The Big Event: Conversations not contacts

When you exhibit at trade shows for your organisation, you’re going with specific goals in mind. For every sales team, a key goal is to collect leads. But is your sales team collecting leads, or just contacts – and do you know the difference between the two?

If you scan someone’s badge or take their business card, is that a lead? Or do you need more in-depth, detailed context on them, before you class them as a lead? Click To Tweet

In this podcast, Chris and Stefan from Akkroo discuss the importance of collecting leads – not just contacts – at trade shows, through gathering context around your conversations to add to their contact details.

In this episode we cover:

Subscribe and listen to the podcast on your favourite provider:

Apple Podcasts | Google | Soundcloud | Spotify

If you enjoyed this podcast and want to keep up-to-date with all our latest episodes, you can find us on iTunes, Soundcloud and YouTube.

Read the transcript

Stefan: What I want to talk about today is lead retrieval and specifically the difference between a contact and a lead.

Chris: ok

Stefan: Shall we start then? What do we mean by collecting a contact? What’s a “contact”?

Chris: Yeah, I guess in it’s simplest form, a contact is someone’s contact details; name, email, job title (if we’re thinking about B2B), telephone number. That’s a contact

Stefan: So very, very basic information and perhaps in a trade show environment, too basic? It’s not what we would call a lead?

Chris: Yeah, definitely. I think it’s important to differentiate between just gathering contact details for a marketing database vs. a genuine qualified lead, with next steps and actions identified.

Stefan: Yeah, I think why this is important is because we’ve been comparing events and trade shows, and exhibiting at those, to other marketing channels. Take your website for example, you’ve got a landing page and you’ve got a piece of content behind that landing page. The likelihood is you’re probably not just going to ask for a name and email, unless it’s a very high-level piece. You’re going to want to ask for more information because you want to qualify that person.

Chris: Yep

Stefan: So if we then look back perhaps at trade shows and events, badge scanners and lead retrieval devices, would you say that’s just for contact collecting?

Chris: I think the marketing website analogy is a really good comparison. Visitors to you booth I think, could be viewed very much like visitors to your website; you don’t know anything potentially when they arrive, but what are they there to look at? what are they there to do? are they just doing research? are they there with buying intent? these are all the things that, I guess, the basic lead retrieval methods of scanning badges and gathering business cards, don’t give you that level of context.

Stefan: I thought as well, some companies sell a range of services, a range of products. How do you differentiate between all those people you speak to? You’ve got a team of 10 or 20 people across your stand, talking about lots of different things. A badge scanner, for example, solves the problem of collecting information quickly. But then afterwards, when you actually look at that data, you’ve got 2, 3, 400 “leads”, sorry, “contacts”! And then how do you start to piece that together into a follow-up?

Chris: Well, I think this is the challenge that marketers have faced for a long time. It’s just been the way it’s been done. People hire the scanners and scan everybody that visits the booth. Or they’ll get the business card and then beyond that you’re into the realms of one big, generic spreadsheet uploaded to your marketing system a week or two later perhaps, and then a generic follow-up email is sent out.

So what I think we’re seeing is companies trying to be more intelligent now at how they do lead capture/lead retrieval, trying to take it further, in the same way they do with all their other marketing channels. Again, we’ll come back to the marketing site as a good comparison. You know, trying to be more intelligent, trying to gather more context about the conversation, more recognition about the buying intent of the visitor. All the intelligent information you need to enable an appropriate follow-up in the days after the show.

Stefan: Definitely. Another thing as well that occurred to me is when we exhibited at a trade show last year at the Excel, at the marketing technology expo.

Chris: Yep

Stefan: and there was a show opposite that we all wanted to go to and it was…I think the security industry? You know, we’re not a security company, and there was big bouncers on the door and you had to register for a pass. And a bunch of us actually faked our details to get in. And it was only when we got into the show and thought, people are doing this all the time. So when you’re scanning those badges, potentially, the information you’re getting back isn’t even accurate.

Chris: yeah, completely, and the other challenge there is people register for events, 3, 6, 9 months in advance sometimes. We often hear from customers that when they get the information back from the badges they scan, a lot of it is out of date or it’s missing information. Another event we registered for, I had to fill out 8 pages of questions to get my pass. You know, by page 4 I was just selecting the first option just to get it done as quickly as possible. So that’s information that is shared with every exhibitor. It’s not bespoke, it’s not tailored to what you, as an exhibitor are looking for, so lots of challenges with that sort of traditional flow of information from the pre-event registration, right the way through to the post-event export to the exhibitor.

Stefan: do you have any thoughts on why…you know, I’m not pointing the finger at badge scanners as it works for businesses and they’ve been around for a long time…

Chris: It’s quick

Stefan: It’s quick. And do you think that’s why people go back time and time again to use it?

Chris: Yeah, I think part and parcel of exhibiting these days, and has been for a decade or more, and as an alternative to hand-writing and business cards, you do get the speed. Someone else has done the hard work of gathering the contact information. And particularly if you’re a sales rep on the show floor that isn’t responsible for the follow-up, they can be very attractive because your job is to scan badges, and that’s what you’ll do, scan as many badges as you can and then someone else has to deal with the output of that further down the line. They’ve still got a role to play, in certain types of events they are really important for attendee tracking, whose going in and out of seminars and workshops. That’s where they are invaluable because of the speed. You know, when it comes to lead capture and intelligent lead capture, lead retrieval, that’s where I think they have some serious limitations.

Stefan: Ok, so let’s talk about intelligent lead capture. What makes the perfect lead? When your team gets back to the office and they look at that record, they’ve got all the information there, what are the kinds of things that make up that record and how does that compare to what a badge scanner might offer?

Chris: sure, ok so, I think you can break this down into three parts. One, clearly contact details. You need to know who that person is and how you get hold of them. That’s obviously a given. But then the next two are the important ones, so I think context; what has actually taken place in that conversation. Did this person just visit the booth to pick up a freebie and was there for 30 seconds? Or did they spend 10/15 minutes chatting to one of your reps and having a detailed conversation? So actually capturing the context of the conversation, what was spoken about, the areas of interest. And the third thing is buying intent. What is that person, are they a buyer? Are they ready to buy? Are they looking to switch vendors? Because those three parts, and the last two in particular, will determine is this an “event qualified lead” and what should happen next with it. Should this be going straight into our CRM, into SalesForce and allocated to the relevant sales person ready for action the next day. Or should they be routed through to your marketing automation platform for nurturing because they’re just doing research? Are they an existing opportunity? If so, the person who owns that opportunity should be aware that a conversation has taken place. All these more intelligent things that can really add layers on top of just the basic contact detail gathering that a lot of companies might have traditionally done.

Stefan: Yeah, I truly believe that there is no reason why conferences, congresses, trade shows, events, that you can’t collect the same level of information and have the same level of accountability, analytics around what you’re doing.

Chris: Uh huh

Stefan: we’ve used that example of everyone sat around the boardroom table in a marketing meeting, reporting back on how PPC has gone, how’s that content performing, and then it comes to the trade show manager and they’re like…”yeah, it went well, we spoke to some people”

Chris: yeah, relying on anecdotes from sales people that have been sent out on the road, and how many business cards they’ve come back with, how many good conversations did they have, rather than an actual data driven decision on future events.

Stefan: Yeah, and another thing to talk about as well, and we were talking about this earlier, was the power of face to face communications. And you know, trade shows are expensive to be at. It costs a lot of money per square metre to be there, but it offers what a lot of other channels can’t offer. Your website – you can do a great job on it but it can be quite faceless? Vs. having your team on the trade show booth and being able to start that potential customer journey. It’s so important to collect that information early on would you say?

Chris: Yeah, I think there is no doubt that events have still got an incredibly important role to play. Trade shows and exhibitions in particular have an incredibly important role to play. You know there is research that changes every few months, on how many touch points are required to business in B2B, certainly in the mid-market to enterprise. You’re talking 30, 40 touch points maybe over a 12 month period. And then the beauty and benefit of face-to-face interaction is that, I think, it allows you to accelerate somebody down the pipeline and progress that opportunity. I don’t think you can beat that interaction of face-to-face. It’s why events will always be here and always be so powerful. So yeah, I think they can play a really important role and will continue to play a really important role as B2B buying becomes more complex. Our customers’ buying process can be 6, 9, 12 months, sometimes longer. So yeah, events, like I say, play an important role in that overall buying journey.

Stefan: Ok, so another thing you and me have both spoken about this on the podcast before, the very first podcast. GDPR

Chris: GDPR

Stefan: benefits around proper lead capture. Do you want to talk about that again, now that the GDPR dust has settled!

Chris: Yeah, I think there’s lots of ambiguity and still I don’t think everyone has really nailed down how GDPR is impacting the events industry. Clearly, lots and lots of data is collected and passed through events. I think what we’ve been seeing is, certainly in the B2B world, customers are taking more care over the type of information they’re collecting, how they’re collecting it and what they do with it. So I think that, although it’s causing more headaches, I think it’s having a positive impact on events, and it’s making businesses think more carefully about the type of information they’re gathering, and what they do with it next. So the days of, like I say going back to badge scanners, you know, the days of just scanning as many badges as you possibly can, anybody who even walks near your booth you scan them, and then we’re going to stick this spreadsheet into our marketing system and fire out a load of emails, I think those are the kind of bad practices and bad behaviours that GDPR is really kind of starting to stem. So, I think it continues to evolve and we continue to see people thinking a bit differently about how they’re doing things.

Stefan: yeah, those tactics don’t work anymore. It’s time to move on.

Chris: yeah, a little anecdote. I was chatting to a company the other day, at a show, someone got thrown out for standing near the exit and pretending they were involved with the show itself and scanning every single person as they left the hall.

Stefan: wow

Chris: yeah, pretty cowboy tactics. Luckily they were spotted and asked to leave.

Stefan: yeah, I’ve seen people you know, have a coffee stand on their booth and you get a coffee and you get your badge scanned. I’ve never heard of people just being..security!

Ok, so we’re coming to the end of September now, so we’re moving into the next quarter. 2019 is well and truly on the horizon. What do you think lead retrieval looks like in 2019?

Chris: Good question. I think..let’s look at what’s going on in the wider B2B martech space, because that is an ever changing, evolving world. And if you look at the trends, I think people are moving, I keep hearing this term “CDP” or, “customer data platforms” will replace kind of your traditional CRM/marketing automation, into the next level beyond that. Hyper personalisation, you know, really having all your systems talking to each other through APIs and integrations, doing really smart things with data so that when you interact with customers, you’re in a really informed place. It’s inevitable that that’s got to bleed out into events. Events should not still be stuck out in the cold when all this other cool stuff is going on back in the office. So I think we’re going to start to see this two worlds getting closer together. Will it all be joined up by the end of 2019? Probably not, I think it’s a bit of a longer term play here, because you’ve got lots of different powers at play. But yeah, I think it’s inevitable if you’re a big business and you exhibit regularly, events are a really core part of what you do, you’re going to want to be doing more of the intelligent, informed activities at event, joining that world up.

You know, someone visits your booth and they are an existing customer or an existing prospect, you should know that and be able to pull that information up there and then, and be able to join it up with all your existing data that you’ve probably already got on them. You shouldn’t have to collect their company details again when you know they already exist in SalesForce, so I think that’s the kind of direction of travel here. It’s going to take some change, like I say there are lots of powers at play there and lots of siloed data I think exists in the events industry with organisers and registration systems and other event tech providers in the mix so, there’s some work to be done but that for me is the longer term direction of travel.

Stefan: Yeah, I agree and I think truly in 2019, there is so much potential in, let’s call it exhibiting as a channel, purely because if you go to a marketing technology conference, you’ve got your CRM software there, marketing automation, CDP as you mentioned, email software, you know, lots of things people have got. You’re not going to change the solution unless you’re growing as a company. And if you looked at, I keep saying channels, but I like to refer to events and exhibiting as a channel, but if you lined them all up, you’re probably looking for efficiencies of a couple of percent in each one to bring them up for the next quarter and quarter and quarter. But with exhibiting, there’s huge growth there. It could be your biggest, your newest, biggest channel, done right.

Chris: Yep, yeah exactly. I think we know technology is enabling people to do events, exhibit at events more effectively and yeah, all the signs show the B2B events industry continues to grow, so I think there is a lot of untapped potential in events for businesses if they are able to do, certainly the lead retrieval part, more effectively.

Stefan: we’ve kind of looked at what makes a lead. What are the benefits of collecting real leads, what are those benefits not only to the business, but to that individual on the stand, who is responsible. Perhaps it’s the sales person or the events person. What are the benefits to them?

Chris: Yep, sure, well I think there are multiple benefits to taking lead retrieval forward and like we talked about, gathering that more intelligent layer of information about those conversations. So I think, first and foremost, it’s removing all the manual work that’s currently required after and event. You know, we regularly speak to companies who spend days, if not weeks wading through spreadsheets manually after an event, trying to decide what to do with all these contacts they’ve collected. Eradicating that, having a clear idea of what you should do with each lead after the show based on the information that was discussed on the show floor, and the kind of judgement of the sales rep who had the conversation. So there’s a big removal of manual work, a big time and cost saving there, and then more importantly than that is following up appropriately with those people. If someone’s just doing some research, they’re not really showing any buying intent, they’re just looking around at the options, great, get them into a marketing workflow, start nurturing them with information on the things they’re interested in. But, you know, if someone is ready to buy, they should be, like we talked about, go straight into your CRM, followed up by the correct person, personally followed up, you know, it’s not a generic email, an SDR might be following up with them or the sales rep they spoke to, they’re already tuned in to what was spoken about. They’ve been sent to the right territory manager for example. These are the kind of things. The benefit of those two, with better information, higher quality information and speed of follow-up, clearly you’re then talking about a higher conversation rate, because you’re progressing those leads much quicker than your competitors are. You know, if your competitor on the booth next door is, two weeks after the show, still filtering their spreadsheet, you know, two weeks after the show, you might have had a demo, booked that person in for a follow-up meeting, you might have fast tracked them down the pipeline, and ultimately that’s what it’s all about. Delivering revenue and sales on the bottom line and delivering true event ROI and visibility of that. So yeah, loads of layers of benefits, I think, to doing lead capture/lead retrieval more intelligently.

Stefan: yeah, I agree and I think from the perspective of the buyer, potential buyer or the visitor to the trade show, they’ve taken time out of their schedule to come along, their head is in the kind of trade show when they’re there. They’re going to find out different suppliers, they’re going to speak to different people, they’re going to book meetings and demos, and then they leave. And then they’re on to the next task, so, I often think with follow-up, you’re almost reminding them what they spoke about.

Chris: yeah

Stefan: because they’re covering so much stuff. So, you’re just making even their life easier, because you’re giving them the context back.

Chris: Yeah, exactly. We’ve all been to shows where two, three weeks later, you’ve had the follow-up email that probably doesn’t even have your name. And it’s kind of like “hey, we met at this event” no one knows what we spoke about, here’s a load of information. But imagine the power of sending someone an email the very next day, personalised to them, with a record of what you spoke about, who they spoke to, what the next steps are, what’s been agreed. That can be really powerful and as you say, a reminder to that person. They might have had 30 conversations, 40 conversations around that particular show. So a reminder to them, you’re following up quicker than your competitors and other companies exhibiting and as I say, it leads to all those benefits I spoke about.

Stefan: yeah, it should be the standard.

Chris: yeah!

Stefan: I want a piece of content, I come to your website, I download it, I know that I’m going to get followed up, I know i’m going to get the piece of content. That’s exactly what the experience should be for a trade show or conference, I think.

Chris: Yep, 100%. Yeah, again, I think the marketing website comparison is a really great way to look at visitors to your website, visitors to your exhibition booth, to your shop window. You’ve got that opportunity to have that initial conversation and decide what should happen next with this person, and do it there and then.