J. David Green

How Technology on the Trade Show Floor Can Help Your Sales Team Work Smarter and Sell More

Trade shows and conferences are still the biggest areas of investment for marketers, according to the most recent MarketingSherpa B2B Marketing Benchmark Report. And, as we marketers have embraced digital, the value of face-to-face interactions has increased.

There really isn’t a digital replacement for shaking someone’s hand or reading their body language and all the other benefits of human interaction. It’s all about building relationships.

Yet, many companies still measure marketers on cost-per-lead metrics when such metrics are inadequate for measuring face-to-face interactions at trade shows.

The real value of trade show interactions

Consider this: The cost of having one qualified face-to-face meeting with a prospect is often hundreds of dollars; it’s often $30 to $100 to have a phone conversation. CEOs need to look at the economics of competitive market dialogue holistically, with Marketing and Sales working together to walk customers and prospects through the buying cycle as economically as possible.

From this perspective, the cost of face-to-face conversations takes on a very different perspective. Trade shows and conferences are a great way to have many face-to-face meetings in a short time.

Plus, you can learn a lot at a trade shows from customers, prospects and even competitors.

Optimizing face-to-face conversations at trade shows

The challenge is that for those staffing booths, the hours are long and the conversations unending. To capitalize on these face-to-face interactions, the trade show team needs a much better way to distill conversations for future follow-up, especially since so many people who will be doing the following up won’t be the ones who spoke to the customer or prospect at the event.

Why not direct some trade show investment to a better means of capturing the conversation? For example:

  1. Most trade show name badges include quick response (QR) codes that detail prospects’ names, titles and contact information. Why not scan these codes with a smartphone or an iPad? When scanned and populated into your CRM, you eliminate the data entry errors that inevitably happen when business cards are entered manually.
  2. Associate this information with a simple form that the sales professional can access from a smartphone or an iPad and use to distill the conversation. You could include:
    • A few key pain points/motivations that relate to your solutions
    • One or two qualifying questions, such as the size of the account
    • A drop down for the contact’s position, e.g., CxO, VP, director, practitioner
    • A short free-form text field the rep can use to write a note

Invest in working smarter

A (relatively) small technology investment will help sales and event professionals work smarter. They’ll instantly capture why customers might want to buy your product and be able to follow up with the most relevant conversation. Sales professionals can then subsequently focus on the issues that are most important to the prospects whether it’s a week or a month after the trade show.

Which brings me to my final point: Unless there is a specific, time-sensitive request by the prospect, hold off on follow-up until at least a week after the event. Having been out of the office for a few days, the prospect’s hair will be on fire, and very likely, for the next few days thereafter, his or her inbox and email will be filled with messages.

Of course, many vendor messages will be generic and therefore ineffective.  Yours, on the other hand, will connect with the prospects’ motivations and more likely convert them into pipeline.

Related Resources:

Trade Show Follow-Up: 5 tips to optimize response

Nine Simple Tactics to Drive a Higher Return on Trade Show Investment

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. January 21st, 2013 at 21:42 | #1

    Nice Post David. It’s really true that there’s no digital replacement for human interaction. Trade shows are really effective if the marketer knows how to play their cards right. Great tip on scanning codes with a smartphone or iPad. Sometimes we all get so excited and overlook the benefits of simple technology we have at our very fingertips, and how useful it can get, and where it could take us when we just simply want to build relationships with prospects or clients. http://bit.ly/ayeen8

  2. January 21st, 2013 at 22:54 | #2

    Hi Ayeen
    Thanks for joining the conversation.

  3. February 6th, 2013 at 20:38 | #3

    As someone who’s worked 100′s of trade shows you’re spot on about using technology to make it easier.

    To take your idea on the QR code and CRM one step further – before the trade show write up a few email templates. Then you can scan their info, enter them into the CRM, send the email template, and then send a follow up email 6 days later when they’re back in the office going through their trade show items.

    This way not only do you have a great conversation, but you also know your info is going to get in front of your prospect. Lastly most guys working the shows won’t have time during the show to construct a proper email so this way you’re at least getting something in front of them.

  4. February 7th, 2013 at 09:39 | #4

    @Mike Pierce
    Mike
    Great idea and I totally agree.

  5. May 1st, 2013 at 00:28 | #5

    One area I think that is missing is the pre-event marketing. Promoting the event, advertising to attendees in advance, building leads in advance, and setting appointments for face to face meetings at the event is a must! I’ve always found it strange that marketing executives who spend so much on event marketing don’t spend the time to do promotion before the event, targeting attendees only, like our program does: http://jsainteractive.com/conference-lead-generation . Having a good set of warm qualified leads and appointments for the conference can really change the level of success and double the face to face meetings.

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  5. July 15th, 2013 at 09:42 | #5