Five Ways to Make Your Trade Shows Pay

By: Jenny Vance – President, LeadJen

Trade show season is in full swing, and so is the dance to justify their cost. One of the largest expenditures of a B2B marketer, trade shows siphon off precious marketing dollars with the promise of generating leads and driving sales.

While many companies come away from trade shows with fistfuls of leads, the value of those leads to the company is questionable when sales don’t materialize. Perhaps that’s because so much effort goes into preparing the exhibit, creating collateral and planning special events that lead generation takes a back seat.

Before you ship your display booth and pack your comfortable shoes, here are five tips that will help your trade show generate leads, drive revenue and set up your company for future success.

1. Start with current customers and prospects. Many marketers think about generating new leads through trade shows, but successful marketers understand that trade shows also are effective in growing current customer relationships and sealing the deal with prospects already in the pipeline. A lead generation effort with good messaging can help set up meetings for sales reps to connect with current customers and active opportunities. Trade shows may also provide the chance to meet with other decision makers and expand the footprint at your target companies.

2. Drive response through deadlines. Capitalize on the urgency associated with a trade show to get prospects to respond to calls. Use language that assumes the prospects are attending the show; your involvement in the trade show will show prospects that you are keyed into their industry. By responding, prospects are opening up a dialog, even if they aren’t attending the show.

3. Schedule meetings creatively. Pre-show targeting of customers and prospects provides several opportunities to connect: at your trade show booth, which serves the dual purpose of filling demo space; as a “booth stop-by” without an appointment; and after the show for those prospects who aren’t attending. In all instances, the lead generation team should get the prospect’s mobile phone number, which will enable sales reps to call, text or email prospects to remind them of their commitment to meet. If possible, use a promotion to encourage prospects to come to the booth and develop text messages for sales reps that reminds prospects about the promotion.

4. Follow up before the show is over. Once the show is over, the opportunity to meet with prospects on-site comes to a close. To get the most from your trade show investment, update the lead generation team nightly with fresh names of prospects who have not stopped by the booth. The team can contact show attendees to reschedule for the next day.

5. Follow up thoroughly after the show. Instead of assigning trade show leads to sales reps for follow up, let the lead generation team work their magic. Lead generation reps have more time to persistently follow up with those who came to your booth, while sales reps tend to pick what appear to be the best leads. This also ensures that all leads are contacted, not just those that sales reps reach until they find a deal to work. The lead generation team should update the CRM system with all leads, which will provide true insight into the value of the show.

Finally, if you don’t have the budget to invest in exhibiting at a trade show, there still are opportunities to meet with prospects as an attendee to solidify customer relationships and get deals moving.

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