Editorial: It's in the follow up

By Len Monheit
[email protected]

In any successful business interaction, interest must be generated. Capitalizing on this interest through effective follow up separates leading organizations from the rest.

Whether it's a sales call, customer service interaction, on-line inquiry, or tradeshow, what you do immediately after the interaction is as important as the initial contact itself. Successful organizations understand, that until you've executed on your commitment or new lead, you have opportunity, but not results.

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Let's consider a typical tradeshow. Preparation can consume hundreds of hours, thousands of dollars and create stress and anxiety throughout the organization. From a marketing standpoint, it is frequently the ultimate objective of programs and initiatives.

The task list for a tradeshow is daunting: material development, advertisements, press conferences, booth management and staffing, samples, sell sheet preparation and buzz generation. At the show's conclusion, you've got business cards, lead sheets and inquiries as you race out of town to the next event or back to the office. Show results seem positive, hundreds of new leads and contacts generated, successful meetings with existing clients concluded, and momentum for your products or services.

In short, you've done 80 percent of the work for less than 20 percent of the return. (There's that Pareto Principle again).

What differentiates companies in a competitive environment is their ability to execute on their commitments, and follow up is key. For the new clients you've met for the first time, it's critical that your follow up strategy be appropriate, organized and effective. This takes planning, discipline and commitment from the entire organization.

Consider the people you've met at the show. Like most event attendees, they've been bombarded with materials and impressions, and as a potential supplier or partner, you've got to stand out from the post-show noise. And although you may have made an excellent first impression, capitalizing on that excitement and opportunity is not automatic.

Some of the pitfalls include:

  • Product, publication or catalog requests that never get fulfilled
  • Phone follow ups that never materialize
  • Articles and press releases requested but which never appear
  • And commitments made that never materialize.

It's difficult, when returning to the day to day environment, to ensure these issues are taken care of, but the cost of failure can be high, both in missed opportunities as well as lapsed credibility. Pre-show planning makes the process easier,. Follow up must become a high, if not driving priority, as the show is concluding and certainly once it is over. Most of the resources have been allocated already, now it's time to gain the rewards.

Systems need to be in place to ensure:

  • Lead development and qualification process is activated
  • Materials are distributed to interested people
  • New strategic opportunities and threats are identified and prioritized

For too many organizations, the end of the event marks the end of the process. Planning of the next event begins, a cycle which repeats until the end of the season or the fiscal year. And only then does the organization review results and modify its approach and strategy for the coming year.

Business activity in many industries is driven by tradeshow and event schedules. When decision making processes and commitments are oriented solely around the event schedule as well, the industry tends not to operate at real world speed and opportunities are missed.

It's very unfortunate when the end of the show or call marks the end of the communication rather than the beginning. Whether the process is called Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or by any other name, one cycle must blend seamlessly into the beginning of the next, the 'FOLLOW UP'.

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