Spielwarenmesse: New business partners: strategy tips for a successful trade fair follow-up

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New business partners: strategy tips for a successful trade fair follow-up

from Daniel Gundelach

How do you know if your presence at the Spielwarenmesse® was a success? Exhibitors are wise to clarify while planning their trade fair presentation already which vital questions they want to follow-up on, and how to monitor their success. These tips will help you to find out just how successful your performance was at the trade fair.

Trade fairs are a complex marketing tool that offer major potential. Months of planning are followed by highly concentrated efforts during the actual trade fair. Talks are held and information is exchanged at length between exhibitors and visitors. Exhibitors collect information about market developments and naturally, their peer market players.

When the halls of the trade fair close, more often than not companies return to their daily routine only to be overwhelmed by a wave of activities. Hundreds of emails that arrived during the trade fair need to be replied to and employees are back to the daily grind.

Yet which contribution did the participation in the trade fair provide within the context of successful marketing and sales? What has happened to the many contacts that were generated during the trade fair? Did they really lead to concrete projects? And above all is the question which managerial levels and corporate controlling are asking more and more frequently: Was the trade fair performance worthwhile from a business perspective?

Time to harvest - this is how your performance at the Spielwarenmesse® will bear fruit.

There is one fundamental requirement which has to be met in order to find an answer to these questions: Conversational and contact information from visitors must be recorded and managed in a structured manner in order to accurately measure success. After all, at the end of the day, in addition to soft factors such as industry presence and conveyance of your company’s image, one thing will primarily remain: The talks held with visitors during the trade fair. And this is a very concrete prospect for business which a company can generate during the trade fair.

How can I prepare for the collection of contact details at the trade fair booth?

In a first step, define jointly with your trade fair steering team (sales, marketing, product management, poss. management) the process of recording contact details and think about which procedure is best for contact follow-up and information management. Then communicate the intended flow and the standardised fields of information which are to be answered during each conversation to all employees on booth duty. Digital lead retrieval systems or paper-based dialogue forms make it easier for your employees to document conversations and contacts.

How do I handle recording contact details at the booth?

In order to evaluate information from a lead, it has to be recorded immediately following the dialogue. Notes taken during the talk will signal to your visitor that you take their concern seriously - but remember to take these openly in front of the customer. Also, remember to add contact details or the business card of your lead to your notes. In any case, be sure to agree on the next step, whether this means sending out information material, setting up a next meeting, or submitting a specific offer.

How elaborate is it to record contacts professionally?

With the right tools you will save yourself a lot of work for your booth team -  and guarantee that all information and minutes templates are already digitised at the trade fair. Professional lead management systems such as Z-Scanner by Spielwarenmesse® help you to record the registration information of your visitors to the booth using a Smartphone or tablet App. All crucial contact and dialogue information are quickly recorded and made available for follow-up processing, for example to dispatch information material.

  • Record contact data directly and digitally at the booth.
  • Paper-based minutes should be immediately digitised. This saves all vital information.
  • Draw on competitive advantages by promptly following up on your trade fair contacts.
  • Collect the following information from your booth visitors: Contact details, date, who engaged with the visitor, visitor category (customer, new contact, etc.), content of dialogue (e.g. interested in specific products), agreed next steps, who will handle the contact internally, open field for comments.
  • Be careful with ABC categories. Dividing visitors into a specific value category should not be conducted in their presence. Visitors will rate the relevance of their concern, if in doubt, differently to how you will. This will only create unnecessary debates.

Why is trade fair follow-up so important?

Your visitors hold many talks at a trade fair - most likely, even with your competition. In this context a study by AUMA showed that one in two trade fair visitors wished that exhibitors were more dedicated to trade-fair follow-up. This offers a particularly high potential to distinguish oneself from the competition.

What marks a good sales-related trade fair follow-up?

Good sales follow-up is marked by a rapid response as well as relating specifically to the visitor’s request. Your visitors expect you to observe the commitments you made - and, for example, to promptly forward information material and offers. A lasting positive impression of the trade fair visit is also ensured with the help of a thank you letter which ideally should be sent out directly following the visit.

The effort it takes to send out a thank you letter daily is rather small. Mailing texts and a mailing template are best created prior to the start of the trade fair already. Moreover, you only need an Excel list containing the name, salutation, language and email address of the visitor.

Documenting this information will take up approximately one minute of your time per visitor. With 50 visitors per day, you will therefore require approximately one hour, inclusive of sending out the thank you letter. This hour is a worthy investment.

How do I benefit from the experience of all parties involved in the trade fair?

The feedback from all employees and service providers involved can provide vital starting points in order to plan the next trade fair performance. Feedback meetings and employee surveys should be conducted immediately following the end of the trade fair, in order for the fresh impressions, ideas, praise and also criticism to not be lost. The question about critical events (particularly positive things and themes that must absolutely be improved) helps the persons asked to consolidate the answers.

How do I know if I was successful?

One of the most important sources of information is the evaluation of your trade fair contacts. The dialogue documentation offers precise information about the number and the quality of talks held at your booth. But even passive contacts are to be viewed as a success. Those who perceived you at the trade fair and how the attitude of visitors towards your company is rated can be established with the help of a visitor survey.

Further vital markers on how to measure success include:

  • the relation of trade fair visitors overall and the number of your contacts
  • the number of contacts per booth team member
  • the number of contacts per target group
  • sales ratios

A genuine assessment of the success at the trade fair based on the dimension of sales, however, is more often than not too short-sighted. On the one hand there will be many new contacts with whom new projects will be implemented at a later point in time. On the other hand, the overall evaluation of your trade fair performance should also include the soft targets that were achieved such as industry presence, communication of information and the knowledge gained about other players in the market.

How do I establish my own key figures?

Specific trade fair key figures should already be established when defining your trade fair goals. This allows you to guarantee that planning already takes into consideration how and to which extent the respective key figures can be rated. Moreover, market research measures can be used during the trade fair in order to obtain reliable information about achieving trade fair goals.

On-site visitor surveys or online interviews, for example, help to establish the effect of your performance on your image as well as visitor satisfaction and the future willingness to buy on behalf of the visitor. “Mystery Visits”, meaning test visits for analysing the service quality and benchmark analyses to check your booth concept - even in comparison with the competition - constitute further vital tools. This information allows you to derive specific approaches for the optimal advancement of your trade fair participation.

Vitals standards for a successful trade fair performance

  • Trade fair contacts are the standard of your success.
  • In the end, it is the quality of your contacts that counts. Differentiate by customer, prospects and additional target groups as well as the potential of the individual visitor.
  • Compare your visitor structure at the booth with the organiser’s information.
  • When measuring success, let your specific trade fair goals be your guide. Remember that trade fairs have a long-term impact and next to generating contacts and sales offer many advantages - such as, for example, conveying the company’s image or increasing awareness.

Checklist: What you should definitely pay attention to for your trade fair follow-up:

  • Define prior to the trade fair already all processes related to follow-up and success control so that you can handle the additional workload from the trade fair contacts.
  • Establish jointly with your trade fair steering team which objectives you pursue with your participation in the trade fair and what you have to do prior to the trade fair in order to actually achieve these goals.
  • Professionally recording the contact information at the booth is a fundamental requisite for trade fair follow-up.
  • A swift response to trade fair talks secures a competitive lead.
  • Get feedback from all parties involved: with feedback meetings and/or online surveys.
  • Evaluate exactly which of your trade fair objectives you achieved and which ones you did not.
  • Create an action plan for your next participation in a trade fair.


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