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On November 28, 2014, Posted by , In Lead Generation Advice, With No Comments

I was speaking to an exhibition stand builder earlier today who told me the sad story of a business that had a great stand but still wasted tens of thousands of pounds on the exhibition, due to poor preparation and follow up.

So you’ve made the decision to exhibit…..great. Now the hard work starts – long before the event takes place.

Too many companies who exhibit fail to decide on the theme/key message for their stand. Most companies have a whole range of products, but just for the moment forget about selling. Instead think about what would elicit an emotional response from the prospect to give up their most valuable resource, time, and want to come and have a brief conversation with you.

There are 3 key phases to consider:

  1. Prior to the event
  2. During the event
  3. Post event follow up

Prior to the event

Can you really afford to just hope that the right footfall will stop by your stand at the event? To meet with the decision makers of the organisations you want to sell to will take time and effort on your behalf.

I understand that much of the cost will be on stand space, the stand build, promotional goods and accommodation costs, but far too few companies also budget for promotion, that is, promotion prior to the actual event.

Doing your research before you go is critical, but rather than relying just on limited portal information, mass emails or company website updates, do your own research and targeted outreach to arrange meetings with your key prospects before you go to the event.

Don’t just rely on the organisers to promote you. Their focus is on promoting the event itself, not your business.

Both inbound and outbound marketing methods should be employed to ensure that your message is seen, responded to and generates footfall.

Areas you will need to look at for intelligent lead generation include:

  • Data – or should that be ‘relevant’ data?

You’ll no doubt have your own data on your CRM or other source. What about obtaining new data about people you don’t know about? LinkedIn, Google and other online sources can provide valuable data. Don’t buy generic lists.

  • Emails

Ensure you send a series of emails, with a clear call to action to your landing page.

  • Landing Page

Your website will have too much information, a landing page will help focus and clarify the event message.

  • Social Media

Twitter, Google+, Facebook and LinkedIn all present a great way to promote and engage with prospects.

  • Lead Generation

Whether you do this yourselves or outsource, make sure you don’t just rely on cold calling. Make intelligent lead generation a key part of your pre-event prospecting.

During the event

Remember, you never get a second chance to make a great first impression.

There are many published articles that outline what to do during an event so I don’t intend to spend too much time on this.

Areas to consider include:

  • Entertain, Educate or Inform – selling comes later
  • Think about stand design and key message

Hopefully same as the message you’ve been promoting prior to the event.

  • Can you get a speaking slot at workshop or seminar?

Promote this also.

  • Competitions

Competitions are a good way to attract visitors. To be remembered – be different!

  • Refreshments

Offer coffee, water, sweets or even Welsh cakes – these were the best draw on our stand recently.

  • Technology

Large Screens, live Twitter feeds – make it real, interactive and timely.

  • Literature

It’s far better to offer a USB stick containing information to those really interested in your solution. Just remember you’ll need lots of business cards for all the team.

  • Lead sheets

Most events offer scanners to capture details of visitors to your stand. Providing lead sheets will allow you to make notes to ensure you remember to follow up on what’s most important for your business.

Post event follow up

You’ve invested a significant amount of time, money and resources into engaging with prospective clients – how do you ensure that ALL the leads are followed up promptly and effectively?

That has to mean more than just one email or phone call from your inside sales or business development team to ensure you maximise the return on your investment (RoI) from the event?

Areas to consider to ensure a successful RoI include:

  • Where is all this data stored?

Do you have a CRM system or other data capture source?

  • What is a lead?

Are your marketing and sales teams aligned and agreed on the definition of a lead?

  • Who will follow these up the leads?

Is it marketing with a quick email, or marketing automation system? Or is it your sales team with a more in-depth personal call?

  • What lead nurturing process do you have within your company?

Maybe the lead is not ready to engage now. How do you track and warm up this prospect?

  • Do you have the focus and resource to qualify the leads further?

Maybe you need to use an outsourced lead nurturing company to follow these up?

  • Who won your competition?

If you’ve run a competition, then why not tell everyone who the winners were?

The moral of the story is not just to focus on the actual event.

Promotion prior to the event and follow up afterwards are every bit as important as the event itself. Something I’m sure my stand builder contact will be telling his client.

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