7 Surprisingly Easy Steps to Squeezing the Most Leads from Trade Events

Marketing That’s Practical for your Trade Event Demand Generation


Step #1 - Set the right expectations when it comes to leads from Trade Events

It’s a fact that depending on what your function is in a company; you will have a very different expectation of what to get out of exhibiting at a Trade Show. Top Executives want to justify the return on marketing, and they will expect to see results.  The Sales team are hoping for “good leads” that turn into a deal. The bottom line is if you play your cards right, you could wind up getting both, but remember, merely exhibiting at a trade event won’t guarantee leads and sales. Trade Events can also be great for networking, recruiting candidates and brand recognition either regionally or nationwide. Although someone may not be ready to commit to being your lead just yet, by exhibiting you are planting the “seed” for future sales.

Step #2 - Check out Trade Event Pre-registration Lists

There are associations that will distribute their Pre-registration list to exhibitors before the event.  It’s a perk of being an exhibitor so take advantage of it. Not all associations do this, but many will automatically send it and some only if you ask. Remember, if you don’t ask, you might be missing out on reaching out on your first touchpoint with potential leads. Your first email should include an invitation to connect with you at the show, or if you are offering an incentive or drawing at your booth, this is the time to convey that message. Use that list as a marketing tool and take the risk and ask for it beforehand. Many times, it may even include titles, email addresses, phone numbers. It is a nice little nugget of potential leads. Work it!

Step #3 Start Marketing Communications Early, Now!

Start communicating to your trade event audience at least 4 – 6 weeks before the show via social and email. Even if you don’t have a Pre-registration list, a simple message to your customers letting them know you will be exhibiting at a show in their area may prompt them to give you a call or worse yet, keep you top of mind from a branding perspective for future business. Add extra value to your emails by contacting the Association putting on the show and asking if they have any free registrations that you can offer.  More often than not, they may have lower, or free registration provides for a limited time that you can share with your audience in your marketing communications. If you are conducting a drawing or raffle at the show, entice people with pictures or mention this in your communications to help drive more traffic to your booth. Lastly, remind them about your presence at the show up to the last minute to keep you top of mind.

Step #4, Send the “right” People to the Show

Yes, that means there are “wrong” people to send to the trade event. First of all, a good rule of thumb is to send two people to cover the booth for every 10 x 10 space. The last thing attendees want to do is approach a booth packed with salespeople. That can certainly seem intimidating as well as a waste of time and money to send too many people to represent. Secondly, send people who are knowledgeable about your business, don’t send the Administrative Assistant because she’s there to set up the booth and has a nice smile. Have faith in your sales staff to handle the little things by training them, so they know what to expect.  Remember, everybody in your booth is representing your company brand. If you’ve got someone there who can barely speak intelligently about your organization, products or service, they don’t belong there. Also, if you have experts at your corporate office who know your products but are not in sales, invite them to join you for a few shows a year. Sometimes having these experts there can be an excellent resource for those hard to answer questions and will always be a positive reflection if you have an expert on hand to answer them on the spot.tra

Step #5, Go tell it on the Mountain!

Conduct a quick Pre-Event meeting with those working the booth, even if they’ve done it a million times before! Every trade event is different, and covering everything from beginning to end is pivotal to ensuring your event’s success.  Here is a quick outline of what to cover:


  • Exhibit hours
  • Hotel discounts
  • Incentives/Drawings
  • Booth Assembly/Dismantle directions
  • Staff Attire
  • Sales collateral
  • Promotional goods
  • Special products/services to push
  • Show agenda
  • Staff shifts

Step #6, Get out there and Mingle!

That’s right don’t use the table at your booth as a barrier to talking with folks. Some of the most successful salespeople are the ones who push them aside and chat with attendees as they are walking by. They will always get at least 50% more leads than those who are hiding behind their tables. Most people will stop and chat if you approach them first. It doesn’t mean being pushy, it means opening up the conversation first.  In other words, go to the people, don’t wait for them to come to you!

Step #7, Make your Final Move

Ok, if you do this right, it could be the start of a great thing.  Time and time again salespeople follow up with the leads they collected at the show, but what about all the folks who did not stop by your booth?! Capture them as well by asking the Association that put the event on for the final list of attendees. Some will automatically send, but others will not unless you ask. Remember, it is in their best interest to distribute them to exhibitors because they want you to exhibit again in the future. Cross-reference that list with anyone you’ve met at the show or even better, email the entire list with a follow-up message.


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