For exhibit and event professionals  

Fine-tune Your Channel

March 5, 2012 By Editor

And get a clear picture on lead acquisitions
eConnections speaks with Rob Murphy, MC2 Chief Marketing Officer

Although most companies take great efforts to attract large crowds and make the best impression they can at trade shows, too few of them measure the trade show results that have a direct impact on funding and strategy. And that’s a big mistake.

When you do them correctly, trade shows can be one of the most productive, cost-effective ways for you to reach qualified prospects and generate sales. But to do that, you need to collect the right information to properly measure your success.

How do you know where you stand after a show? To find out, eConnections spoke with MC2 Chief Marketing Officer Rob Murphy. Here’s what he had to say.

eConnections: Where do companies go wrong when getting leads at a trade show?

Murphy: They often tend to just swipe attendee badges and collect a long list of names. But these methods give you only the most basic contact information, such as name, company, job title, address, phone number, fax number and email address. They do nothing to qualify those leads.

eConnections: So, what are some things exhibitors can do to improve their lead acquisition?

Murphy: Try putting your lead system through a “filter.” Identify information that will be valuable in the follow-up process. To do this, talk to your sales managers and marketing team, and ask what they need to qualify an opportunity. Typically, these prospect qualifiers are:

  • Their familiarity with your company and its products or services.
  • Who their current supplier is or what their current competitor’s products are, how their decision processes work and who the company decision-makers are.
  • What their budget  for the purchase sales cycle is.
  • What their timeframe for purchases is.
  • What they would see the next action step to be (a meeting, phone call, proposal, etc).

Focusing on information that’s important to converting leads — specific, qualitative data — into sales will provide invaluable insight into your post-show analysis and future show strategies.

eConnections: How do exhibitors get booth personnel to collect this kind of data?

Murphy: It’s important to set specific goals, and communicate these expectations to booth personnel. It’s also helpful to give them an actual script with the questions they must ask prospects during their encounters.

Make everyone accountable for collecting the right information. Assigning a captain responsible for monitoring the number and quality of leads at the end of each day of the show can help you achieve this goal. Plus, you can keep the staff motivated by creating a lead-qualifying competition among them.

If possible, have booth personnel swipe attendees’ badges during conversations with them. This way, they don’t miss any vital elements. A buyer’s survey that you use as a prerequisite to entering a drawing, show contest or post-show experience is another way staff can quickly and accurately collect prospect data.

And always instruct your staff to take notes on interactions with prospects to record observations and insights, responses to qualifying questions, sales cues and any next steps agreed upon by the prospect. Recording data on lead interactions allows you to provide both a more qualitative and quantitative analysis of the show.

eConnections: What should happen to the data after the show?

Murphy: The single worst mistake companies make when returning from an event is not taking action and following up with leads immediately — or at all. You’ll probably need time to process the data, and that's OK. But while you’re doing that, send a simple, customized email to thank attendees for visiting your booth and let them know when they can expect to hear from you again. Sending a follow-up email helps separate the good contacts from the bad, since leads can opt out from further correspondence if they want to.

eConnections: What’s the best way to assess the data?

Murphy: Some data is straightforward, and you can act on it without much thought, such as Prospect “A” is currently buying a competitor’s product at a higher cost. But if you have a complex sale of products or services, you’ll need a deeper analysis to fully understand a prospect’s position.

One way to do this is by developing a system for rating your leads. For example, if investment in cost of sales is a consideration in your program’s success metrics, rate prospects according to their interest level in your offering, buying cycle or urgency, unique or customized requirements, potential budget and current suppliers.

These factors depend on your company’s business and goals. But regardless of what they are, route all qualified leads to the sales department as quickly as you can.

eConnections: Are exhibit marketers done once sales has the leads?

Murphy: In a word, no. Once you’ve given the leads to sales, create a lead-reporting system that makes the sales team accountable for follow-up. Ask for lead progress and sales conversion at specific time frames, such as 30, 60 and 90 days after the show. Keeping track of your leads allows you to measure sales directly attributable to your trade show program and individual salespeople. These numbers can help you demonstrate to management the important role trade shows have on the company’s bottom line — and improve your standing in the company as the driver of these results.

eConnections: How can they apply what they’ve learned from one event to another?

Murphy: Learning from your trade show experiences in order to refine your approach is the essence of process improvement. By gathering solid prospect information and putting measurement strategies in place, you can fine-tune your trade show program for better return on your marketing spend, that is the number of sales generated directly from the show.

An ROI analysis also helps you identify the most productive elements of your trade show campaign so you can optimize future efforts. Connect the dots to identify trends across products, industries and specific trade events. The more data you have, the easier it will be for you to build a solid strategy.

Better planning equals better information, a better strategy and a better close ratio.

About the Author

Rob Murphy is the chief marketing officer of MC2,a nationally recognized leader in the exhibit and event marketing industry. He has been a vital member of the MC2 team since the company’s inception in 1999. Murphy is located in the Chestnut Ridge, NY corporate headquarters of MC2 where he directs all marketing efforts for the company, including the Exhibitor FastTrak seminar program and new sales initiatives.

For more information, visit www.mc-2.com or check out the new blog, MC2Talks, at http://MC2Talks.mc-2.com/. Follow MC2 on Twitter @MC2_Exhibits and @MC2_FastTrak and fan MC2 on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/MC2Exhibits.


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