From 2 Weeks to 2 Days: Ditching Manual Data Entry to Maximize Event Lead Capture
Conferences and trade shows are a time-tested way to connect with industry specialists and potential customers. But, like any other marketing initiative, there’s always a better way. At Ocean Optics, our events focus on lead generation and brand awareness. We’re a manufacturer of spectrometers, light sources, and accessories, so we need to be hyper-specific when deciding which events to attend in order to maximize our ROI. We need to prioritize speed and organization to capitalize on our—often niche—leads before they go cold. This is especially important since about one-third of our lead generation comes from events.
At past events, we handled lead capture like most others. We would hand-write all the leads on paper from each day of the conference and, when we got back to the office, one or two of our colleagues would enter them manually into our system. This process took our customer service team about two weeks to complete.
This slow process was challenging because our sales team would be anxious to follow up with their leads—especially the hot ones. The delay would cause these early-stage relationships to stagnate and sometimes fall apart. When a salesperson takes too long to follow up, the delay dissolves any early-stage trust you built from your initial interaction.
The Full Picture
Our old method of data entry was simple work, but we were dealing with people’s handwritten information. Often, they were writing in a hurry and many leads missed key information or were simply not legible on the form. At some of the bigger shows, it was possible to rent a scanner to digitize this information in batches and get an Excel file of the information much more quickly. But, again, information accuracy was still a concern, even when people wrote down their own information. We were back to square one on how best to handle the accuracy and workload challenges.
Like anyone else in marketing, I need to prove the value of what I do. That means the documentation of our lead attribution and the progression of these relationships within the sales funnel are paramount. I need an accurate record that reflects the success of our attendance at each trade show and conference.
We tend to present at smaller, field-specific, conferences focusing on areas like Near Infrared or Raman spectroscopy, depending on what audience we want to target or what product we want to showcase. We do about 10 trade shows per year and they vary greatly in terms of size and investment. Of those, typically, two shows tend to be bigger trade shows where we run booths between 50 and 70 square meters.
We try to get the most out of these events. We invite attendees by sending out emails, ask our account managers to call our customers or leads, as well as use social media or newsletters. We use so many different channels and resources to draw attention and entice trade show attendees to come to our booth. This is all to ensure the right people stop by.
Our efforts are worthwhile. At the bigger shows, we generate 200-300 leads per show. At the smaller conferences, we get anywhere from 10-80 leads per show. Both types of events add up. Capitalizing on these leads is the most efficient and clear way to prove our ROI and justify our continued presence at these events. Naturally, I looked for a better way to capture and manage our lead generation data. So, I did what most people do: I started Googling for solutions.
In my search, I stumbled across a white paper from a solution called Integrate (back then it was known as Akkroo) and downloaded it. While I read the paper, I didn’t act until they called me and asked if I wanted to try a demo of their software. Since I was looking for a solution, I thought I’d try Integrate out.
Right away, I noticed how user-friendly the platform was. It was very easy to design our own online form and capture any information I wanted. I didn’t want to create more work than we already had, so when I discovered that Integrate can integrate the data automatically in our CRM system, I was sold. I could create custom data exports that were very easy to upload into our system, just by connecting a few databases. We started using Integrate this past summer and immediately implemented it at our next event. The results were impressive.
Happy Teams Bring the Heat
With Integrate, the event lead information was immediately available, readable, and shareable for everyone involved. Not only that, but it was much more accurate. We had more information per lead as well. Since this was my first time using the software, it took a little longer to upload into our system, but even then, Integrate offered easy access with a customizable Excel file. At that first event, we generated about 20 leads, so it wasn’t an overwhelming number to start off with.
Our second show was much larger. It was a five-day event where we generated 200 leads. I was on-site to train staff and troubleshoot any teething issues since I implemented the software and designed the form. At the end of each day, I sent our salesperson the day’s leads. It initially took up to two days to upload into the system simply because we were getting acquainted with the software, but Integrate immediately reduced the data entry time drastically—by about 80%. What used to take more than a week to complete was getting done in almost real-time.
The better data we’ve received has been incredibly helpful. Our sales team is now able to follow up on hot leads quickly to nurture relationships and close new deals. We track exactly who captured the lead as well. This enhances team communication as a result. Because if anyone had any questions, it was easy for the team to refer to the data, connect with each other, or ask about specific leads or information if anything is unclear.
Also, Integrate has had unexpected benefits, such as reducing task congestion at our customer service desk since we’re no longer asking two people from that team to dedicate one or two weeks to manual data entry. Following up quickly is a customer-friendly practice and reducing the workload on our customer service team allows them to focus more on supporting existing clients. The customer service team is probably the happiest department that has benefited the most since our switch.
We’ve now used Integrate at five events since implementation. Soon, we’re looking to integrate it more fully into our CRM and break down the data even further to see exactly which countries the leads are being generated from, which days of each event generate the most leads, and the "warmth rating" of each lead. Being able to see those statistics at a glance will be even more helpful as we continue to incorporate Integrate.
Our team immediately found that Integrate’s software speeds up the event lead capture process. It was somewhat of a challenge, however, for some team members to learn how to think digital first. It took some time for them to understand that, despite their preference for the paper-based system, the old way simply wasn’t keeping pace with our needs. Luckily, Integrate is such an easy system to learn that it didn’t take them too long to embrace it.
We also had to agree internally on what should be included in the new forms. I received some feedback on my initial concepts on how to make things clearer for all team members and remove or include additional information that would streamline the process. There weren’t too many changes to be made before the second event. Now, everyone is on board with the new system since they’ve had the better part of a year to use and get comfortable with its functions.
A Bright Future
Now, our reporting is much easier and more effective. Since I now know the leads we generate from each event, I can prove the value of my efforts. I can point to a real, meaningful pipeline that gets generated from each event. The accuracy of the statistics makes these decisions much easier so we can focus on where we can make more of a difference. We can better channel our resources because accessing the data is so much faster and more accessible.
Our events always seemed like they were a good idea, but now, thanks to Integrate, I can prove they are.
Akkroo was acquired by Integrate in April 2019. This case study was originally produced before this date. Learn more.