Help Your Exhibitors Find and Keep Leads

By: Ruth A. Hill

If your exhibitors aren't getting the business they want at your tradeshow, these six tips can help. Plus: A new white paper from the Trade Show Exhibitors Association offers recommendations for show managers.

Want to keep your exhibitors happy? Educate them about the proper care and feeding of sales leads.

Exhibitors invest heavily in marketing at your tradeshow, but many never realize the profits they could have if they were to handle show leads in a more productive manner.

M. H. "Mac" McIntosh, a marketing speaker and sales consultant, says one of the biggest mistakes exhibitors make in relation to tradeshow follow-up is allowing too much time to lapse between getting a lead and responding to it.

"In today's world, responses should be virtually immediate, because people have grown impatient with new technology and ways of doing business," he says. "In the old days, salespeople could control the process. Today, your prospect can go 100 other places for information. This behooves people to respond to prospects with material inside 24 hours—partly to keep them from shopping elsewhere and partly to show them how responsive you are to your customers."

Success comes from communicating with the right prospects at the right time with the right offer, McIntosh says. It's a lot like the dating process that can lead to a marriage.

McIntosh adds six more tips that you can share with your exhibitors to help them generate and handle leads more successfully at your tradeshow:

  1. Have a plan. Set measurable show goals for marketing, sales, and advertising personnel. How many sales do you expect? What is your definition of a qualified lead?
  2. Invite prospects. Don't rely on nabbing people who wander by your show booth. Send customers and identified prospects complimentary show passes, if possible. Remind them to stop at your booth.
  3. Take advantage of social media. New media can provide heads-up notices about new products or product demos you'll be doing. Create buzz and promote show attendance and visits to your booth with a mix of new and old media (telemarketing, email, and direct mail).
  4. Train staff. Let your exhibit staff know what's expected of them. Be sure they have detailed information about new products, services, and company policies. Have booth personnel use custom lead forms to get contact information along with information about product needs, purchasing authority, budgetary situations, and so forth.
  5. Enter data fast. Get leads and business cards into your database as quickly as possible, even if you have to hire a temp to do so. It's a critical step in managing and communicating with prospects.
  6. Qualify your leads. All leads aren't qualified. Have marketing people take responsibility for responding, nurturing, and qualifying leads. Salespeople should focus on closing sales-ready prospects.

Ruth A. Hill is a freelance writer in the Washington, DC, area. Email: [email protected]

New White Paper Provides a View From the Floor

The Trade Show Exhibitors Association (TSEA) recently released a white paper based on discussions at its Red Diamond Congress, a three-day leadership summit held in April 2010 for exhibit-marketing leaders, exhibit builders, agencies, show producers, and other suppliers.

The paper summarizes key issues facing exhibitors and event marketers and shares a number of recommendations:

Third-party audits. According to the white paper, 95 percent of Red Diamond Congress attendees say that certified, independent attendance and demographic data would help validate continued investment in tradeshows.

Convention housing. Participants saw choice and risk mitigation as the main concerns of exhibitors when reserving housing for future events. The white paper recommends that show organizers provide greater flexibility in terms of timing, incentives, and penalties, noting that "Penalties are seemingly out of proportion to the costs/risks incurred."

Labor and transparency. The white paper cites transparency and lack of standardization as key issues involved in improving convention labor practices.