Using Tablet PCs in Your Trade Show Booth

Article by Pete Davis

How can you up your game to take advantage of new technology in improving your data flow to support your show marketing ROI? Here’s one way that is starting to appear on show floors currently.

Tablet computer data input processes are going to become a great new tool for trade show exhibitors. They will combine lead qualification, presentation, and lead capture into a single, simple mobile package that can be carried anywhere on a show floor. Because the need for paper data recording is eliminated, they will also offer a ‘green’ alternative to having to carry printed collateral material to and from the show floor. They will tie right in with current trends toward more electronically based messaging in exhibit environments and other cutting edge technological developments. And, being more cost effective, they will provide a great way to help stabilize the cost gaps created by uncontrollable expenses like shipping and drayage.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? And it is! But, it can still offer daunting challenges when the technology is not quite ready.

(Almost) Flawless Data Entry Directly From The Trade Show Floor Into CRM

One of my good customers recently altered their in-booth information capture process to allow them to input lead data in real time directly into their database as they gathered it. They intended to shorten the lead management process to allow them to fulfill their lead requests even as their visitors were walking the show floor.

Each staffer had a tablet computer (in this case, an iPad) that they carried with them as they initiated contact with a visitor to their booth. They would qualify the visitor and show them a brief presentation about their information systems on the tablet. They would input the visitor’s key facts and interests as they spoke to them, using the tablets as a virtual lead card and as a guide for further conversation. Staffers would also provide their own feedback on the contact without having to resort to hastily written notes with illegible handwriting, making the contact more cost effective (fewer lost leads due to incomplete data).

The plan was to send the data directly to their CRM, eliminating the need for additional handling of the data. However, they hit an unexpected snag with the input process, impeding their effectiveness in achieving this goal the first time they took it out on the road.

Their iPad tablets had used an ‘app’ that would allow them to transfer the data easily. Unfortunately, they found out as they were working the system on the show floor that the ‘app’ was for an iPhone and didn’t work well on the iPad units. Also, the ‘app’ would not interface correctly with their CRM program and the data would not transfer.

They created a ‘band aid’ that got them through this show, by using the tablets to input the contact data directly into their website information request page and notating the source of the data for future reference in the additional information block. It still had to be manually imported to their database after the fact, but was at least a quick, workable fix for that show.

The upshot was that, while the method was valid, the data transfer process was not. They are now acquiring an ‘app’ that will act with their CRM program and which will allow better transfer of captured information. The process was still very effective overall and, they feel, will be even more workable, once they have the correct programs in place.

You can definitely impact your show floor data management process by going this route, but be aware that there are still issues typical to the introduction of any new technology that you may, in the short term, need to contend with. Make sure you have an alternative method in place, just in case.