How Andor Generated Over 10x More Qualified Leads While Running Hundreds of Events
If you've ever taken part in a trade show or industry conference, you know things can quickly get crazy. These events are the perfect venue to showcase your new products and catch up on what others in your field are doing. They also provide some of the best opportunities to generate new business and nurture existing customer relationships. But doing that at scale is where things get difficult.
As Andor's Global Events Coordinator, I manage our participation in over 100 trade shows and conferences every year. Our attendance at these shows represents a significant portion of our marketing budget, so I have to make sure every aspect of our presence is honed to ensure maximum ROI.
Andor, an Oxford Instruments company, designs and manufactures scientific digital cameras and instruments used in imaging, spectroscopy, and microscopy applications that measure low levels of light—down to one photon—and changes in light that occur over a short period of time down to one billionth of a second. Andor was set up 30 years ago as a spinout of Queen’s University Belfast. The founders of Andor were working in the Physics Department and found that the cameras available at the time were unable to keep up with their ever-increasing demands, so they developed their own camera that was used in various imaging and spectroscopic applications.
We have since expanded our product line to include confocal microscopy systems, spectrographs, and imaging software. These tools are used in medical research to fight cancer and Alzheimer's, in astronomy to explore the far reaches of our universe, and in hundreds of industrial applications.
Creating a Cohesive Event Strategy
Events are a major part of Andor's lead generation process, but for many years we did not have a cohesive global approach to them. I was initially hired as our EMEA Events Coordinator nearly seven years ago, and was tasked with creating a strategy for conferences in our European region.
We have always taken part in events for a variety of reasons. Often, it was because of a new market opportunity, sometimes to support a new or existing customer, or to ensure that we were not losing ground to our competitors by not being there. Whatever the reason—and whether it was a trade show of 30,000 attendees in Munich or a presentation to a genetics research lab in Leicester—we'd chat to everyone we could, and make our presence felt. But we needed more from our events: more engagement; more measurability; more success. We needed to find out what made the customers tick, why they even came, and what they really expected to get out of it—and then do the same for ourselves! We then needed to build a strategy around delivering that in a way that could be applied to every show.
There was a lot to work on. To start, our graphics, our signage, and our messaging contained inconsistencies. Our booth layouts were not well thought through. For our sales team, they had been turning up year after year and doing the same old thing, with no guidance or instruction to the contrary. Finally, lead gathering was a mess of back-pocket business cards and incoherent scribbles in a few select fields on our paper lead forms.
I spent my first year at Andor working with internal stakeholders to implement a set of event-based initiatives for implementation in the EMEA region. None of us wanted to repeat the mistakes of the past. Everyone had the same vision, we just needed the right strategy to get us there: a way to deliver better ROI from our events, a way to rate the efficiency and effectiveness of a show, a more positive approach to events, and a vastly improved impact on the shows themselves. It wouldn’t come overnight, but we were now heading in the right direction.
Tackling the Lead-Gathering Conundrum
It was relatively easy to streamline and standardize our physical booth presence at trade shows as all graphics and booth plans were developed in-house. This happened in conjunction with the development of our comprehensive branding guidelines, which helped to build and maintain our visual identity across all marketing activities. Much of the practical decision-making around layouts and design was made through trial and error. We retained what was working well, and modified what was not. Nothing was sacred. Modifications were made, almost on a show-by-show basis. We watched all the time how customers interacted with the brand, the staff, and the booth itself. Every time, we were looking to increase foot traffic and maximise the number of relevant conversations between booth visitors and our on-booth staff.
Gathering the leads, however, was a whole other challenge. In this area, we were still some way off where we needed to be. The process needed to be somehow automated, made much more robust, and streamlined. We needed to track, not just every lead, but every conversation and start to build a profile of visitors at each of our shows. But in reality, we were at the mercy of the booth staff. Everything was on paper. Facilitated by the Marketing team, the booth staff were using paper forms that were full of mistakes, incoherent etchings, and typically the bare minimum of information. At least half the time the information was so sparse it would be a stretch to even call it a lead, let alone a hot one!
That made follow-ups almost impossible. Even if we could reconnect with the people we'd met, the conversation had to revert back to the beginning since we didn't have enough details to kick off from where the lead was taken.
ROI for events was miles away from where it should be. As a Marketing team, we had very little information coming back on what our customers were doing, or what they really wanted to achieve with our products, and our leads were suffering. We had significant budget being spent to showcase our business, and very little to show for it.
In 2014, together with our Director of Product Management and Marketing, we examined the leads that had been captured at one of our largest US trade shows, attracting almost 25,000 visitors. We had gathered an impressive 100 leads. However, as we looked more closely into the details, we concluded that only 17 of these leads had sufficient information for one of our salespeople to effectively follow up and continue the conversation with the customer.
That was the turning point. We needed a new solution for our lead gathering challenge.
Discovering a New Way to Generate Leads
I first encountered Akkroo while visiting an Exhibitor Masterclass event (Birmingham, UK) in 2015. The company was still relatively new and its early days of development, being promoted as “up-and-coming tech” in one of the keynote presentations. Founder and CEO Chris Wickson had been visiting trade shows, promoting and demonstrating the app.
I liked what I saw so much that I didn't stick around for the end of the presentation! I dashed off to their booth and spoke to Chris right away.
“This is it," I thought. "My search is finally over.”
Setting up a Trial of Akkroo
With the app still in its infancy, we opted for a trial. The ultimate goal was to build a solution that could flexibly meet the needs of the Marketing team and the need of our booth staff. Akkroo had to prove it could do both.
Our first test was at one of our smaller shows. We handpicked a group of reps who had been vocal in their displeasure around paper-based lead gathering, and with others event-related decisions we had made. These were sales professionals who knew the markets, understood how to deal with customers, and could share the technical expertise our customers wanted. However, like us, they knew the traditional lead capture tools were holding them back.
We started by training them in the basic use of the app, limited to scanning business cards and visitor badges which could then be added into our CRM with, at the time, a small amount of manual work.
The initial results were terrific. Reps who felt constrained by our old lead generation method took to Akkroo right away. As well as Marketing-provided tablets, the app ran well on their smartphones and connected smoothly to the convention centre Wi-Fi for immediate syncing.
As the reps were scanning badges and business cards, I was working at the backend and using Akkroo's dashboards to ensure that all of the correct information was being captured and routing it on to the correct destination. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy everything seemed.
Starting Big and Then Scaling Down
That initial trial had been a massive success. We had obtained a genuine and valuable insight into ways we could use Akkroo at our bigger shows. Instead of rolling out the app at smaller events and then scaling up, we decided to start at the top and scale down. Based on the critical importance of ROI, it was the logical way for us to proceed. We could train more people at once, test the app at higher volume, and evaluate its performance at the end of each show day.
Each time we had a large trade show, I would schedule an overview call with the entire show team. I would start by outlining our plans and goals for the event, and would then walk them through Akkroo. I would show them how to download the app, log in, add a lead, review a lead, and look at the statistics.
I would repeat this information at the show itself, during our team kick off session when the whole team was together, ensure that Akkroo was working on all of their phones, and have everyone test the app by scanning their own badges and business cards. Pretty soon, the process was effortless for everyone.
The results have been astounding. The quality and quantity of our leads have grown exponentially. The same event that yielded 17 useable leads out of a total of 100 in 2014 gave us over 300 total leads in 2018 and a 93% usability rate—279 event-qualified leads! So yes, we’re generating three times more leads overall, but significantly it is 16 times more qualified leads, in a like-for-like show.
With Akkroo, we don’t just have more qualified leads, but we are also able to action them much more quickly. Automated emails get sent to the visitors moments after they leave our booth: personalized ‘thank you’ messages that appear as if they are coming directly from a member of our team. Prospective customers can continue the conversation and even request a demo or visit while our on-site reps continue to deal with other visitors. This level of quality and efficiency has contributed greatly to our overall events lead growth over the last few years.
Building Significant Wins for Andor and Oxford Instruments
We have now used Akkroo at well over 100 events. We have found the scalable and flexible lead gathering process we were searching for. Our experience has been so positive that our Director of Communications chose to share Andor’s success at the 2018 Oxford Instruments Marketing Forum, bringing Akkroo’s Dan and James in for a short demo to the other Marketing heads throughout the Oxford Instruments group.
The presentation was such a hit that three other Oxford business units started to use Akkroo for events lead capture, having been won over by the ability to view leads in real time and integrate them into their respective CRM databases. I think they experienced the same ‘pleasant surprise’ that we did!
As for Andor, we are continuing to collaborate with our sales team to scale Akkroo from the top down, from a wonderful asset at the largest of our trade shows, down to a very practical and convenient lead capturing tool for individual sales visits. We have benefited from the openness of the Akkroo team to discuss the challenges and benefits of new ideas. We continue to make regular changes to the online portal of event capture forms in response to our sales team’s comments. This collaboration is precisely how we saw the ubiquitous use of Akkroo at our events and why we’ve continued to improve in all aspects of events lead capture. We are also furthering our design and marketing efforts around every trade show to provide an even more cohesive, compelling, and converting event experience for booth visitors.
Automating the lead capture and generation process has freed our reps to have deeper conversations with prospective and existing clients. We now have a better understanding of why our customers attend trade shows, and what they want from us. We also have a clearer idea of the way these discussions evolve, and how they pivot into sales. For Andor, these wins are invaluable. After all, isn’t that why we run these events in the first place?