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Guest Blog: AcquireB2B on How to Best Engage Prospects After an Event

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by: Will Schnabel (@wschnabel)
25 January 2013

What better way to start 2013 than with a partner blog focused on event strategy for the year ahead? This month we’re excited to have Mac McIntosh, founding partner of our partner AcquireB2B, providing his tips on the best methods to engage prospects post-event.

[caption id="attachment_5623" align="alignright" width="125" caption="Mac McIntosh, founding partner, AcquireB2B"]Mac McIntosh[/caption]

If you’re like most B2B marketers, you will have events in the coming 12 months ... and they’re going to generate leads. What you do with them will make the difference between income and infamy. Here are some tips to make your event follow-up more successful.

Don’t Leave Home Without It
AmEx’s successful tagline provides good advice – put together all the materials you’ll need to meet potential prospects’ requests at the show. That includes having printed and digital literature, ways to gather and transfer attendees’ information into your CRM and/or marketing automation system, and the option to fulfill requests directly from the booth.

If the show provides badge/card readers, use them. If those readers don’t integrate with your laptop or provide enough customization to let you include qualifying questions, there are affordable services that make it easy to handle everything in one place – even on a smartphone or tablet. Even a business card scanner can be useful at any shows that don’t offer digital options or don’t warrant the investment in a lead handling service.

It’s all in the interest of responding to prospects’ interest while their memory of what they saw and what you talked about is still fresh. Keep up the momentum to keep them intrigued – both by what you have to offer and by your obvious interest in their needs and business.

Email = Immediacy
The email addresses you collect from business cards and booth visitors are an open invitation to send stuff ... ASAP. Even if it’s only a simple, “Nice to have met you” or “Thanks for your interest,” it acknowledges the individual and conveys that you consider them (and their needs) important. It’s ideal, of course, if you can attach requested information or include links to relevant content before the end of the day or, even better, before they leave the booth. You may be the first or only one to follow up so quickly, which makes a great second impression.

Paper Still Flies
Mail similar acknowledgment letters and collateral materials to prospects who didn’t share their email addresses. Even if you did use email, postal mail can reignite their interest, reinforce yours, and give them something physical to write notes on, share and put in a project file.

Postal mail also won’t be stopped by email spam filters – silent barriers that might prevent recipients from knowing that you sent them what they asked for. That makes “redundant mailing” cheap insurance.

Calling Counts
As soon as the event is over, create a schedule for calling each prospect you added to your CRM system. Then, after giving them a few days to catch up after the event, start dialing. Mid-morning tends to be best – for both you and your prospect – and plan to make the calls in uninterrupted sets of 10. Don’t do anything else until you’ve tried to reach all 10. It keeps the distractions at bay.

Remember that this isn’t cold-calling. Each person expressed interest when you met them or they visited your booth. But to put the prospect at ease and avoid sounding like just another salesperson, open each call by saying something like, “Hi (prospect’s name), this is (your first and last name) from (your company name). We met (or ‘You stopped by our booth’) at (conference name) in (city name) last week and, if this is a good time to talk, I’m curious to know what you thought about the (conference/event/tradeshow).”

By asking, “I’m curious to know what you thought about the conference,” you’ve established a reason for the call that’s comfortable for the prospect. Asking whether it’s a good time to talk sets a warm and professional tone. Besides, if it isn’t a good time, the prospect won’t be receptive anyway — but you can then ask what time would be better.

Continue the conversation with questions like “Did you get the information you needed at the conference?” or “There were XXX booths you could have visited during the conference. What made you come to ours?”

The answers will tell you more about the prospect’s business, situations, interests and needs. And whether prospects are sales-ready or not, tell them what you think the next step should be and ask if they agree.

Date Before Proposing
Three out of four sales come from leads who aren’t ready to buy right away, only 1 in 4 buys within six months, and half can take a year or more. So you’ve got to find a way to “date” them until they’re receptive to a business proposal.

If you want to win over a potential spouse, you’ll focus on the things they care about, what they like most about you, and what you’d offer that no one else can. Customers are exactly the same. So create a series of email communications that addresses these points – one at a time. With a regular schedule, your prospects will get to know your best qualities until they’re ready to consider a commitment.

Of course, just conveying a slew of ideas about why you’re meant for each other won’t do much. You’ve got to include offers or calls to action that encourage prospects to take the next step. Educational offers – how-to guides, checklists, case studies, white papers, and Web or live seminars on relevant subjects – work extremely well.

The key to generating income from prospects (instead of infamy in the opinion of your boss) is providing the right prospect with the right offer at the right time. That’s basic. Success, however, comes not from saying something completely different every time you contact them, but from maintaining the communication so you’re ready to be seen and heard when they’re ready to look and listen.

Mac McIntosh is the president and principal consultant for B2B sales lead management at his consulting firm, Mac McIntosh Inc. He’s also a founding partner of the B2B lead generation agency AquireB2B. Mac helps companies develop strategies and tactics to increase their number of highly qualified sales leads, nurture leads that are not yet ready to buy, and convert them all into paying customers. His programs track and measure results to ensure the highest possible return on marketing investment.

Get specific suggestions about how to manage your organization’s event leads with a free one-hour phone consultation. Click here to set a time.

Related Resources:
1) Blog: "How B2B Marketers Can Use Location-Based Marketing at Events"
2) White Paper: "Know the Score: The Ultimate Guide to Scoring Customes and Prospects"
3) Blog: "7 Marketing Tips from Our Partners at Amplify 2012"

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