Last week, we attended the Interop expo in New York City. As you can imagine, there were IT companies as far as the eye could see, pitching everything from the mundane servers and switches to the cutting edge videoconferencing systems.
We visited a lot of booths, primarily on a sales mission to speak with marketing personnel about their B2B lead generation activities. Needless to say, I wasn't a prospect for IT products.
What I found though was that every stop I made, if only for a split second, there was someone there scanning my badge, essentially flagging me as a prospect.
No questions, no qualification, no nothing.
Maybe these people are incentivized to get as many badges scanned as possible... but is that really the best way to do it? As a marketing guy, I had no interest in their IT solutions.
The cost-per-lead for trade shows is pretty high, as it stands, and perhaps that's why there is a focus on quantity of trade show sales leads and not quality. However, the key to making the most out of trade shows and conferences as a lead generation tool lies in asking a brief question or two and really uncovering:
1. What the role of the roamer is.
2. Why they would be interested in hearing more.
3. and, if you're really good, what pains they have that your solution might solve.
I've read a few blogs on the subject (here is a great one by Mike Thimmesch: 100 Trade Show Lead Generation Ideas). Those of us that have been on the trade show circuit might benefit from these pieces of advice from that post:
- Go to fewer trade shows, but put more effort into booth staff preparation and promotions for each remaining show.
- Track leads to determine and expand in the shows with the best ROI
- Get a booth space closer to the hub of traffic, or by a bigger competitor
- Have your sales people invite their prospects to visit your booth and set up meetings in advance
- Send an email invitation to the show’s pre-registered attendee list for this year, and the registered attendee list from last year
- Use social media to reach more attendees
- Post your trade show schedule on your website with a link to sign up for appointments
- Give away something useful to your target audience
- Have a contest for attendees in your booth
A few things I would add...
- You should be thinking about your follow-through procedure BEFORE the event; and make sure to follow through SOON after the event.
- After an event, develop email templates with related thematic content designed to start a conversation rather than merely "pitch" every attendee.
- Perhaps, drop qualified attendees into a 3-month nurture campaign that interconnects (a) the theme of the event, (b) your solution, and (c) the prospect.
Just remember to see events as a conversation starter and not an opportunity to close a deal, necessarily. Use it as impetus to move sales prospects along in the process.