Salesforce.com’s big Dreamforce conference is over. The keynotes have been distilled down to talking points for the media. The hangovers from the after parties have been dealt with. The Black Crowes have flown away, the hangovers from the after parties have been dealt with. Things are back to normal. Too normal.
This year I managed to stop by nearly every booth, hearing pitches from brand new Salesforce systems integrators to established partners like Bluewolf and Astadia. My badge was scanned so many times there’s a horizontal laser burn across my standard blue trade show shirt. It was great meeting a lot of people.
But the silence since then has been deafening. Like a group trip to Vegas in which the shared experience binds individuals together in a momentary relationship, so has Dreamforce led many of the vendors to disappear from the tableau. To the companies that followed up, kudos for following the first rule of trade shows: it’s still not over when the final bit of swag is given away
For the others, think about the most powerful tool you have at your disposal to support your trade show presence: lead nurturing. It’s not a difficult concept: You stay in touch with people who have expressed interest, periodically checking in with bits of information that you think will be of interest to them. In that way, you cultivate the relationship you started when they stopped by your booth at the show.
Here are a few best practices to consider when putting together a lead nurturing program:
1. Plan to follow up no later than 48 hours (not business hours) after meeting someone. There’s plenty of research out there to suggest that by waiting longer than that, your prospect is more likely to consider this a new interaction than a stay-in-touch one.
2. Unless the person you met expressed an interest in talking directly to a salesperson, make sure your next communication is not salesy in nature. The goal is to build rapport, authority and interest, so don’t spoil the nascent relationship by getting too commercial.
3. Something is better than nothing. Pick a message, make it interesting and relevant and start using it to follow up on your online or offline campaigns.
4. Don’t get too complex. Many companies I work with attempt to boil the ocean by putting together a comprehensive lead-nurturing program equivalent to the Lead Nurturing Ring of Power, able to nurture anyone at any time. Unless you have a marketing operations team that will function as your internal traffic department, you’ll find that your program will get too unwieldy to manage effectively.
5. Don’t try to do it manually. There’s plenty of software out there that allows you to schedule periodic emails that include filters that route a recipient to a particular communication path depending on his responses and then measures the effectiveness of your efforts. Many of these products are like Swiss Army chainsaws – useful and powerful and capable of doing great damage (like sending the wrong message to your entire database). As Spiderman said, with great power comes great responsibility.
6. Plan your strategy well in advance of your trade show presence. You know how much goes into attending a trade show – travel and logistics, print and display considerations, not to mention meeting with customers, media and analysts at the show. If you leave the lead followup discussion for the end, it won’t get done. Start thinking about it during the quiet moments between campaigns--hey, like now.
7. Bring in help. There are a number of experts available to help companies plan and develop their lead-nurturing strategies. What’s valuable about them is they come equipped with tools that you can use to plan future nurturing campaigns.
When you engage these experts, make sure you ask a lot of questions so you don’t need to continue bringing them in for each nurturing campaign you put together.
Humans have a fundamental need to connect to each other. Lead nurturing is a powerful technique for staying connected to your customers as prospects, ensuring that you develop long-term relationships rather than Vegas-like hookups.