Want some great tradeshow lead generation ideas? Well, sure, don’t we all? A quick online search found quite a few ways to skin the cat, as it were.
First, let’s start with Skyline’s Mike Thimmesch, who posted an article called 100 Tradeshow Lead Generation Ideas. It’s a great post, one where he splits the batch of ideas into several sections, including the shows you go to, the type of booth you have, pre-show promotions, at-show giveaways and activities, and better booth staffing. Great list, Mike! (BTW, if you Google the title of the article, you’ll see that a lot of folks have referenced his article over the years since it was published!)
Our old pals over at Handshake have a post called 22 Guerrilla Marketing Ideas for Trade Shows. In it, Mandy Movahhed breaks it down into sections, including pre-show, at the show, outside conference / onsite promo. Lots of fun ones here, including having a street musician at the show singing your praises as attendees enter the show each day.
Julius Solaris is the editor at the Event Manager Blog, and he put together an article with a lot of great ideas on how to drive traffic to your booth using (mostly) social media. Some good do’s and don’t’s here, along with terrific in-booth ideas such as mini-live streaming, charity giving, and engaging attendees with offline tweets. Check out 20 Tactics to Drive More Attendees to Exhibition Booths.
Finally, I want to share an e-book/slide deck from Bartizan called “The Ultimate Guide to Tradeshow Lead Generation.” In 30+ pages, Bartizan paints a full picture of how you can position your tradeshow booth, staff and products or services to most effectively compete for leads at your next tradeshow.
As tradeshow veterans, you probably have your go-to list of ‘don’t forget’ items. So I thought it would be fun to check around and compile a thorough list of things you might at least consider taking in your kit. Whether they are in a travel bag, or (in some cases) in the exhibit crates, the list can get long. The key is to have an item when you need it. And being on the tradeshow floor trying to get a light to hang, or unscrew a tight screw or fix a banner stand, each situation requires a different fix.
So let’s jump in and see what people would put on their list.
Any good tradeshow marketing strategist is going to come up with a few dozen reasons as to why you should exhibit at tradeshows. But what about some of the reasons NOT to exhibit at tradeshows? Are those reasons worth exploring?
First, let’s assume that if you are exhibiting at tradeshows or at least considering them, you are able to identify the shows that are of the most benefit to your company and products or services you’re pushing.
Some reasons NOT to exhibit:
You’re trying to get attendees to stop at your booth with some gimmicky things like fishbowls and spinning wheels or putting greens. These may get people to stop, but the gimmick doesn’t know how to separate the prospects from the walkers-by. Only you can do that.
You don’t have a measurable objective. In other words, you’re just setting up a booth, handing out samples or giving demos, but are not taking care to count anything. If you want to know if your tradeshow appearance is worthwhile, you have to track metrics such as visitors, leads, sales, demos given – and do it year over year and show by show.
You’re thinking only of the logistics of a show and not the strategy of how the show plays into your overall marketing approach.
Your staff is unprepared for the chaos of a tradeshow floor and the long hours and hard work it takes to pull it off.
It’s too expensive. True, exhibiting at a tradeshow is likely to make an impact on your marketing dollars. But it’s a proven way to keep the cost of your lead acquisition much lower than the typical sales call. Yes, there are some businesses that do it differently and have written off tradeshows, but if it works for you, there’s no reason to quit as long as you’re able to get a good return on that investment.
Your booth does not accurately represent your brand and the graphic messaging is cluttered and/or unclear.
You don’t have a lead management system in place that all participants understand and know how to use.
You only plan to exhibit at one show this year. It may be a great show that perfectly fits your audience. But if you only do one show, you’re missing a lot of potential customers at other shows. Stats show that nearly 4 out of 10 attendees are first-timers and 46% of attendees are only going to that one show.
You’re not interested in or willing to network. People like to meet face-to-face, and tradeshows are a great place to spend time with people in the industry that can give you insight into other areas of your industry.
You don’t realize that many exhibitors do NOT bring their “A” game. Face it, we’re all human. Many of your competitors are not going to do their due diligence and train their staff, do pre-show marketing, have a great product or know how to generate leads well. If you can do those things even marginally better than average, you’re going to succeed more than your neighbors. If you do all of those things very well, you’ll probably run laps around them.
Perhaps if you can overcome these reasons not to exhibit, you’ll find a lot of great reasons TO be setting up a booth and pitching your products and services. But it comes down to you.
Hey, it’s a Top Ten List! Let’s look at ten things to do as you prepare for another year of tradeshow marketing:
Assess what happened this year. What did you spend? What were your results? Are there any areas where you can cut back? Are there areas that you need to invest more?
Create a will-attend show list. Perhaps you know this by heart. Maybe there are a few shows that have slipped down in your estimation, or some that that become more important.
Create a list of other shows that are on the bubble.
Know your show goals. Your overall goal is to grow the business, but each show likely presents an opportunity to do different things, such as build brand awareness, reach new markets, recruit partners, generate sales leads, solidify ties with current clients, maximize press and media outreach, unveil a new product or service or do research. Shows are often a combination of all of those (and more), but it is worthwhile to create a plan for each show that focuses on 2 or 3 specific areas.
Come up with new ways to attract booth traffic. What you did last year may or may not work this year. Don’t sit on your laurels; try to come up with at least one new concept per show on how you can drive traffic to your booth.
Ensure your lead generation system is working. Your show ROI depends almost exclusively on how you manage your sales leads. Work with your marketing and sales teams to make sure that each step is clear and workable.
Assess your booth. This might mean taking it out of the cases or crates and setting it up. This should be done with any booth regardless of size, just to make sure it withstands the rigors of regular set-up and dismantle. So often a booth is quickly packed at the end of a show and sent back to the storage facility, and no one bothers to check the condition of the booth until right before the next show. Or during set-up, which is ever worse! If repairs are needed, get them done in a timely manner.
Plan to book travel well in advance. Especially hotel rooms at popular and growing shows. If show hotels are booked, you can usually find a good deal on AirBnB.
Plan the logistics of your upcoming shows. Order services, promotions, uniforms and other items a few months ahead of time or as needed.
Plan your pre-show marketing outreach, from email to postcards, social media and other methods.
The more prepared you are, the better the opportunity to increase your leads, sales and brand awareness.
A tradeshow is a perfect opportunity to track stuff: sales, leads, visitors, and so on. Here’s a quick list of things you might consider measuring at each show. It’ll give you a chance to not only compare different shows, but it’ll help you track trends at different appearances at the same show year after year.
Sales. The key indicator of your success. The challenge with tracking sales from tradeshows is that you may get a sale in another 6 months, year or two years as a result of a single appearance. Be aware of where sales come from and track them to their source if you’re able.
Leads. Not quite as critical as sales, but a key indicator of the success of your overall tradeshow program. Identify cool, warm and hot leads and follow up appropriately.
New customers. Sales are great, but what percentage came from new customers?
Visitors. While many exhibitors don’t normally track booth visitors, if you can get a handle on at least an accurate ballpark number of booth visitors from show to show, that information will come in handy.
Samples. Do you give away samples, such as food or flash drives or swag? Keep track.
Demonstrations and attendance. Do you have a professional presenter at your booth? Keep track of how many are given each day and make a headcount of attendees.
Social media content. How many tweets, photos, videos and blog posts are you generating as a result of your appearance? Check things such as how many times your tweets were re-tweeted, or how many times your hashtag was mentioned, the numner of times you received an @ reply. If you saw a spike in Twitter followers or Facebook fans or Instagram followers during the show appearance, track that information.
Other online engagement. Do you steer people to your website during tradeshows? Did social media engagement drive traffic to your site? If you create a specific landing page for visitors, track the traffic on that. If you give away digital assets such as downloadable PDFs, white papers or product sell sheets, track that.
Finally, track the ROI. To calculate the ROI, divide the gross profit minus the cost of the show by the cost of the show. It will look like this:
ROI = (Gross Profit – Cost of the show) / Cost of the show.
For example, if it cost you $200,000 for the booth, travel, lodging, salaries, food, parties, transportation, etc., and you know that six months later the business generated as a direct result of the show was $359,000, you’d write the equation like this:
ROI = ($359,000 – $200,000) / $200,000
ROI = $159,000 / $200,000 = 79.5%
Measure as much as you can. You’ll be glad you did!
Doesn’t every Tom, Joe and Susie have a newsletter these days? After all, they can be very useful in getting your message in front of eyeballs on a consistent basis.
The fact is, my inbox is filled daily with dozens of newsletters of all sorts: news, marketing, comic strips, social media engagement, big biz, small biz, and so on.
I tend to open about one in ten if I’m in a generous mood. More like one in twenty or one in fifty. In other words, it’s hard to get my attention (or anybody’s) these days with just a newsletter. There’s got to be something in there that makes it worthwhile to click and open. And read.
But there are several newsletters that I read frequently. Some I open every single time right when I see it and stop what I’m doing. Others get put on the ‘later’ list and I usually make it back to them.
These are the tradeshow industry-related email newsletters that I read almost every time they arrive. I say almost because, hey, even I have to take a day off now and then! There are others out there – some are closed to the public and others don’t arrive frequently enough to warrant attention, and some I just don’t know about – but here are the tops in my book.
Exhibitor Magazine: a companion to their monthly print magazine, the newsletter is a useful and professional addition to your inbox.
TSNN: The Tradeshow News Network: between this and Exhibitor Magazine, you will have your pulse on the beat of the tradeshow industry news and happenings. Bonus: they have several editions available.
Andy Saks, Spark Presentations:Andy is a tradeshow presenter, Emcee, Staff Trainer and Auctioneer. In other words, he gets up in front of people. A lot. And his now-and-then newsletter is always a good read.
Anders Boulanger, the Infotainers: I enjoy this newsletter as much as any. Anders is a solid writer and communicator and always has thoughtful, meaty – and useful – pieces.
Susan Friedmann, Tradeshow Tips: Susan is a CSP (Certified Speaking Professional) who has written many tradeshow related books and publishes a weekly tip sheet for exhibitors.
Skyline Tradeshow Tips: Friendly and useful, this newsletter doesn’t seem to show up a lot but when it does it’s good.
Here are some non-related business/marketing/sales newsletters that I read all the time. I think you’ll love ’em:
Monday Morning Memo: Roy H. Williams of Austin, Texas, author of the Wizard of Ads and a former radio ad salesman, rings my Monday morning with a loud and clear bell every week. I look forward to this.
First, let’s define lead generation before we get too deep into this section.
All marketing is the activity of looking for either a new lead, or a way to bring current clients or customers to new products or services. Generating leads is a must to keep your business moving forward. No leads, no business.
When it comes to tradeshows, lead generation is the specific act of capturing contact information and related follow up information from your visitors so that you can connect with them again at a not-too-distant-in-the-future date.
Lead generation is NOT the act of having a fishbowl where you invite attendees to throw their business card in for a chance to win an iPad. Nope, in this case your lead must be someone who’s qualified to a) need or want your products or services and b) in the position to purchase soon.
All of your lead generation activity should spring from these two determinations. When a visitor enters your booth, they’re expressing at least a modest active desire to learn more about your product. At this point, you have an opportunity to quickly learn a few things: who they are, what their interest is in your offerings, and if they are in a position to purchase soon.
If you search Google for “lead generation” you’ll get hundreds of ideas for drawing a crowd at your booth and capturing their contact information.
Many of them will work well, and you’ll walk away from the show with lots of potential leads. I say ‘potential’ leads because you’ll often find that many of those business cards are from people that just stopped by to try and win an iPad or they spun a wheel, or some other fun thing. But that doesn’t make them prospects.
Instead, focus on capturing the contact information from people who are in a position to buy from you, and leave all the rest to the side.
This means that you must focus on your efforts to attract those potential clients and disqualify the others.
By asking one or two questions you will determine if the visitor is qualified. If they are, you dig a little deeper. If they are not qualified, you politely disengage so that you are not wasting their time or yours.
To start, your graphic messaging can help to qualify those visitors by being laser-focused on the benefits your company offers. This might mean a specific statement or a bold claim or bold question that gets that market thinking “hey, I need to know more!”
Look at lead generation activities as just another investment – and that it should be measured just like other investments. Are you getting good results from your investment? If not, change it up based on becoming more focused on what works and what is important to your audience.
If you’re selling a product or service, you must know what it is that keeps them up at night. What are they thinking about at 3 am that is keeping them from sleeping soundly? Dangle the bait in such a way that you address that problem. Perhaps that means a free white paper that they can get if they fill in a brief form on an iPad stationed at the front of the booth. Perhaps that means conducting proprietary research directed at that market designed to uncover exactly what bugs them.
There are hundreds of ways to catch a prospect, but they all boil down to this: are your products designed to solve their problem or satisfy a need? If so, you’re on the right track and your questions will spring from those platforms.
Next, you must have a proper method of capturing the information. You can go high or low tech, it doesn’t matter as long as the information is processed and passed on to the right people who are prepared to follow up in a timely manner in the way that your prospect expects.
At best, your information will include contact info (name, address, email, phone number) and will gauge their interest in your products or services. It will optimally have specific information on when they want to be contacted and their current stage of interest in your products. Beyond that, you’re probably wasting their time and yours. But for a valid and proper follow up, your sales person will benefit greatly from knowing all of that information.
Again, it doesn’t matter whether you’re using an iPad, scanning badges or a filling in a form on a clipboard, as long as it works effectively.
Finally, you must have a foolproof method of getting the leads back to the office! I’ve heard too many stories of companies who have spent thousands of dollars exhibiting, sending people to the show and then sending the leads back in the crates with the booth – and they weren’t able to track them down for weeks. At which point the value of prompt follow up was lost, along with thousands of dollars in potential sales.
Ideally, each day’s leads should be sent back that night to the main office and put into the follow up system. At worst, they should accompany the tradeshow manager or other designated person back to the office at the end of the show. Digital leads have the advantage of being able to be sent back quickly, but even paper forms can be scanned or photographed or turned into PDFs using smartphone apps and sent digitally, as well.
While your booth staff’s engagement is important (see part 5), bringing back the leads is critical to your show’s success.
When you remember that nearly 80% of all tradeshow leads are NOT FOLLOWED UP ON, if you can fix this simple step you’ll be ahead of 4 out of 5 of your competitors. So where would that put you?
It seems like I’ve been doing a lot of list-making lately. Here’s another one!
Branding: the content you share defines your company. Think before you tweet!
Networking: share content that highlights or involves people from other companies. Take photos of booth visitors, tag them in the photos and watch them share with their followers.
Interactivity: by sharing content and responding to comments and questions, you’ve begun to see interactivity, which leads to…
Engagement: a step above simple interactivity (which may be almost meaningless), engagement is more personal and responsive.
(your content could go viral): a good piece of content gets legs, no matter who it comes from. Can you create, either purposefully or accidentally, a piece of content that spreads throughout the social media system? If it happens, pay close attention to the type of content it is, and see if you can determine why it spread. Then try to recreate something that does the same.
Social proof: if your followers like your material and share it, now you’re exposed to potential new people who may not have previously known you existed. But because they saw it from one of their trusted sources, now you’ve suddenly a trusted source.
Humanize your company: by becoming human to your market, you become more attractive to them, generally speaking.
Caring: by sharing you’re showing that you care about others.
Reciprocation: if you share something that focuses another person, company or product (it may complement something you’re doing so it makes sense to highlight it), those people will feel compelled to do the same for you vie reciprocation.
Sharing drives traffic to your booth. And your blog. And your Facebook page, Twitter page, YouTube channel, etc.
As much as I love social media and believe in its effectiveness to reach people and bring them together for a thousand and one purposes, when you’re doing tradeshow marketing, it can’t be your only marketing strategy.
In other words, don’t become too enamored with social media. Use it as another marketing arrow in your quiver.
Continue to use (or enhance your use of) other marketing tactics:
seminars and presentations
tradeshow staff training
(what else can you add?)
Find ways to tie your social media efforts into these other more traditional tradeshow marketing tools. Blog from your booth. Shoot video at the show and post to YouTube and Facebook. Tweet about your in-booth guests, demos and contests to drive traffic. Social media can be quite effective at your tradeshow – but when used in conjunction with other methods, the combination can be deadly – to your competition.