I am often asked how I stay organized. There are so many different programs and systems out there.  The main thing is to find one that works for you, and be sure to use it.  I talked a little about what I do to organize my leads in my eBook, “How to Maximize your Time and Investment in Trade Shows”.  Since I just got back from 2 shows and am in the middle of using my system, I thought I’d give you a closer look at what I do.

First let me tell you that my system is very hands on and has been working for me for years now. My sister who helps me at a lot of shows knows and understands it – if you have help, it is really important that they get the system because you are counting on them to gather information if you are busy or out of the booth.  The best part?  It costs very little to implement!

tradeshow-leadsYou need 4 things to succeed with my system, all available at your local office supply store:

  1. 5″ x 8″ notepad
  2. pens
  3. stapler
  4. 6″ x 9″ envelope

When you meet someone at a show, take notes on the pad as they look at your portfolio.  What collections do they say they like?  What comments do they make?  Write down any personal conversations too to help you remember who they are.  (For example, my sister talked to one woman about college choices since they both have seniors in high school– remembering that when I follow up and asking where her son decided to go will make a good impression.)

Always ask for a business card “so I can follow up with you” and staple it to your notes.

NEVER leave your notes in your booth overnight. Treat them like cash — you don’t want them to go missing!  I take the pages back to my room and put them in the envelope in a safe spot each evening.

When I get home, I go through the pages and separate them into 3 piles, depending how good the lead seems to be.  A “high priority” pile to follow up with first, “medium priority” and “long shot”.  But I follow up with each and every lead.  Going to the show is only 20% of the work, it’s the follow up that will make or break your business.

I then take my piles and enter the notes into a Word Doc… I have one for each show I’ve ever attended.  This becomes my “action list” and I can check off what I promised to email or send, make notes about any email or phone contact, etc.

Finally, I enter the basic contact information from the business cards into my Excel database so my new contacts will be on my postcard mailing list.  I also put a small note on the card, like “A ’09” meaning I met them in Atlanta in 2009, before adding them to my Rolodex.  That way I will now how recently I met someone and remember where I met them if I call them in the future.

My goal is to do some sort of follow up with each and every person I spoke to at a trade show within 2 weeks.  Sometimes that can be quite a feat, but I believe it’s worth it.  I look interested, serious about my business and serious about getting their business.

Be creative with your art and diligent with your follow up!

~ Tara