Promo Pros Share Their Secrets For Successful Follow-up After The PPAI Expo
It’s been a whirlwind week at The PPAI Expo, with myriad experiences and encounters with familiar and new faces.
So, what’s next? Following up with the people you met is a critical part of any conference or trade show. PPAI Media asked a few industry veterans to share their secrets for successful follow-up in the days and weeks to come.
The Distributor Perspective
Email and social media top the list of the distributors we talked to, but don’t forget the potential power of an old-fashioned phone call. It’s the personal touch that will make your efforts stand out.
Kirby Hasseman, CEO of Hasseman Marketing (PPAI 314957, D5) and a featured speaker at this year’s PPAI Expo conference, relies on a blend of old-school business cards, LinkedIn and automated outreach.
“We all have business cards,” he says. “I try to actually put them in one place and then work to connect on social media using the business cards. In addition, I try to include a printed piece with a QR code or something that makes it easy to connect with me, and that QR code is usually linked to a digital ‘give.’”
When people opt in for that digital gift, they are entered into Hasseman’s CRM software, which helps automate and track follow-up efforts. “It’s so crazy during and after the show that it’s hard to do it individually,” he says.
Get creative with your delivery, Hasseman advises, and provide value. “I love thoughtful and fun follow-up. There is a barrage of emails usually, so the ones that stand out have more substance, or they spend some time engaging me to get a sample, a spec sample or something that provides value to my business.”
As a distributor, Andrea Kramer, president of City Apparel + Merch (PPAI 242048, D6), says suppliers are more likely to follow up with her than vice versa, but adds that she may follow up with an email or a card to a new connection. She also loves to connect with new contacts on social media – specifically LinkedIn, and occasionally Facebook.
“I also like an email follow-up a few weeks after the event,” Kramer adds, “but occasionally a phone call to support the communication on more pressing topics.”
Nadav Raviv, senior national account executive with GBS BrandConnect (PPAI 812585, D4) and a 2023 PPAI Rising Star, relies on photos and other digital tools for his follow-up efforts – as well as the old-fashioned business card.
“When I first arrive at a booth, I take a picture of the booth, sometimes the card or contact info, and then proceed to listen and learn while taking pictures of the item and item number,” he says. “Further, I take their card and write on them the item number and the client I was speaking about.”
Raviv likes to follow up by email during the show as much as he can to trim lead times for virtuals and quotes.
“If the client is one of my top 10, I have their logos ready to attach to emails and will send them immediately,” he says. “This trick helps get your virtuals back quickly and ensures they don’t get lost in the post-show barrage of emails.”
The Supplier Perspective
Distributors attend the show to check out new products and follow up by sharing new ideas with clients, but suppliers are there to sell those products, so they are eager to follow up with distributors to keep their wares top of mind. Many prefer an old-fashioned phone call to keep it personal.
“Personally, I prefer calling. It leaves less room for error and more opportunity for clearer communication than a flurry of emails might introduce,” he says. “I’m fine with any type of follow-up, but calls tend to be the most efficient. I communicate the most effectively over the phone, and we tend to get better results from our vendors when a phone call describing our needs has occurred.”
Andy Hudson, director of marketing for Incentive Concepts (PPAI 212912, S10), the No. 39 supplier in the 2023 PPAI 100, also says a phone call resonates best with him, and that it’s important to tailor your follow-up message to each recipient.
“In addition to scanning the badges of booth visitors, we take detailed notes about each attendee so that we can personalize our post-event messaging as much as possible,” he says.
Others, like Michelle Chen, president of Fossa Apparel (PPAI 330885, S1), appreciates the efficiency of email. She agrees that it’s crucial to jot down as much information as possible during brief chats on the show floor to help you remind the customer why what you have to offer meets their needs.
“Keep in mind that receiving an email without a clear reason or objective isn’t something anyone enjoys,” she adds, “so I appreciate receiving emails that either teach me something new that is relevant to what I do or gives a really strong reason via products or services why I should engage a person I only know by email.”
That said, Chen acknowledges that phone calls offer an even more powerful personal touch, because “hearing each other’s voices helps build the human connection and trust.”
Adding that personal touch is key, she adds. “Company-wide email blasts lacking that personal touch don’t yield the same level of attention or engagement. … I actually love taking selfies with my customers and incorporate that in my follow-up to inject some liveliness.”
The PPAI Expo provides ample opportunities to make connections, but it takes continued effort to make the most of those relationships.
“We all know that the effort required to secure projects and grow the relationship largely depends on the follow-up,” Chen adds – but she also says she’s learned to not take it personally when people don’t respond, because sometimes it’s just not a good fit or the right time for the customer.
“If you’re fulfilling your responsibilities, that’s what matters most,” she says, “and finding comfort in that is crucial.”