Now that the "trade show" is over, the excitement has worn down and the feet feel like they are going to fall off – What NOW! Trade show evaluation and follow up are areas where many businesses fail for a couple of reasons:
1) Business fires are burning, nobody has been handling the mess that is accumulating, normal phone calls need to be returned, employees have questions and problems that need to be resolved, the bookwork is lagging, and generally… the whole place is falling apart.
2) There is an automatic assumption that all those people that you met at the trade show will call YOU because YOU left THEM with a brochure and they are certain to remember YOU!
Because of number one above, there will be some catch up to do after the trade show. There’s nothing you can do about that. But what you can do is to prioritize your post-trade show activities. A good rule of thumb is to first take care of issues that are mission critical and could cause you long term company problems like bank, government, and employee issues.
Second, deal with issues that have come up with current customers while you were at the trade show. Do NOT sacrifice existing customers for potential new customers. They are the money in the bag. New customers are just a hope.
Third, put all non-critical functions aside and start your tradeshow follow up:
Initial tradeshow evaluation
Make a list of everything that you came home with from the trade show. If you remember remarks that you need to think of later, write them down. Prioritize your functions, get a bit of feedback from those who were in attendance with you, and start to sort out your contacts.
Trade show lead ROI (return on investment)
Your trade show follow up process should be planned just as well as your pre-trade show planning if not better. Consider that each trade show lead has a cost, one that you have already spent. If you spent $5,000 on the show and came away with 500 leads, then every lead cost you $10. If on average, you convert 25%, then each new customer costs you $50 to get. As far as customer acquisition costs are concerned, that’s not too bad. Most service companies can make this up in the first few hours of service.
On the other hand, if you don’t manage your trade show leads and 75% of them never get a phone call back or don’t get it within a week, your conversion costs you 4 times as much… or $200 per converted customer. That’s expensive!
Categorize trade show leads
If you’ve done the trade show properly, you should have notes about certain hot prospects and what they want, connections that you’ve made, and important things to do.
Separate these from the rest of the leads and start with these first. If you have indeed made that connection at the trade show, you will likely be remembered the next day. If you intersperse these with every other lead and don’t get back to it for a few days, you will likely be forgotten or your competition from the trade show will have gotten there first.
These are the two things that most trade show exhibitors forget. Not all leads can or should be followed up on the same way (prioritize them), and do it all immediately. If you wait a week to call, when you do introduce yourself, the initial response from the customer is most likely to be “WHO?”
What happens if a trade show gives you too many leads? That’s a nice problem to have, yet getting back to 500 people will take some time. You still want to touch base however, to preserve as much business opportunity as possible. Consider the letter follow up approach. Print off the contact names of those you’ve collected and who are on the back of the priority list, and shoot off a letter to them.
By using an integrated system like in MS Word, you can turn out a pretty nice personalized letter by pulling the name of the person into a field on the letter. Take a couple of hours of time and go through and personally sign each one before mailing them. You might tell the reader that you will be in contact in the next couple of weeks, but if they need you first, to not hesitate to call.
The trade show follow up approach
Now you will have to figure out exactly what it is that you want from your follow up. In most cases, it would be good to get that follow up appointment. If talking to the family is reasonable and they are part of the decision processes, try to get them involved as well. The more decision makers you can get together, the easier it will be to convert it into a sale.Each person has their own closing style however. If getting the door is what you do best, do that. Just keep it all in motion. Trade shows rarely present you with the opportunity to close personal services business. However, they are great at breaking personal barriers and getting you to the first step.
Trade show evaluation
At some time, you should be able to call the effects of the trade show complete. This is when you have exhausted all leads and closed all the business that you can that has resulted directly from the trade show itself. If you have kept good records of this activity, you should now be able to go back and evaluate the effects of this particular show. After all, if you are going to put this much work and money into anything, you want to make sure that it's worth the bother and the expense.
Though your ROI (return on investment) is one of the ways to measure your success, you should always consider the other benefits as well. The benefits of a trade show should be financial, but they can also include establishing your brand, community awareness of your existence, educating the public, building new relationships and alliances with other businesses. You will have to do your own analysis on these non-monetary benefits.
Coming up with costs is probably one of the easiest parts of doing your trade show analysis. This is an important step in determining whether the cost was worth the investment.
How much business did you close?
What is the monetary benefit of that business? You should measure in one-month, three-months, six-months, and twelve-month increments when looking at the value of the business.
In regard to services, if you have made your investment back in new business in the first month, you've done reasonably well. At the very least, you should have made your money back plus 50% by the end of 3 months.
The six and twelve month measurements are to determine the long range profitability of any given trade show. At some point, you have to determine that you cannot participate in every show that comes along. Therefore, it is imperative that you determine over the long run, which trade shows give you the best performance that you can build your long term business goals on.