Exhibiting at a trade show is not cheap. You’ll invest in your booth, your marketing collateral, your staffing, and travel expenses—among other things. The expense can be worth it, but only if you generate revenue from having been there. Much of the time, this starts with a strong follow-up strategy.
Here are four tips to help you get the most return on investment from your next trade show appearance.
1) Have a system. You may have put a lot of thought into your booth design and trade show marketing, but it’s just as crucial to put equal planning and strategy into your follow-up system. Bear in mind that there are several types of leads you’ll meet at trade shows, and what works for one is not necessarily what works for another. Have a system that separates casual leads—people who may have given you their contact info in return for some swag, for example—and those who have mindfully opted into your email list, engaged your staff in conversation about the type of coverage you specialize in, or expressed need and interest in some other way.
2) Talk to your staff. If you’re not the only one staffing your booth, you need to make sure that your staff is all on the same page. Be sure they are responsible for following up on their own individual leads, and encourage them to establish personal connections with potential leads through conversation.
3) Jog your memory. You’ll talk to a lot of people at trade shows, and if you’re like most people, you won’t remember every conversation you had. Collecting business cards is a good first step, but chances are that business card and the cryptic note you scribbled on the back won’t give you enough information to re-start the conversation once you get back to the office.
Apps like Evernote let you take pictures of business cards and add notes, such as the details of a conversation, quickly and easily—and even link to the person’s social media presence.
4) Use social media. You can use social media both to follow up with people who expressed strong interest and to nurture more casual leads. Send a quick private message via LinkedIn, Twitter, or another platform reminding them of where you met and inviting them to connect with you. If they tweet or put out new content on their website, share it periodically to give an impression of support.
There are plenty of ways to follow up on tradeshow leads—including phone calls and invitations to lunch for the most serious leads in your area—but these techniques will get you off to a great start. Have a strong system for lead collection that allows you to easily record who the person is, their interests, and a few details about your conversation, and you’ll be in good shape to start contacting them after the show.