Conference and Trade Show Booth

How To make friends & get more leads at your next trade show

I was at an exhibition and saw a standy that proclaimed “Improve sales conversions” in a big bold font. It was actually the only thing the standy said. I’m a digital marketer, I’m always looking for ways to improve conversions. Higher conversion rates are the Holy Grail – even the smallest increase in conversion rate will make a big difference to revenue. So I went over to speak to rep standing at the booth, it’s what happened next that really shocked me.

The company provided live chat, so after the pleasantries I pointed at the standy and asked the most innocent (but hardest) question first “What percentage improvement does your technology usually deliver?” The sales rep squirmed a bit and then said “We’re more focused on customer support, I don’t have any numbers or case studies on sales conversions, but it can help.”

Disrupting the customer journey (in a bad way)

In exactly one sentence he’d completely undermined the “Sales Conversion” marketing campaign, and any credibility that his company could in fact help to improve conversions. I asked a few more questions, which he answered with a product demo and vague assurances that if put at the right place that live text chat could help the sales process, but my confidence was already gone.

Remember the sales funnel?

The marketing collateral had done it’s job of attracting me. I was at the top of the sales funnel. Here’s a few tips to ensure you make the most of your event and get as many good leads as possible.

Pro Tip #1 Use clear consistent messaging

To move me down through the funnel towards purchase the sales message and the demonstration needed to be aligned with the original marketing message. Without consistency throughout the sales process, my original request and any intent for me to buy had been lost.

Whatever messaging you’re putting out at an event, ensure that every aspect of your sales & marketing is in harmony – including all your digital properties. Even if you have an event specific promotion, mention clearly online that you’ll have exclusive promotions or offerings. When a prospective customer looks for you online, they shouldn’t be confused as to why there are no details of your offer.

A lot of start-ups do this very well. Their products are singularly focused, so the collateral, communication materials and demonstrations move one type of customer through exactly one type of buyer journey. It’s a little more work when your product has multiple potential journeys, but it’s something you need to plan for; especially if you’re creating standys to attract clients to a different journey).

Pro Tip #2  It’s not a card collecting game

Trade show leads are great, in fact they’re the highest quality leads you can get, but that doesn’t make them a competition to collect the most business cards. You’re looking for high quality leads, not random business cards. With a few simple questions you should be able to very easily qualify (or disqualify) potential leads at the event, leaving you with a great list of hopefuls & real leads.Lead quality chart

Here’s a few sample questions you can use for quick customer profiling:

  1. Ideally speaking, what would you like to achieve? (Direction and solution fit)
  2. What solutions do you currently use? How are you currently doing this? (Is this a real problem?)
  3. Have you thought about integrating this with … for better …? (How far along the process are you?)
  4. Would you like to schedule some time with your CTO & the engineering team to discuss …? (Seriousness to buy if senior management are ready to hop into the discussion)

Pro Tip #3 Don’t drone on mindlessly

Whilst you want to spend some time with each prospect, you don’t want to spend too much. Be careful, it’s easy to slip into a sales spiel – it’s probably well-rehearsed and comes of naturally. Unfortunately it’s exactly what’s not needed at an event. The event should be busy, you’ll need to size up potential clients quickly, make a connection and then push them towards a particular follow-up action and then move on to the next client.

Your customer journeys should all end with some form of action, and you should know which direction your customer wants to go based on the profiling. Lead them towards one of these actions. It could be anything from scheduling a demo, registering for a trial, a follow-up call, receiving some specific collateral, or buying with a special event discount.

Pro Tip #4 Get people on your list

Collecting a business card isn’t the same as someone registering for your list. Use a tablet and an incentive to collect email addresses directly at the event. This lets you reach out to people with no objections – because they opted in. I’ve used free chocolates, pens and other bits to get people to register – people will register on your list in exchange for candy at an event.

Pro Tip #5 Run a survey

With a few simple questions you can get some great information about your target audience. It’ll improve your marketing and help you to quickly qualify potential customers. You can have someone walk around and run surveys, allowing them to access more people. It also gives you something to share with all the event attendees after the event. I usually do this with SurveyMonkey and in conjunction with #4.

This is a great secondary source of leads, but don’t spam everyone. Use the survey questions to profile respondents and figure out where they fit into your sales funnel.

Pro Tip #6 Prepare your post event email nurturing campaign

Based on the customer profiles and actionable outcomes, prepare a series of post event email campaigns. Of course you’ll have the sales people directly reaching out, this runs in addition to that – to ensure that all those leads get the right type of thank you note with relevant information. Avoid sending a generic thank you note if possible.

Pro Tip #7 Publish your social media tags and handles

If you’d like the extra publicity from event goers publish your handles & tags prominently. There’s nothing more frustrating for an event goer that wants to tweet something than not knowing who to reference or what tag to use. Don’t forget that events are a great opportunity for you to engage on social media. Ask questions, play games & show some personality. Whilst it’s not going to help you create leads directly at the event, you’ll certainly give your social profiles a boost.