One of your primary goals when you attend a trade show is generating leads. At the right event, you can achieve in one weekend what might take months under ordinary circumstances. Industry events are also great places to develop new contacts with suppliers, contractors, and others who are important to your company’s success. To accomplish your trade show goals, however, requires advance planning and preparation. In particular, lead generation and management are two elements that can’t be left to chance. Without a good strategy in place, you risk losing leads, and in the long term, losing sales.
Go High-Tech to Enhance Your Lead Generation Process
Ask any trade show booth sales person what the hardest aspect of their job is, and they’ll probably say it’s that their work is like cold-calling. They have only a few seconds to engage passers-by strongly enough that they’re willing to stop, even for a moment. Thanks to the development of new lead-generation tools and software, salespeople can access qualifying information much more easily. Lead generation is now more streamlined and efficient than was previously possible.
Lead Scanners Provide Next-Gen Networking and Lead Generation
One useful and simple piece of tech is the lead scanner. It’s a method of data-collection that helps salespeople collect and store simple data about the people they talk with. The lead scanner comes in the form of a phone app. You scan the QR codes on attendee registration badges. With the app installed, you can quickly capture an attendee’s:
- Contact information
- Company name
- Job title
There’s no need to collect and keep track of business cards. All the info is stored right on your phone and can even be exported directly to an address book or email database.
Lead-Generation Software Qualifies Leads
The main drawback of the lead scanner is that it’s not useful for qualifying leads, since it provides mostly contact information. There is other, more sophisticated software available to qualify leads, such as Intelligent Leads and Attendify.
The beauty of this software is that you can apply weighted multiple-choice questions to each lead. Based on a lead’s answers, you can rank them according to their level of qualification. Your sales staff can use the software to help them identify qualified leads on the fly. After the show, you can quickly follow up on the most qualified leads.
Take Attendee Tracking to the Next Level
Lead scanner apps rely on attendees to provide their badges to be scanned, whereas invisible tracking systems that use RFID, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi are less intrusive and rely less on attendees to take action. Some focus on tracking individuals, while others look at patterns of usage. Therefore, each provides distinct and valuable information:
- At the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City, exhibitors can rent HD cameras that monitor traffic to and around their booths. Among other things, they can track how people use and move within their booth during both quiet and busy times. They can also monitor real-time interactions between booth staff and attendees.
- Beacon technology using RFID tags or Bluetooth relies on tech inserted into attendee ID items, such as badges and lanyards. Receivers and beacons are then placed around the exhibition hall to track where people go.
- A simple way to track attendee movements is via Wi-Fi. With this method, the event’s hosts simply track where people connect to Wi-Fi from. The Las Vegas Convention Center has adopted this approach at some events, advising attendees that they can opt out if they wish.
- Counting mats are another low-effort option. They are equipped with sensors that record footsteps. The data aren’t identifiable, but the information about people’s movements during an event can be very useful.
Manage Booth Staff for More Efficient Lead Generation
Choosing Your Trade Show Team
When you’re exhibiting at a trade show, your most important assets are the people staffing the booth with you. Under most circumstances, it pays to send the largest team you can afford, and to try to include more than just sales people. While it’s important to have a great sales team, a few company experts are useful too! Potential leads often ask for in-depth information that may not be in the wheelhouse of your salespeople. Would-be clients are easily deterred by a lack of information, so whomever you send, make sure they’re the best you have.
Breaking Down the Sales Role
The flow of traffic around your booth isn’t static. There are periods of downtime with little traffic and busy periods where it seems half the room passes by your booth within 10 minutes. In this kind of environment, your sales staff needs to maximize the amount of time they spend with prospective leads, the press, and influencers. They must be able to do a few things very quickly:
- Engage the interest of people who are passing by the booth;
- Determine who the genuine prospects are, and who the most qualified prospects are;
- Determine who the time-wasters are, and move them away from the sales people.
These roles are quite different, so it makes sense to assign different members of your team to each. For instance, designate one or two of your most outgoing and quick-thinking team members to be the attractors—the people who attempt to engage passers-by with high-interest questions. Your best sellers should be assigned to the core sales roles of developing leads and determining who the qualified prospects are.
Finally, there are your movers, or sweepers: staff members who keep people moving in and out of the booth, and prevent the area from becoming crowded. Most particularly, they’re there to move competitors, swag-collectors and the like away from the sales team. This ensures your core sales people are free to work with new leads and qualified prospects.
Manage New Leads
Trade show success is not solely about the number of leads generated. Leads don’t automatically turn into sales, and often these new relationships are nurtured for months or longer before the first sale is made. In the meantime, leads must be managed carefully to make sure they don’t slip off your radar. For instance:
- Rank leads in terms of qualification, and in terms of follow-up priority. There should be significant overlap between these two rankings, but the lists will differ somewhat depending on your goals.
- Maintain a tracking system, so you can continue to identify lead sources as they move through the sales process. This is important for gauging the success of the shows you attend and other lead-generation efforts.
- Nurture your leads in the long-term with a well-designed content and marketing program that provides potential and current clients with valuable, useful information.
- Monitor the metrics generated by your content and marketing efforts, so you know what’s generating the most interest with your audience.
- Don’t assume that a lead is dead as soon as it becomes unresponsive. Unless you’re spending a huge amount of expense or effort, there’s no reason you can’t continue to contact dormant leads. They may one day bear fruit!
Consistent Lead Generation Tactics Do Make a Difference
For trade show exhibitors, there’s nothing more important than lead generation. It’s vital to have a strong strategy mapped out to generate, qualify, and manage the leads you’re looking for. With that strategy in place, following through consistently will ensure great results at every show you attend.