Leads and ROI

Managing leads to boost trade show ROI

Exposure Group, Benjamin Feltham

Looking to turbo-charge your trade show efforts and get a bigger bang for your buck? Employing a few strategies to generate more leads and then nurture them will help you improve your return on investment and ultimately get more out of the exhibition.

What exhibitors want: Leads 

68 percent of exhibitors rank lead generation in the top three priorities.

Whether they’re business-to-business or consumer-focused, trade shows create extraordinary opportunities for organisations to engage with warm audiences, network and learn from others in the industry. While the benefits of participating in an exhibition are many, one of the top reasons companies take part is to fuel the sales pipeline.

In fact, a new study from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) revealed that lead generation is one of the primary methods organisations use to evaluate their success at a trade show and to demonstrate the value of continuing this marketing strategy.

The data show 68 percent of exhibitors rank lead generation as one of the top three performance objectives, and was the highest priority for study participants overall. In fact, all of the metrics that related to leads were valued by at least 60 percent of the respondents.

Managing leads at exhibitions 

What, then, can you do to increase the number of leads you gain during a trade show and then follow through on them more successfully after the event? How can you ensure you have data to demonstrate exhibition ROI based on this metric? It all comes down to managing leads strategically.

Some exhibitors use apps on tablets to collect information from attendees.Some exhibitors use apps on tablets to collect information from attendees.

Before the trade show, establish goals for leads, sales, conversions and so on. These metrics might take time after the actual event to complete (for instance, you might need to have a sales team follow up with leads before they turn into conversions), but you’ll want to be able to trace the activity back to the exhibition to demonstrate its impact.

Attract more visitors with a custom exhibition booth design.

You’ll also want to plan an impressive trade show display to attract visitors to your space and provide ample room for engaging them. Evoking just the right atmosphere while shining a spotlight on your offerings facilitates fruitful business conversations while fostering interest among guests.

Once you have their attention, you need a system in place to collect their information. This could be as simple as a clipboard with spaces to write email addresses, names and phone numbers, but today’s technology offers lead management solutions that will be much more efficient and easy to follow up on. Using tablets, smartphones or other devices instead of pen and paper also adds to the innovative, sophisticated experience at your booth.

What platform should you choose? Exhibitor Magazine contributor Candy Adams reviewed a few options, which include:

  • Systems you can rent from the show organiser – Integrated with the attendee-registration process
  • Smartphone and tablet apps – Convenient for mobility within the booth
  • Near-field communication (NFC) – Easy to gather information from chips in wristbands or badges when they’re placed by a sensor
  • Paper forms – Sufficient for smaller shows, but be careful because there’s no way to back it up
  • Business-card scanners – Quick way to pull contact info into spreadsheet form
  • Attendee databases – Available from some organisers
  • CRM systems with trade show features – Integrated with your existing solution
  • DIY – Custom-built to your needs

Naturally, each of these options has its pros and cons. You’ll want to keep in mind the cost, expected booth traffic and type of information you want to gather. For instance, scanning business cards won’t give you additional information about what the customer is interested in or the conversation you’ve already had unless you have a way to add data to the system, Ms Adams noted.

After the event, it's time to start following up on leads as soon as possible.After the event, it’s time to start following up on leads as soon as possible.

To improve your success with follow-ups, have a strategy in place and ensure your choice of management system supports your objectives. It’s often best practice to separate your leads according to how urgently you want to get in contact again. You might also want to have details about who spoke with individuals and what each potential customer’s unique needs or concerns were.

Then, it’s a matter of acting. After a trade show, it’s easy to feel a sense of ‘mission accomplished’, but in reality, time is still of the essence. Keep the momentum of the show going, and reach out to prime prospects while they’re still feeling inspired from stopping by your booth.