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The harsh realities of lead follow-up

Barry Siskind


In my last article titled “Where did the trade show profits go”, I referred to a recent research study by the Centre for Exhibition Industry Research called “Exhibitor Sales Lead Capture and Follow-up Practice Trends.” 1

The research was the result of interviews conducted in June 2012 with 198 exhibitors. The findings highlight a problem that has plagued exhibitors for decades &ndash how to get measurable results from the show investment.

The first part of the report dealt with methods of capturing lead information. A large number of exhibiting companies interviewed used a lead retrieval system offered by exhibition management or a paper based lead form to capture contact information and product details. Yet, less than thirty percent of their booth staff asked for additional information such as demographics or other lead qualifying criteria.

The second part of the study focused on the issue which goes to the heart of every exhibitor &ndash their return on objective and turning leads into sales through follow up.

When asked how your organization follows-up on sales leads generated at exhibitions, the response was as follows:

64% - E-mail with information addressing the lead’s specific product or service concerns
59% - Phone call addressing product or service concerns
56% - E-mail with general product or service information
33% - In-person visit
32% - Phone call with general information
31% - Direct mail with general information
26% - Direct mail addressing specific product or service information

What’s interesting is that two thirds of leads are relegated to non-face to face follow-up, that is either via e-mail or on the telephone. It clearly says that the face-to-face advantage gained at a trade show is less of an important concern after the show is over.

When the follow-up is general rather than specific, it says to the customer is that the time we spent at the booth really didn’t matter. The conversation they had with your booth staff had no value. That the customer is now a number rather than a unique individual.

How would you feel if you spent time explaining your situation to a sales rep and a week later received a brochure with general information?

The other interesting finding in this report is when companies were asked about the lead tracking tools they used. The responses were:

17% - CRM system
6% - Sales/lead system
4% - Manual or Ad Hoc Process
3% - Excel spreadsheet
69% - No answer/ no comment.

This last group who either had no answer or were unwilling to comment are worrisome. Does it mean that they simply don’t know? My guess is that it is. Without a formal system in place all the hard work at a trade show is for naught.

This report begs the question; “Are exhibitors maximizing their investment in exhibitions?” I would suggest that the answer is “no”. In fact, to paraphrase the poker analogy, they are leaving money on the table.

The solution to the issue of follow-up is two fold:

First companies must put a serious effort into planning their follow- up. This starts with formalized lead tracking systems whether it be an off-the-shelf CRM program or a customized customer care program.

The second is to further the advances that have been made face to face at a trade show into a meaningful follow-up. This means to ensure that the human element is always present. An e-mail or text doesn’t replace the human voice or face. When valuable information has been collected at the show, use it to build customer engagement.

Study after study has proven the value of a well-executed exhibition plan. If you are not getting the results you want then one place to look is how you are handling your leads.

1. CEIR report # SM 39.12 ?