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Trade Shows: The Fortune Is in the Follow Up

Trade Shows: The Fortune Is in the Follow Up

December 5, 2018

I just returned from NTA (National Tour Association) Annual Travel Exchange in Milwaukee. I had over 25 appointments with tour operators and plenty of time to network with other tourism professionals before we all headed back to our jobs—or to the next tourism trade show.

You can be effective and create interest in your product while you are at the convention, but how do you best turn that interest into a booking that creates revenue for your business or destination?

Supplier Network Discussion
I am the chair of NTA’s Supplier Network—we have a meeting at Travel Exchange where we can meet as a group of suppliers (hotels, attractions, museums, passenger trains and boat cruises, theme parks, casinos, etc.) and discuss issues and best practices. One of our topics this time was follow-up—what’s the best way to do it? We had some interesting strategies. One young man at our table says he waits a month unless someone has requested something specific; another person mentioned sending handwritten thank you notes to her top customers; someone else mentioned sending a small gift; but we all agreed that some sort of follow up is the key.

The 80/20 Rule
For those of you not familiar with the 80/20 rule, check out this post. In a nutshell, some actions are very important to ensure success, but most are not. So let’s make sure that the actions you take are in the 20 percent category.

Priority Follow-Up
Did a tour operator ask you to follow up with something specific? Images, pricing, nearby hotel contacts? If so, put an asterisk next to those requests and take care of them within a week. I used to take care of these requests that day—or the day I returned—but sometimes my responses would get lost in the “back to work” flurry of catching up.

Now, I wait a few days. Make sure your subject line reads “Requested follow-up from show.” I have even had some operators tell me to put a code word in the subject line so they can sort through their emails quickly. If you follow up promptly with these operator requests, you have done your 20 percent. Those actions alone should bring in more business in the next year.

Secondary Work
Other operators have expressed an interest and now have your profile sheet and contact information. Hopefully, you took some notes during your appointment or scribbled something on the back of their business card as you waited in the buffet line together.

That data should all be entered into your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software. But here’s the trick—it shouldn’t be you doing that work. You need to train someone else to do that. I can hear you already: “We don’t have enough staff, it’s only me in the department,” etc.

But if you lost the use of both of your arms tomorrow, you would figure out some way to get the information loaded. There is probably frontline staff who would love a new responsibility; I have had frontline staff who told me they LOVED doing data entry. (What?!)

Why should someone else be doing this? So you can go on to do your highest-value work. For example, was there an educational session that gave you new ideas? Did you meet someone who you could develop a partnership or new itinerary with? Do you need to redesign your profile sheet before the next show to fix errors or add something? Can you create a follow-up email blast with great information and images that can go to all your trade show contacts at once? Those activities are truly the best use of your time and talents.

I actually spoke on the 80/20 rule at the conference and heard that one of the attendees left the session and went and told her boss she shouldn’t be doing data entry anymore because there were more important things for her to do to help grow the business. Brava! Here is a copy of the worksheet that accompanied the session.

Finding the Right Trade Shows
While I was at the show, several people asked me about the best trade shows to attend if you are interested in getting more business from the China market. NTA is certainly one of them since they have been working actively in this market for years. In my 2019 China Market Sales Program, we will spend time learning about the best trade shows to reach Chinese operators and how to make a successful sales call in this unique business environment. I still have some spots left and the program starts in January. Click here for more details. I would be honored to help you become successful in this market.

This article was republished with permission and originally appeared on Sally Davis Berry.