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Trade Show Lead Generation 101: How to Generate and Manage Leads

While trade shows are typically treated as little more than a social event, trade show lead generation has the potential to produce significant financial gains. A common

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Trade Show Shipping
January 16, 2020
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While trade shows are typically treated as little more than a social event, trade show lead generation has the potential to produce significant financial gains. A common series of mistakes demote this business gathering into a party, resulting in a loss of time, resources, and even reputation. Evaluating the integrity of your booth is an invaluable skill that should be utilized before your team is at the event, starting with a very basic selection of staff. ROI starts with a certain category of team members, and ends with that same group. So who are these team members, and how will they optimize a booth towards gathering leads?

Salespeople, both articulate in business talks and in closing the deal, are the main component of a functional booth. To set a solid foundation to build upon moving forwards, we need to put effort into booth staff selections. Many businesses participate in trade shows, but put temps or other staff members in the booth, effectively crippling potential trade show lead generation. 

This error stems from the fallacy that trade shows are like business vacations, where the primary focus is on enjoyment as opposed to work. This couldn’t be further from the truth given the fact that nearly every face in the crowd is a potential customer. A good sales staff can sell a subpar product, while a poor one fails to sell a superior one.

Months out from a trade show, senior staff members need to evaluate sales numbers, overall self-presentation, and feedback salesstaff receive to determine who to include in the booth. When a sales team selection has been finalized, booth staff preparation should begin so that they are informed about what is expected of them in terms of trade show leads. Then simply let them do their job! Lead generation ideas are their fortey, and with a clear definition of what’s expected in terms of ROI, micromanagement is unnecessary. And with all that in mind, let them have their fun. As previously stated, trade show focus should be on business, but don’t be the snobby booth either. Success depends on a delicate enjoyment-to-business ratio.

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How Do Trade Shows Work?

How Do Trade Shows WorkA trade show is a gathering of businesses with the purpose of showcasing their new products or services in the hopes of gathering new clientele. The events mix business with pleasure, focusing on making sales in a fun environment, keeping participants entertained and engaged. Products are displayed and discussed within a showroom booth, which range in sizes from 10’ x 10’, to the size of a house. A booth is where the action happens, comparable to a carnival game booth, where they want to draw you in and do business while keeping you entertained. Most trade shows feature workshops or presentations, where companies can present new products to the public. 

Trade show participation scale can range from a local show with attendance in the low hundreds, to events like SEMA with attendance well over a 100,000. Regardless of size, the potential for making sales is vast given that the majority of attendees have the right to make purchases on behalf of their company. Typically, around 81% of attendees have buying authority. Consequently this means that competition is steep, with most regulars reporting that aggressive marketing strategies are the norm. Limited floor space places competing businesses close together, forcing them to compete for attention.

But with all this competitive business going on, the focus still wavers on fun. Alcoholic beverages are just as common as business cards, and success is found in a trade show by finding a balance between the two. Most booths operate by incorporating fun activities that lead to trading information or persuading a sale, such as games, giveaways, or snacks. Booths that focus too much on either fun or business are the ones that tend to fail. Uptight booths, with a slew of powersuits and grim businesspeople scare attendees off. Oppsingly, party booths attract foot traffic, but without a focus on generating leads,the power of business is diminished. On that note, just how do we put together a game-plan for generating leads at a trade show?

How Do You Generate Leads at a Trade Show?

How Do You Generate Leads at a Trade ShowThrough all the fun and events, the endgame for every single booth is to generate leads. This process should begin months out from a tradeshow in the form of sales staff preparation and promotion, and will continue on until gathered leads are followed-up on. This chain of events cannot have a weak link, or the structural integrity, and the final result will be unsatisfactory. So before we even delve into the full scope of generating leads, the prerequisite is to know who you’re going to send, and send who you know. This circles back to sending your top salespeople, who are skilled at face-to-face contact.

With our team in mind, we’ve obtained the catalyst needed to move into the opening portion of generating leads: selecting our show strategically. Each part of working towards our lead pay-off depends on the previous segment being solid. Think of generating leads like a slot machine: we need to line all of our sevens up to get the best lead pay-out. One wrong selection, and we may end up leaving the trade show with nothing.

The integrity of the leads we gather depends on: 

  • Choosing the show strategically
  • Coming up with clear goals
  • Learning to identify those who aren’t customers
  • Designing your booth with strategic designs 
  • Collecting email addresses and contact information

Each step is invaluable in its own right. Wrong venue, and we won’t reach our target audience. Without goals, our sales people won’t know exactly what’s expected of them in terms of return. You wouldn’t go to the grocery store without a list, so why would you go to a trade show without one? On that same note, sometimes things change, and we need to be able to adapt, readjust, and overcome. Have your strategy, but always have contingency plans. Maintain the mindset and staff to be able to be flexible, and, as the proverb goes, hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

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5 Tips for Trade Show Lead Generation

5 Tips for Trade Show Lead GenerationNow let's take an in depth look into the points outlined in the previous paragraphs. By now, you have your team in mind, so what are the specific points we need to build on before making trade show decisions? Don't be afraid to use delegation through any of these parts. Your team is assembled; utilize them. Chronologically speaking, you should have ample time to draw up a formidable plan yourself if you’ve set a reasonable amount of time aside for planning, but  including your team will help them get the trade show mindset warmed up.

In addition to delegation, hold conferences to brainstorm and compare ideas. A fresh look at the plan will improve upon individualistic perceptions. With that structure in mind, let’s take a look at our first key component of getting leads.

1. Choose the Show Strategically

Shows come in many different variations and sizes. Don’t get into a venue you could hardly afford, only to be the little fish in a big ocean. Other companies with larger budgets will already have their hold on the audience, and you’ll just waste time and resources. Alternatively, being the big kid on the block can be fun, but if a show is too small, your large company doesn’t stand to benefit from it much. More importantly, you need to know the attending audience, otherwise they may never even care about your products to begin with.  Want a list of all the best trade shows across the US? Check out the list of top trade shows by industry. Most trade shows can provide you with statistics on the interests they generally see in the crowd, and researching the area yourself won’t hurt either. 

Concepts like these are the points to check before booking a show.

  1. Figure out the size of your business, and compare it to other businesses in attendance to know if you fit. 
  2. Know your audience, and make sure those in attendance fit that type. 
  3. Calculate your booth budget, and ensure that includes good floor placement at the trade show. Event marketing is mostly done from your booth, so research which area will be best for your particular brand.
  4. Stay updated on the publicity of the event itself. If the trade show’s CEO just went on the news for insider trading, it’s likely people will avoid the show at the last minute. This point also brings up the point to think outside the box when selecting a trade show. Don’t just glance at the show’s past success for an idea of how it will do this year; do indepth research on your own time, research that goes deeper than surface statistics.
  5. Get in there as an attendee before opening a booth. See what catches your eye, and those of other participants. To fully understand the potential lead, one must become the potential lead.

To summarize, know your budget, know your audience, and know the location. Once you’ve accomplished all this, you’ve set the foundation for a successful showing. This is the phase where research comes into play the most, and will play the second largest role in performance after having a good team assembled. With our venue scouted, we move into the next phase: setting our goals for attendance.

2. Come Up With Clear Goals

Setting goals gives us something to aim for in terms of ROI. This concept ties back into the business/party setting of a trade show. We want goals that are difficult, but not to the point where our team can’t enjoy the show. If the goals are too easy, we’ve established a party oriented booth, but if they’re difficult, we’ve created a work atmosphere. We need to find that right balance where our team can both create leads, AND enjoy the show, as this will actually produce the best results. Believe it or not, attendees come to trade shows because they’re fun events. If your goals are too high, and your team too focused on work, people will pick up on it and avoid your booth.

So the first step to setting goals depends on the results you got from the previous step. With an idea of how many attendees will be interested in your products and services, and how many of your direct competitors will have a booth, we can draw an idea of what that should translate into sales. Around 81% will have buying authority, so subtract 19% from total attendance and discard it. Then, research the percentage of those with buying authority that will be interested in your product. Calculate how many of your direct competitors will be struggling with you for their attention, and divide the number by half of the total number of competitors. That’s the golden ratio for how many leads you’ll hope to gain.

Have your sales team involved with this step. They need to know what their goals are, and how exactly you came to that conclusion. If it feels like you drew a random number out of a hat, then they may dissociate themselves with the final goal. Take time to weigh their concerns with that number, especially if they have trade show experience. They’re paid to make sales after all, so they’re the best subject matter experts you’ll find to help with discerning potential leads. Now remember that 19% who don’t have buying authority? We’ll touch on that next.

3. Learn to Identify Those Who Aren’t Serious Customers

Learn to Identify Those Who Aren’t Serious CustomersRoughly 19% of attendees don’t have buying authority, and are in attendance literally for the pleasure side of things. Business isn’t an idea that matters to them, and they’re present to benefit from all the free things that are in circulation. With no lead potential to any extent from them, it’s essential to learn to discern our rubberneckers, whose sole purpose for attending a trade show is to lug out as much free loot as they can carry. This portion will be delegated entirely to your show floor team. Don’t worry, there’s a way to filter out the looters and create a sales funnel.

It’s genuinely pretty obvious when somebody's present only for free loot. A few obvious signs to tip you off before you even speak with them are tell-tale things like when they already possess a massive amount of free stuff, or just the apparent disregard for your anything in your booth other than your own freebies. No need to be rude to them, but keep them moving, our goal is purely lead generating. A quick solution to dealing with them is to simply offer your freebies as rewards for giving contact information, or as rewards for doing some level of business. This affirms that your goodies are only for qualifying leads. With a room already packed with other free merchandise, even the slightest tedious task will keep them from hauling yours in their loot bag out the door.

4. Make the Most of Your Booth with Strategic Design

A trade show booth is the first thing a potential customer sees before they converse with your staff. Make sure you convey the right message, using the booth like a billboard to gain the attention of your niche audience. Don’t create a misinterpretable booth; you’ll end up with countless dead-end leads unless people know what they should expect when they walk into your booth. With the right focus, a booth will attract the right leads, acting like a filter that screens out those who aren’t interested before they even speak to your staff.

There are a few other easy steps that can be taken to bring not only the right crowd, but get you a high-volume of quality leads. 

  • Find images of competitor’s booths from previous years. Determine how well their booth did, and you’ve saved yourself plenty of time by circumventing the trial-and-error process. 
  • Size isn’t everything. If your booth is too big for your team to cover, or has too much empty space, then you’re bleeding ROI.
  • Have your social media URL and QR code posted on the walls of your booth. Using social media to reach potential leads who pass by not only helps catch their eye with the familiar social media logos, but shows that your brand is up with the times.
  • Strategic design includes placement! Try to get placed close to your competitors. Attendees who come to visit their booth are already looking for products and services similar to yours, so catch their eye.

Consider your booth another team member. It needs to have a personality that speaks to every passerby about who you are, and what you’re selling. Before your sales team has a chance to make your presence known to a customer, good ol’ booth will be displaying it for the whole showroom floor; make sure it’s a good message.

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5. Collect Email Addresses and Contact Information

Collecting contact information can be done a variety of ways, but first and most effectively, we have badge scanners. On average, there's enough lanyard string present at a trade show to reach from California to New York. Every last strand of that same string is attached to a card with a lead’s contact information on it. Have either one, or preferably multiple scanners on hand through your booth where your booth team can easily utilize them. With these you can also shorten your speeches and simply drive traffic through your booth and maintain an ongoing connection with a lead without having to stop and exchange information.

A more old-school but effective way is to get their business card. The business card method also adds a level of security that a simple badge scanner can’t give you regarding the quality of a lead. Going back to our 19% who are there to collect free loot, they’ll all have a required badge, but less will have a business card because they aren’t planning on doing business. With that in mind, we don’t waste the time of our salespeople with dead end leads when we go the businesscard route. If you go this route, you’ll have to manually input information directly after the trade show to track leads to determine the viability of a sale.

Trade Shows with R+L Global Logistics

Trade shows are an ever evolving beast, but with our current information, you’re giving yourself the highest ceiling to work with. When you use our trade show freight shipping service, that ceiling becomes ever reachable, with our team of world-class transportation specialists at R+L Global Logistics assuring your booth’s articles get to the show no matter the location or time. You’ve invested your time into learning the fundamentals of trade show success, so invest in your booth next with the best shipping services.

With the knowledge you’ve accumulated towards trade show lead generation, your team will be prepared when they reach out to potential customers. If you need any more information on how we can guarantee the safe delivery of your booth articles, please reach out to us. From our team to yours, we wish you only the best in all of your pursuits.

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