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Wagging the Dog: Plan Ahead for What Happens After the Show
It might seem a little backward. After all, why would you want to waste time and energy worrying now about things that won’t happen until the show closes? Doesn’t it seem like putting the cart before the horse?
It might seem that way, but the reality is that preparing now for post-show activities is one of the wisest decisions you can make. By clearly deliniating your plan for after the show, you’ll be able to streamline your operation, delegate people to the proper duties, ensure all leads are followed up in an effective manner, and maintain valuable business relationships. Key to this are these nine questions:
1. Has a lead taking system been organized for visitor requests?
One of the most valuable things an attendee shares with you is their questions. By asking for specific items, or special features, or novel new applications, attendees are letting you know what they are in the market to buy. However, many lead cards only record the bare minimum contact information. Make sure your team has a place to note visitor requests – and have them use it!
2. Has a daily debrief session been scheduled?
The temptation for many booth staffers is to flee the exhibit hall as soon as the show has closed, catch the shuttle bus, and enjoy the attractions of a new city. However, it is important that your team meet as a whole every evening to discuss the day’s events, enjoy any triumphs, discuss any concerns, and plan for the next day.
3. Will “Thank You” letters or e-mails be sent to every registered visitor?
In our information overload society, “Thank You” notes have become the rarest of correspondence. Yet they are a quick and easy way to let your attendees know that you appreciate their time and attention – and that you will value their future business! It’s a nice, personal touch. Delegate one or two staff members to this task, and have it done within 48 hours of the show close.
4. How will show leads be handled?
Without a system in place, lead management can be a nightmare. Some will go into the common pool, others will ‘disappear’ into booth staff pockets to be followed up independently and still others just disappear. Designate a location for all leads to be collected, and make your team aware that ALL leads need to go to this common pool. Keeping some back will skew your trade show results downward!
5. How will sales from the show be tracked?
This will differ by company, depending on the types of products or services you sell. However, there needs to be a system by which you can track sales, especially those that are directly attributable to show participation.
6. What kind of reward or recognition will booth staffers receive?
Exhibiting is tremendously hard work, especially at larger shows when your team is ‘on’ for many days in a row. Make sure to give your team a tangible reward. Yes, representing your company is part of their job – but the extra effort and preparation that goes into successful exhibiting deserves a reward. It’s nice to have a ‘known’ treat for your team to work toward, plus a ‘surprise’ to spring.
7. How will the show be evaluated?
You’ll want to know more than “Gee, we were busy every minute!” Business decisions are made with hard numbers, including the number of attendees, number of sales, number of qualified leads, and other factors. Talk with management before the show to find out what kind of information is important to their decision making and evaluation process – and make sure you come back to the office with that information!
8. Did we manage to stay within the estimated show budget?
Budgets are an invaluable trade show tool. Compare what you’ve spent to what you were supposed to spend. Are there areas you saved money – by pre-registering for show services, for example? Did you go over budget in other areas? Unforeseen circumstances sometimes push costs up, but consistently missing your targets may mean either budgets or choices need to be adjusted. Discuss which it is, and make changes as needed before the next show.
9. What other show opportunities – nationally and internationally – could be explored?
One or more of your employees should plan on attending networking events. During this time, it is a good idea to ask about other shows exhibitors have participated in. Were they pleased with the event? Will they exhibit again? Make sure this information is brought back to headquarters, where it will play a vital role as part of the first step in the next round of exhibiting.
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