CHICAGO — Going to a trade show is a bit like making professional New Year’s resolutions. You see a new innovation or service, maybe learn about a different marketing strategy or business solution. And you promise that once home, you’re going to integrate what you learned or purchase that product you saw to help take your company to the next level.
But all too often, instead of following through on post-trade show plans, life gets in the way.
Maybe an employee’s vacation or illness leaves you understaffed, or, finding yourself a week behind because of the week away, the brochures and business cards get buried in that pile of “future projects” kept at the corner of your desk, stacked above the info about the cool, new VHS player. In other words, it gets lost.
This is a problem we all face: how the need to take care of today compromises the changes we want to make for tomorrow.
Here are some questions for you:
- Do you communicate with new customers, perhaps offering them a coupon for a discount on their second visit?
- After you need to chastise an employee for doing something wrong, do you make sure you soon thank them for doing something right?
- When was the last time you audited your costs, to see if they matched up to the budgets you created?
While these questions may seem like non sequiturs, they each have something in common: they are all about follow-up.
Is there a better way to show your gratitude for someone walking into your store the first time than giving them incentive to come back? Or making sure your staff feels comfortable knowing that while you give them constructive criticism, they can also count on you for positive reinforcement? And what’s the sense of making budgets if you’re not going to do the math to make sure you’re sticking to them?
In truth, I think “follow-up” is synonymous with execution. Even once you recognize a way to improve your revenue, boost client loyalty or better the productivity of your employees, it won’t be of any help until you actually put it to the test. The value of any idea is only known when you make a real attempt to execute it.
Here’s how follow-up helped me. When I was a personal manager, I was so interested in representing comedian Robert Schimmel that I offered to produce a show for him at a festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. First thing Schimmel tells me when I arrive there is that he’d signed with a different management firm. “Fine,” I said, “I’m going to take a holiday through the Scottish Highlands.”
Only before I left, I went to see his first performance. It was a total disaster. Only three people attended.
Despite being halfway around the world and having no investment in the comic’s success, I changed my plans to work around the clock calling media outlets and handing out tickets. I had agreed to produce the show, and I was going to make it work. By the end of week one, Schimmel was playing to full houses and was nominated for the Edinburgh Festival’s version of the Oscar.
Did he then change his mind and sign with me? Of course not. But a Scotsman named Craig Ferguson saw how hard I worked and asked if I’d help him make a go of it in the United States. Those seven years of The Drew Carey Show commissions were only possible because of someone seeing how my follow-up would help him reach his goals.
I suggest you do the same. Go back to that “future projects” pile and do some of that follow-up you promised to do when you got home. I’m sure you and your business will be the better for it.