Without lead generation, what's the point?

Posted: June 29, 2011 by Kevin Homer

I met with a client the other day to discuss their trade show strategy. They have a large 20′ x 20′ booth, intricate signage and product displays, and they exhibit frequently around the world. However, their upcoming show is for a division of their business they don’t typically promote as heavily at trade shows. We sat around the table discussing how to introduce their newest product, what type of information and graphics to convey on the signage when we redesign them, and how to promote their customers that will also be exhibiting (one of the key reasons they exhibit). Eventually, as I was looking at the CAD layout of the booth, I asked a simple question:

Kevin: “Where do you usually keep your scanner?”
Client: “Umm…”
Kevin: “I assume you have a badge scanner?”
Client: “Yeah… sometimes.”
Kevin: “How do you usually generate leads at your trade shows?”

And with that question, I had 4 experienced executives staring at each other, none of which had an answer. I explained to them that while there certainly is value in exhibiting to support their customers, they are not maximizing the return on their substantial investment if they don’t focus more of their attention on generating leads. And with that, we worked together to generate a lead generation strategy.

Lead generation should be the key importance at a trade show, with a follow-up strategy being a very close 2nd. Typically, a company is not making a sale at a trade show. And while we’d like to think a lead will follow-up on their own by visiting your website or calling for more information, it’s rare and should never be expected.

Generating Leads

Unless they are specifically requesting additional information, very few people provide their contact information without an enticing incentive. Raffles, give-aways, contests, and in-booth activities are great ways to collect contact information. Raffling off an iPad, offering chair massages, bringing a golf putt mat, giving away substantial product coupons (with a unique product code for each trade show), or inviting guests to join you at a local tourist attraction are just a few unique ways to collect contact information from leads.

Trade Show Follow-up

Ideally, following up with your newly acquired leads should occur within 48 of the show ending, while you’re still fresh in their minds. That means the strategy and message should be determined before the show even begins. This could include standard emails with links to your website or other articles that may require additional customization, standard mailed letters that also include your company brochure, or an action plan for telephone sales calls. If specific information was requested at the show, of course that needs to be added to your communication.

How does your business generate leads at trade shows? What have you found to be successful, or what hasn’t worked as well as you expected?

Cheryl Barber

Posted: August 17, 2011 at 10:46 AM

Hi Kevin:

While reading your comments on lead generation, I thought of my agency's role at the charity golf event, hosted on our behalf by Montgomery County Chapter of Credit Unions. You planted the idea that BCS YES! should think in terms of maximizing this opportunity for making contact with a new audience, but how? As a charitable organization, we's want to steer clear of glitzy give-aways, but would rather make a good first impression while promoting our mission and the clients we serve. Any ideas?


Posted: August 18, 2011 at 8:53 AM

Great question Cheryl!

My first thought is to try engaging your advertisers to do some recruiting for you. If you could get other athletic/golf organizations to advertise, they can help you recruit for the event (and therefore get more people seeing their promotions at that day).

I would also make sure that at the event, BCS YES! promotes exactly what they do and what the potential donations go towards.

If you want give-aways, always think about your target audience (in this case, it's golfers). Perhaps you can get golf equipment donated to you, which you could raffle off or give away as tiered gifts in exchange for donations.

I hope your event is a success!

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