Trade Show Chronicles – Preparing my leads collection (chapter 5)
This article belongs to the “Trade Show Chronicles” series. It tells the story of Andrew, young sales executive newly employed by a Hong Kong company that will attend his first trade show in a few months time. From understanding what exhibitions are all about to organizing the booth, recruiting promoters and following-up on leads, Andrew will live a complete adventure unique to the world of exhibitions.
I’m getting better at it! Karen and I have set up a daily meeting and we work quite well as a team.
We’ve already decided the color of the carpet, the products to display, discussed about logistics… everything is going well and my boss seems quite satisfied with the progress.
It has been almost three weeks since our staff sends emails with the new signature I’ve created and several customers already told me about their interest in visiting our booth: great!
My next meeting with Karen will start in about 10 minutes and we are supposed to discuss floor plan and decoration: I have absolutely no knowledge in this field so I will certainly end up listening to her and letting her make decisions.
Something troubles me quite a bit though. All these decisions (carpets, design, organization and so on) are great for brand image and brand awareness but it looks like I have lost sight of my initial goal: getting leads, prospects, and converting them into customers.
When Karen arrives in the room she seems quite excited and smiles at me:
– “I’ve prepared LOTS of references from our past fairs we can use to prepare the new floor plan! This booth is going to be amazing! That will be the nicest stall we’ve ever created!” she says with exaggerated enthusiasm.
– “Look Karen… all we’ve been doing for the past few weeks has been to organize decoration and arrangement… I’d like to take a different direction.” I see her expression change rapidly and her smile fade away. I add “Just for today!” hopping I can get her on board with my idea.
– “Alright. What is it you have in mind?” she says without any passion.
– “I was wondering… What is it you guys usually use to collect data?” I ask carefully.
– “Collect data? What kind of data you have in mind?”
– “Visitors information. Do you collect their details to contact them later?”
– “Duh! Of course we do!” she seems upset with my question. “We have a standard report template that we will print. Each of us on the show will have to fill this report and attach the visitor’s business card to it.”
– “Sounds good. And what kind of data do you collect? Name and email?”
Now she looks almost offended. She raises her voice a little and answer defensively:
– “Of course more than that! We record complete name, email, but also company name, phone number, product interest, quality of the lead as well as some complementary information that could help close a future deal”.
– “Wow! That is great!” I am not a great actor and I’m sure she knows I am overacting to please her but she seems to calm down nevertheless. “And could you walk me through the next step?”
– “What next step?” she asks, genuinely surprised.
– “Well… collecting all that data is great but what do you do with it?”
– “I have no idea.” She thinks for a second, looking at the ceiling. “We pass it to your department. I know there’s usually an intern or a sales assistant transferring all these written reports into an excel format… then the sales team start following-up on leads, I guess”.
I can’t believe we are doing all this work and the organizer herself has no idea what happens with the data collected! I try not to panic and ask:
– “And how long would this process take?”
Now she looks fairly exasperated:
– “I have no idea! A week? Ten days? How would I know? What are you looking for exactly?!”
– “I am just trying to understand why we spend so much time, money and efforts on a single event… if no-one even follows-up on the leads we have collected.”
Her jaw falls and stops in mid-air for a second or so. Its seems for once I got a good point and she doesn’t find anything to reply.
She starts shaking her head and says defensively:
– “Look, these events are mostly for brand awareness. What matters is that people find us, see us, remember us, right? Indeed, it would be great if we could be more efficient at following-up but that’s not…”
I’m getting more confident and cut her straight away:
– “I don’t think brand awareness is our goal this time.”
– “Brand awareness is ALWAYS our goal.” she claims, disdainful.
– “Not this time” I say firmly. For the first time since I am in charge, I am SURE to be right. She seems taken aback, obviously unused to me making bold statements. After a few seconds she retorts:
– “Alright Mister Expert. What’s our goal then?”
– “Look, you are expert in events organization and I have zero experience. Yet, the boss decided to put ME in charge. Why do you think that is?”
– “I am very busy recently so…”
– “So am I” I say immediately. “Ever since I took this project, I haven’t been able to complete my daily tasks once. The reason he put me in charge this time is because he wants it to be SALES oriented. We need to change our goal and aim for sales”.
– “You don’t sell on a trade show. On a consumer fair you would, but not in a trade exhibition.”
– “You are right. I am not talking about selling at the event. I am talking about creating a process that helps us on each level – before, during, after – to achieve our ultimate goal: sell more. I am talking about attracting visitors on our booth. I am talking about collecting prospects information. I am talking about following-up on leads. All these with one unique objective in mind: selling more, acquiring new customers, making business!”
That must be the first time I talk for that long and Karen doesn’t seem used to that. It takes her a couple of seconds to digest it before answering.
– “We have such process already! I told you: we print reports and…”
– “Obviously that process isn’t optimal yet. Look, don’t take it the wrong way, but if you don’t even know whether the leads are followed-through, there’s something wrong about it.”
She swallows slowly and calmly asks:
– “Ok. What do you suggest we do then?”
– “First of all, a week to 10 days to transfer prospects information from written forms to digital doesn’t make any sense. How long do you think these prospects would remember us? Two? Three days? Four at most? And we are unable to do a follow-up before AT LEAST a week. That can’t be! When they finally receive an email from us they probably don’t even remember meeting us in the first place! We must find a way to shorten the process. Maybe hiring more interns after the fair?”
– “There is a pretty large cost involved in the operation. Plus, it wouldn’t solve the major issue: most of the time things get delayed because the assistant can’t read what the person has been writing. No, that’s not the way to go.” Now she’s on board. She is with me, trying to find a real solution. She thinks for a while, completely ignoring me, then says: “What about going fully digital this time?”
– “What do you mean?” I ask, curious and excited about her going into my direction.
– “Well, instead of recording things with pen & paper, we record it all digitally from the beginning! That way the data is ready immediately after the event and we avoid not only delays but also human errors!”
– “That’s genius!” I say genuinely excited. “Any idea how we can achieve that?”
– “I’ve heard of a system that can do that: it works on smartphone, tablet or laptop and is made specifically for this purpose. It records visitors information, takes photos, add tags…”
– “That’s EXACTLY what we need! That closes my loop!”
– “Your ‘loop’? What loop are you talking about?”
– “I have been talking with an event expert and he told me I need to find my goal – acquiring customers and selling in our case – and define a strategy for each of the three steps – before, during, after – in order to achieve that goal. I believe that’s what we’ve just done! FIRST we drive traffic to our booth – we achieve that with the announcement and with the design of our booth. SECOND, we record visitors information directly from our stall – we will make that much more efficient by giving up the pen & paper strategy and use a digital tool. THIRD, we follow-up with prospects and make sure we don’t let them forget us! I haven’t figured this step yet, but I know my objective.”
She now seems as excited as I am but can’t help to reply:
– “An event expert? No wonder you became so smart suddenly…”. I look at her, trying to see if she’s serious. After a few seconds she starts laughing an I happily follow her.
It’s now 10pm and I think it is time for me to call Charles and let him know of my progress. After I tell him the story, he replies:
– “Well done Andrew! You are right on track now! And you’ve even figured out your major bottleneck.”
– “My ‘bottleneck’? What do you mean?”
– “Pen and paper! Most stalls on trade shows still use pen and paper! It is slow, unreadable, leads to delay and human errors, not to mention the ecological aspect of it… Removing this steps will increase your efficiency a LOT!”
– “Well… thanks. Now I need to look into digital solutions. You have any to recommend?”
– “Try myfairtool*. This one will help you record visitors information, add tags and comments, take some photos… It will even help you sending instant thank you emails.”
– “Great! Thank you so much Charles!”
– “You will need a good internet connection though…”
– “Nothing to worry about, I’ve arranged that already.”
Things seem to go incredibly well. For the first time in a few weeks, I will sleep like a baby tonight.