Measuring return-on-investment (ROI) at a trade show boils down to cost per lead (CPL). The calculation is simple:
Total Cost of the Show ÷ Total Leads = Cost Per Lead
This is the best way to get a feel for how well you did at the show.
If the show costs were $150,000 and you come back with one lead then your CPL was $150,000. If you come back with two leads the CPL was $75,000. If you have 150 leads they were $1,000 each. You can begin to see why capturing leads is important.
CPL will allow you to compare the costs to other tactics like direct mail or advertising.
Many people recommend taking it a step further and comparing the costs of the show to sales generated from the show. While this is great, in theory, it is most difficult to actually measure and, therefore, it rarely is.
The calculation is easy:
(Total Sales – Total Cost of the Show) ÷ Total Cost of the Show= Return on Investment
The problem is that it is virtually impossible to attribute specific sales to the show and, even if you could, the results from year-to-year could be so erratic as to render the measurement useless.
I’m not saying that traditional ROI isn’t important, it is. I’m just saying as a standard measurement it is far less reliable than CPL.
Our instincts tell us to hand a survey or a reply card or an entry form or a lead card to someone and ask them to fill it out. This is entirely logical. “Here,” we say, “fill this out to be on our mailing list (or win a prize or whatever).” This tendency is so pervasive that we overlook the plain simple fact that it sucks.
The Trade Show Samurai knows better– they never let a prospect fill out their own lead card. A lead card, at its core, is a way for the Trade Show Samurai to take notes about their conversation so that they can pass the information onto the right salesperson. It is not a data-collection task. It is about the conversation. If you do your job right you will have rehearsed and practiced your pitch and you have prepared a lead card that allows you to capture the right pieces of information. The lead card is designed for you, not for them.
Shoving a survey in front of a prospect is intrusive, rude and disrespectful. However, taking careful notes while talking to a prospect is thoughtful and professional. “Do you mind if I take a few notes while we talk?” You say. Nobody will say no.
As a prospect, you should expect people to take notes. You are there telling them about your needs and they appear to be listening. Do they have such a super brain that they will remember your needs in addition to the 200 other people they will talk to during the show? Highly unlikely.
The moral of the story? Use your lead card to keep notes about your conversation. It is not a survey or a contest entry form. It is them most important tool you have at the show and you need to fill it out yourself.
I love it when my clients make the most out of the Trade Show Samurai Arts. Most people hem and haw about how they’ve always done it and like to go back to their happy place which is free of leads.
The people who see the light will prevail. One of my clients has a booth in Paris in a few weeks where they will be presenting housewares. They weren’t happy with their success at previous shows, but they knew that there was potential. I went over some of the concepts with them, they read the book and they are really putting together a great show.
Click here to download a Great Pitch Card. Notice that is has slightly different messages for the different people at the show. However, the overall message is consistent. This is great work. Read it, learn it, live it.
People like to see a familiar face. When we see someone or something we recognize our heart jumps a little with the comforting satisfaction that we are not alone is a sea of strangers. Nowhere is this more true than on the trade show floor. As marketers and Samurai we can play to this fact with pre-show marketing tactics.
The simplest and most effective pre-show marketing piece is a postcard with a picture of your booth. Sounds silly right? It’s not. Most mail winds up in the trash. Your postcard will too, but in that split second when someone looks at it before they toss it, it will leave an impressions. That impression will stay with them when they are walking the show floor. They will see your booth as a recognized and perhaps trusted spot on the show floor. This will make it easier to engage and more likely you will capture a good lead.
This simple trick really works. Skip all the hoopla about your products and the nonsense about your services. Just send a picture postcard. It’s cheap, simple and effective.
I believe that most of the tchotchkes and brochures we pass out a trade shows wind up in the trash. I have never actually done a statistically valid research study on the subject, but I base my belief on the following observations:
Lately, however, I’ve seen an interesting phenomenon. Now that everyone has the environmental bug up their, um, ear, they are using reusable bags for shopping. Many of these bags are trade show bags. At one time the trade show bag doubled as a garbage bag that people filled with brochures and tchotchkes. Now people keep them in their cars and use them for groceries.
Style, however, plays an important role. The cooler looking the bag, the more likely it will find its way into the supermarket. Don’t be afraid to invest in a little art & design for your bags. Unless you are Patagonia, your logo alone probably won’t do the trick. The bags also have to be of high enough quality that they can handle a few cans of chicken soup and a gallon of milk from time to time.
So, for the time being, trade show bags seem to have defied my assertion that trade show tchotchkes wind up in the trash. Remember, however, that brochures and tchotchkes are an important part of the Art of Disengagement and once they fulfill this purpose they have done 100% of their job. Used properly it doesn’t matter where they wind up.
At a typical trade show, you’ll find more tchotchkes than there are flies at a barbeque. The choice of the perfect item that provides the right mix of clever, cheap, relevant and memorable is an area of much discussion and much pride. Marketing and sales people love to pass out tchotchkes and they love to talk about how popular they are with the crowd.
When Trade Show Samurai learn the Tao of Tchotchkes they understand that the purpose of the tchotchke is to politely bring an end to your conversation with the attendee so you can quickly move onto the next one. This is philosophically different than the conventional wisdom which thinks that their purpose is to attract people to your booth. I recently heard about a company who hired three lesser-known NFL players to sign autographs in the booth using a logo-adorned photographs. There was a long line and the company was beside themselves with glee at the crowd that had formed even though they had failed to capture lead information from anyone. They figured that the logo on the photograph would be enough. While I’m sure that having your logo on a signed photograph is better than not having your logo on a signed photograph, it isn’t as good as a stack of qualifiable leads. Just because someone comes to your booth doesn’t mean they are going to buy your product.
The right tchotchkes will serve the Trade Show Samurai as a conversation-ender. The Trade Show Samurai picks items that provide the proper “thank you” for the conversation. Evanston, Illinois-based Inclusion Solutions is a company that helps small businesses increase access to people with disabilities. They use trade shows to target convenient stores, gas stations, and drive-through restaurants. They pass out a small, branded box of mints to attendees. The mints are an excellent choice because they are clever, cheap, relevant and memorable. Perfect. Patrick Hughes, President of Inclusion Solutions, gives the mints to clients and prospects year round.
The Trade Show Samurai doesn’t mind that nearly all tchotchkes wind up in the trash. He or she knows that once the conversation has ended successfully the tchotcke has fulfilled 100% of its intended purpose. It is intended to capture a moment in time; the moment after you capture a lead.
Years ago I owned a company called Bananagraphics that, among other things, supplied tchotchkes to people who wanted to pass them out to every Tom, Dick or Harry who came within spitting distance of their booth. I love them, they are essentially toys for adults (not to be confused with adult toys).
The best tchotchke I ever got was a Skype headset. It’s very nice and I use it when I do webinars. (My webinars are epic, if you haven’t already attended one you should.) The headset says “LivePerson” on it. That is either the brand of headset or there is a company called LivePerson. I’m pretty sure it’s the latter, although my ownership of the headset isn’t really compelling me to go check it out, even though I’m writing an article on the subject. The bottom line is that these kinds of things do not generate sales. Sorry.
There are two other problems with tchotchkes, besides their not generating sales. The first is that the word itself is a pain in the ass to spell. The second is that trade show exhibitors use them for the wrong reasons. They use them to lure people into their booths, like a carrot.
Using tchotchkes like carrots is problematic for two reasons. First, it’s an insult and second you lose the opportunity to use it for a better purpose- to end conversations.
Think about it. You are attending a trade show to learn all the great things an industry has to offer. To imply that you are there for anything other than intellectual and professional simulation is an insult and for me to stand in my booth passing out tchotchkes is tacky. Everybody does it, but that doesn’t make it right.
The best use of tchotchkes is when you are finished with the conversation with an attendee. When you do that it helps bring closure to the discussion and it acts as a little thank you for spending the time. Now the attendee can leave feeling good about the interaction and put your tchotchke in the trash with all the other tchotchkes they will collect at the show.
Trade Show Samurai on the show floor turn over attendees like pancakes. Every few minutes they will be ending one conversation and starting another. It is essential to be able to end the conversation smoothly, quickly and respectfully. This is called the Art of Disengagement and a little tchotchke is almost perfect, a business card is perfect, but if you must have tchotchkes at your booth, use them properly.
One of the biggest challenges faced by companies who employ a Trade Show Samurai-style strategy at the show is handling what can be an overwhelming number of sales leads. Mild-mannered employees will generally bring back only a small handful of leads if they bring any back at all. A Trade Show Samurai, on the other hand, will bring back hundreds or even thousands of new leads.
The first barrier to handling all those leads is data-entry. It is time consuming, boring, and runs the risk of never getting done which means all those great leads may get stale on the shelf. Many shows offer lead-zappers where you simply point the zapper-thing at the barcode on the badge and when it beeps you have an instant lead! Hooray! But wait—this isn’t enough. The electronically captured lead is worth slightly more, not much more, than a business card. The only thing you really know is whether they stopped by your booth long enough to get zapped. This won’t help your sales staff do much in the way of setting priorities. The other problem with zappers is that they can be expensive to rent and exhibitors make the mistake of only renting one to save money.
Lead zappers can be a great tool if you follow the following rules:
Lead zappers can be awesome tools if they don’t get in the way of the Trade Show Samurai’s work. If you can capture qualifiable information, don’t bother.
I often recommend clients use a lead-capture kiosk which includes a data-entry program and a laptop. Kiosks could also be a place to keep a badge zapper.
Bottom line- if you can make a badge zapper work for you then go for it.
A fishbowl filled with business cards is what most companies bring home from trade shows. The sales people may go fishing in the fish bowl to find a recognizable name or two, but for the most part the business cards are worthless. They are worthless because they have no meaning. How do you value one business card over the other? If you have 100 business cards should you call every one? If you are a busy sales person chances are about 100% that you have better things to do than cold call names from a fishbowl.
What salespeople want are qualified leads. A qualified lead generally means that the lead represents a real sales opportunity. The lead shows interest, has money, is ready to buy, etc. However, in order for a lead to be qualified it first has to be qualifiable. A qualifiable lead is the essential ingredient for a lead. It is the 5-10 attributes that will allow you to rank-order the lead in terms of potential sales opportunity.
I used to work in the college admissions industry. We sold lead-generation services to colleges. The best potential customer was the dean of admissions at a mid-size, private liberal-arts college in the Midwest that already used the Internet for recruiting students. The worst potential customer was a lowly admissions counselor at a very large, public college no matter where they were.
So, the attributes that were important were:
With these five simple attributes I could assign a score to each lead and rank order it. When I was at this company we staffed our booth with Trade Show Samurai and brought back literally thousands of lead cards per year—far too many to handle with our small sales force. It was no problem, we simply rank-ordered them and gave our top potential leads to the team. The others we included as part of our lead-nurturing program and we called them when they showed interest.
The difference between a business card and a highly qualified lead is the qualifiable information you collect. With it you have a sales feast for the sales team, without it you have fish food.
Trade Show Samurais will often find themselves defending their trade against the tyranny of the status quo. Trade Show Nirvana is only achieved when all booth staffers have been fully trained and indoctrinated into the ways of the Trade Show Samurai and developed a mastery of the four core arts.
There are no relics of the Dog & Pony strategy that are more deeply ingrained than the chair. Chairs have been part of trade show booths since the beginning of time and you will find scant few examples of booths without chairs. Trade Show Samurais do not use chairs. There are three main reasons:
As a Trade Show Samurai I have fought this battle numerous times and numerous times I have lost. I learn to live with it and to work around it. The way of the Trade Show Samurai is to practice humility and patience for someday the others will see the light and someday they, too, will want to experience Trade Show Nirvana.