As anyone who may have read any previous blogs of mine might gather, I’ve been at Alchemis for a VERY long time. But prior to that – in the final 6 years of the last millennium in fact – I had a somewhat different role. I used to work in contract publishing. Not just any contract publishing though – our market was very niche. The company I worked for produced the official catalogues for a whole range of trade exhibitions.
Some of these exhibitions were absolutely huge, such as the International Spring Fair at the Birmingham NEC which was one of the largest trade shows in Europe and had several thousand exhibitors. This event had become so large that the NEC (already an absolutely massive venue) actually had more halls built onto it which, I was told at the time, were needed to cope with the ever-growing number of exhibitors and visitors for this specific show.
Now, you might be wondering what any of this has got to do with new business and lead generation?
Well, a lot actually. The exhibitors were investing tens of thousands of pounds (or in some cases much more) into this show. They needed to attract the right leads to their stands in an intensely competitive environment. And one of the main tools that potential buyers would use to find relevant sellers was the exhibition catalogue. This was long before the internet was anything like it is now. In fact, I doubt that half of the exhibitors even had websites back then.
So, this brick of a book (and it really was, believe me), was an essential component to the success of the businesses at the show.
But what about the rest of the year, after the event has finished? Obviously there will still be some level of new business generated from incoming leads. In those days, from the potential buyers who had kept their catalogues as an ongoing directory of suppliers and these days, more likely from buyers searching the internet.
However, resting on your laurels and waiting for the calls to come in is not really the most sensible option. Just because you’ve invested time, energy and money at a show doesn’t mean you should not be proactive after it finishes. Ensuring that you make the effort to follow up the visitors/potential buyers you met at the show is essential – after all they may be the warmest leads. But what about the vast pool of potential buyers may not have got round to you?
Going back to my earlier story about the Spring Fair, I remember one year when travel to the show was absolute chaos due to heavy snow. Vast numbers of trains were cancelled from London (and everywhere else) to Birmingham, the roads were gridlocked and visitor numbers plummeted that year. Whilst that is pushing towards a worse case scenario, you will understand the point I’m making.
Think of it this way: a robust, proactive new business strategy can be like having a successful exhibition every day. Come rain (or snow) or shine, it will put you in front of a constant stream of decision makers that you know are in a position to buy your services, regardless of whether you met them at an event or not. Put simply, exhibitions are a great lead generation tool.
Let me finish by paraphrasing a very famous ad slogan once used by the National Canine Defence League… “a new business strategy is for life, not just for Christmas.”