I spent the last few days at the National Apartment Association (NAA) annual conference. It had been a while since I had visited a trade show of that size and scope. I had the opportunity to visit with some existing clients and discuss opportunities with some prospects.
While I wasn’t exhibiting at the show, I had an interesting conversation with a prospect about what she and her team were going to do upon returning from the show. In talking with her and some others about the topic, I thought a post outlining how to best return from a show would be worthwhile.
Before I dive into the process we recommend, let’s remember the scenario. You’re returning from the trade show floor with hundreds of business cards. There are a plethora of reasons why people stopped by your booth and left a card. They may have simply been visiting an old friend, entering to win the new Apple Watch you were giving away, having a business conversation with you, or any number of possibilities.
In addition to your booth and conversation, it’s a pretty good bet that all of your visitors had this same experience with many other vendors as well. Who knows, maybe they even entered to win a Tesla and $100k in cash that an exhibitor at the show I was at was actually giving away. So don’t count on your leads to remember much (or anything) about their visit with you. It’s your job to reestablish the context and impact of your conversations.
Sort and Segment The Cards and Leads You Received
If your team came to the show prepared, this should not be a difficult task. There are unlimited ways you can sort your leads. I typically create a list similar to this list:
- Separate the cards that represent potential leads, from those that are clearly not a fit for your prospecting efforts.
- Leads with real conversations
- Leads with some other form of conversation
- Leads with no conversations
After you’ve sorted the leads (this can be done with the physical cards, a spreadsheet or in your CRM), you’ll want to segment each group by:
- Buyer persona
Go Through A Disciplined Lead Classification Process
A trade show is really just a giant inbound marketing event. There is virtually no difference between how you should treat someone who’s just downloaded a piece of your premium content and someone who’s left a card at your booth. They’ve both done so for their purposes (not yours) and unless an action from them indicates otherwise, leaving their card is no indication that they’re in a buying mode. If you try to sell to them too fast, you could lose the opportunity you had started to create.
If you’ve got a defined lead scoring process in place, apply that to these leads. If not, be sure to classify the leads by the following categories (if you’d like to see a more comprehensive approach to lead classification, you can download our workbook How to Effectively Manage Inbound Leads):
- Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs): These will come from the group of leads with whom someone on your team had real conversations. SQLs clearly fit your profile and meet the criteria you have that indicate they’re ready for your defined sales process (you do have a clear definition and defined sales process, don’t you?).
- Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs): These are the leads that meet your fit criteria in terms of company and contact type. They may or may not be exhibiting signs of the pain you solve.
- Qualified Leads (QLs): Those leads that fit your company fit criteria, but the person who left their card with you does not fit your primary persona. Remember, when prospecting you are always qualifying the company – not the contact. These leads can be quite valuable, and must be handled differently than MQLs & SQLs.
- Leads to be qualified: there are typically a number of cards where it’s unclear whether the company fits your criteria or not and will need to be researched to determine how to respond.
Once your leads are classified they should be passed on as follows:
- SQLs should be passed to the appropriate salesperson to take action.
- MQLs and QLs should be passed to your sales development team (or handled by your sales team following the principles of sales development) to be worked according to the service level agreement you have.
- The leads to be qualified should be researched by whomever you assign this task (we highly encourage that you don’t put this activity on a sales rep as it will typically not get the attention it deserves) to be classified as a QL, MQL or disqualified.
Implement Appropriate Lead Nurturing
Depending on how you’ve structured your lead nurturing approach, the appropriate process should be implemented. The point for this post is that every lead that has not been disqualified should be enrolled in a lead nurturing campaign that begins no later than two days after the end of the conference you attended. Ideally your campaigns are personalized based upon their persona and lead classification, but even if they’re not be sure to implement a program.
Measure the Results Quarterly
I am always amazed by how few companies are disciplined in measuring the impact of their investment in shows. I recommend you measure at multiple points for at least a year to assess progress and encourage sales actions to enhance your results.
At the end of the show, you should record:
- How many leads were closed/won (and what revenue are they committed to)?
- How many leads were closed/lost (and what was the revenue potential they represented)?
- How many SQLs and MQLs were created?
- How many were disqualified and eliminated?
Trade shows represent a significant investment of both time and money. They can be extraordinarily valuable if managed effectively. Be sure you have a clear, disciplined process to manage your efforts and you can be confident you’ll be maximizing the ROI of these efforts.