"Can I scan your badge?"
Ugh! As I receive a barrage of these requests while wandering through trade show aisles, I want to say no. But I realize that booth reps are scanning the numbers just to make someone happy. Sadly, though, that happy person is usually not the booth visitor. It's usually someone higher up the sales food chain. So the booth reps keep scanning.
Don't get me wrong. Lead generation barcode scanning technology, some of which now utilizes smartphones, has been a true godsend for marketers at trade shows. No messing with paper lead forms, collecting business cards or missing opportunities.
However, trade show lead generation tech doesn't make more or better leads; it just facilitates lead collection. Unfortunately, I fear marketers today rely too heavily on these technologies, desperately hoping for a measurable ROI or, at least, a hefty number of badge scans to salve their fears of wasting marketing money on shows. Plus, rental of lead collecting services from shows aren't free. Don't want to waste that investment, either!
Scan First and Count the Bodies Later
As the opening example illustrates, the default behavior of booth reps these days seems to be to scan as many show visitor badges as possible, regardless of whether they are qualified prospects or not. Sure, by doing so, they won't miss anyone. Yet the task of sorting and counting the real leads from the blizzard of badge scans can be daunting. Say each lead takes 15 to 30 minutes of a salesperson's time for follow-up. Now multiply that by hundreds. Quite a post-show project that could have little payoff!
Marketers would be better off advising their booth personnel to holster their badge scanners until a visitor has been qualified. This requires script development and training of booth personnel. Never assume booth reps know how to do this or know what you're trying to achieve! Plus, each show's unique circumstances and audience can change the qualification process dramatically. Thus, the procedures should be reviewed for every show, every time.
The ideal scenario is to scan a visitor's badge only after a trained booth rep has qualified him or her as a genuine prospect, and noted the immediacy of need for the product or service being sold.
Scans and Swag
Being in the promotional products business for 17 years, I recommend using swag in conjunction with trade show marketing. However, just like badge scanners, it needs to be used judiciously. While speaking of scanners and swag, don't use them in concert to create a false sense of lead generation. Here's what happens ...
Say an attractive swag giveaway has been chosen to give to "qualified" prospects at a show. The marketer instructs his booth personnel to give the goodie only to someone who has agreed to be scanned. But, again, have genuine leads been generated? Actually, what you've created is a database of swag-seekers who may or may not be qualified prospects.
The Real Role of Lead Generation Technology
Use lead generation tech in a facilitating role, not a qualifying one. Select a lead generation technology provider that can offer you the type of information collection (or at least a viable workaround) that helps you reach your sales goals both at and after a trade show.
About the Author
Dr. Heidi Thorne, MBA/DBA, is a business author, blogger and book editor. Her 25-plus-year sales, marketing, advertising and PR career includes 15 years as a trade newspaper editor and a decade in the trade show and convention hotel industries. Learn more about Heidi at http://www.HeidiThorne.com.