Trade shows are popular ways for businesses to exhibit their brand as well as make major announcements about upcoming products before they’re released to the general public. They allow direct access to customers and potential clients who are likely to show an interest in your product.

Everyone from bloggers, website owners, and buyers for large corporations visit trade shows in the hopes of being the first to touch, see, and test new products before the general public. They allow people to network, create business relationships, gather contact information, generate buzz and word of mouth.

Despite the popularity of the trade show, the vast majority of leads that are generated during the show can be forgotten about,or not followed up on. Here’s how to take your trade show presence to the next level so it’s a roaring success, and you know what to do when a lead comes through the door - or to your booth.

Tradeshow booths wide shot: trade show lead capture

Leads Through Incentive

A ton of time, energy, and money can go into the trade show booth design. Putting on a good show for the public and the media as well as potential customers that are in attendance at the show is key to getting leads. According to Reveal Marketing Group, visual graphics need to leave visitors with a lasting impact of your company, so it’s important to have a creative team or agency that can deliver the right visual communications to wow your audience. Or, if an agency is out of the question, you can try understanding ways to invest in great, reusable trade show materials. For example, investing in vibrant signage, such as pull up banners, which can be used at every show means only one price tag with a return on investment every time you use it. Create an impressive booth with visuals and product features - or just something to remember - to help your business stand out from the crowd.

Businesses who succeed at trade shows will plan ahead to give the best possible impression of their brand and their products. They will have a process for gathering email addresses and personal information from booth attendees. This may include a raffle from business cards, an email list, or a free gift for lead info.

If budget permits, a way of drawing people to the booth itself like a competition (a popular way to collect contact details) or a giveaway (free gift, samples, coffee etc.) will be a great opportunity. The contact information collected at the show itself are important leads; however, it’s  surprising to learn that upwards of 80% of leads that are generated at a trade show are never contacted once the show is over.

These contacts are important because they have taken the time to stop by your booth and look at your products, your business message and maybe even spend time speaking with your sales staff. These are people that have shown an interest in what your business does, so they can be easy prospects to follow up with and gain a sale.

Business owner at a tradeshow - Trade show lead generation

If these leads are never followed up on, there’s a big opportunity lost. If there is a delay following up on the leads, prospects will have the impression that the business is unreliable. It could stop the business relationship before it even starts.

How to Turn Those Leads Into Sales

When you’re participating in a trade show, you should have a set of defined requirements on what makes a good lead so that your salespeople spend their time securing authentic sale prospects.

This means that your sales team should have a series of questions that get them the information they need as quickly as possible, and attributes that determine the interaction they are making is with the right target audience.

Some sample questions to consider include:

  • What specific products are you looking for?
  • What is your role?
  • What challenges are you facing in your role?
  • Do you have any specific concerns around our products?
  • What should the next steps look like?

This is known as your pre-qualification protocol. This is a fundamental step in creating a curated list of potential clients that you will contact shortly after the show ends. Companies that have a well defined understanding of who their target audience is will know what they’re looking for in leads and should be able to identify these people quickly.

Trade shows can be hectic, making it hard for you to keep tabs on new leads and connections from the event. To better keep track of who your prospects are, you can start capturing new leads through a mobile sales app like TradeGecko Mobile. You’ll also have access to your entire product catalog and the ability to create, edit, and manage sales orders on the go, if needed.

The database of leads will need to be regularly reviewed to ensure that time and effort is given to those leads with the greatest likelihood of becoming a customer. This should increase the conversion percentage significantly. You should make sure that you have:

  • Updated contact information including address, telephone number, email address and even social media contacts such as LinkedIn.
  • Specific industry information that is relevant to the lead and how it relates to your business and product line.
  • Role or position with the business they work for: Are they the decision maker for the business?

Contact the Leads

Ensure that your follow up process is tailored to each lead. Add a personal touch and show attention to detail so prospective customers will appreciate and recognize the message as professional and worthy of their attention.

What does this mean? An email salutation of “Dear Sir / Madam, Thanks for stopping by our booth” just won’t cut it. If you really want to convert these leads, start by personalizing your emails by referring to them by name. If you really want to go above and beyond, make a note when you have a good rapport with certain attendants during the show. Then, use this information to show an attention to detail when you follow-up with them.

For example, “How was the eCommerce seminar you were heading to when we chatted? I hope you got to learn more about online POS.” Including a level of detail in your opening will very likely please your reader that you remembered them, and urge them to read on and reply.

A little can go a long way into making the most out of your trade show presence. These small tricks and tips can elevate your booth, your memorability and your conversion no matter the show or your industry. What are some other ways you could really shine? Reflect on what you want to get out of this expo, and work backwards to see how you can achieve that result. With the right effort and details, your product can be a highlight of your next event -- it’s really up to you to lead the way.


About the author:

Steffen Ploeger is bilingual (German/English) and currently working as an SEO specialist at 9thCO. He enjoys sharing his thoughts online through blogging and social media. One of his ambitions is to inspire readers to share their own opinions and experiences.


See also:

Going wholesale from retail: 8 ways to help you decide if your business is ready

Getting started with trade shows: Tips from a wholesale pro

How to rock a trade show: Tips from a wholesale pro

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