There are some terrifying sets of figures floating about the industry suggesting 75% of leads are not followed up after an event. The fact that any are neglected seems at best embarrassing and more poignantly, rather pointless. It is the equivalent of walking into shop, paying for your goods and walking out without your purchase. Unsurprisingly, everyone I know says that they do follow up after an event. The question perhaps then should be, do they follow up effectively?
Think about your visitors and what they are used to. Would it be better to hire a light-pen and scan their badges or use a laptop to manually input their details? Many exhibitions now employ QR codes so that exhibitors and visitors can exchange details with people they meet as they go. However, at some consumer shows visitors do not have badges or business cards, so a manual system may be best. Remember, the quicker and easier it is for you to capture their details, the smoother and more pleasant it will be for your visitor. Record also any special details and timescales, who else they are considering and make a note of any buying cycles or budgets.
Amongst the best systems I have seen are those which additionally categorise their leads into some sort of urgency list - for example, hot, warm and cold. In this way when the leads are being followed up (and let's face it, often it is not the stand personnel who subsequently follow up) the salespeople know whom to contact first. A good tip is to ensure everyone involved understands and adheres to the same definitions of hot, warm or cold or a scale of one to ten.
When then should you follow up? Smarter exhibitors, who are more on the ball than most, follow up their leads whilst the show is happening, rather than waiting until the dust settles afterwards.
All you need do is prepare a standard letter in advance of the event, which suits most enquiries, thanking them for visiting your stand that day and promising that a named individual will contact them within the agreed timescale. These letters could be sent out at the end of each day to all of your stand visitors (be they posted or emailed). If you wish to do your bit for the environment you can also use this opportunity to direct them to your website or email a PDF brochure in the appropriate format for them to look at rather than sort through their over stuffed carrier bags for your literature.
Once the show is over, by all means copy, analyse and input your data, but you should also ensure a copy goes straight to the sales team. Some of the leads may be so hot that a more switched-on competitor (or less analytic) could steal a march on you whilst you are still debriefing and sorting your prizes. Most leads gathered will be hot and need to be followed up within three or four days of the event. Some can wait but an acknowledgement or commitment to the next step should also be agreed within those post-event days. Research suggests that we should be prepared to follow up six times before a lead converts - an email, a PDF, a phone call, an appointment and a follow-up call perhaps.