If your company relies heavily on trade shows to find new leads and reinforce existing relationships, you’ll know that it takes a lot of time, money, and effort to do it well.
You’ve invested a lot of your company’s resources in trade shows in order to generate new leads and you are accountable for results, so be sure that you also have a plan for success before, during, and especially after the trade show to maximize ROI.
Keep reading to discover the best practices to convert trade show leads into new business relationships.
Prepare before you go
1. Get a list of the companies and people who will attend the trade show
Do some upfront research on interesting prospects and learn about the person or company so that you can have some talking points lined up. They will appreciate your extra effort to get to know them and you will get more value from your conversation if you have background knowledge about them.
2. Look them up on LinkedIn and find relevant talking points
Send a connection request with a personalized message letting them know that you’ll be at the show and invite them to stop by your booth. Share your booth number and a reason they would want to see you. The best way to do this is to offer something of value for them to come by the booth. If you are going to be giving in-booth presentations, you could entice attendees with these. This will make you stand out from other vendors at the trade show and will hopefully bring your leads straight to you.
3. A day or two before the trade show, send an email to show attendees inviting them to visit your booth
It’s best to give an incentive to visit, such as attending an in-booth demo or a free consultation with an expert in their industry. I recently attended a tradeshow where one vendor emailed me a week prior to the show offering a free live assessment of our website in their booth. I was curious to hear their recommendations, so I booked time with them in advance of the show.
If leads have signed up to come by your booth at a specific time, be sure to remind them by sending an email or preferably a text message the day of the trade show. Many people won’t be checking emails from a trade show, but text messages work well.
At the very least, along with the swag that you give away in your booth, include a call to action that gives people a reason to visit your website or contact you after the show. An example could be an exclusive offer to trade show leads to visit your website to claim their free 30-minute consultation, 30-day trial period, or to sign up for a free webinar.
While you are at the trade show
1. Capture information from the leads who visit your booth
Be sure to collect their business card, scan their badge, or have them sign up electronically so that you can follow up with them after the trade show. Even if they aren’t ready to work with you right now, collecting their information helps fill your pipeline with people in your target audience, and gives you access to nurture them with high-value content.
2. Make notes of your conversations in your CRM
If you aren’t using a CRM, check out HubSpot’s free CRM which integrates with their marketing software. Whether you capture notes directly in your CRM while you’re at the trade show or take written notes that you enter in your CRM after the show, taking detailed notes is the first step in knowing how to best nurture these leads. Note any questions they asked or conversations that could be valuable to a future conversation with this person. If they expressed interest in a specific product or service, make note of that. This information should be used after the show to deliver relevant and valuable content to these leads.
Add all of these leads to a list within your CRM specific to this trade show so that you can later evaluate how many leads converted to customers and what the estimated ROI was on the show.
After the trade show
1. Prepare your leads for follow up
Ask permission to stay in contact with the leads you meet. You’ll be contacting them, so it’s polite to make sure that they want to receive more information from you. Don’t waste your time trying to interact with people who aren’t in your target audience or don’t have a problem that you can help solve. Instead, put your effort into making a quality experience for those who are a good fit and may have an interest in how you can help them.
2. Connect on LinkedIn
If you met people at the show who you hadn’t previously connected with on LinkedIn, do so within a day or two following the trade show. For all the leads you met, send personalized direct messages to at least those who were the most qualified leads. In the message, relate back to the conversation you had, and include a call to action that drives them to your website. Here’s an example:
It was great to meet you at (name of trade show). I’m curious if your team ended up going to the Jazz House that evening, and what you thought of it? It sounded like a lot of fun!
You mentioned that one challenge you are facing is (state their problem). (Your company name) recently published a blog specifically for Marketing Directors like you on this topic. It offers some valuable insight. Here’s a link to that blog.
Let me know if you have any questions or thoughts as you read this.
3. Nurture leads with great content
a. Automate and connect
After a tradeshow, you may come back with hundreds or even even a thousand leads. A few may be marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) to pass straight on to your sales team, but most of them probably aren’t that warm. There’s no way that you can individually follow up with each one, and if you did it might not be a good use of your time.
This is where marketing automation is helpful. If you’re using a tool such as MailChimp, Pardot or Hubspot, you can nurture thousands of leads at scale, use automation to deliver a series of personalized emails, and apply lead scoring to assign points to leads who do things like open emails, click emails, visit your website, complete forms, etc. This is so important to harness the investment you made in the trade show, to nurture the leads for weeks and months to come.
b. Consider persona based campaigns
Organize your leads by your marketing personas. If you have leads in the education industry and healthcare industry, create different campaigns that address the pain points that you solve in that industry. Include photos taken in the classroom or in hospitals so it appeals to them visually.
Speak their language and tell them how you can meet the needs that are specific to them. Your leads will be more interested in what you have to offer them if they feel like your content is relevant to them.
4. Track their engagement
Create a journey for your leads so that if they don’t open your initial email, you can resend it with a different subject line or follow up in a different way in order to catch their attention. Do the same with people who did open the email, but send them deeper content that gives them more information about you can help them. They obviously have some level of interest if they’re willing to read your email or follow a link to your website.
5. Reach out at the right time
As you track engagement of your leads using lead scoring, pass engaged leads to your sales team to reach out. A marketing-qualified lead is a person whose engagement levels indicate that they are likely to become a customer and are ready to speak to sales. This is the stage you want a lead to be when you start pursuing them more seriously. You’ll have a much smaller group than you originally did right after the trade show, but this group is receptive and open to talking with your team about entering into a business relationship or purchasing a product.
Remember, mediocre content will get you mediocre results. Content that is built for the right persona, that is creative and engaging and delivered consistently is a recipe for success. This takes a large amount of time and effort, but we can help with that! Call us if you’d like to talk through trade show or content marketing support.