Trade Shows

Content may be king; relationships are personal

Since time immemorial selling has been about relationships. From the three martini lunch to immeasurable rounds of golf and scads of tickets to sporting events, salespeople have used every method possible to connect with and cultivate prospects (and clients) at a personal level. Now we’re being asked to believe that a new, disruptive technology has somehow altered the landscape. We no longer have to connect with people at a personal level to establish a trusted relationship. Now we can do it with content; a powerful, less expensive alternative – marketing automation! Content is king; no handshakes required, thank you very much.

So, how do we know what content to send them? What are they interested in and how do we know that? Exactly how interested are they? Where in the journey toward obtaining a solution are they? Where’s the pain?

If you follow the marketing automation model, and many do, you send out dozens of emails to people each month, each with a content offer. And then you track what they respond to and act accordingly. You send them whitepapers and round them up into webinars. Each time you gather more and more information about them (although, in practice, it always seems as if they ask the same questions each time I respond, no matter how often I respond, almost as if they really don’t know me at all).

Sounds to me like a lot of investment in creating content (although they tell you that you can “repurpose” the content you already have) and not so much invested in asking me the important, simple questions like: Why did I ask for that whitepaper? Why was that webinar topic of interest? What’s keeping me and my colleagues up at night? Where are my priorities and my company’s priorities at the moment?

They don’t bother asking me any of that, but they do send me lots of free content. The problem is that, when I look at the content, I discover that it’s either relatively shallow or, even if it has merit, it generally doesn’t quite apply to me or my specific challenges.

Eventually, I stop clicking and stop asking because I have actually soured on the relationship. It doesn’t give me what I need. I get no value from my time investment.

Of course, other than having to pay for creating the content (a substantial cost if done right), on the surface it seems as if it hasn’t cost them very much to generate highly qualified leads. I suppose if you are already investing in scads of content creation, then repurposing it will work. But, for most companies, that’s not the case.

No doubt, some people find that strategy hits the spot for them. The content they use is on the mark; it meets the needs of prospects and brings them into the fold through a self identification process. They may even make a purchase and become customers. When you measure the acquisition cost of that sale, it may seem attractively low, especially when compared to the cost of having to engage people personally from day 1 (excluding, of course the substantial investment in content and software/services).

But what about me, my needs and a sale to my company? That’s lost. Who’s measuring lost opportunity cost? Who’s assessing what might have happened if someone had taken the time to engage me directly, asked the salient questions, cultivated me at a personal level and earned my trust and my business? How does that figure into the cost per customer acquisition matrix?

It seems to me that if I’m going to buy into the marketing automation model, I want to do it on the basis of knowing what interests a prospective customer BEFORE I send them content. I always want that content to be relevant to their needs, and I want every single touch to bring value to the relationship – a clear statement that I listened, I heard and I have responded accordingly.

I can’t risk basing my relationship development strategy on inferences – on remote behavior from a distance. I prefer proactive to reactive. I need to speak with them first, understand their needs, concerns and aspirations. I need to establish a detailed profile of who they are, how they go about making decisions, how important to them is finding a solution and, most importantly, what are they trying to accomplish and what have they tried already that has failed. I need to know them – personally.

With knowledge of who they are and what’s important to them in hand, I can build a regimen of delivering exactly the content they need, knowing that it will bring value to them and establish the beginning of a trusted advisor relationship. And to achieve that most effectively, I need to invest in my own resources or hire a company like ETI Sales Support that has the people, skills and experience to engage them personally, consultatively and reliably to build a positive brand image, assess the level and quality of the needs they have for the solution we represent.

Do you have a strategy to maximize participation in your upcoming event?

How much are you investing in organizing and conducting events such as Trade Shows, Webinars, Seminars and conferences?  Do you have a plan for maximizing attendance and optimizing the ROI on that investment?Quite often, companies feel compelled to create and attend events, in spite of their high cost and (all too) frequently low ROI, because that’s what their competition is doing. Instead of developing a plan to maximize the ROI on their investment they choose, instead, to reduce their investment to a bare minimum. The strategy is just to be there to "show their faces."

That investment has now been reduced to a cost of doing business and is quite unlikely to provide any tangible return at all.At eti, we provide a range of support services designed to maximize attendance in their events.    And optimize their investments, big or small.  Over the years we’ve had some great success in “lifting” average attendance by as much as 100%  or more by engaging in a systematic person-to-person interaction with key prospects.  And we’ve also had success in identifying qualified sales opportunities as a by-product of that process.  So our client gets more eyes and ears for their message and some fully qualified sales opportunities to boot that might otherwise not have been identified as quickly (if at all).

Successes such as this require a cohesive strategy up front.  So here are some simple suggestions that you may want to think about when planning your next event.  (Just to be clear the ideas here refer to direct event recruitment not PR and marketing promotional activity which are also essential to enhancing success)

Integrated Email/Telemarketing Tactics

  • Start early (6 weeks out) and email often�
    • Incentives
      • Offer an early bird discount to motivate early registration
      • Offer a volume registration discount
    • Segment your list.
      • Mail less to known customers and prospects.  No need to inundate the ones that already respect your brand and have your solutions (unless the purpose of the event is specifically directed at clients)
      • Mail more to ‘cold’ prospects to promote both your brand as well as the event
    • Mail weekly for 2-3 weeks to the same audience making sure to remove registrants and opt outs before production
    • Provide a toll free hotline for prospects to call .. ask questions and register.  Or better still if they can’t attend then to let you know they have a need
      • Have an infrastructure ready and trained to handle these inquiries
    • Make sure to track email opens and click throughs and leverage the data to increase registration
      • Orchestrate an outbound call to people who clicked through to the website but did not register
    • Outbound calling effort to focus on the 20% that will produce 80% of the revenue to start immediately after the first email
      • Develop custom call guides
        • Track why prospects respond positively or not to your offer
        • Gather market intelligence on what would attract prospects to future events
        • Capture new contacts and verify that emails have reached the prospects you targeted andthat they are the correct targets
      • Extend the above offers
        • Trade shows specific …
          • Offer an exclusive appointment with key executives.
          • If you’re having an extra event (party) invite your key prospects personally.
          • Focus on geography.  It’s more likely you will get greater attendance from the key executives you want to talk to, if they do not have to travel great distances.
      • Confirm registrations 24 hours before the event

After the event:

Depending on the type of event you should consider including the following in your post event tactics in order to maximize ROI by identifying “sales ready” prospects and nurturing those that may convert over time.

Trade Shows:

  • Segment the prospects: Actual discussions or registrations at the booth

    • These prospects should be called via an outbound effort ASAP.
    • Time here is of the essence (within 24-48 hours is ideal) as it is likely these prospects are also looking at your competitors.
  • Dropped card in the bowl
    • Less productive segment.
    • Send an email with thanks for visiting and then test an outbound calling strategy to evaluate the quality of these inquiries.
  • Trade Show attendees
    • Unless able to be segmented these lists rarely are productive.
    • However, a low cost outbound email as well as and some outbound calling may be productive in some circumstances and should be tested
  • Webinars/Seminars/Conferences:
    • Attendees:
      • Email immediately after the event thanking them for attending
      • Conduct an outbound program to further qualify interest and sales potential
      • Those participants who represent the 20% that could generate 80% of the revenues should be called within 48 hours.
    • Non Attendees:
      • Email … “Sorry you could not make it …”
      • Call, qualify, stimulate interest and awareness and drive into your lead pipeline
        • Note:  eti’s experience is that non-attendees often produce better qualified leads/opportunities than the attendee group.  Ignore these prospects at your own risk.

eti has significant experience managing the entire recruitment effort.  As well as the post event lead generation elements.  IN addition, we offer a comprehensive registration capability to manage multiple events/locations and more.  Please call us on 1.800.466.4384 to discuss how ETI can help you maximize your event ROI.

In Tough Times more Effective Marketing will Increase Sales Force Productivity

Tough times require all expenditures to be examined for possible reduction or elimination. Marketing is not exempt from such investigation and will undoubtedly reveal areas where cuts can and will be made. One example is Brand Advertising which for the most part is not an immediate result producing expenditure. On the other hand it would be unwise to cut advertising oriented to generate demand activity for your goods/services. Or to generate inquiries for goods/services since such sales leads can effectively be converted to new customers.

The following strategies should be implemented:

  • Focus on generating quality inquiries as distinct from large numbers of inquiries.
  • Analyze inquiry response by media to check on the effectiveness (front and back end) of both ad and media. Save money by canceling or revising ineffective ads and/or media.
  • Cancel advertising that is not generating satisfactory revenue and invest the funds in strategies that are creating revenues.
  • Analyze effectiveness of costly Trade Shows and Webinars and other Event driven activities. Not only by volume of actual inquiries but more importantly by actual conversion rates.   (Typically the return on investment from such activities is lower than other more organic marketing tactics.)
  • Be cautious about offering free or premium offers. These often drive high volume of inquiries.  That’s natural - but they are seldom effective in helping the sales force to sell more.
  • Large volumes of email can be sent at very low cost but actual readership is in doubt. Too much depends on factors over which senders have no control.
    • Use sparingly and wisely to maximize the impact.
    • Make sure your messaging is targeted to applicable prospect companies.
    • Personalize if possible with TEXT (not html) based content.
    • Where possible mail only to OPT IN contacts.
    • Track each and every email open and click through to ascertain readership and traffic driven to your website and or micro-site.
  • The management of inquiries and follow through is complex and requires a strong database infrastructure for effective control. Outsourced CRM solutions may well be helpful. ETI clients derive immense benefits using our thoroughly reliable in-house CRM solutions - provided at no extra cost. An advantage worth its weight in gold!

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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