Six Steps To Increase Trade Show Lead Conversions

by | Apr 6, 2022

In-person trade shows are coming back full force in the tech space. For decades – as an event host, exhibitor and B2B technology marketing agency – I’ve had a front-row seat to trade show experiences and why some participants consistently outperform the rest in trade show lead generation and conversions. Fortunately, the same best practices apply when working with both retail/end-user leads and sales partner leads.

B2B Tech Marketing Agency Trade Show Lead Conversion Tips

Converting trade show leads is a game of speed, service, organization and follow-through. Here are six easy steps you can take right now to increase your trade show conversions.


Tips for converting trade show leads

1. Follow Up With Your Trade Show Leads Immediately

The Challenge:
Is it human nature? Overload? Physics? All three? Whatever the cause(s), the more time and distance between your conversations with prospects and your follow-ups, the lower your conversion rate.

Why It Matters:
Planning to follow up on leads faster is like a New Year’s resolution. Everyone promises themselves they’ll do it. Almost nobody does.

The problem in the observation above is the “almost” qualifier. The few marketers and sales reps that get their follow-up games down can run the tables. That’s because:

    • You should strike while the iron’s hot. As soon as your prospect walks away from meeting you, they’re bombarded with other information and input. Establishing a communications thread keeps your connection to your prospect alive amid all the other input they received. Even a gesture simple as a personalized message (email, text, social message, etc.) before you turn in for the night can help you retain some mindshare with your prospect amid all the information coming their way.
    • You show well when you follow up promptly. Being on your game elevates your status in the eyes of your prospects. If you’re recruiting customers, they see that you value them and can count on you to help them. Prospective sales partners take away that same message and see evidence that their customers would be in reliable hands.
    • You’re not the only game in town. Your prospective customers and sales partners also will be on your competitors’ lists. Typically, they will take the earliest callers and then stop responding to latecomers simply due to overload. You don’t have a shot at conversion if you don’t make it onto their shortlist.

The Fix:
Figuring out how to respond to prospects quickly is essentially a logistics challenge.

Yes, tech can help. If you have tech tools available to help – e.g., business card scanners and/or automation routines you can preload before the show – use them but stay mindful of personalization (see Tip 4 below).

Still, some of the most successful fast-response pros use tools as simple as a calendar and email program. Block out time to follow up with prospects quickly (the same day, if possible) and be diligent about making it happen.

Power Tip (this might surprise you):
Slow response to leads can hurt your overall sales and marketing efforts also. As show attendees become overwhelmed with inbound follow-up messages, many start dragging emails to their junk boxes. When that happens, many simply think they’re training their local inboxes to send your future correspondence to junk and don’t intend to lodge spam complaints. However, when their inboxes sync with cloud email providers and ISPs, those messages marked as junk can harm your overall sending reputation or even get you on blocklists.

This happens more often than you might think. Post-trade show emails cause many email delivery challenges and are a leading cause of “surprise” sender reputation damage.

The bottom line is to follow up quickly. It’ll help you close more deals, avoid headaches later, and keep your content and revenue marketing engines humming.


Set Appointments With Trade Show Leads

2. Set Appointments With Your Trade Show Leads On The Spot

The Challenge:
It happens all too often. You have a great conversation with a prospect at your booth, on the show floor, or at a cocktail party or other networking event. Your solution is a perfect fit, you both agree to talk, you send a calendar link as promised, and… that’s it. Nothing happens. You make a follow-up call and send a couple of emails, but you’re lost in the sea of other follow-ups.

Why It Matters:
Your prospect was right in front of you. You invested travel time and money to get to the event, and, right on the spot, you were able to qualify the prospect as a good fit. But you still couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity as you’d hoped.

But since they didn’t follow through on scheduling and you couldn’t reach the prospect again later, there’s a good chance your prospect is the personality type that likes to conduct business in-person instead of online. In other words, digital outreach is less likely to be effective with this prospect than with different personality types.

You also might be tempted to dismiss the prospect as a flake— a nice talker who isn’t sincere. That’s possible, but it’s just as likely that your prospects had a dozen or more conversations just like yours after you spoke, and your place in their memory was pushed out by others.

The Fix:
Hopefully, you’re executing on Tip 1 above and getting first in line with follow-ups. That alone can help with this and many other situations.

When you have a solid prospect right in front of you, consider setting the appointment right then. You can be straightforward about it with a conversation that might look something like this:

“We’re obviously a great fit, and we should talk again to see how we can help you [or, in the case of sales partners, how you can work together]. Let’s set an appointment now before our calendars fill up.”

Power Tip:
If your prospect has an appointment app, you can set the appointment on their calendar.


Give Your Trade Show Leads the White Glove Treatment

3. Do It For Them

The Challenge:
This is a variation on the previous point and the inherent challenges of follow-through and dropped leads (aka missed opportunities).

Why It Matters:
As with our previous examples, you’ve invested the time and resources to get in front of prospects. They may like you and your company and all you can offer but getting lost in the flood of input your prospects need to filter through after the event is easy. Ensuring that you make it through that filter directly impacts trade show ROI.

The Fix:
White glove the follow-up (or opt-in, etc.). Like setting appointments on the spot, you can fill out appointment and subscription forms for your prospect while you’re together. Lead with service: “Here, let me take care of this for you…” and fill out what you can together.


Personalize Your Messaging to Trade Show Leads

4. Personalize Your Messaging

The Challenge:
Working prospects after a trade show presents a signal-to-noise ratio problem: you’re one of many following up with your prospects and need to “connect” to move your relationship forward.

Why It Matters:
We’ve already discussed the importance of speed. You’re also being evaluated on tone and message and how much you paid attention to your prospect’s needs. And not in a vacuum, either. You’re being compared to your competitors.

The Fix:
Since you’re in the tech space, it’s a safe bet that your competitors are using automation for follow-ups. That means a high probability that your prospects are getting generic emails. Taking the extra time to send a personal note (via email, text or LinkedIn) that calls back to your conversation can give you a huge leg up.  Note: Your follow-up may have nothing to do with business but about some personal tidbit they shared – a hobby or common interest – or a connection that you can make for them. These gestures, if genuine, can create a foundation for a business relationship.


Prioritizing Trade Show Leads

5. Prioritize Your Trade Show Leads If You Have To

The Challenge:
Too many leads!

Why It Matters:
Having lots of leads is a good problem to have (provided they’re good leads, of course). It’s certainly better than the opposite. But it can create a challenge when it comes to following up quickly and personally.

The Fix:
Separate your leads into buckets:

    • Bucket One: Priority leads that you can follow up with personally and quickly.
    • Bucket Two: Leads for nurture campaigns – perhaps set up in advance by your tech marketing agency or revenue marketing agency – that asked you for more information.
    • Bucket Three: Leads that you flag for newsletters that may develop into hotter leads later.

Note that your hotter leads also should be put into the next bucket(s) in line unless they opted not to receive that content. In other words, priority leads also would go into a nurture campaign and receive a newsletter subscription by default. Likewise, most nurture leads would be added to the newsletter distribution, too.


Follow Through On Your Trade Show Lead Plans

6. Don’t Talk Yourself Out of Action

I’ll let you in on a secret. The handful of your hyper-disciplined competitors who religiously carve out time in their trade show days and evenings to work leads early are counting on you to be slow on the draw.

They’ve got history and experience on their side. Everyone plans to get organized about trade show leads. Few follow through. Once you’re at the event, countless distractions are vying for your time, and it’s easy to rationalize your “inability” to work your leads quickly. This outcome is common – typical, even – and exploitable by your competitors.

Becoming one of the few who’s feasting on trade show opportunities instead of the many fighting over scraps in the following weeks is equal parts organization and mindset. Set time in your schedule for personalized follow-up and stick to it as much as possible. If you have a tech marketing agency or a revenue marketing agency, have them help you plan for success. And if you have to leave some of your work for the day unfinished to attend socials or business meetings, grab a coffee and finish up before you turn in.

You’ll thank yourself the following week when you’re having meaningful conversations with your prospects, you’ve moved prospects further through your funnels than your competitors, and your newsletter subscribers read your content instead of dragging it to their junk folders with the deluge of post-show follow-up.

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