Even when you feel exhausted after travelling to Germany and spending one week at a trade show, now is not a good time to sit idle or even go on a holiday. Ideally, you have blocked enough time in your calendar to follow up with your trade show leads. Keeping in mind some trade show follow-up best practices will significantly increase the return on investment (ROI) of attending an industry event.
Follow up with your Leads and make References to what you Discussed
As an exhibitor, hopefully, you remember where you have put your completed lead registration forms and visitors’ business cards – or whatever tools or apps you typically use to track your trade show leads. Depending on the industry and projects discussed, following up with each person individually and referencing what you discussed during the fair is advisable. Taking notes and classifying your sales leads during the event will make it easier for you to distribute the accounts within your team after the show and start the lead follow-up process swiftly.
For Exhibitors: Use Lead-Tracking Apps
Best case, you have used a lead-tracking app during the event. Trade show organizers nowadays usually offer such services, and very often, you just need to install an app on your smartphone. Or, you can bring one or more inexpensive device(s) with the lead tracker installed that your team can jointly use. For those lead-tracking services or devices, you will need to pay a service charge, but apps like, e.g., Scan2Lead are worth the investment.
When using a lead-tracking app at your booth, don’t hesitate to ask visitors if you can scan their batches or business cards. From my experience, this is not a big deal, and visitors rarely refuse to share their contact details – especially after a relevant conversation. Remember to instantly make notes about what you have discussed and what follow-up procedure you have promised. This can be a bit of a challenge when the show is busy, and visitors continue pouring in. What I sometimes do is fill in the form together with the visitor; that can, however, become tricky when you reach the section where you would like to, e.g., tick the “low-priority-box”.
Import the Trade Show Leads into your CRM
Using an app, typically, you should be able to export the lead list (e.g., CSV, Excel) and import it to your CRM. This should make following up with your trade show leads a “smooth operation.” Still, avoid falling into the trap of sending bulk e-mails with just some standard and meaningless texts.
Trade Show Follow-Up Best Practices for Writing E-Mails
To follow up with your trade show leads, no matter whether in the role of an exhibitor or visitor, you can write for example:
Dear Ms. Schmidt,
It was great meeting you at your booth at embedded world last week. It was good to learn about your hardware requirements for your xyz project. Following up on what we have discussed, here is what I suggest….
Dear Mr. Schneider,
Thank you again for your time at EXPO REAL last week. I hope you and your wife managed to reach your flight to Miami in time. Please find attached the business plan for xyz, as I had promised you…
Alternatively, if the conversation was a bit more casual and you were using first names:
I am so glad we could finally meet at electronica. I spoke to my team and we are ready to schedule a skype call to discuss how we can assist you in xyz…
(if your keyboard doesn’t offer “ö”, type “oe”)
or you can write
I am so glad you could visit us during PCIM Europe. When would you like to schedule a short follow-up call?
Even when you are the one in power (i.e., the buyer), always keep in mind: formal and polite communication will help you build a rapport with your (German) target audience. If people enjoy communicating with you, they are more likely to go the extra mile. If demand is higher than supply, being agreeable and reliable will help you tap and nurture sources.
Trade Show Follow-Up Best Practices: What not to write in E-Mails
Never, ever spoil the momentum you have built by just writing: “Dear Sirs, we met at bauma last week. Please find attached our product catalogue; I am looking forward to your order.”
Also, do not write the salutation in a type or format (like in bold) different to the text body of the e-mail, as this will make the impression that you are just copying and pasting text, only changing the recipients’ names (i.e., you send bulk e-mails).
If you target a German, don’t send follow-up e-mails or WhatsApp messages during the weekend, especially not on a Sunday. When you are a service provider operating in a different time zone than your target client, sending such e-mails only during their (standard) office hours is a good idea. If working across time zones is already an issue for your target client (preventing them from outsourcing work to you), better not give them the feeling that you are not “synced” time-wise.
Another thing I have seen and would not recommend doing: A Chinese client of mine had one of his staff take pictures of him talking to visitors. These photos were then attached to the trade show follow-up e-mails. I told my client this was a nice gesture that could easily backfire: What might work in his culture, at least for a German, could feel creepy. Remember, Germans are often concerned about protecting their privacy; clearly not everybody would appreciate their picture taken, stored, and distributed.
Chart out the next Steps and Suggest a Timeline when you Follow up with Trade Show Leads
In your follow-up communication, tell your contact how you would like to proceed. If the trade show visitor has asked you for an online demonstration of your product or service for their team, very briefly summarise how your solution will make their lives easier so that your contact can quickly sell the idea to his or her colleagues. Be specific about what you want to demonstrate and how long the virtual meeting will take.
Giving deadlines can help speed up the process. Be specific, but not overly pressing. You could, for example, say: “Calendar week 14, I will be on leave, but if it is convenient for you, maybe we manage to do the demo before that?” Or: “There is already a small backlog of orders, but if you order by Friday this week, chances are good you will receive the parts before Christmas.”
If your contact tells you that he or she will need some more time, ask them when you can expect to hear back from them. Make a note in your calendar and actively ask about the status if you do not hear from them.
Show Interest, but don’t be (Perceived as) Pushy
Germans are not exactly famous for making quick decisions. Very often, they are interested in identifying a second source, but will only buy from you (for the first time) when their current supplier lets them down. Germans are rather risk-averse and consider each and every decision very carefully. Do not expect them to act spontaneously or “just try something out”. You need a lot of staying power if you want to gain a presence in the market.
Even if they do not buy from you now, keep in touch and try to meet them at the next fair or during a business trip. Invite them to your offices, write a Christmas card, ask them if they want to receive your newsletter, and keep them updated about new products and special offers; but under no circumstances, spam their inbox by repeatedly sending your follow-up e-mails.
“After the Show is Before the Show”
Famous German football-trainer Sepp Herberger (1897–1977) is often quoted saying: “Nach dem Spiel ist vor dem Spiel” (After the game is before the game). Don’t rest on your laurels after a good fair; stay alert and focus on the next round. If you were not able to score this time, maybe next time you’ll succeed. And don’t forget; some things just take their time.