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Action after the show.

After spending months perfecting your trade show exhibit, don't drop the ball--the game's only just begun.

The first two parts of this series concentrated on setting objectives, designing exhibits and training staff members for an effective exhibit. Now, after the crowd has left and you've packed up and returned home, the biggest and most important task of trade shows emerges--following up on the contacts you've made.

After the excitement and hectic pace of a trade show, it can be extremely difficult for staff members to return to their routine duties. The employees are tired and may find it very hard to switch gears.

Typically, after trade shows, sales managers pull their hair out sorting through a pile of small slips of paper while trying to analyze the leads obtained at the show. The manager may recognize key names and make some phone calls. The remaining slips of paper, however, may sit on the corner of the desk for months until they are finally swept into the trash--along with sales that could have been yours, had there been an effective follow-up plan.

Remember: Each day a lead sits unanswered, sales opportunities diminish exponentially.

Get a Response Plan

A coordinated marketing plan for responding to trade show leads can reduce employees' post-show letdown and prevent the company from losing valuable leads.

As explained in the previous article, an effective method of prioritizing leads at a show is by qualifying each visit with the "A,B,C" system.

The "A" or "ready-to-buy" leads should be contacted immediately after the show, before a competitor makes the sale.

Even if prospects don't buy your product or service immediately after inquiring about it at a show, don't count them out. More than half will remain interested for as long as six months, according to a recent survey.

Results show 56% of the respondents said they were still in the market for the product or service six months after first inquiring about it at a trade show. In addition, 33% of the respondents who requested literature still had money budgeted to buy the product.

The study's other findings indicated:

* 91% of the respondents remembered inquiring about the product or service;

* 86% remembered receiving the literature;

* 39% recalled being contacted by a sales rep;

* 16% contacted the company after receiving more information about the product or service.

The key with "B" or "possible buyer" leads is to keep the name of your company at their fingertips. In an industry so dependent on machinery and meeting tight deadlines, this gives the company a reason to contact you first when it needs your product or service.

Post-Show Mailings

Within two weeks after the show, send a letter to everyone who visited your booth--regardless of whether they are "B" or "C" leads--thanking them for their interest in your company. Briefly highlight the benefits of your product or service in the letter. In addition, enclose a business card so the recipients can contact you for more information. This simple gesture creates a favorable impression in the minds of all the people who attended your exhibit.

For "B" leads, develop a schedule of mailings that provides a stream of information about your products or services. For these mailings to be effective, they must be well planned and executed. However, they don't have to be expensive.

Send a series of four or five letters with product or service brochures at four-week intervals. The letters should highlight the benefits of the products or services and invite prospects to call. After the third mailing, sales staff should begin contacting the prospects to determine their interest in your products. The phone contact is vital.

On the average, a topnotch direct mail campaign only achieves a 1-3% response. By keeping up contact through phone calls, however, you can boost that response to 10-50%.

To illustrate the rewards of following up, let's say you obtain 50 solid leads from the show. A 3% response means maybe one person buys your product or service. Research proves that with phone follow-up, it is possible to obtain at least five orders, and maybe as many as 25. That's an excellent return on your time investment.

Maintaining Mailing Lists

The list of prospects you obtained from a trade show is a gold mine that should be jealously protected and maintained. If your company has a database program, the names and addresses should be entered and stored.

Many companies forget about their prospects after sending them the post-show mailing. This is not wise, since "B" prospects could turn into "A" leads at any time. It's important to periodically send these prospects literature updates, new product information and invitations to other trade shows. A steady flow of information keeps your name in front of potential buyers and increases the likelihood that they will call you when the time to purchase arises.

Brochures Say a Lot

While not directly tied to your trade show investment, literature is an important component that should not be overlooked. For many potential customers, literature creates the first--and often, most lasting--impression of you and your ability to provide what they need.

It is proven that brochures can generate business that otherwise may never have surfaced. Given these cases, it doesn't take a sophisticated analysis to determine that dollars spent on a brochure can literally come back in sales many times over.

When you create a brochure, aim for the most cost-effective, not the least expensive. Brochures should be clear, attractive and complete--but don't overdo it.

The look of the brochure should reflect what you want the reader to feel about your business, product or service.

In general, the brochures that are not easily thrown away are creative, informative, eye-catching and produced with high quality. Production costs may be more than some other marketing tools you use, but again, the ability of the brochure to attract business over time earns a cost-effective return on investment.

Planning Is Crucial

For a trade show to be an effective investment, careful planning must take place before the show begins. Simply sending untrained staff to sit in a booth for three or four days is not going to garner much new business for your company.

Many marketing tools, such as brochures, letters, news releases, advertising and articles, booth graphics, demonstrations must be used to positively influence the way prospects view your company.

By developing a marketing plan for each trade show you attend, you can convey the proper image to attract prospects and maximize your trade show investment. This will help ensure that at the next trade show, your company can stand out as a leader, rather than remain in the background as an "also-ran."

Self-Review and Analyze All Trade Show Experiences

After attending a trade show, managers and exhibit staffers should meet to analyze the results. If you achieved your goals, give yourselves credit for a job well done. If not, determine why the goals weren't met. After every trade show, regardless of the results, these questions should be addressed:

* Did your exhibit meet your needs? Was it large enough? Did the product demonstration or signs attract people to your booth? Did the booth adequately reflect the image your company wants to project in the marketplace? How did your booth measure up against competitors? Other companies?

* Were prospects coming into the booth? Did prospects receive the pre-show mailing? Did they ask for the incentive offered? Were prospects adequately qualified? How will more prospects be encouraged to attend the exhibit next time?

* Was there adequate staff at the booth? Did staff appear friendly and informed? Did staff project a proper image for the company? Is additional staff training needed to help "sell" products or services more effectively?

* Did the news media stop at your booth? Were news releases well written and sent far enough in advance? Was staff prepared for interviews? How can editorial coverage be enhanced next time? Was the series of advertisements effective?

* Was your product or service literature adequate? Does it properly reflect the image of your company? Is the literature easy to read? Does the literature highlight product/service benefits? Should the literature be updated or recreated?

* Was this trade show a good investment? Did the "right" people attend the show? Where informative or technical sessions offered? Did competitors attend? What would happen if you didn't attend next year?
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Foundry Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Trade Show Series, part 3; includes related article; trade show follow-up
Author:Bonk, Leslie L.
Publication:Modern Casting
Date:Jan 1, 1993
Words:1387
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