Two years ago we asked the question “Are You Generating iPod Fishbowl Leads” I was reminded of this by a recent post by Simon Favre “You Can’t Give Stuff Away Fast Enough” about his recent experiences at DAC 2010 working in both the Global Foundries (GF) and TSMC booths.
At TSMC, the attendees needed to get something like 8 stamps on a card to get the nice giveaway TSMC was providing. At GF, there were only 3 stamps. It turns out that when people have to collect a large number of stamps for one item, they will not stand at your booth any longer than it takes to get the stamp and maybe fill out a contact card to be entered in another drawing. When there are fewer stamps to collect, people will actually stay for several minutes and listen to a pitch. Sure, there were some people just wanting a free introduction to a topic outside their main area, but that’s OK. It’s good to spread the word, particularly about DFM. Some people were probably just being polite to listen before collecting the stamp, but still they listened. When there are too many stamps to collect, you don’t even get that. Bottom line, if you’re giving stuff away, you can’t give it away fast enough.
How would I change this? Require fewer stamps, but require the attendees to stand still for 5 minutes to hear a brief pitch to get the stamp. Maybe if it’s interesting and pertinent, they’ll stay longer than required, but they should have to stay at least a little while to get a stamp. In trying to get more partners into the pavilion, and get attendees to see more partners, it actually works against the partners. I had way more interested people listening and discussing at GF than at TSMC. Just my observations.
I think this points up a disconnect between marketing and sales in a large firm that can be fatal for a startup. If you collect someone’s card because they wanted an iPad or other give-away, but they fundamentally have no interest in your product, you are creating an hour or more of wasted effort by your sales team per “unqualified lead.” In larger firms the marketing folks keep score on lead generation not revenue so they have a perverse incentive to do this. In a bootstrapping startup everyone needs to realize that revenue is what keeps the lights on and the dream alive.
The more time you waste on irrelevant prospects is less time you can spend on the truly interested. Even wasting five minutes of booth time pitching to the uninterested is less useful than being ready for a conversation with someone who is interested. I understand that you need to talk to a lot of prospects to find a few that are truly interested, and that it never hurts to tell your story to someone who is even mildly interested (although you might make exceptions for offering a lot of detail to competitors).
But as a startup you have to ruthless about prioritizing your sales efforts: this means you are asking as many questions of someone visiting your booth to make sure that they have a problem you can help solve or a need you can address as telling them about your product and your company. That way when you take their card or scan their badge you can make a note of the level of follow up that is warranted.
It’s much more useful for a startup to come back from a show with five or ten very interested prospects and a few dozen “warm leads” than hundreds of cards from visitors who wanted to win that iPad. In the latter case, if you haven’t had the time to have a conversation and understand your visitor’s situation and issues, you will have no idea of who is really a hot prospect and where to focus your efforts.
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