.  That will allow you to better plan your budget and your overall staff needs and responsibilities.  You may think that you can wing it with the number of people to send to the show at the last minute but that is a terrible plan.  You should know months ahead of time not only how many staff members are going, but who specifically is going, and what their personal and team objectives will be.

It’s a common problem to assume that the contacts you make at the trade show will effectively suss themselves out, and that showing up is all that matters.  But if you can plan ahead and promote your business, and know whom you are trying to reach and connect with, and be properly staffed with trained and knowledgeable people, you are going to see such a huge increase in results.  Don’t just go for the line drive base hit – go for the game winning grand slam.

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Promotion Ideas for your Trade Show Success

Posted by Amy Chan on December 10, 2014 0 Comments

Showing up to a trade show is half the battle.  But the other half is making sure people even know you exist.  There’s always going to be walk-in traffic and you will generate some sales and leads based on that, but even better for you and your business is if a trade show attendee is not only actively seeking you out, but has your company on its list of booths to be sure to hit up.  Remember, for all the pre-show preparing you’re doing, the show’s attendees are doing just as much since their time is limited too.  You want to be on the short list of companies they want to see.

So it’s important for you to get the word out that you’ll be there, about what you do, and about where you are at the show, if you can.  There are many ways to promote your business before a trade show, and some are extremely obvious.  But what’s more interesting to consider is how to market your business ahead of time in ways that you may not have thought about, or even knew existed conceptually.

First of all, make sure your various pre-show promotional campaigns are branded with the same logo and color scheme.  Not only is that proper promotional strategy no matter what, but if they see your logo in the brochure and then glimpse it elsewhere, it helps make bigger the view of the company in the eyes of the many.  You also want to make sure that your campaign is unique to the trade show, so in case a customer has seen your name elsewhere, they’ll know that this is going to be a special occasion.  You want them to think you have something up your sleeve (and it’s even better if you indeed do!). 

Take some time ahead of the show to find out what local media outlets are the best to use.  There may be some promotional opportunities at the venue itself in the weeks preceding the event, or in a variety of newspapers or newsletters.  Some smaller newspapers which of course have smaller readership may have extremely affordable advertising rates.  If you can get in a smaller paper with a better target audience, you are maximizing the relevant eyes that are seeing your promotion.

For bigger conventions and for bigger budgets, you can consider taking out a billboard along a major road in the city of the convention.  Getting your name in front of those eyes on a daily basis will build brand awareness and excitement.

You’ll also want to absolutely come up with a stuffer that you include with all your mailings no matter what at least three months out.  Don’t be too stingy with the stuffers – even if you’re sending it to a client far away from the show, that name brand building could come in hand in months or years in the future.  You also don’t know what friends those people have, who might tip someone else on to you if they know they’re going to the show. 

Another strategy is to produce press releases that hit the local media.  You may get some free publicity out of that, since press releases are just an email these days. 


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Creating Your Own Exhibit Planning Handbook

Posted by Amy Chan on December 03, 2014 0 Comments

When you are about to hit the trade show, you may think all of your pre-show planning will set you up for an incredibly successful trade show experience.  That is partly true: without proper planning you will miss many an opportunity.  That said, of equal importance is the Exhibit Planning Handbook you should create for yourself.  This will be helpful not only to help manage the planning process itself, but also to refer to during the trade show, to make notes on, and to remember your line of thinking when you’re in the trenches.

Your Handbook is literally going to be a three-ring binder that you can bring with you easily and that is set up to consider all the facets of your trade show life.  The sections you should at least start with are: planning, exhibit, show services, promotion, shipping, on duty, lead fulfillment, and miscellaneous

The planning tab needs to have all of your time line work, information on your pre-show budget planning, notes and minutes (and summaries) from your planning meetings with show objectives, and any other information you determined in the planning process.  Hopefully there will be loads of information in this tab.  If not, you probably have more work to do!

For exhibit, you should have a lay out of the floor plan for the booth itself.  And information about the graphics and layout of the booth, plus any audio visual needs and coordination with the show organizers needs to be in here.  Information that anyone could use to help fix or set up the booth without having prior knowledge will be useful in this section.  Put pictures, drawings of concepts, or anything like that in this tab.

Show services is a section to help keep tabs on all the extra things that are needed at a trade show, like labor orders for electricity, rentals, telephone, cleaning and anything else that you need to hire an external work force to handle.  Most likely, some of these services have receipts, either for rentals, or deposits put on services.  Bring with you copies of checks and printouts of receipts and keep them in this tab. 

The promotion tab will keep track of all the materials and orders for local advertising, direct mail pieces, mailing lists, schedule for ads, and anything else used in the marketing and promotion arena.  You most likely sent out some word to the attendees to get your name in their minds, so don’t be at a loss when someone refers to something the received by your company, particularly if you didn’t send it. 

There are many things that need to be shipped ahead of time, so keep in the shipping tab copies of PROs and tracking numbers for all materials your company sent to the trade show location.  In there you’ll want an easy-to-access list of telephone numbers of the carriers with the date of shipment and expected date of delivery.  It’s amazing what can get lost and even more amazing how easily it can be found if you can provide the right information to a person over the phone.

On Duty refers to your personnel who will actually be at the trade show.  Here you’ll have contact info for everyone who will be there, and also include a copy of the materials you will provide each staff member.

Lead fulfillment can keep track of leads and what the status of each of them is.

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Finding the Right Target Market

Posted by Amy Chan on November 26, 2014 0 Comments

The point of a trade show is the meet as many people as you can who have specific issues or problems to which you – and only you – have the solution.  That’s in an ideal world.  In this same ideal world, you set up your booth, and these people gravitate toward you and see in an instant how your services are the solution they’ve been looking for since the problem arose.

We do not live in this type of unrealistic ideal world, however, which puts the burden upon you to be prepared to not only help the prospective clients with their problems, but to identify these problems maybe even before they themselves know they exist.

The way for you, the solutions provider, to be best prepared to capitalized at a trade show is to know your target market in and out before the show ever begins.  If you can intelligently and keenly recognize your target market as soon as he or she – or they – walk into your booth, you’ll be able to maximize your time efficacy and minimize the time spent on booth visitors who never had any chance of becoming a client. 

Before the trade show you and your team must spend some energy profiling your ideal customer.  Are they male or female, or does it not matter?  Are they married or single?  Divorced?  What age would the perfect customer be?  What socio-economic class are they in?  Where do they live – specifically and generally?  Are they travelers?  What level of education do they have?  Are they sports lovers, intellectuals, both?  Do they have kids?  Are they internet savvy?

Knowing the answers to these questions will give you an immediate leg up as someone walks into the booth.  Some things you can ascertain about a person immediately (gender, age, even socioeconomic class to an extend).  Some other things can be determined in a quick conversation.  Knowing what you’re looking for will help when you engage in that initial conversation.  Then you do not have to waste time with someone who’s just in the booth kicking the proverbial tires seeking free trade show beer koozies.

Your perfect target market may be other businesses.  If that’s the case, ask yourself ahead of time the same type of questions about the ideal business match.  What’s the company’s sales volume?  How many employees do they have?  What industry do they work in?  What phone and internet capacities do they have?  How do they reach their customers?  How many vehicles in the company fleet?  Is it mail order company?  Do they require advertising specialties?   Are you looking to talk to an upper management type or a more mid-level person?

Again, knowing what you’re looking for will help you ascertain how important this person is to your business.  Often times at a trade show, a group representing other companies will come into the booth, and your job – and your sales team’s job – will be to determine who among the group is the person most important to talk to.  It’s a funny job you have – you have to make quick judgment calls without being too judgmental.  The more you do it, the more experience will steer you, but you will still sometimes misjudge an attendee.  The trick is to maximize the time spent with the decision makers. 

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