Making the Most of Leads at the 2015 SEMA Show
Gathering, Tracking and Following Up Culminates in Sales
Exhibitors invest in the SEMA Show primarily to attract retail buyers. The process of generating, collecting and following up with leads is the best way to recoup that investment.
While almost half of all buyers placed orders at the 2014 SEMA Show, nearly 90% also had plans to make purchases from exhibitors after the Show, and many buyers said that they were researching for future purchases rather than planning to make a purchase at the event. Yet many exhibitors lose out on that business because they either don’t properly collect lead information or don’t follow up with quality leads following the Show.
Exhibitors invest in the SEMA Show primarily to attract retail buyers. But it’s obviously not just talking to people at the event itself that produces product sales throughout the year. The process of generating and following up with leads should actually begin long before the doors open at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Before the Show
When exhibitors begin their initial preparations for the SEMA Show—and definitely at least a couple of months before—they should take the time to establish a lead-generation strategy and set goals. Determine the number of qualified leads that each salesperson should strive to acquire, including contact information and the level of interest the buyer exhibits. Determine how best to attract those leads, whether through product displays, demonstrations, special offers or other incentives.
Exhibitors should keep a list of buyer contacts from year to year. Six weeks to two months before the SEMA Show, send those contacts an e-mail or a postcard describing new products that will be on display along with information about your booth number and its general location at the Convention Center. You can also obtain buyer list rentals via the Exhibitor Services Manual at SEMAShow.com/esm under the Marketing, Advertising & Sponsorships tab.
About a month prior to the Show, make phone calls to the buyers you’d truly like to attract to your booth. Set a specific appointment time and day when possible, and follow up a week before the Show to confirm the meeting. Even if your company won’t be offering an entirely new product, detail any special offers or other innovations you are developing.
Consider offering a promotional product to the recipients of your mailers if they stop by your booth. Freebies give buyers an additional reason to visit, and giveaways during the Show can also draw traffic into your exhibit. There are almost always crowds around booths that are showcasing a celebrity, holding raffles, running contests or 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.
Show discounts are another great way to attract quality leads and generate sales. According to surveys, about 75% of buyers take advantage of special discounts, yet only 36% of exhibitors offer specials or buying incentives.
In this age of social media, exhibiting companies should mention their participation in the SEMA Show on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other channels. While e-mail has proven to be the most effective marketing tool for exhibitors, social media has quickly become a winner as well. According to the most recent SEMA research, 84% of buyers visit at least some of the exhibitors who contacted them.
Another prime pre-Show marketing opportunity is submitting a press release to SEMA’s online media center. Such releases typically reveal new products, announce Show specials, provide information about new programs or highlight other company developments. Visit
www.SEMAShow.com/node/add/press to post a release, and post early so that you meet editors’ deadlines.
You may also want to e-mail press releases concerning your SEMA Show plans to email@example.com 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 be located in room S220 of the Skybridge passageway between the Central and South Halls. Reporters and editors congregate there and are always looking for content.
At the SEMA Show
Creating invoices at the SEMA Show is a great aspiration, but many sales take place in the weeks and months after the event when follow-ups lead to orders.
Collecting buyer contact information is crucial to after-Show sales. Select booth staff who can handle questions or requests and who are able to assess each buyer and find out about the buyer’s needs and budget to determine whether there is 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.
Be sure that booth personnel determine the lead’s purpose in attending the SEMA Show, whether he or she is in a position to make purchasing decisions and what products the lead was interested in. Also, 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.
Collecting business cards or making notes provides basic information about attendees who visit your booth. But the SEMA Show attracts thousands of visitors, and 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 that a buyer is a qualified lead, you capture detailed data in less than a second.
CompuSystems, the registration and lead-retrieval service used by the SEMA Show, provides a suite of products and services designed to capture and retain data on each booth visitor. When a buyer’s badge is swiped in an exhibitor’s CompuSystem 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 preferred type of follow-up contact (e-mail, regular mail or a phone call) and whether the lead was provided with literature or a product demonstration. Grading the leads—cold, warm or hot—can help with follow-up after the Show.
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.
The company’s CompuLEAD Smart application uses the exhibitor’s own iPhone or Android device to capture leads both on and off the SEMA Show floor. Exhibitors can capture full lead information anywhere and anytime by simply scanning the QR code on the attendee’s badge or by manually entering the attendee’s badge number. If an attendee does not have his badge, exhibitors can receive full lead information by entering the attendee’s e-mail address.
The CompuLEAD Smart app offers terrific benefits for events that are held away from the Show floor, such as networking receptions or buyer dinners. About 50% of buyers and 77% of exhibitors participate in dining with vendors, clients and business contacts.
Using the CompuSystems scanners, business cards and manual notes guarantees that a SEMA Show exhibitor captures all of the information needed to create a list for immediate follow-up calls on the most qualified contacts. For high-value buyers, exhibitors should try to coordinate a specific day, time and means of contact for follow-up. Most buyers will be able to access their calendars and set meeting or call times on the spot using their smartphones.
Collecting buyer contact information is crucial to after-Show sales. Select booth staff who can handle questions or requests and who are able to assess each buyer and find out about the buyer’s needs and budget to determine whether there is potential for business.
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 on an incredible 80% of all leads, so this step in the process can put your company miles ahead of its competitors.
You can categorize how quickly to follow up with each lead if your sales team has used some type of grading system to sort the contacts made at the Show—A, B and C levels or hot, warm and cold leads. 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.
Experts say that the best time to contact leads is between 4:00 p.m.–6:00 p.m. on Wednesdays or Thursdays, but make follow-up a priority mission no matter what grading system, contact method or time of day you choose. Make a note of when each call was made and when to make the next call or visit, and don’t hesitate to invite your leads to visit your facility to 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.
At some point not long after the Show, perform an evaluation of how your company’s lead generation, collection and follow-up program performed. Determine what worked and what didn’t. Ensure that all of your leads from the Show were contacted. Categorize the levels of interest for all buyers whose information you collected, and determine how many prospects were converted to sales. Use this information to fine-tune your processes at your next trade event and at the 2016 SEMA Show.
Exhibiting at the SEMA Show is an investment. Developing the best return requires planning. Collecting, qualifying and following up with leads is the best way to maximize that return.