Outbound Marketing: Are Trade Shows Eating Your Budget?

The old adage is true:  Time is Money.  The more efficient your process is for developing customers, the higher the ROI on your marketing budget will be.

This month, we’re going to take a look at some of the traditional sources of leads and how much they cost.

We’ll start with the beast in all marketing budgets: the trade show. Of course, depending on the size of your company and the money you have to spend, the size of your booth will vary.

For this, we’ll consider a 30 x 40 space at Process Expo 2013. That puts our price per square foot at about $32, including drayage. We’ll also assume that you have an existing booth, so our estimate excludes a new custom booth build or rental. However, according to the Exhibit Designers and Producers Association’s 2011 Economic Survey, current custom exhibit costs range from $144 to $160 per square foot.

Projected Cost

Knowing that the B2B sales cycle can be quite lengthy, it will take a few weeks or months before you know for sure what your gross profit was from the Process Expo. For our purposes, let’s say you had a gross profit of $200,000 with 98 leads generated. Remember that gross profit only includes sales that happened as a direct result of your company’s attendance at the Expo.

  • ROI    (200,000 – 134,787) / 134,787= 48.3%
  • Cost per Lead 137,787/ 98= $1,375.38

Wow! An ROI of 48.3% is amazing! But wait. Is that your true ROI? And a cost per lead of almost $1,400! Let’s back this truck up.

The one crucial piece of the puzzle missing here is this: how many of these leads were qualified, sales-ready leads? And how many were garbage? According to multiple industry resources, anywhere from 5% to 30% of your leads from a given trade show are qualified. Meaning that’s the percentage of leads that have full contact information and application needs, etc.

So for argument’s sake, we’ll say that 30% of your leads from the above show were qualified. That translates to about 29 leads that can be handed off to your sales people right out of the gate. If your sales people have time to jump right on these leads, that is.

The stats below are from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), particularly, their Exhibitor Sales Lead Capture and Follow-up Practice Trends research report released in October 2012.

  • The top two most common methods organizations use to capture leads are: lead retrieval system offered by an exhibition organizer, 74 percent, and paper-based lead form/collect business cards, 59 percent.
  • Qualifying leads is infrequent, with only 30 percent of exhibitors capturing demographics and other lead qualifier questions, in addition to contact information and product or service interest information.
  • Customized emails, 64 percent, and phone follow-up tailored to address attendee product or service interests, 59 percent, are the most common follow-up methods. Fulfillment of these efforts is completed within two weeks by over 70 percent of exhibitors using each method.

The point is this: pre- and post- show connections are a vital part of trade show lead generation success. This includes comprehensive marketing tactics to bring traffic to your booth in the first place. Even if you come out with 29 “qualified leads”, those prospects still need further qualification before they’re ready to be handed off to your sales people. To say nothing of the other 67 leads, which deserve to be vetted as well. When all is said and done, your ROI is going to be driven down and your cost per lead driven up.

The bottom line:

B2B companies are allocating 12 percent of their budgets to trade shows but only getting 9 percent of their leads from that them. (Source: HubSpot)  Is it worth it?

B2B Customers Need Lovin’ Too

One of the most vital components of any successful marketing strategy is customer feedback. Or, more to the point, finding out what is NOT working for your customers.That’s right, leads that are qualified OUT are just as important as leads that are qualified IN and pushed along through the nurturing pipeline. Great companies always want to know how they can improve.

Backing up just a bit..

Just a few short years ago, most B2B companies were still completely averse to the customer-centric philosophies that their B2C peers have long since embraced. Today, however, the B2B world is firmly seated on the customer service bandwagon.The problem remains, however, that most B2B marketers are still missing the mark when deciding where and when to focus their budgets.

To right that train, B2B organizations need to develop a much deeper understanding of the modern Customer Decision Journey (CDJ). Where the old sales funnel assumed a linear purchasing path – customers take in information; narrow down their choices; kick the tires, and submit the purchase order – the CDJ moves away from the “funnel” way of doing things. It recognizes that the decision process, in fact, is anything but linear. (Forbes)

The B2B Customer Decision Journey

It’s not enough to identify the decision makers in an organization. For marketing and sales activities to be effective, companies need to focus on those points in the decision journey where they can be most successful in influencing those decision makers. For some that might be procurement or finance. For others, it might be the CMO or even the end user. And for others still they might be a specific set of segments. (McKinsey & Company)

If you want to read more about the Customer Decision Journey, there is an outstanding article here from The Harvard Business Review.

Beyond the CDJ

What marketers need to remember, however, is that just because the way in which we look at the B2B buying and decision-making journey has changed, our customers’ feelings have not. An unhappy customer is an unhappy customer, no matter what our fancy marketing charts and tactics may entail.

These are still facts that any good marketer should be able to deliver to his or her CEO:

  • What do our customers think about us?
  • What is it about our company that disappoints our customers?
  • What can we do to improve?
  • Are our customers happy with our customer service?
  • What isn’t working?

You may be asking yourself, “Can’t I find that out with some sort of customer survey?” Well sure you can, but a good quality survey takes time and money and usually only happens once per calendar year. “OK,” you say, “but that’s what my sales engineers should be telling me.” In a perfect world, yes, but let’s be honest- do your sales engineers have the resources and time to make that happen?

The Connects Component

With Connects, you get instant customer feedback through daily reporting. This feedback is infinitely invaluable to a CEO and can help companies immediately put more dollars on the top line.

  • What products work in certain industries and not in others?
  • Are there product features that need to be adjusted?
  • Are there business practices that need to be improved or changed?
  • Are you happy with your level of service and support?
  • Which marketing tactics work and which don’t?
  • Should you invest in that industry event or not?
  • Do you customers find your e-tools helpful?
  • Are there functionalities that would change that opinion?

Markets change so quickly. Your competitors change their products and product positioning so frequently that it can be difficult to keep track.There are too many things in terms of technology and methodologies impacting the market today, and economic struggles impacting your customers as well, to not invest in a daily customer feedback mechanism.

Salespeople usually aren’t frank enough to give you this kind of information. They tend to blame lost opportunities on products, be it price or features, while this may or may not be the case. The truth is that most sales engineers aren’t trained to ask the right questions and actively listen to get this information from people.

Due to time constraints, most sales engineers unfortunately drop the ball when it comes to service and support after a deal is closed. Customer service is so, so important, and Connects does this for you.

Failure is a strong word. It brings on visions of loss and defeat. In business, failure is just as important as success. Companies lose and gain market share all the times. It’s a constant battle to be the best or have the best product. That’s a good thing, competition means everyone has to be working hard to succeed. But for every winner, there are many losers. Failure is important because it helps companies and individuals to identify their weaknesses.
(Source: Mike Fisher, examiner.com)

The bottom line: 

No matter how you look at your customers’ decision-making journeys, always remember to find out your customers’ pain points.

Telemarketing May Be Your Missing Link

Whether your company is a small start-up, a well-established brand or something in between, chances are you’re not doing all you can in terms of creating and moving leads through your pipeline. As a result, you’re missing out on untold dollars in sales. Telemarketing may be your missing link.

Last week we talked about the importance of lead nurturing. I touched on telemarketing in that piece:

Whether automated or manual, a message should go out letting your prospect know you are going to contact him or her. Better than an email is a phone call. If you don’t have in-house telemarketing, invest in a high-quality, professional telemarketing firm that can speak to prospects on your behalf.

Yes, we’re going to talk about lead nurturing again! Because it is that important. This week, however, we’re going to focus solely on the advantages of using telemarketing to create and move leads through the sales pipeline.

Right out of the gate, let’s define what we mean when we say telemarketing. Just as you wouldn’t hire just any Joe off the street to head up your sales team, you should put time and care into selecting a top-notch telemarketing team. We’re not talking about your typical call center telemarketing. We’re talking about high-quality, professional telemarketing.

The company you choose will essentially be an extension of your brand, so you want a group that will take pride in and ownership of the projects they are given. In other words, this should be a true partnership, with your telemarketing team working earnestly towards your company’s goals. And remember, you get what your pay for.

Must-Haves for Your Telemarketing Team:

  1. Callers should know your brand as well or better than you know it yourself.
  2. Callers should immerse themselves in your products/services.
  3. Callers should be knowledgeable about your target industries.
  4. A given, but callers should be friendly, outgoing and great listeners.

Your telemarketing group should be industry pros in the following core competencies:

Lead Generation/Qualification

Take all of those leads from trade shows, advertising, your website, etc. Most of these will be qualified to some extent, some may be totally green. Throw them all into the mix.  Let your group help you sort through all of your data and refine these into highly qualified sales leads ready for follow-up.

Additionally, if you have any special programs, marketing initiatives or want to break into a target industry or company, your team should be on task.

Typical campaigns might include:

  • New customer creation
  • Email or direct mail campaign follow-up
  • Territory expansion
  • Web-based inquiries
  • Trade show registrations or inquiries
  • Webinar registration or follow-up
  • New product launches

Lead Nurturing (Did I mention how important this is?)

79% of marketing leads never convert into sales. Lack of lead nurturing is the common cause of this poor performance. (Marketing Sherpa/ KnowledgeStorm)

One of the most critical aspects of your sales cycle is keeping leads warm until they are ready to purchase.  Sales teams don’t have time to nurture the pipeline, they need to close deals. Enter your telemarketing team. I almost want to call them your nurturing team, because really, all of these core areas are or relate very closely to nurturing.

Your team should keep you connected with your prospects, handing them over when the prospects are ready to take the next step. Your ROI will be maximized and your pipeline kept active with well-paced ongoing dialog and direct communication.

Lead nurturing means:

  • Staying in front of your prospects with new developments and offerings
  • Connections will be deepened with relevant decision makers
  • New sales opportunities will be identified
  • Your sales pipeline is up-to-date and always active

Brian Carroll, founder and CEO of InTouch says, “Imagine your marketplace is like a field of banana trees. Your marketing people are those who nurture and pick the bananas. Bananas are harvested when they are green, and they turn yellow as they ripen. Fully 95 percent of your leads are like harvested green bananas, and, off the top, your sales team needs only the other 5 percent, those that are ripe.”

It’s those 95 percent that need to be nurtured.

Account Mapping and Expansion

Sometimes the easiest way to increase your sales is to leverage your current customers and grow these accounts organically so they meet their full potential.

  • Identify new contacts and decision makers
  • Discover new projects and programs
  • Understand the needs of your customers
  • Identify other locations or divisions to replicate success

Appointment Setting

Imagine breaking into a territory for a new product launch with a full week of appointments. Whether you are looking for face-to-face or phone-based appointments, your telemarketing group should help your sales team keep their calendars full- not just hand over leads for future follow-up, but work directly with your team to coordinate next steps. Ensure that you:

  • Maximize your sales team’s time while out in the field
  • Increase ROI for sales travel costs
  • Leverage investments in trade shows or conferences

So, confession time- all of the best-in-class core competencies I listed above are things that we offer here at Connects Marketing Group. In fact, I’m confident in saying that we are experts in all of these areas. I try to keep the blog here non-“salesy,” but I’ll make an exception with this one. 

In my previous life as a Marketing Communications Manager, I worked with Connects Marketing Group for six years, so I have the benefit of having partnered with CMG before I actually worked for them. Basically, I’m telling you this piece is not just me toeing the party line.

During those six years that we used CMG, we used all of the services listed above and then some. We saw an ROI that far outpaced all of our other sales and marketing activities.

“In my term at Trelleborg Sealing Solutions, we were able to sustain double digit, year over year, growth for over seven years.  Connects Marketing Group was an essential part of that growth performance.  They were able to connect our sales professionals with key decision makers or product specifiers with pre-meeting knowledge of our offerings, improving our sales meeting effectiveness. I always considered them to be our ‘secret weapon’ for growth.”

– Tim Callison, President Marketing Americas, Trelleborg Sealing Solutions

The bottom line: If you’re not taking advantage of a high-quality, professional telemarketing group, you should be. It’s more than likely the missing link in your quest to turn sales opportunities into dollars.

Lead Nurturing is Not Optional

Want to hear something shocking about B2B lead generation? A full 79 percent of marketing leads never convert into sales opportunities. (Source: Marketing Sherpa/ KnowledgeStorm) That means if you’re not taking the necessary steps to move your leads through the sales funnel, you might as well be throwing 79 percent of them in the trash.

Alarming, right? Especially when you consider the amount of money that goes into generating those leads in the first place. For example, how much did your company spend on that latest trade show? How about that advertising campaign or website redesign? Makes me cringe just thinking about it- especially the trade shows. Talk about throwing money down the drain if you’re not putting 100 percent into your leads. There’s a reason the finance guys break out in a sweat when they see you coming come budget time.

What is the Missing Component?

Whether your marketing budget is sky’s-the-limit or you get by on a shoestring, converting leads into business should be your top priority. A critically important, but often overlooked step is lead nurturing. The term ‘lead nurturing’ refers to a system for continuing a conversation with a prospect from initial contact until the prospect is sales-ready and/or the lead is closed and the business is lost or won.

Brian Carroll, founder and CEO of InTouch says, “Imagine your marketplace is like a field of banana trees. Your marketing people are those who nurture and pick the bananas. Bananas are harvested when they are green, and they turn yellow as they ripen. Fully 95 percent of your leads are like harvested green bananas, and, off the top, your sales team needs only the other 5 percent, those that are ripe.”

It’s those 95 percent that need to be nurtured.

Here’s my take on the basic essentials of lead nurturing:

1. Quality over quantity. Market towards and attract prospects that would make good customers. Common sense, right? Yes, but you have to remember to not stuff your sales funnel with noise. You might get 100 leads from an editorial you had published, but be sure you know how those leads were qualified. Are they just readers who clicked on the page? Or are they readers who clicked on the ‘send more info’ button? Same with the trade shows. Did the prospect’s business have projects for which your company is a good fit? Or were they through your booth to get free pens or other items?

2. Respond instantly. Whether automated or manual, a message should go out letting your prospect know you are going to contact him or her. Better than an email is a phone call. If you don’t have in-house telemarketing, invest in a high-quality, professional telemarketing firm that can speak to prospects on your behalf. As a matter of fact, numbers three through five below could be handled by the same firm.

3. Stay in touch! This doesn’t mean you need to badger them, but follow-up in a timely fashion, checking on the progress of projects, etc.

4. Engage. Offer to send relevant brochures, films or technical papers.

5. Keep detailed records. All exchanges with prospects should be recorded and extensive notes taken. You can do this in your business management system (like Salesforce), or your telemarketing firm can take care of this for you.

6. Close the sale. If the lead happens to not go your way, ask for a referral, and don’t forget to keep this contact in your system. You many not win the business this time, but you’ve laid the foundation for the future.

Compelling Statistics

Here are some statistics for you:

  • Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales ready leads at 33% lower cost.(Forrester Research)
  • Nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads.(The Annuitas Group)
  • Companies with mature lead generation and management practices have a 9.3% higher sales quota achievement rate. (CSO Insights)

Lead nurturing should be an integrated, strategic part of your marketing and sales plans. As you are crafting your marketing budget, lead nurturing should be a key component.

Says Brian Carroll, “Good, sound, effective lead generation is more often than not acknowledged to be the biggest single issue for contemporary business-to-business marketers today. It has also been pointed out, however, that up-to 80% of marketing expenditures on lead generation and collateral go to waste for lack of commitment and discipline, ending up in the scrap heap because the sales department doesn’t know what to do with them. The secret to successful lead generation, and in turn marketing, in the business-to-business space today is process. This process, that converts more inquiries into qualified leads and qualified leads into sales, is called lead nurturing.” (startwithalead.com)

The bottom line: Lead nurturing should be a strategic activity, not a tactical afterthought.