Walking the floor at the Enterprise 2.0 conference today I was struck how after all these years the needle hasn't moved much in terms of how a technology company markets themselves. There's the obligatory vendor pavilion with the obligatory hard copy collateral, obligatory demo stations, obligatory elevator pitches and the obligatory badge reading and card swapping.
So I ask again. "Why?"
Part of the answer lies in the conference circuit itself. This is how its been done in the past, its worked and this is how future conferences are planned. In-person networking events are an entire ecosystem of vendor, consultant and author promotion. Business gets done because of these events. Education gets done. And these are good reasons to have them. But looking at that 7% number and thinking about the Cost Per Trade-show lead, I gotta think from the vendor perspective, there's a lot of room for improvement.
Consider the following scenario...
Good Booth staff talk to many individuals. They engage in conversation. They have the opportunity to actually figure out whether or not the individual they are talking to is worthy of future conversation -- of lead nurturing. What if... what if, your booth staff were trained to ask a series of questions, say 7 in all. And based upon those 7 simple questions, you could predict what type of buyer your booth staff was talking to? Or if indeed they are buyers or influencers at all?
"Hi, I'm Steve. I am the VP of Biz Dev for Widgets Inc."
"Hi, I'm Joe. What does Widgets Inc. do?"
"We make Widgets! Can I ask you a few questions?"
"How large is your organization?"
"About 1000 employees"
"Do you have a large technical staff?"
"Nope. Pretty small in fact, that's why we don't do a lot of custom development work"
"Who makes purchase decisions for Widgets at your company?"
"Oh that's the Executive Leadership Team. We have to prepare ROI business cases and present them at the Monthly Operations Meeting -- our MOM."
Ding Ding... you're done! In this hypothetical, Steve has determined that this company, in high likelihood has an ROI motivated buying style, at least in regards to its IT purchasing behavior. Now this is a simplistic scenario and granted that it won't work in all cases but even just getting your booth staff to focus more on conversation generating firmographics rather than uni-directional broadcasting is a step in the right direction.
Now, each set of questions (a Question Tree) for an individual organization will be different based on their products, services and market space but you get the idea. And it will take some work to figure out ahead of time, WHAT ARE THE QUESTIONS which identify and predict what type of buyer you are talking to. But if vendors at trade shows were to begin to take this type of scientific approach to how they talk to folks I guarantee that they will see an uplift in quality of time spent on these leads. Meaning, the profile of the leads that the firm will follow up on will have a higher likelihood of being qualified to pursue. Further, the firm can de-prioritize those folks that won't ever buy from them.
Many CMO's bemoan the quality of the leads or lack of leads found at conferences. Providing some training around conversational rigor can go a long way to improving the value vendors get from trade show attendance. And that makes it all worthwhile.