Value of Trade Shows Leads/Inquiries in Acquiring New Customers

Trade Shows are an important marketing tool for many companies. Aside from the obvious PR need to be seen at notable exhibitions, companies also hope to conclude business deals. The basic objective however, is to gather high quality sales leads resulting from conversations with prospects who’ve stopped by for information.

These leads need to be contacted and qualified for the sales force via a proper lead qualification and intelligence gathering process.

It’s essential to ascertain that all those important trade show leads return a positive ROI.  You need to know whether the result of your investment in trade shows to generate leads are worth it. Because not all sales leads are equal.  That maxim surely holds true for:

  • trade show attendees who’ve actually engaged your staff in discussions, and . . .
  • those who’ve mostly thrown business their business cards into the bowl for the free prize.

You’ll not be surprised to learn that those who’ve spoken to your sales personnel at the booth turn out to have the best sales potential.  But that does not mean there’s not a whole raft of profitable opportunities in other categories. Pooling some results from some of eti’s major accounts over past years, here’s what we’ve found:

  • Prospects who’ve actually talked with sales personnel convert at the highest rate. Our results have fluctuated from 10% to as high as 50%!
  • Attendee lists produce a conversion ratio of up to 2-5%.
  • Incentive related inquiries (Business Cards in the  bowl for a free prize) produce the lowest result, as may be expected. Their interest is mainly the incentive or prizes on offer … not (necessarily) in the benefits of your products or services. Nevertheless our clients have found 3-5% profitable prospects in this category.

It’s all a matter of economics.

Much depends on what you’re selling and the value of the average new customer to your company.  (See my related opinion item “What Costs Less Costs More” in this blog.)

Here are 5 suggestions you may want to consider when next exhibiting at a show:

  1. Invite your best prospects to a pre-scheduled meeting at the booth.  (Yes an appointment.)
  2. Remind prospects and clients that you’ll be exhibiting.  Maybe offer them an incentive to stop by and say hello.  Or create excitement by announcing a new/improved product launch etc.
  3. At the booth make sure your sales staff have the ability to quickly scan in prospect names into the computer and be sure to document any important information about their needs. a. Identify and record decision making authority. b. Quantify likely purchasing volume. c. Budget
  4. Speed of follow up is critical because your prospects are visiting competitor booths too. So follow up immediately next day, to qualify and confirm the sales potential.  You can electronically upload these prospects to ETI for example for next day qualification and fulfillment.
  5. Prospects not yet ‘ready to buy’ need to be held in a formal structure for lead nurturing purposes until their real sales need becomes evident.

Incidentally, we’ve recently started promoting the idea to our trade show clients to have another glass bowl available for business cards from interested attendees who would prefer the exhibitor to send the company’s information, rather than burden them with more stuff to carry. This bowl to be very clearly labeled with a message reading:

" Drop your business card here if you'd prefer us to send you our information. Thank you."

Similarly you could have a bowl offering to have a sales person contact them.  Not great but a suitable conpromise if you're short staffed.

For more specific ideas on maximizing your trade show investments call us at 1.800.466.4384.

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