Using a Tradeshow to Your Advantage

How to get it right the first time with a solid plan for the show floor

Industry statistics show that nearly 70 percent of all trade-show leads are never adequately followed up, and the average lead fulfillment time is nearly two months. In addition, when left to busy sales people, the show lists are often skimmed for only the "better" companies or leads with the unrecognized leads left to languish. Now is the perfect time to get your plan in place for a more effective follow-up program for ASIS, ISC and other trade shows.

A Pro-Active Approach

Identifying and Categorizing Leads - While not a perfect science, it is vital to go into a trade show with some standard guidelines for categorizing leads. Whether general interest inquiries or ready-to-buy prospects, classifying your booth visitors will allow you to more effectively follow-up with targeted material specific to their needs, as well as prioritize your follow-up efforts upon return to your office.

Pre-Event Planning - Prepare your follow-up materials before leaving for the trade show for each lead category before you go to the show. Some minor tuning and personalization will have your materials ready to go out the morning leads get back to your office.

Train Your Staff - Most likely, your booth will be staffed by knowledgeable personnel familiar with your company's products and services. Trade shows, however, require that your staff not only be able to sell your company, but qualify leads and record detailed information about each visitor. Getting a bunch of business cards is great for your rolodex, but knowing what products and services that individual are interested in purchasing is great for your ROI. A brief, one hour role-playing session can be a great way to actively train your staff on booth strategy.

Identifying and Categorizing Booth Visitors - Your staff can waste a significant amount of time speaking with the wrong visitors while the true prospects wait around for attention or leave based on traffic. We recommend employing one or more screeners to quickly approach visitors and work to categorize them into interest areas, measure their immediate or long-term needs and steer them to the proper persons within the booth. This person should also be responsible for ensuring that each visitor is scanned electronically with the lead retrieval or business cards are obtained.

The trade show floor is full of different types of people with different agendas. Some people have specific goals for attending the show; others do not. As an exhibitor, your observation and questioning skills will be your key to determining who may be a viable sales prospect. Familiarize yourself with the various visitor types likely to frequent the tradeshow floor.

* Hot/Warm Leads or Prospects - If you develop a plan and have completed appropriate pre-show and onsite promotions and messaging, definite prospects and customers will definitely visit your booth.

* Demonstration Junkies - Minimize your time with passers-by attracted to your demonstration or other activity such as games or giveaways. These could be valuable prospects or time wasters, screen them with short, open-ended questions and have a plan to move them on before they waste valuable time and resources.

* Curiosity Cats - Curious about anything from what your company does graphics and so on; again screen appropriately and minimize your time.

* Paper Lovers - Some people simply cannot get enough paper, they are compelled to gather as much information as possible, potentially to demonstrate to the "boss" that the expense was worthwhile. Screen to determine if they are gathering with a purpose, beware of competitive intelligence.

* Eyeballers - Usually extremely friendly, and lonely; they smile and their whole body language says, please talk to me. Questioning will determine whether or not they are prospects worth pursuing.

* The Players - They must play every game and enter every contest. They are always ready, willing and able to drop a business card into a fishbowl for any kind of drawing. Create additional barriers beyond dropping a card to qualify these leads to help deter these types. If you want the contact information for all the attendees, buy the list.

* Hunters/Gathers - Any giveaway attracts these folks; they may even want more than one for family, friends and colleagues. Keen questioning will ascertain if this visitor has potential.