Book Supplement: Virtual Event Lead Management (#leadmanagement)

January 22, 2011

Introduction

In “Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events,” Chapter 6 is titled “Score and Follow Up with Leads”.  This really could have been Chapter 7 – and instead, Chapter 6 could have focused on important steps to consider before scoring.  Before you import your virtual event leads into your CRM system, consider these important steps first.

Step #1: Beware of the “Drive-By Viewing”

Someone visited your virtual booth – congratulations! Not so fast.  Make sure the booth visit was not a “drive-by viewing”.  I define a drive-by viewing as:

  1. One (and only one) visit to your booth
  2. “Visit time” of 5 minutes or less
  3. No engagement with others while in the booth (e.g. group chat, private chat)
  4. No interaction with booth content (e.g. booth tabs, documents, links, etc.)

I see plenty of drive-by viewings from booth visitors. Some visitors simply want to see which companies are exhibiting at the virtual event.  And, some virtual platforms have “previous” and “next” buttons in the virtual booths, which means that drive-by visitors may simply be doing a quick tour of all booths.

Drive-by visitors are not leads – they’re NAMES!  My recommendation for drive-by visitors:

  1. Go ahead and import them into your CRM system
  2. Schedule a “thanks for visiting” email
  3. Using simple text links, provide them with a few options (e.g. receive more content, schedule an appointment, etc.)
  4. Respond accordingly – and, if they do not open the email or respond to the offers, cease communications [for now] and nurture them over the long term

Step #2: Beware of Existing Leads and Business Partners

Your virtual event leads can look like a pile of dominoes.  You may not be aware that within that pile of dominoes are existing sales prospects, along with current customers and business partners.  When you exhibit at a virtual event, your sales team is inclined to invite current prospects to come visit – and, your existing customers and partners are inclined to stop in to see what’s new.

Warning: LEAD IMPORT CAN BE DANGEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH.

If you don’t manage your leads well, you may import “hot prospects” (who are already in your CRM system) and trigger a follow-up email to them.  The result is a turning back of the clock with those prospects – imagine finalizing your purchase decision, only to have one of the potential vendors call on you and ask if you’re in the market for their product!

Personal Story: I attended a virtual trade show and did a “drive-by viewing” through an exhibitor’s booth.  I’ve been a long-time subscriber to this exhibitor’s email newsletter and know some of the employees there.  My drive-by viewing was done simply to see who was staffing the booth.

A few days later, I received an email from the exhibitor, asking if I’d like more information.  This exhibitor probably should have known that I was a long-time subscriber – and, routinely click on the links in their newsletter.  Given this, the follow-up should have been more tailored, or skipped entirely.  If I was contemplating a purchase  decision with this exhibitor, that follow-up email could have cost them my business.

Step #3: Build and Import Engagement Profiles

Virtual event platforms have built-in RFID, which means that all interactions from sales prospects (with your content) are tracked and recorded.  The platforms assemble a detailed “engagement profile” for you – the worst thing you can do is throw away that profile when the lead is imported into your CRM system.  My guess is that the majority of marketers today do just that.

Instead, create custom fields in your CRM system to capture this data (e.g. number of visits, documents downloaded, transcripts of chats, etc.).  The more data, the more informed your sales team.  Just like an auto insurer reviews your past driving record and a loan officer reviews your past credit history, your sales team should have the benefit of a prospect’s past engagement data.

Step #4: Curate Leads as You Would Fine Art

You can automate portions of lead management, but you can’t automate the entire process.  It’s easy to automate the de-duping process, which ensures that new records are not created in your CRM system when there’s an existing lead record.

However, it’s not as easy to automate the business intelligence that needs to be applied to your leads (e.g. you can’t do AI on your BI). Examples of business intelligence rules:

  1. Knowing (and spotting) competitors
  2. Knowing (and spotting) existing business partners
  3. Knowing (and spotting) industry experts, analysts, media [who should not be followed up with]
  4. Spotting “creatively submitted” leads, such as “Mick E. Mouse” or “Barack Obama”

Sure, you can automate part of this by filtering on a list of company names, but there are bound to be some leads that slip through the cracks.

For instance, users may have a typo in their company name – or, may list their company differently that what you’ve entered in your filter list.  Your leads are the lifeblood of your business, so you should curate them as if they were fine art.  This means that manual review will always be a part of the lead management process.

Conclusion

Lead Management is not easy.  However, perform these steps before your first virtual event lead hits your CRM system – and you’ll be better off.  Your sales team will receive a far higher percentage of qualified leads – and they’ll thank you for that.


Comparing Physical And Virtual Trade Shows

September 16, 2010

At Focus.com, Alex Gonzalez posed a question about the pros and cons of physical and virtual trade shows.

I’d like to share an insightful answer posted by Steve Gogolak, Director of Solutions Innovation at Cramer.

Pros/Cons as an attendee

Travel – the convenience of not having to travel is great for the participant. What’s even better is being able to invite a colleague who may be interested despite not having any intentions to visit the event. It’s the “hey, Jerry would really want to see this” moment realized.

Experience – this is highly dependent on the effort put forth by the booth owner. A lot of booths fall flat in a virtual world, but the same is true in the real world. If an exhibitor understands how to use the features within the booth well, it will make for a good experience. The use of self-directed video is a great example here. The more an attendee browses through video, the more fulfilling the experience. Chat is functional and generally gets the basics across, but will not be comparable to an in-person experience until two-way video is an option.

Privacy – browsing privately is much less intimidating online than in-person. The biggest opportunity an exhibitor has with a visitor is in the attract loop. In a virtual booth, the visitor can be presented with a finite “pitch” regarding what the booth is about. They remain captive for 30-60 seconds as the watch the video, which is effectively qualifying them as a lead (if they bolt, they weren’t interested anyway). It’s hard to stand in a physical trade show booth for a minute and not be bombarded by sales people.

Pros/Cons as an exhibitor

Cost – oh where to begin. A smart exhibitor will shift funds away from travel, employee time and expensive scenery to content production. More content that is suited specifically for a virtual booth is what the best exhibitors will focus on.

Reporting – this has already been mentioned, but near-real-time data about who is in your booth, who has visited and what they did is readily available. Similar results can be achieved in the real world with RFID systems, but the cost is near prohibitive for all but the largest companies. The data that emerges from a virtual booth can keep your sales team busy for weeks worth of follow up.

Commitment – I haven’t seen that many exhibitors really commit the time to understanding what they are doing in side of a virtual booth. They need to see it as a mini-website. An extension of their online presence, targeted for the specific audience that is attending the event in question. The reality is that 95% of the time commitment is spend in content development since the actual tools to “build” the booth are so darned easy to use. In my opinion, the limiting factor is always the content, not the technology.

Re-purpose existing content from other marketing initiatives. As Dennis mentioned, you’re online… so use the assets you already have available and treat the booth as a traffic driver, feeding highly-qualified traffic into your other marketing nets.

View the original Focus.com discussion here:

http://www.focus.com/questions/marketing/live-vsvirtual-trade-shows-pros-and-cons/

About Steve Gogolak

Marketing & Communication is my passion because I love to tell stories. I love to see the look on someone’s face when I’ve hit a chord that resonates with their needs, wants and desires.

Marketing is changing. It is moving further and further away from the “blah blah blah” of a bullhorn in the hands of large companies with big budgets and more toward the targeted messages and subsequent conversations between real people and real buyers. In short, marketing is “getting real” in a big way. What does that mean? It means that companies with remarkable products and services that demonstrate remarkable passion for their buyers’ needs will succeed more quickly – and those who rely on bullhorn-style marketing to force feed their buyers will not.

I’m passionate about marketing because real stories told by real people sell – fast and frequently. I tell stories and I help my clients tell theirs every day.


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