I was just thinking about trade shows today. It’s beautiful here in Phoenix where I live. The sun is shining and the waterfall is splashing on the rocks in the pool. It is starting to feel a lot like event time. Oh, standing for days on end in an air conditioned room with thousands of other people, all trying to have meaningful conversations.
That got me thinking how much has changed about events, seminars and trade shows these past few years. As little as five years ago, marketing teams were still trying to boost their scan numbers by any methods possible. Everyone got scanned and nurtured, even if they weren’t sales-ready yet. We’d trade anything for scans.
- At VMworld I was watching a guy in a clown suit scanning everyone he could pester into it.
- I saw a magician who was better, because he at least worked tech specs into his act.
- The next booth over was giving away a drone and had people standing in line to be scanned.
- At Cisco Live I had the booth staff across from me ask me if I would trade lists so we could both appear to double our ROI. I told her I’d rather take home a phone book to sales team.
New contacts for your ongoing inbound activities are great, but there had better also be some sales-ready leads in there and some potential ROI. You need to get those decision makers over to your best reps as quickly as possible. If you do not capture the right information, they will likely get lost in a sea of scans from an ongoing list of events.
Just handing over the entire list without enough detail is a waste of time. Marketing nurtures, sales sell. From an inbound marketing perspective, it is too early in the buyer’s journey for your visitor to care, and too early in the sales cycle for your sales to care. Inside sales wants to start talking about your product because that is exactly what they just spent the last six months learning. How do you make sure you are getting the people in their decision making stage to your closers, and the rest to inbound?
More immediately, most companies have some expensive technical folk and some of their best storytellers available at events. You will want to funnel the best prospects (or ones that indicate they are in the decision-making stage) over to your experts and not send over people that want a free education there at the show. Since everyone on your team should be gathering information and passing it along with that visitor, the easiest way I have found to do this is with printed index cards.
I decide which information we will gather and print it right on the front of the card, leaving space for the visitor information. Plus, they have the entire back of the card to write on if they need more space. Scanners at events are not very good for typing a lot of data into quickly, and if you have more than one person who needs it (and everyone should be gathering information the whole time they are all talking to visitors) It is much easier to scan them, then capture answers to a few questions on an index card. Later, you can match the cards to scanned names on the spreadsheet.
Of course, you still collect contact information from anyone who wants to begin their journey with you. Just be sure you know where they are in their search, research, or decision and act accordingly.
So how does it work?
Print some easy to ask BANT qualifying questions on index cards and make sure there are stacks of them available with pens for everyone to use. As soon as you ask a couple of BANT qualifying questions, it will be apparent where this person is in their journey. Make sure when they are getting scanned that you make it clear that someone will be following up with them, and if they do not want that you can make note to just have them gain access to your content. Everyone will suddenly be very focused on BANT. Awesome! This helps ensure that anyone you scanned and completed an index card for is a good lead to follow-up with soon. The questions you ask will change from industry to industry, customer persona to customer persona, but if you capture BANT criteria your sales reps will love you.
(If you are not familiar with BANT or would like a refresher, read our blog post on BANT here.)
There isn’t a sales rep on the planet that will not gratefully accept your leads if you can provide this information. If you bring your salespeople leads that look like this, they will all become your new best friends and will stop ignoring the leads you bring them.
Here is an example of index cards we used at several technology events. After using them a short time everyone from our engineers to the lowliest inside sales rep felt comfortable working four or five questions into their conversations.
Engineers tell me that remembering to ask the BANT questions on the index cards changed the way they interacted with the visitor for the better. Everyone appreciates getting the “sales stuff, money talk” out of the way. It is just awkward and we would all rather avoid it altogether. Having it printed and in front of you makes it easy to get through together. Knowing BANT (and them knowing you know their BANT details) changes everything about the relationship. Your sales reps can start overcoming obstacles they might have otherwise not known until they lost the deal. They might not have even had any idea why they lost it. With BANT criteria answered they will know exactly what issues are there, and avoid being surprised by those issues later.
Booth staff efficiency and our lead quality went up tenfold. Engineers better measured how much time they were spending with visitors and making sure they were spending time with the right people. They told me they had not realized how much time they spent just talking about technology in general. It is fun, but not the best use of precious technical resources during that week. That’s what friends and beer is for, not expensive opportunities like events.
The first time I tried the index cards the company that had consulted with me had never obtained one hundred leads in all their years of showing at this event. They weren’t even getting very good leads. Looking closely at the leads they had gathered in prior years only 30% could even be considered real leads. Normally they would get through to less than 5% in follow-up. They had very low engagement afterward and almost no close rate.
What they were doing wrong
They, like most technology companies, made sure their company and product names/logos were predominantly displayed on their booth. There were lists of features and benefits. There were logos of clients and partners too. Monitors were standing by for demos. Staff included sales reps and at least two senior engineers to talk technology with anyone who would listen. It was a tribute to their product. They were doing everything exactly like most tech companies have been doing since the dot.com bomb. They scanned anyone and everyone and took any notes they did take in the scanner through the keyboard. This meant none of their notes were useful.
They were hoping for whales, but fishing for sharks. Talking with the company’s chief programmer it came up that he had originally architected with very large customers in mind. He had later added enhancements for one very large customer and thought we should be looking more closely at similar companies. On his screensaver he had written, “(our solution here) on a Massive Scale”. It was perfect!
I put together a few basic customer personas using the data we could find such as past sales data and past success stories. I know, that’s not really enough for a complete persona, but we did what we could — and this messaging resonated well with our target persona at the events.
We did the following
- Changed messaging to appeal to largest of their customer types.
- Made the booth theme very appealing, polished and whimsical. Space theme with moon landing audio, interesting videos playing on large screens, light show, and compelling messaging to pull them in from a distance.
- BANT index cards to determine “sales readiness” to best help them get to an engineer, or on the inbound list.
- Only scan people who verify they want to be followed up with, but everyone goes on nurture list.
- Add index card info to the spreadsheets daily and sent a custom “thank you” referencing the details captured that day from your conversation. Don’t spam them not even once.
As a result, we captured 225 BANT leads from people who WANTED us to followed up with them. Improved messaging got them conversations with every one of their major accounts they had been trying to talk with for years. In this example, they wanted to talk to carriers and by the end of the show every major carrier (Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, Cox, etc.) had been scanned, qualified by BANT criteria and wanted to schedule product demos for their teams or obtain a proof of concept (POC). Almost every one of the people we scanned was actionable, 50% engaged in follow-up activities, 30% received demos or free trials, 10% was in pipe.
Not bad for a $5 stack of index cards.