Trade show follow up

7 Steps to Follow Up With Leads After a Trade Show

Marketing

Trade shows are a great way to make a splash in your industry.

If you choose wisely, you’ll be surrounded by potential customers, excited fans, and influencers to get the word out about your product. It’s an investment that can pay dividends long into the future.

To get the best return, you need to strategically follow up after the event is over. You don’t want all those new leads falling off the map, after all.

Here are seven steps outlining what to do after your next trade show:

Step 1. Gather all of your new contacts

You’ll have a combination of business cards, digital signups (like badge scans and landing page opt-ins at your booth), post-its from the people who forgot their business cards, and random emails on the notes app of your iPhone.

Maybe a few napkins too? It happens. It’s part of the trade show craziness.

Once you get back into the office, compile the contacts your whole team collected. The brunt will come from your booth and the socialites on your team.

Put everyone in a simple spreadsheet with these columns:

  • First name
  • Last name
  • Email
  • Phone number

That’s the basics. If you want to go deeper, then add:

  • Company
  • Title
  • Website
  • Address
  • City
  • State
  • Zipcode

You’ll have a few illegible handwritten ones. This is normal. Try your best to read them or just chuck ‘em.

You’ll also have a few that don’t have all their contact info. No worries, if you have their email you can flesh out their contact profile as time goes on through campaigns and forms.

Step 2. Segment between hot and cold leads

Leads have a temperature. Hot. Cold. Lukewarm. Organize them into separate lists so you can create a unique follow up experience for each segment.

Do the same with influencers, new friends, and fans.

You can get even more segmented by grouping folks around their interests, geography, business type, and even company size. A good rule of thumb is to create segments you want to market to later.

Step 3. Assign leads to an owner

You want to pass the hot leads to your sales team as fast as possible. They’ll love you for it.

Consider conducting a quick 15-minute conference debrief to assign leads to specific people if you’re nervous the electronic handoff will breakdown.

For lukewarm and cold leads, assign them to marketing for nurturing until they’re ready for a sales conversation. Here’s how to set up your first lead nurturing journey.

The takeaway here is that every lead should have an owner. It’s your best bet for making sure no one falls through the cracks.

Step 4. Design a follow up plan for each group

72% of consumers are frustrated with generic marketing that doesn’t relate to their interests, especially with companies like Amazon and Netflix raising the bar with personalized recommendation engines. As a result, consumers are getting used to experiences tailored to them.

This bent towards personalization is just good marketing. It’s about sending the right message to the right person at the right time for the right reasons.

Let’s look at two examples to illustrate.

Following up with lukewarm leads

It’s common knowledge in B2B circles that 30-50% of leads aren’t ready to buy when they first inquire about your business, but about three quarters of these leads will become sales ready within 12 to 18 months.

The month after your trade show is prime time for converting these lukewarm leads into a sale. Since they handed over their contact information, odds are they still remember you which leaves the door open to connect.

A common sense follow up plan for this segment is to send one email once a week for a month, then send them your newsletter once a month after that. Easy. You could throw in a Headsup message or a direct mail postcard to shake things up, but email will do if you want to keep it simple.

Following up with influencers

Re-connecting with influencers is more straightforward. You could simply send a “it was nice meeting you” email, and ping them from time to time with content you think they’d like.

If you want to move the partnership forward, then follow up your first email a week later with a co-marketing invitation. Swapping blog posts is a good start and webinars are a more time-consuming but worth considering second option.

Don’t over complicate following up. Decide on a plan then execute it.

Step 5. Structure your follow up journey

This step is where your follow up plan gets legs. Put it into your marketing automation software, and decide on your segments, timing between messages, and when a person is “ejected” from your journey.

Here’s an example I adapted from a follow up journey we use at Autopilot:

Trade show follow up journey

The journey is sent to anyone on the “Denver Trade Show” list who are not active customers.

It has four emails that are sent with a five day delay in between each:

  • “Great meeting you at the conference” establishes where you met and brings you top of mind again
  • “Tina’s story” shows your product in action by sharing a customer case study
  • “Product offerings” lays out what you’re selling, ideally in a non-salesy way
  • “Sales call?” is an invitation to hop on the phone with sales

It has one Headsup message that shows up if the person visits your website, supplementing the “nice to meet you” message you just sent.

Trade show on-website message

If a person becomes an active customer, then they are added to the “Onboarding” list and ejected from the journey.

Ejection journey

This way, if a lead becomes a customer before the “Sales call?” email, you can avoid the awkward I’m-already-a-customer conversation.

If a person makes it to end of the journey without becoming a customer, then they are added to the “Newsletter” list.

Wait, are you saying I should copy this journey?

No. It’s just an example to get you started, that you can use as-is or tailor to your own audience.

How you follow up will look different based on your target market, products, services, and industry.

Pro Tip: Try splitting your journey into different branches based on if a recipient clicked your email or didn’t click your email. For example, if your first email is a brochure, you could follow up with an email that says something like “I saw that you got a chance to view our brochure, would you be interested in a free consultation?” Here are other ways to personalize your marketing with data.

6. Create your messages

Once you nail down your journey structure, find a quiet spot to write your message copy.

Creating a copy deck is a great way to stay organized if you have multiple people contributing to the process.

A few writing tips:

  • Stay on brand. Make sure your words (and design if you’re doing HTML) match your company’s style.
  • Choose one call to action. Too many confuses readers.
  • Get a second pair of eyes. Ask a co-worker to review your work. Two heads are better than one!

When you finish, add your final copy into your follow up journeys.

Step 7. Place people into additional journeys based on their behavior

What do you do after following up? Nail down a communication plan going forward.

In the example above, buyers were added into an “Onboarding” journey and non-buyers were added into the “Newsletter” journey. Both are ways to stay in touch with customers. You could also create a lengthier nurture journey like Instapage or simply extend your initial follow up journey.

Whatever you choose, a good rule of thumb is to send communications every 2-4 weeks. The 2015 Marketing Automation Performance Report found that this cadence generates 2x the leads.

Follow up or fail

Generating trade show leads is hard work. If you don’t follow up, you fail.

By following the steps outlined in the post, and staying in touch with buyers (and non-buyers), you’ll be well on your way to making the most of your next trade show investment.

Ready to set up your own follow up journey to trade show leads? Sign up for an Autopilot free trial to keep your leads from falling off the map.

  • Melanie Retzlaff

    Hi there,

    I have a client that recently went to a trade show and I was supposed to follow up. I went straight into the “great meeting you….do you can’t a consultation call?” email and the return was very weak. So segmenting the list by hot, warm and cold leads is a great hint. Did not think about it before.

    Thanks

    Melanie

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