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8 ways to get more (and better) trade show leads

You participated in yet another trade show. That far too little booth was also far too expensive. But you saw all those visitors rushing in to hear about what your company has to offer and figured: we got so many leads, the ROI for this will break records. Yet back at the office reality hits hard. 

By the time your team deciphers the unreadable pieces of paper with attendee info and manually enters business cards’ data into spreadsheets or CRM, most of your leads go cold. Truth is, while charming in that old-school-kind-of-way, “pen & paper” at trade shows is outdated and will only hold you back.

This goes for other outdated lead capture methods as well, be it some handheld QR code scanner or even a business card scanner. Technology has moved on and so should you. 

Today, trade show visitors expect speedy follow-up and personalized communication. It is no secret that the majority of trade show guests go with the first or second company that reaches out to them. If they are ready to buy – you should be ready to sell. And for that, you need to get quality leads. Below you’ll find 8 ways that will help you do so.

1. PLAN AHEAD AND COME PREPARED

Few companies are thinking more than a few weeks ahead when it comes to trade shows, events, or conferences. Especially the B2B industry still largely depends on event-generated leads. So you need to be there and you need to be at the top of your game.

This means strict planning and execution, with specific goals in mind. Who are the best people to manage the booth? How many leads are you planning to get? How will you get them? It is not just about printing out flyers or positioning a bowl of free candy.

Instead, begin with the end in mind, and focus on the areas that impact event ROI. For example, lead capturing, and both pre-show and post-show marketing. These are the areas that directly impact gaining new clients and closing deals. Always think of the end result. Be focused and strategic before every trade show. If you do, you will see results after the first event already.

2. ENGAGE AND NURTURE YOUR PROSPECTS

Your booth is an opportunity. Both for leads and for brand awareness. Make sure to get your company’s name and products out there. But while doing so, do not forget to nurture your potential clients. While it is important they get to know your brand, it is far more important for them to understand how you can help improve their business.

Therefore, how we behave before our prospects become our leads is key. This is the main reason why lead capturing fails at trade shows – too much attention for brand awareness, networking, and product launches – but not enough effort to actually get to know your prospects.

Trade shows offer a unique opportunity to interact face-to-face with potential leads. It is not enough to show them a demo or write down their name and email. Take prospects seriously, find out what they need, ask questions, collect valuable information, book a meeting or send sales material on the spot. Let them see you’re on top of taking care of them. After all, how you treat them at the booth is a good indication of how you would treat them as a client.

3. KNOW YOUR LEAD CAPTURE GOALS

You can only measure your success if you have the right metrics in place. Know how many leads you intend to capture – set clear goals. This will allow you to assess your trade show performance much better. Do not shy away from challenging goals – they inspire growth and set benchmarks for personal as well as business success.

Having no goals and attending a trade show is a bit like shooting in the dark. You will not be able to measure your achievements and will not recognize which of your event activities were effective. You can aim for a total number of collected leads or sent sales material. For example, you could track how many new leads were entered into your CRM or another platform in one day.

By having clear goals, your sales team will also have clearer direction and motivation to do their job and achieve success. Whichever trade show or event it might be.

4. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE SMALL-SCALE EVENTS

Events come in all shapes and sizes. Be it a national or international event, thousands or hundreds of attendees. And what happens is, often companies prioritize the big trade shows and forget about the minor ones. Which is a missed opportunity.

Why are small-scale events or trade shows also important? Because smaller events offer a more intimate setting. Sure, there may be fewer attendees, but these events attract a much more industry-focused group. It may not be the best setting for a huge sales team or exposure potential, but it can still be a great source for lead generation.

5. FOLLOW UP WITH YOUR LEADS IMMEDIATELY

Some visitors come to your booth to check out that cool gadget you placed in the middle. Some want to participate in a game you’re organizing, while some just want to get their hands on your swag. Still, a large part of trade show visitors is actually buying-ready. And they will buy from a company that will engage and follow up with them first.

As a matter of fact, about 81 percent of trade show attendees have buying authority. That’s four out of five visitors who are potential clients. Engage fully and reach out quickly in order to leverage that chance.

There, at the booth, is where all the magic happens. You need to be present, figure out what the prospect needs, and give it to them. Is it sales material? Is it a quick meeting next Wednesday? Send it. Share it. Agree to meet. And follow up immediately after the event with a personalized email.

6. THE DEVIL IS IN THE (DATA) DETAILS

The only way you can get more and better leads at trade shows is if you understand what works and what doesn’t. Collect data from every single event you attend and upload it into your CRM.

Keep track of your leads, learn to recognize and nurture them, measure your improvement and growth and reassess if needed. The best way to do this is to have an all-in-one lead capture platform in place. A platform like Fairkey will help you manage leads, gather their data, or tell you which event the leads came from.

Plus, it will enable you to pull reports to see which sales team member got the lead and which events brought in the most quality leads. Automated lead capture is everything here. You will no longer guess the ROI of a recent trade show – it will be reachable to you at your fingertips.

7. CHOOSE YOUR TRADE SHOW TOOLBOX WISELY

Closely related to the point above, this is about having the right tools in place. You cannot just guess the reason why this or other trade show went poorly. You need to know it. And the best way to collect that knowledge is using a reliable lead capture platform.

What worked and what didn’t? Did your trade show team have everything they needed to succeed? Did your salespeople have a lead capture process set in place? What did your competitors do? Ask a lot of questions and evaluate each event’s success.

Learn which tools and equipment are the most effective and optimize your sales team’s effort. This is how your events lead to new business.

8. DON’T LOSE HOPE – NO TWO EVENTS ARE ALIKE

There is no such thing as a perfect trade show or event. Or the perfect booth setup, for that matter. When you are preparing for the next one, keep your head up, your goals clear, and your team ready. There may be fewer leads at one event, but more at another.

With all its ups and downs, trade shows still play a vital role in capturing new leads. These events are (and should be) worth the investment. Just make sure to evaluate your performance, keep track of your results and have the right platform at hand. This will turn your leads into clients.

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