J. David Green

How to Use Lead Scoring to Drive the Highest Return on Your Trade-Show Investment

In the 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report, 1,745 marketing organizations revealed that trade shows took up the biggest chunk of their marketing budget – over 21%. Yet, they only ranked fourth in marketing effectiveness, under websites, SEOs, and emails.

I suspect that part of the ROI problem may be due to improper prioritization. Smart marketers apply some type of lead scoring to leads generated from website, SEO, and email initiatives. They need to do the same with trade shows. I recommend ranking trade show leads using the point-system outlined below – the higher the ranking, the hotter the lead.

1. Trade-show registration lists. While useful to build your marketing database for lead nurturing, a trade-show registration list is the least-qualified lead source because some aren’t remotely interested in your solution. In fact, they may not have attended the trade show at all. If the trade show closely aligns with one of your solution offerings, then the quality of these kinds of leads will be better. The more broad based the trade-show appeal, the less aligned it will be with your product/service categories and target market, so the conversion rate will be lower.

2. Those who attend a widely publicized trade-show social event sponsored by your organization. Obviously, such events give you time to engage prospects and customers in a more relaxed atmosphere. At times, however, these social events are so large that many of those in attendance never speak to anyone from your team. If that’s the case, the overall conversion rate of attendees is unlikely to be very high. Still, there’s an indication of awareness and interest in your company.

3. Booth visitors. Make sure their reasons for stopping by aren’t for merely collecting a tchotchke or fulfilling a requirement to win a prize.

4. Those who attend a special public event. Often, marketers will create an event within their booth in which someone presents to a small group. There’s typically one-way communication, not a conversation. Depending on the nature of the presentation, this indicates a relatively early stage in the buying cycle. The buyer enjoys a level of anonymity while gathering information to determine whether the solution warrants a conversation. These attendees generally have a deeper level of engagement than someone who stops by your booth to window shop.

5. Those who attend a learning event. These events can be executive roundtables or seminars held during the trade show. You can specifically target the audience and their attendance indicates significant interest.

6. Those who interact with a team member. This group is obviously more qualified than a booth visitor. The challenge is capturing this information. One way is with radio-frequency identification which tracks visitors’ movement. It can tell who stopped by, where they specifically stopped and for how long.

7. Those who attend a one-on-one meeting. Trade shows can be great places to meet individually with key decision makers in target accounts.

This type of trade-show lead scoring can supplement your larger lead-scoring model that includes information like the title, industry and organization size, or the number of responses from the prospect’s company over time.

Most importantly, it can help you determine, as you sort through the massive amounts of leads that trade shows generate, who is most worthy of your attention.

Image: AAPEX Shows

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Event Marketing, Lead Generation, Lead Management, Lead Qualification, Lead Scoring, Sales Leads



  1. | #1

    Great post David. Event marketers should also deploy technology that allows event attendees to control how they are treated post event. By enabling an distinct opt-in and opt-out utility you can skim leads and identify those that are genuine in their product interest.

  2. | #2

    Hi David! These are great reminders whenever a company joins a trade show. Some points are overlooked which results to low lead response. I enjoy reading your blogs because they’re not just entertaining but helpful as well. And I look forward to your upcoming articles for this new year. Have a prosperous 2012! http://bit.ly/ayeen2

  3. | #3

    David;
    An informative and excellent article – thanks for posting!

    So nice to see someone else who understand how to bring offline marketing events like trade shows into the new world of online or Inbound Marketing Automation. There truly is no need to deprive oneself of the great analytical processes available to online marketers today and your post is a wonderful insight into how to do this.

  4. | #4

    @Victor Kippes
    Hi Victor:
    I agree. Permissions and lead nurturing should be a centerpiece to the follow up process. Thanks for the insight.

  5. | #5

    @Ayeen Benoza
    Hi Ayeen
    Events are great ways to find new prospects and a great way for prospects to network with peers and get caught up with industry trends.

  6. | #6

    @Eric Goldman
    Hi Eric
    Great point. There are lots of ways to integrated online into offline and have a more powerful marketing vehicle. For example, think about the ways with events to use twitter to make announcements, to make realistic video testimonials of customers who are attending and post them on YouTube or your website or a special microsite dedicated to the event. The potential for radio frequency identification is largely untapped by most marketers and yet offers a powerful tool for finding people who are the most engaged and the solutions their interested in.

    Plus, as the world get more and more virtual, there really is a benefit, not to go all old school, on seeing someone in person, in shaking hands the old fashion way, and events are central to those connections. That’s why I love going to the various MarketingSherpa Events.

  7. | #7

    Ironic isn’t it? Websites + SEOs + emails over tradeshows: where you spend the most gets you lesser results.

    One of the key things we have to note is the technology involved. With tradeshows, it’s more of business cards and talks (which brings me to my question on the next paragraph), but with online marketing — everything is measurable. And when it is measurable, it has a LARGE room for improvement.

    This is the first time I heard of radio frequency identification, i wonder how much those costs..hmm…

  8. | #8

    @MediaSME Contact Center Solution
    My sense is that a lot of marketers are rethinking physical events. Consider this MarketingSherpa case study of what Hubspot did at the Dreamforce tradeshow last September: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?ident=32038

    As things get more virtual, physical meetings are probably becoming more valuable to the customer. Plus, technology (like radio frequency identification) is making it possible to do a lot more tracking and optimization than ever before of physical events.

  9. | #9

    I used to be the marketing manager for an IT company that attended lots of trade shows. My MD at the time was adamant that we would not market at all around the show or try and get company’s to visit us as we would be exposing them to our conversation. He also maintained that show promotion was purely down to the organiser.

    As you can imagine, we got very little return. I have since worked with a number of organisations to improve their event ROI and well thought out, engaging marketing pre and post a show and now during it with Social Media can have a huge impact on ROI.

  10. | #10

    @Phil Richardson
    Thank you so much for the comments. I couldn’t agree more about needing to put the effort in.

  11. | #11

    A good attempt at pushing people to achieve a greater ROI from their events/ trade shows. Ideally youd have a response strategy in place before attendance and key qualifying questions for attendees at the event. Industry, size, contact job description, these 3 simply alone could allow you to tailor your response pitch. I also agree social media tools are becoming key involvement before, during and after to share and engage in real time.

  12. | #12

    @Victor Kippes
    Excellent recommendation, Victor. The event should be the start (or continuation) of a memorable conversation with attendees in the target market.

  13. | #13

    @Liam Duffy
    Liam
    Great points. Thanks for joining the conversation.

  14. | #14

    i have been following your posts for long and i found each and every post quite interesting and useful. Like other post this one is also very helpful and informative. People can learn well how to get more ROI through trade shows or events. Taking feedback from all those who attended your trade show can help in implementation of future events.

  15. | #15

    John
    Thank you so much for the kind words and for joining the conversation.

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