Follow-up emails: The final piece of your trade show puzzle

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Posted by , 6th November 2018

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So much time, effort and money go into exhibiting at events… so why are follow-up emails so often neglected?

It’s easy to forget that capturing a lead at a trade show is just the start of the relationship between your company and a potential customer.

For B2B exhibitors, it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll close a sale at a trade show.

Most companies have multi-stage buying processes that can take weeks, months or even years to complete.

But trade shows are an important touchpoint in that process.

Quite often,  they are your only chance to meet with potential customers face-to-face.

Because of this,  following-up should be a critical and well-thought-out part of the exhibiting process.

Sadly it’s often neglected, or treated as an afterthought.

Post-event following-up needs to be much improved

In 2012, Salesforce reported that a shocking 80% of trade show exhibitors don’t follow up with their show leads.

And while that percentage may have dropped since then (well we hope so!)…following-up still leaves much to be desired.

For most companies, the event follow-up process looks something like this:

  • Day 1: Get back from the trade show. Pass the pile of forms or business cards to the admin or marketing team
  • Day 6 (If you’re lucky): All of your leads have been typed up. Hooray!
  • Days 7-8: your sales team try to write a follow-up email. Unfortunately, they’ve forgotten the conversations they had on the stand (or they never received that information in the first place)

So they opt for a more universal message for their post-show follow-up emails:

“Hi there!

We met at [insert show name here]. It was great to meet you and we hope you enjoyed the show. To learn more about what we do, here’s a link to our latest product brochure. We hope to hear from you soon.”

Regardless of whether they were a hot lead, client or a loader who stopped to pick up some freebies, everyone gets the same follow-up email.

That’s not a great approach when it comes to building sales.

For hot leads, you’ve essentially thrown away all the information you gathered from speaking with them on your stand.

When you send a generic follow-up email, it’s like starting your relationship from scratch, only worse. Why? because you haven’t remembered who those people were and what they were interested in.

You’re just not building on and developing the rapport established at the event.

Even worse, because it’s taken so long to follow-up, the person reading it has most likely forgotten who you are:

They’re going to find different suppliers, they’re going to speak to different people, they’re going to book meetings and demos, and then they leave. And then they’re on to the next task, so, I often think with follow-up, you’re almost reminding them what they spoke about. – Stefan Cordery, The Big Event podcast

Follow-up emails are the neglected piece of your trade show process. So what can you do to improve your team’s follow-up, to make the most of your event leads and maximise your return on exhibiting?

3 essentials for follow-up emails

1) Timing

When should you start following-up with event leads? The short answer is: as soon as possible.

Exhibitor found that 38% of event exhibitors take longer than six days to follow up with their event leads.

This means that a potential customer, who speaks with a rep at a trade show, waits for more than a full working week before they hear from a company again.

Compare your post-event follow-up with when someone contacts you via your website.

Chances are, that person gets a response almost immediately – or at worst, one or two days later.

So why does a prospect who’s spoken to someone in person at a show have to wait six days or more to hear back from them?

2) Value

Sending out a generic follow-up email, that contains no more information than a link to your website or your full product brochure isn’t good enough. It’s time for follow-up emails to deliver real value to your prospects, with personalised content and helpful information.

Personalisation doesn’t just mean having merge fields to drop the right first name and company name into your emails.

It’ll take longer, but do the work here: tools like ClearBit and Datanyze can enrich the data you’ve got on each prospect – or at the very least you should take a look at their LinkedIn profile to learn more about their role, responsibilities and business priorities.

Use all of this information to create a detailed, personalised follow-up, that’s relevant to each individual lead.

3) From a real person

As the saying goes, people do business with people. Not businesses, or marketing teams. So stop sending your follow-up emails from an info@- or marketing@- email address.

In an ideal world, each lead you collect at an event would receive a follow-up email from the rep they spoke to on the stand.

But that may not be possible, for example if you hire temporary staff to help with your stand, or if your stand is staffed by your events team, but all your follow-up is passed over to your sales team.

So even if your event leads get passed over to your business development team, or your sales team, remember to send follow-up emails from a real person with a real email address. Doing so is essential for building trust in your company, and a relationship with each potential customer.

Improving your event follow-up emails

It may feel like there’s a lot of work to be done to improve your company’s event follow-up emails. But a lot can be achieved with careful planning and prioritisation.

Before the show, know who will follow-up with your event leads and set a target for when those emails will be sent.

Make sure your whole team knows when that needs to happen, who’s responsible, and what needs doing to make that possible – like typing up your lead capture forms.

When the show finishes, check-in regularly to make sure your team’s on track to follow-up in a timely manner, and make sure your team has access to all the information they need to send good, useful, personalised follow-up emails.

About the Author

Emily Byford is a B2B events marketer at Akkroo, a business that creates a consistent process for lead capture and follow-up for exhibitors who take part in trade shows. Emily specialises in creating content to help B2B exhibitors master the whole events cycle: from planning and logistics to the perfect follow-up. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Posted in B2B Marketing  /  Lead Management  /  Trade show marketing  /  Trade show sales

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