How to get more leads and close more deals at trade shows, conferences, expos, and conventions

Trade shows, conferences, and expos are among the most expensive investments your business will make. Learn how to get the most impact out of that investment by focusing on leads, meetings, and closing deals every step of the way. 

Know Before You Go

First thing is first–get clear about your goals for the event. Why are you there and what do you hope to accomplish? Once you know that get clear about who you need to connect with to make those goals happen. It’s easy to get distracted by things that ultimately don’t matter, and you’ll be more likely to achieve your goals if these two things remain your North Star. Everything you do should tie back to your goals and the people you serve. 

Focus on Your Ideal-fit Customers

You MUST do your research to be successful. First, identify who is going. Many events publish a list of companies that will be attending, and some even sell the list of attendees in advance. Not every business will be an ideal fit prospect for your company, so narrow the list down to those that fit your ideal customer profile. From there hone in on the decision-makers and influencers who will be attending. Follow the social media pages for your target companies, and then track down their key decision makers and influencers on LinkedIn. You can follow their profiles, and request to connect with them.

Build Anticipation

Speaking of social media: As soon as you decide to attend a trade show, conference, or expo start sharing on your social media. Announce that you’ll be attending, and link to a landing page with your booth details and information about how to book an appointment with your sales team. Be sure to only post relevant content to make sure your audience is getting an accurate view of your brand. This is where your marketing team comes in clutch. You want to make your audience want to meet you in person.

Engage with Prospects Before You Arrive

This is also the time to encourage your sales team to book meetings in advance for during the event. Focus on those target accounts, especially the decision-makers and key influencers. The opportunity to make face-to-face connections should not be passed up when you and your prospective clients are in the same space. If you’re handing out swag, make sure it’s something useful and memorable to your audience. Bolder swag tends to be more effective. Think of items that are going to showcase your brand every time someone uses it. Send them home with something to talk about. 

Quality over Quantity

Now for the fun part. You’ve made it to the main event! Once you’re at the conference you’ll want to collect leads purposefully. This is the time for strategy, and a booth with some swag and a raffle is not a strategy. Start by building a booth that is recognizable, bold, and attractive to draw in your audience. 

Collect Leads Strategically

When you start chatting with people collect leads strategically, reminding yourself that everyone is not a lead. Some people may enter your raffle just to try to win a cool product, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to become a customer of your business. This results in a lot of after-work for you, without much return on investment. When you are collecting contact information, find a way to make it a seamless process without stumbling around, searching for pens and little strips of paper. Consider using a data collection tool linked to your CRM to save yourself the work of transferring data later. 

Qualify Prospects

What’s the best way to determine if someone is a good lead? Talk to them! Get up from behind your table and chat with the folks stopping by. Make sure to make a positive lasting impression, and don’t forget to train your staff to do the same. We’ve all seen the bored staff member sulking behind a table because they have to work a Saturday and that’s only hurting your brand. This must be avoided at all costs. Have some fun, and don’t forget to continue posting to your socials while you do!

Remember to Network 

Hopefully, your investment in attending a trade show will pay off with tons of ideal-fit leads coming to your booth constantly. But don’t forget the value of networking with the other exhibitors– in any downtime, be sure to network with the businesses around you. So much can be gained from the valuable skill of networking. You can make meaningful connections with colleagues who could prove to be valuable referral partners and more.

Don’t Forget to Follow Through

You’ve done it! You have strategically attended your event and collected leads, networked with new businesses, and put your brand out there for the public to see. Now what? This is where most businesses mess up. The work’s not finished yet. Now, it’s time to dig into those leads and follow up. Make the calls you said you’d make, set up appointments for your sales team to meet with the prospects who were interested enough to give you their contact information, and don’t forget to utilize your email marketing. 

Sending one-to-one emails is much more effective than an obvious e-blast. If you’re able to send the email from the person who was working the booth and made the contact, even better. That familiarity is there and should be used for brand recognition, especially if you had a particularly sparkling staff member working your table or booth. 

Continue the conversation on social media. Don’t let the fire burn out too fast. Also, if you chose to do a raffle, be sure to post your winners on social media to showcase your company’s incredible follow-through. This is also a great time to utilize LinkedIn again for connecting with any businesses you networked with as well. 

Action Steps

Now that you know how to approach conferences, trade shows, and conventions to maximize your investment it’s time to put it all together in a kit that you can easily replicate in the future. Remember:

  • Research ahead of time and only attend events that fit with your brand offerings.
  • Utilize social media before, during, and after the event. 
  • Collect leads strategically and seamlessly.
  • Network with other exhibitors.
  • Follow up.
  • Use email marketing effectively.  

As you figure out what works best for your business at trade shows and events, be sure to add those skills to your toolkit to remember to use them in the future. Build on your knowledge, but always remember to stay up to date and relevant with what your ideal client is looking for and what your industry is doing. Make your investment in trade show attendance a profitable experience for your brand.

Sound like a lot of work? Well, it is. But that’s why we’ve made our The Ultimate Tradeshow Checklist available for you to download and use as a guide to your best tradeshow experience ever. 

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Linda Nunes-Quimby
A rare decaffeinated millennial motivated by research and the passion to turn knowledge into content that helps others.

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