Trade shows are a win for everyone involved. For attendees, they’re a means to learn about the latest innovations in their industries. For marketers, they’re an outstanding lead gen tool. As good as trade shows are as lead gen activities, they could perform even better for most marketers. As an opportunity to define your brand, offer solutions to prospects, and forge relationships, they excel – but only if you take a systematic approach.
It isn’t enough to stack some brochures on a table and hope. Here’s a three-step plan to turn your next trade show into a lead gen magnet.
Get Their Interest
You can’t win leads if they don’t know you’re there. Your first step, then, is to attract interest with advertising in the right places and compelling content to funnel prospects to your event. Your web assets, including landing pages, industry-specific blogs, social media channels, and downloadable content, should position your upcoming trade show appearance prominently. Invest early in industry journals, e-newsletters, banner ads, and paid search to promote the event and your presence at it.
Business mailing lists are an excellent resource for advertising upcoming trade show appearances. Email and direct mail announcements to attendees of last year’s show or of related trade shows in your region are especially valuable because you know you’re reaching an audience that already has an interest in attending.
Offer Meaningful Incentives
Trade show attendees go for a reason: They get plenty of value for their investment in time and money. They’re expecting you to supply some of that value in the form of knowledge, books, samples, calculators, demonstrations – something they couldn’t readily get off your website. In return, they’ll share their information. To get some creative ideas flowing, it helps to break incentives into four basic types:
- Product-focused – Demonstrations, samples, and discounts for attendees prioritize your product line.
- Giveaways – Everyone loves the word “free.” Whether you offer branded swag to all visitors or raffle off a single larger prize, gifts are a surefire way to attract leads.
- Games and contests – Like raffles, contests and games appeal to people’s competitive drive and can be especially compelling for tech-based industries. Apps and digital games keep your brand in leads’ minds even after they leave your booth.
- Thought leadership – Demonstrating your authority within an industry with talks and panel appearances will win leads’ interest. Combine these presentations with giveaways, such as a book or magazine article people can take away from your booth, and you’re making an even greater impact.
Collect the Data
All the brilliant lead gen strategies won’t help your bottom line if you don’t collect leads’ data in exchange. Fortunately, data capture, storage, and retrieval is simpler now; many marketing automation systems come equipped with apps to let you collect data from leads’ mobile devices at a touch. Barcode and QR scanners that gather data directly from attendees’ badges also make data collection easier. Don’t forget about the low-tech basics, either; a fishbowl full of business cards with a drawing to win a free dinner still works too.
There’s a fourth step to optimizing your trade show lead gen, but it happens after the fact. Measuring the real effectiveness of your trade show appearances is key to building on your successes. Monitoring cost per lead, scoring those leads, and tracking conversion rates will give you a clearer picture of what your trade shows accomplish.
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