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How to Leverage Trade Shows for Generating Leads

Make the Most of Your Experience Before, During and After the Show

Trade shows and industry conferences have been a sales and marketing tool for decades, and it’s because they are a great way to meet hundreds or thousands of new people, network and share contacts. If you are signed up for a trade show, your success or lack thereof with be determined by how well you work the show. Like with most business efforts, you’ll have greater success at generating new business leads if you are targeted and specific. There are things you should do before, during and after a trade show to maximize your effectiveness and make the show worth the price of admission.


Before the Show

If you’ve signed up for an industry trade show or conference, you should start by obtaining a list of attendees (your potential business prospects). A trade show is a perfect environment to connect with these people for three reasons:

  1. They’re a captive audience
  2. They’re easy to find with a venue map
  3. They’re already expecting to talk business


Segment this list into categories to create an agenda. Prioritize the companies and people you want to talk to, as well as the types of contacts you want to make. Identify a few target types of people you want to meet. You won’t have much success if you’re there just to meet “people.” Consider the people in your industry who are owners, purchasing managers or engineers. Your goal is to have meaningful conversations with 10 of these types per day.


To determine your target audience, ask yourself three questions:

  1. Who is already spending money on what you sell? They are more likely to spend money with you.
  2. Who at those companies has decision making (purchasing) authority? Don’t waste time talking to someone who can’t further your efforts.
  3. Who else is doing business with them (not your competitors)? Network with them because you can make introductions to each other’s clients.


During the Show

Working a trade show should be so much more than an excuse to get out of the office for a couple of days. If the people at your booth are parked in the provided folding chairs behind a plain table, you shouldn’t be surprised when you don’t walk away with any real “wins.” Put on some comfy shoes, bring water and plan to do some hard work while you’re there.


Use your time to talk to people on your list, and remember to circle around to your current clients to say hello. Because you have a target, you’ll know if you’re hitting it each day. If you meet someone from a company of interest, but they’re not the person who could make a decision, ask them for an introduction to their purchasing agent.


Take a deck of index cards and a small pocket stapler. Since you’ve got no guarantee that the backs of business cards will be blank, the index card will give you space to write notes and reminders that you’ll need later. Take a few notes on the index card and staple it to the business card. If you want to follow up with them, place them in your right pocket. If it’s a contact purely for your email database, put it in your left pocket.


As you meet people, ask them a lot of questions. Wait for them to ask you what you do before you mention your business. They’ll be more likely to listen to you if they’re getting a response to their question than if you just start speaking about your company. Find out what they’re excited about, where they’re from and about their role before you ever start taking about yourself. Find commonalities (hobbies, places, family) that you can reference when you contact them later. These tidbits will help establish a personal connection that makes you memorable and help you stand out among the dozens of people they’re talking to at the show. They might not remember every detail about what you said, but they will remember the positive interaction.


After the Show

Be sure to reach out to the people you met at the show within a week of meeting them. Your goal is to get a follow-up meeting or call scheduled. Sort through the cards that you put in your right pocket (your prospects), and send each one a handwritten thank you note. Reference what you talked about when you met (and wrote on the index card), and ask them for the opportunity to talk further about a collaboration.


Want to learn more about how goBRANDgo! can help get you ready for your next trade show with everything from messaging to marketing collateral? Give us a call today at (314) 754.8712


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