The Booth Mom’s Hot Button: Why a Business Card is NOT a Lead

June 1, 2017

Candy Adams

Candy Adams, aka “The Booth Mom®,” is a hands-on trade show exhibit project manager and trainer. She helps exhibitors maximize the return on their exhibit investment using the best strategic, tactical and training practices. 

I was recently reading a trade show industry blog and one of my pet peeves jumped out and grabbed me. My blood pressure immediately shot up. It was an article on how an exhibitor enticed attendees to drop off their business cards in a bucket at their exhibit to win a TV and how wonderful it was to get so many more trade show leads. The only problem is, the cards – that they called “leads” – had no known connection whatsoever with the card owner having any interest at all in their product.

I hate to be the one to break the bad news to the exhibitors who do this, but what they have are not leads. They have business cards….and they are NOT the same as leads!

Having a fishbowl in your exhibit gathering business cards for a high-ticket item raffle is not exactly qualifying show suspects into prospects (the one exception is if your product is what you’re raffling off, which usually isn’t the case). What you do have is a bucket full of cards of contestants who want to get something for free. 

Now don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with collecting business cards if your objective is to, say, populate a database for a mailing list and you mark the business card bucket with a sign that says, “Want to be added to our mailing list? Drop your business card here__.”  Then you’re on the right track and meeting your objective.

But if you’re working with your sales force to get them accurate, complete qualifying information they can use to contact prospects after the show and turn those prospects into customers, just gathering business cards is downright counterproductive. In their eyes, it brings down the value of all the leads you present them since there is little value in just contact information. You’ve polluted your entire lead pool by pawning off general attendee contact information they could have gotten buying an industry mailing list. You’ve also wasted a lot of your sales team’s valuable time.

Common elements of a qualified lead

If you asked your sales staff what information they need to turn a trade show contact into a warm call worth making after the show, they’ll probably list most of these things:

1. Accurate contact information, including correct title and verified phone number and email address

2. A decision-making role in influencing, recommending or purchasing the type of product or service you’re selling

3. Which product(s) or service(s) the prospect expressed an interest in

4. An expressed need for your solution to solve their specific problem

5. The timeframe when the prospect needs your solution

6. The budget available for acquiring your solution

7. A desire for a specific post-show follow-up (email, catalog, phone call, demo, proposal, etc.), with a timeframe attached (call by June 15, email catalog URL immediately, add to e-newsletter database before Q2 mailing, etc.)

I can’t remember the last time I saw any of this information on a business card. It’s not on my card. How about yours?

So, I guess there is a difference between a business card and a “hot” qualified lead.

The Wheat from the Chaff

And, if you’re serious about sorting out your real prospects from your “trick or treaters” at a show who just want to score your giveaway, add a final question to your lead form. A simple yes or no answer will do the trick to cull out at least 30 percent of the “bag people” who have no real interest in your product. Add the final qualifying statement: “I’m only here for the giveaway. No follow-up required.  Yes    No”

Your next stop should be straight to the circular file with those who checked “Yes!”

Your sales force will love you for not burying them in contestants or swag collectors, and you’ll be a hero for saving them time and effort!

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