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For 99% of Marketers, there’s one simple thing that’s killing your TRade Show ROI

I’d like to make the case that your lead capture process is killing your event ROI. Or more accurately, it’s killing your ROI if you’re like 99% of the Event Marketers out there.

How you engage prospects and capture leads is a pivotal step, linking hundreds of thousands of dollars in investment with hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales pipeline.

And this is where so many Event Marketers are unwittingly destroying thousands in qualified sales pipeline.

But before we get to showing you why such a simple step can result in the evaporation of so much sales pipeline, I’d like to provide a bit of context. Specifically, I’d like to show how the event landscape is shifting, and how these shifts affect the average Event Marketer.

I’ll then dive into how the tactics you use to engage prospects result in fewer qualified leads, and how these tactics can even help put your competition in pole position to influence your prospect’s buying agenda (your sales team’s worst nightmare).

Finally, we’ll work through a quick calculation — to quantify how much sales pipeline you could be leaking — before introducing our thoughts on how to make things better.

(Hint: it involves fast-tracking your most engaged prospects directly to a hand-picked salesperson, one that’s best-placed to carry the baton from there-on...)


Let’s dive in!

Let’s start by setting the scene. There are many who believe that the event marketing landscape is shifting. Today’s Event Marketers live in a world where:

"Have you ever seen a sales guy who didn’t have dozens of overdue calls scheduled in their Salesforce account?"

But why do these shifts affect the average event marketer?

In short, because if it hasn’t happened already, the productivity of a company’s event marketing team is about to loom much larger on the radar of CMOs and senior marketing leaders.

There’s three reasons why event productivity could see an increased focus:

So event marketers are seeing shifting sands at a time when marketing leaders are paying more attention to them. How can they level-up?

We believe the prime area of focus should be lead management.

How an Event Marketer manages the process of engaging prospects has a direct impact on the sales pipeline generated at events. When it comes to improving your results, there’s no other area that provides so much bang for your buck.

But what’s wrong with our current lead capture process?

Every Event Marketer works hard to drive traffic to their booth, and hopes to engage prospects when they get there. But most processes for dealing with leads are massively inefficient.

These inefficiencies can be grouped into two areas: most lead capture processes waste salespeople’s time and kill promising opportunities.

You're wasting salespeople's time

Most trade show leads should not be sent straight to Sales.

Sales teams want sales-ready leads, not just mountains of names to call. But mountains of names is exactly what most event lead capture systems provide. And many of these ‘leads’ were probably never really interested in the exhibitor’s offering. More probably, they were just too polite to refuse having their badge scanned. But many exhibitors simply export this data from their badge scanning tools, and dump it straight into Salesforce.

When this approach to capturing leads is used, let’s compare the efforts exerted versus the rewards gained for both the booth staffer and the salesperson:

Salespeople are under pressure to make this quarter’s quota, yet they’re also under pressure to help Marketing show their events investment is bearing fruit.

Most salespeople are adept at prioritizing their own tasks, and few would choose to prioritise calling through large lists of badge scans provided by Marketing. More often than not, it’s just not an impactful task.

So the least marketing can do is lend a helping hand, starting with filtering out prospects who are just a drain on sales resources (and who contribute towards diminishing any goodwill Sales may have had for their Marketing counterparts).

It kills promising opportunities

We’ve all heard anecdotes of large deals first gaining traction at events. Events can provide motivated prospects and great leads.

But traditional lead capture processes can kill promising opportunities in a number of ways.

So how do these issues affect your sales pipeline?

Let’s say that for every 100 prospects you meet, 20 are qualified and ready to speak to Sales. Of those 20 prospects, 10 will be accepted as sales qualified, and — if you have an average value of, say, $30k — they account for $300k of sales pipeline.

But because of how you capture those leads, it’s difficult for your sales team to locate the sales-ready leads. Every lead looks the same.

For the sales-ready leads they do find, there’s a loss of momentum and an increase in competition.

And when those few discussions do occur, they’re not as valuable — there’s a lack of context and a loss of first-mover advantage. Suddenly you’re looking at 4 or 5 SQLs instead of 10.

So for every 100 prospects you’re engaging at the booth, you’re losing half your SQLs, accounting for $150k of qualified sales pipeline. All because of a process gone wrong.

(Charlie Liang of Engagio runs through a similar exercise in this article, surmising that every 'lost' follow-up meeting with a trade show lead is worth $6,250 in sales pipeline. As Charlie says, it's like "lighting money on fire".)

So what do we suggest?

We suggest that Event Marketers fast-track the most engaged leads directly to a member of their sales team; specifically a hand-picked colleague who is best-placed to help this particular prospect.

And yup, that means taking time, at the event, to book your salesperson into the prospect’s calendar.

Why might this be a better approach?

So what needs to happen to make this work?

Well that's an article for another time, but here's a sneak peak.

It involves a change in how you engage prospects at events, and it more than likely involves a change in the tools you use (as you probably guessed it would!).

Engaging prospects:

The quickest win you can have is to refrain from blindly scanning every prospect, and think about how you can help your colleagues in Sales get a head-start on those most-engaged of leads.

Sure, you'll still "just scan" the vast majority of your booth visitors, but keep your eyes peeled for those VIP prospects, and be ready to act accordingly.

Tooling up:

All you really need to book prospects into your sales team's calendars is a laptop with working internet connection and, of course, access to every calendar you'll need.

If you're looking for something that's a little more sophisticated, check out Captuvate.

It works offline, it helps you route prospects to the most appropriate salesperson (useful when you don't know your whole sales team by name), it takes care of timezones, it sends intelligently-crafted meeting invitations, and it syncs with Salesforce.com.

Wrapping up

In the fast-paced environment of many events, I’m not suggesting there’s no place for quickly scanning a prospect’s badge. There’s a lot of value in making hundreds of ‘first contacts’, which can then be nurtured within your marketing automation systems.

However, I’d argue that all leads are not created equal.

So if you’re looking for a way to generate more qualified sales pipeline from the same events investment, I’d suggest you could do worse than changing your approach to engaging the 10-30% of your most-motivated prospects. And playing matchmaker between these guys and your own in-house specialists is a great way to do just that.

Brian Anderson

Co-Founder of Captuvate

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