Pamela Markey

Trade Show Follow-Up: 5 tips to optimize response

For the past seven years, trade shows have surpassed websites, email marketing and paid search to secure the top spot as B2B marketers’ biggest investment, according to the MarketingSherpa 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report.

But, do marketers make the most of this investment? I can’t help but wonder given my own trade show attendance experience.

For weeks after, I unsubscribe from newsletters and sales pitches from companies I barely recognize.

Here’s what I suspect happens:

  • They sponsor the event and set up a booth.
  • They put together a list of attendees’ contact info based on collected business cards, contest entries and captures from the dreaded lead guns, which instantly gather contact information by scanning trade show badges.
  • They dump this list into their database.
  • Attendees automatically receive whatever they’re already sending to their email lists.

Trade Show ≠ Instant Engagement

Just because someone attends a trade show does not mean that every organization in attendance is relevant to her, or that she is eager to receive newsletters, the latest product updates or a sales call. Too many companies wrongly assume trade show attendance equals instant engagement.

If you don’t want to be banished to the spam file or voicemail, take the succeeding steps when following up with trade show prospects:

  1. Invite or welcome them to your email list. Explain how you attained their names, make it personal and connect back to their motivation. Example: “I hope you enjoyed the conference as much as I did. We really believe in (core event values).”

    If they chatted with a sales professional, reference that conversation. Do what you can to show what you have in common (primarily, the event) and why they should engage with your company.

  2. Create event-related content. Again, the event is what connects you. Write articles and blogs about it. Interview the event’s subject matter experts. Bring along a reporter. Demonstrate your value to attendees by providing a fresh perspective and helping them assimilate even more knowledge. After all, that’s why they attend conferences and trade shows. Use this content as part of a nurturing campaign, as outlined below.
  3. Don’t sell, nurture. Only 5% to 15% of inquiries are ready to speak to Sales, so the rest require nurturing until they fit your universal lead definition (ULD).  (Don’t have one? Make one. Find out how here: “Universal Lead Definition: Why 61% of B2B marketers are wasting resources and how they can stop.”)

    Develop a lead-nurturing campaign to guide prospects through the marketing funnel until they’re ready to speak to Sales. Find out how to do that here: “Lead Nurturing: You could be losing as much as 80% of your sales; here’s how you keep them.”

  4. Encourage your salespeople to make personal connections. Make sure your sales professionals individually follow up with the people they spoke with, whether that’s through sending email, connecting on LinkedIn, or following them on Twitter. People build relationships with people, not companies.
  5. Keep them engaged, even if they’re never going to be a customer. Don’t discard attendees who are not a fit; they could become a champion of your brand, or possibly a partner or collaborator. Engage them by developing a nurturing campaign that will keep them abreast of what’s happening in your organization. Invite them to subscribe to an online newsletter, attend online events, or connect via social media.

Want to learn more about how to make the most of your trade show investment? Check out this article: “9 Simple Tactics to Drive a Higher Return on Trade Show Investment.”

Do you have additional recommendations to optimize trade show follow-up? Feel free to share them in the comments. I would love to hear your ideas.

Related Resources:

MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2013 – February 19-22 in Las Vegas

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

Lead Generation: 39% say offline lead gen has somewhat decreased

Lead Generation: Trends in 2012 marketing budgets

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Event Marketing



  1. November 28th, 2012 at 02:48 | #1

    Great blog post, Pamela. Tres Bien! It’s difficult with all the people someone meets at events to remember all the details of the conversations or to always capture those details in a CRM system for follow up. (I do think more trade show staff should have something like iPads for taking notes and capturing structured areas of interest of attendees they speak with). For that reason, it’s important that the inside sales reps who follow up with trade show attendees have a crafted value proposition that connects to the event, just as you are suggesting with marketing materials for lead nurturing. In that initial follow up conversation, it’s especially important for the inside rep to discover what motivated the person to attend and then, if possible, connect one of those motivations to the value of engaging in a longer conversation.

  2. November 28th, 2012 at 09:00 | #2

    Awesome post. I think #4 is the most important point you made. A well trained, social selling staff can do wonders for an entire organization.

  3. November 28th, 2012 at 20:30 | #3

    I believe the nurturing is the most important piece of this. Provide value from the start, maintain a light touch campaign that establishes your company as a resource and shed light on your potential solutions while doing so.

  4. November 29th, 2012 at 03:03 | #4

    This is an awesome post.

    You’ve just given marketers like me a good guide in how to deal with leads that are generated from trade shows events. Thanks for your valuable insight into this issue.

  5. November 29th, 2012 at 08:05 | #5

    I agree with Dave. Simple usable tips.

  6. November 29th, 2012 at 10:32 | #6

    Some very good, actionable tips included in the post. I recently wrote a post on my blog covering the same topic, but I took a little different approach. Check it out here: http://three60marketing.blogspot.com/2012/04/what-happens-in-vegas-shouldnt-stay-in.html

  7. December 4th, 2012 at 14:38 | #7

    Hello Pamela,

    Great plan for handling your trade show leads, something most exhibitors sorely need! Better lead follow up is a top success factor among the exhibitors we survey for our industry research.

    I think a lot of those emails you get post-show are from exhibitors who you never met in the first place — they just got the attendee list from the show and then blasted away. The better exhibitors make a point of only sending emails to people they actually talk to. And the very best actually tailor their follow up messages to what the attendee talked about in the booth.

    Mike Thimmesch
    http://www.skylinetradeshowtips.com

  8. June 12th, 2013 at 14:20 | #8

    Hello Pamela,
    Awesome Post & Good Knowledge of Trade show ..

  9. August 12th, 2013 at 11:20 | #9

    Great post with some very useful tips. I think numbers 3 and 4 are the most important. Developing a relationship with people rather than just trying to sell to them will establish long standing customer relationships and produce better results.

  10. April 14th, 2014 at 11:03 | #10

    Pamela,

    Lead follow up is the heartbeat of a trade show exhibit! If there is no plan to follow up on the prospects, the investment made to attend the show, the cost of the display, staffing the booth space and all other expenses are a waste if those attendees to your booth are not followed up with.

    Great post.

    Timothy Carter
    http://www.nimlok.com

  1. January 21st, 2013 at 03:03 | #1