Suggestion to Virtual Event Exhibitors: Don’t treat your lead list like a telemarketing list!
With the wealth of attendee engagement data generated (and stored) at virtual events, exhibitors have unique insights regarding the worthiness of their lead pool, giving them the ability to intelligently segment their leads and generate unique follow-up paths. All too often, however, exhibitors treat their virtual event leads as a single pool, applying the same follow-up activities to the entire pool. In a Virtual Edge posting titled “Don’t Overwhelm Your Attendees“, Michael Doyle writes about aggressive email follow-up by virtual event exhibitors. I’ve observed the same behavior as Michael describes – in addition, I’ve attended a number of virtual events that resulted in follow-up via phone call.
A colleague of mine once received a follow-up phone call from a virtual event exhibitor – the call was placed by a telemarketing staffer, who had no knowledge of the virtual event (that my colleague attended). The staffer simply had a name and phone number, with a goal of generating interest in the company’s products and services. In my opinion, virtual event exhibitors will not be effective in handling lead follow-up in this manner. Virtual event leads should not be treated like a generic lead list!
I recommend that exhibitors segment their leads into A, B and C categories. Be forewarned – this is going to take some effort, but it will pay off in the long run with stronger ROI. Here goes:
- The “A” leads – typically, your top 10% of leads. They registered and attended the live virtual event. They generated numerous touch points with your booth, your booth reps and your content (e.g. 8 booth visits, 20 document downloads, 5 chat sessions with your booth reps). They generated at least one meaningful chat session with you – whether it was private, 1:1 chat with one of your booth reps – or, a meaningful chat/dialog via group chat in your booth or a lounge. The “A leads” are requesting a follow-up engagement with your sales team – either implicitly with their level of engagement with you, or explicitly by requesting a sales follow-up via chat or email.
- The “B” leads – the bulk of your leads – they registered and attended the live virtual event and had at least one booth visit or one view/download of your content. So yes, they interacted with you, but didn’t do enough to gain “A lead” status.
- The “C” leads – folks who registered but didn’t attend; attended but didn’t visit your booth; or, folks from other exhibitors or from the virtual event show host or vendor. Note: based on the structure of the virtual event sponsorship tiers, you may or may not gain access to these leads. Intelligent follow-up is based on intelligent segmentation – exhibitors should certainly review their lead list to identify leads they should not be following up with – and those leads should be removed from the “C lead” pool. There’s no use in following up with attendees from other exhibitors, attendees from the virtual event host or the platform vendor company. In fact, doing so only makes your company look disorganized.
Now that the important task of segmentation is complete, follow-up paths can be identified for each pool. Here are my suggestions:
- A leads – schedule immediate sales engagements, via phone, virtual meeting or in-person. If the “A lead” had extended engagement with a sales rep in the virtual event, have that sales rep present during the engagement, to continue the conversation and carry over the context from the virtual event. If the “A lead” had great discussions with a product marketer or product manager, invite that person to join your sales rep(s) on that initial call. For any explicit requests (pricing proposal, additional documents, etc.) – make sure to send the information over in advance of the engagement. Think of the “A leads” as ROI waiting to happen – so treat them like royalty.
- B leads – it’s important to be strategic with the “B leads” – don’t hand them over to telemarketing for a vanilla phone call and don’t start sending them generic email blasts about your products. Instead, study their behavior at the virtual event – what content interests them? Then, create communications that deliver value and personalize the content based on their activities – for instance, send them a White Paper that provides additional information to the Case Study that they downloaded from your booth. Again – this is going to take work on your part, but it’s work that’s well worth it.
- C leads – this may sound counterintuitive, but – don’t follow up with the “C leads”. Instead, build a new profile in your CRM system (or, update the existing profile) and associate the information you learned [e.g. they’re interested in the topic of the virtual event, but did not attend]. Your job as a marketer, then, is to match subsequent interest (from the “C leads”) back to their user record. What you’re trying to do is assemble an engagement profile over time – perhaps the “C lead” does attend the next virtual event and visits your booth – or, the “C lead” registers for a podcast you’ve syndicated with a tech publisher. Now, you have so much more data for your sales team. Don’t feel like the acquisition of a “first time C lead” gives you the right to start bombarding her with phone calls and emails. Consider the “C leads” as potential – where the value is to be delivered (with subsequent engagements).
In summary, your sales team should receive only the “A leads”. The “B and C” lead pool remains under the auspices of Marketing, until a point where any of them reaches an A list eligibility. This approach should make everyone happy – Marketing, Sales and even the atttendees/leads!