The Keys Are Collecting, Qualifying and Following Up
Don’t get lost in the maze. Every exhibitor should ensure that qualified buyers not only know the company’s booth location but also what products or services the exhibitor will be emphasizing at the SEMA Show.
Exhibitors can connect with more buyers at the SEMA Show than they might otherwise encounter in weeks or even months from their offices. But the connections aren’t automatic. In order to cement sales, exhibitors need to promote their attendance before the Show, offer a compelling display on-site and then follow up on quality leads after the Show.
Buyers who attend the SEMA Show do so primarily to see new products, get ideas and keep up on industry trends. Nearly 90% attend to see new products, and about three-quarters visit the New Products Showcase. Well over half of the buyers at the SEMA Show said that the purchases they made at the 2013 Show or intended to make afterward were products or services that were new to the market or new to the buyer.
Even though the SEMA Show is highly organized and offers attendees numerous ways to find individual companies, exhibitors should ensure that qualified buyers not only know their booth locations but also what products or services they’ll be emphasizing at the event. The study conducted after the 2013 SEMA Show indicated that the vast majority of the attendees pre-planned their booth visits but only about 32% of exhibitors worked at pre-event promotions—which means that you can get a leg up on the competition by doing so.
Start with e-mail blasts, postcards and prominent displays on your website that include your booth number and location at the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC). (Buyer list rentals are available via the Exhibitor Services Manual at SEMAShow.com/esm.) Also use social media such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to spread the word. And be sure to take advantage of the SEMA Show Online Media Center, where exhibitors can post press releases specifically for automotive media who will be attending the Show. Simply go to the SEMAShow.com website, click on the Exhibitors menu at the top of the page, and select “Submit a Press Release.”
You might also consider offering a promotional product for the recipients of your mailers if they stop by your booth. The freebie gives buyers an additional reason to visit, and even if only a percentage of them are truly interested in your products, that percentage could wind up making significant purchases. Giveaways during the Show can also draw traffic into your exhibit. There are almost always crowds around booths that are holding raffles, running contests, giving away prizes, but it’s best if the giveaway product is useful, is related to your company and will remind attendees of who you are.
About a month prior to the Show, make phone calls to the buyers you’d truly like to attract to your booth. For those who set a specific appointment time and day, follow up a week before the Show to confirm the meeting.
You may also want to e-mail press releases concerning your SEMA Show plans to firstname.lastname@example.org for inclusion in SEMA News and/or the SEMA Show Daily newspaper, which is distributed at the event each day. Use your releases to promote newsworthy booth activities or products that will be featured at the Show. Be sure to also print up plenty of releases to be distributed at the Media Center, which will again be located in room N110 on the east side of the Grand Lobby in the LVCC. Reporters and editors congregate there and are always looking for content.
Set Goals and Qualify Leads
One of the booth personnel’s primary functions should be to qualify leads and then obtain complete information about them for follow-up after the SEMA Show.
Speaking of salespeople, be sure to select booth staff who can handle any question or request a buyer might pose. Even a one-man operation will need a relief person at some point during the week. Professional appearance, proper training and product knowledge are imperative.
One of the booth personnel’s primary functions should be to qualify leads and then obtain complete information about them for follow-up after the SEMA Show. It’s great when a salesperson can also close a deal at the event, but most buyers wait to make purchases until after the Show, and not every booth visitor will be a “hot” or even “warm” prospect.
Booth personnel should be able to assess each buyer through a few minutes of conversation that includes information about the buyer’s needs and budget to determine whether there is truly potential for business. If so, the company representative should ask for the visitor’s business card, swipe his or her badge in a lead-retrieval device (see below) or otherwise acquire contact information and even set up a future appointment or phone call at a specific time after the Show. And if the conversation indicates that the booth visitor isn’t really interested in buying, the company representative should tactfully end the discussion and move on to potentially more profitable contacts.
For quality leads, ensure that booth staffers make notes, either written or captured on an electronic device, regarding the details of their conversations. What was the lead’s purpose in attending the SEMA Show? Was he or she in a position to make purchasing decisions? What products was the lead interested in? When might he or she want to make a purchase? Using questions to discover which of your products might interest leads can make them more comfortable about talking with salespeople, and the resulting notes will be invaluable during follow-up calls or meetings after the SEMA Show. They can be used to remind buyers about your company and its products.
Ensure that booth personnel understand the key message points your company wants to convey at the Show and that they return to those points in every conversation with each visitor. Use your early planning to develop those points, and employ them in your booth design, graphics, pre-Show promotion, brochures and any Show advertising your company does.
Just under half of the buyers who attended the 2013 SEMA Show made purchases while at the event, but a whopping 87% planned to buy during the coming year, and exhibitors averaged between 300 and 500 leads at the 2013 Show.
Collecting business cards or making notes—even notes on an electronic tablet—provides a fair amount of information about the attendees who visit your booth. But the SEMA Show attracts thousands of visitors, many of whom may be pertinent to your specific types of products. The advances in electronic lead retrieval make an automated tracking system almost a requirement.
Electronic systems capture information when a booth visitor simply swipes his or her Show badge. If you make getting that swipe a priority as soon as you’ve established a legitimate buyer as a qualified lead, you’ve captured a mass of data in less than a second.
The electronic lead-retrieval system used at the SEMA Show is an adjunct program of CompuSystems, SEMA’s official registration provider. The company offers a suite of products and services designed to help exhibitors maximize the information they capture and retain on each booth visitor. When a buyer’s badge is swiped in an exhibitor’s CompuSystems device, all of the demographic information that the buyer provided during the registration process is downloaded. Each device also allows booth personnel to quickly key in a series of codes that provide information about the quality of the lead, his or her level of buying authority, the type of follow-up contact that will be most appreciated (e-mail, regular mail or a phone call) and whether the lead was provided with literature or a product demonstration.
CompuSystems offers four different CompuLEAD retrieval products that range from a handheld device with a touchscreen and stylus to a desktop unit that reads attendee badges and prints sales lead reports. All include 10 standard qualifier codes and four standard survey questions but can also be outfitted with up to 99 custom lead qualifiers for additional charges. There’s even a unit that uses the exhibitor’s own iPhone or Android device to capture leads both on and off the SEMA Show floor. Other options include printers and the ability to send electronic literature to leads from within the smartphone app.
When a buyer’s badge is swiped in an exhibitor’s CompuSystems device, all of the demographic information that the buyer provided during the registration process is downloaded. The exhibitor can then use that information in creating a database of leads and following up with hot prospects after the SEMA Show.
Utilizing a combination of the electronic scanners, business cards and manual notes guarantees that an exhibitor captures all of the information needed to create a mailing list for all levels of leads and also make immediate follow-up calls on the most qualified contacts. For those high-value qualifiers, exhibitors should try to coordinate a specific day, time and means of contact for the follow-up with each lead. With the advent of smartphones, most buyers will be able to access their calendars and set meeting or call times on the spot.
Part of your planning before the SEMA Show should include the timing and means by which you will follow up with the leads your company generates. Surveys indicate that salespeople do not follow up an amazing 80% of all leads, so this step in the process can put your company miles ahead of its competitors. Be sure that your salespeople understand the importance of this step, and have a system in place to track their progress and reward successes.
If your sales team has categorized the contacts made at the Show using some hierarchy—A, B and C levels or hot, warm and cold leads—you should be able to categorize how quickly to follow up with each one. The most qualified or interested leads should be contacted within only a few days and no more than a week after the SEMA Show. You might send the next level of contacts a personalized e-mail using details from your Show notes. And even the lowest rung of leads can be added to your e-mail lists or your catalog distribution.
Whatever system you use, make follow-up a priority mission. Experts say that the best time to contact leads is between 4:00 p.m.–6:00 p.m. on Wednesdays or Thursdays. At the conclusion of the first contact, make a note of when to make the next call or visit, and don’t hesitate to invite your leads, regardless of their position in the hierarchy, to visit your facility and learn more about your company.
CompuSystems also offers post-event follow-up services for both exhibitors and attendees. The company’s myLeads follow-up services are included free with all CompuLEAD rentals. Exhibitors can keep track of the attendees who visited their booths, view and print lead lists, send broadcast e-mails to their lists, print mailing labels from their lists and create reports based on lead ranking, profile, leads by the hour and by geographical distribution. Attendees can view and download company information for the exhibitors they visited and send follow-up e-mails to the exhibitors.
The reasons for exhibiting at the SEMA Show are developing business relationships and creating sales. Collecting, qualifying and following up with leads is the best way to perform both functions.