Beyond Business Cards: Trade Show Lead Management Essentials

Beyond business cards - trade show lead management

If you ask most any new exhibitor how successful their experience was, you’re likely to hear an exuberant answer about how many business cards they collected.

The problem is – that probably hasn’t accomplished very much.

That’s because getting the most out of your trade show leads requires so much more than going home with a stack of business cards – which likely won’t even be followed up!

In a 2015 Sales Lead Survey conducted by EXHIBITOR Magazine, nearly all exhibitors said they collect leads on the show floor but only 70 percent have any formal plan or process for following up.

The key here is that lead management isn’t a one-and-done action. It takes a process that extends from before the show even begins all the way through the weeks and months after. So how can you create that kind of system?

Pre-Show Strategies

  • Business cards aren’t taboo. Just make sure they’re not your only form of data collection. Because let’s face it – they’re really only providing contact information, not any kind of specifics about what an attendee is looking for or what their biggest challenge is. There are multiple options: you can create your own lead forms to jot down notes and then staple them to the cards, or use a badge scanning app.
  • Know what makes a qualified lead, and use that to craft qualifying questions to include during your in-booth conversations. Align those questions with the fields in your CRM system so the data will easily import.
  • Choose your lead capture software carefully. Make sure it’s cross-platform, compatible with your CRM system and e-mail provider. (Better yet, choose one that has multiple options so you’re prepared in case you change any of those systems you need to pair it with.) You also want it to have robust reporting capabilities.
  • Have a follow-up workflow in place before the show begins. This means you need a combination of both strategy and technology in order to guide your leads through the customer journey. Make sure you have someone assigned to be in charge of the leads and get them entered into your chosen system and assigned to the proper person for follow-up.
  • Make lead management a part of your actual booth design. Have a designated area for lead capture or a self-serve kiosk if you’re asking attendees to fill out some kind of survey to enter a contest or whatever.

At-Show Strategies

  • Train your booth staff on how to ask the right questions to determine if a lead is qualified, then be sure to take notes. You don’t want to make people answer the same questions again post-show!
  • If you (or your company) insist on collecting business cards, at least get an app to scan them into your phone.
  • Segment and prioritize your leads using whatever method works for you (such as an A/B/C or high/medium/low priority system). Almost 60 percent of the exhibitors surveyed said they don’t do this!

Post-Show Strategies

  • Have a way to import all those leads into your chosen CRM system, which allows you to track your follow-up steps as well as the results. Be sure to log each interaction with that contact. And back to that 2015 survey, it also found that only 35 percent of exhibitors are tracking that!
  • Designate a chain of contact to make sure whoever is responsible for following up knows what’s already been done or answered. (This helps to avoid getting lost in transition.)
  • Customize your follow-up whenever possible – that shows you were truly listening in the booth!
  • Plan out what you’ll say before you pick up the phone or type that e-mail. Use templates to make it easier.
  • Use multiple follow-up methods: LinkedIn, phone, e-mail, etc.
  • Use lead nurturing to guide them through the sales process. Remember that very few trade show leads become customers the week after the show!
  • Find ways to automate your follow-up process so it gets done quicker.

When you follow these strategies through all stages of your exhibit marketing cycle and choose your tools wisely, you’ll find it’s much easier to stay on top of your lead management. Plus you’ll find those leads have a much greater success rate!

© 2019 Marlys K. Arnold  (Reprinted from the November 2019 TradeShowTips Online. To receive tips like this in your inbox every month, please take a moment to fill out this request.)

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